Garry BrewerGJ History ColumnistGrand Junction Free Press

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August 28, 2012
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GJ HISTORY: Newton and Anna Smith - Hard-working pioneers find love in Grand Junction

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. -In 1882, in the small, new community of Grand Junction, there were only five unmarried women. One of them, a young woman named Miss Wilson, was actually from Delta; the others were Anna Green, Rachael Gordon, Lillian Hall and the school teacher, Nannie Blain.With the community's first July 4th approaching, a group of residents wanted to have a dance on the 4th to end the day of celebrations. A committee was formed to plan the event. However, some did not want to have a dance. One was the school teacher, Nannie Blain. For religious reasons she did not believe in dancing, but after more than a few meetings with the committee, she gave her consent.The dance was held and everyone attending paid a fee including the Mormon railroad crew working nearby. A crisis began to brew when the women would not dance with the railroaders because they were strangers. The railroaders grumbled about this and became upset. To keep the peace, wise Nannie Blain stepped in and asked them to teach her how to dance. The ice was broken and other ladies joined in. The dance was a success and Nannie reported the event had neither drunkenness nor disorder.Miss Blain belonged to the Methodist Church. One of the citizens who took issue with the dance and Nannie's participation was a fellow church member, Newton Smith. He asked her why she participated, and after her answer, decided she'd made the right decision. Newton and Nannie became good friends. Newton was the first merchant to give a donation of a box of chocolates to her for an interdenominational Sunday school.ANNAIn February 1883, it was estimated 75% of males in Grand Junction were bachelors. The railroad was complete and more people were beginning to come to the community. So in late 1884, after a failed marriage and recognizing the opportunity Grand Junction had to offer a single, divorced mother needing a second chance, Anna Butt moved to town with her young daughter, Margaret Quinlan.Anna was born in Nottingham, England, Dec. 26, 1853, and together with her brother, Thomas, and widowed mother, Mary Elizabeth, they moved to Salt Lake City. Later, Anna married Patrick Quinlan Jan. 23, 1876, in Beaver County, Utah. To this union was born a daughter named Margaret.On Dec. 20, 1883, Patrick and Anna divorced; she then moved from Utah to Grand Junction to start a new life. Later Anna's mother, Mary Elizabeth Pickering and her sons by her second marriage moved to town. Shortly after arriving in Grand Junction, Anna met Newton Smith, one of the single up-and-coming men of Grand Junction who was the first elected Mesa County Treasurer at the time. Newton and Anna fell in love and married on Jan. 25, 1885. They were the 39th couple to marry in Mesa County.An interesting note of the time: Anna having been married before, she could use her maiden name on the marriage license, but could not be a "Miss." She had to sign as Mrs. Anna Butt, to show she was an unmarried woman, not a single woman.Anna and Newton were a well respected, hard-working couple. They resided and owned a boarding house for railroad workers on the southwest corner of Fifth and Pitkin Avenue where the Shell Station now stands. Three children were born to this happy couple: Frank E., Newton N. Jr., and Belle M. NEWTONNewton Nelson Smith was born June 24, 1843, in Erie County, Ohio, to William B. Smith of Ohio and Minerva Brown of Quebec, Canada.Newton was a Union soldier, joining the 25th Michigan, Company B. He enrolled at Smyrna, Mich., in 1862 and was discharged at Salisbury, N.C., in June 1865. As a soldier for the Union he had once met Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War.He owned a grocery store on Colorado Avenue.J. Clayton Nichols, one of Mesa County's first citizens, commented at the first Grand Junction town meeting, that Newton owned a grocery store and was only one of the two men in the group that showed up wearing store-bought pants and white shirts. The rest of the men wore overalls and colored shirts. When he was running for county treasurer, the Grand Junction News stated on Oct. 27, 1883: "Mr. Smith, a native of Michigan (it was really Ohio) came west about three years ago (1880) where he demonstrated that he was a man of the people by taking hold of manual labor, when business was dull. Mr. Smith came to Grand Junction in January 1882, with his brother Edward, when there was not over 100 men in this entire valley. He has made a reputation as a square, honest, plain man, whose word is a good as his bond. To illustrate his conscientiousness in business, last May 1883 when the yearly assessment was made, Mr. Smith not only put in his stock and real estate, but also drafts and money that he had in his pocket to the amount of over $1,000. He is a careful, conservative, reliable man; a man of large means in whose hands the funds of the county will be perfectly safe."He was appointed county assessor in 1905, and elected to the office, serving from 1906-1910. He was the first assessor in Mesa County history to have the assessment rolls done in time for the treasurer's office in 1907.Newton served as one of the first three commissioners of elections on June 22, 1882, with R.D. Mobley and J.M. Russell, for the Incorporation of the City of Grand Junction, when the city was still part of Gunnison County. He was a founding member of Mesa County; the first County Treasurer; 11th County Assessor; a Justice of the Peace; and a City Alderman for Grand Junction. He was the Republican Party chairman in 1885 and he was a founding member of the John A. Logan Post # 35, Grand Army of the Republic, and later the Phil Sheridan Post #18. Newton went to the National Reunion of Union Soldiers in 1909 and helped with the 100th birthday of Abe Lincoln in Salt Lake City; he reported back that he had a wonderful time in the "City of the Saints" and secured some of the "new pennies with Lincoln's face on them."In 1908, Anna and Newton were badly hurt and Anna almost lost her life in a runaway buggy accident where Anna was thrown from the buggy to the ground and knocked unconscious. Newton was dragged a long distance. Newton was able to get to his feet and went to assist Anna. Both recovered after several days. Newton became ill in mid-1918, and went to the Old Soldier's Home in Santa Ana, Calif. He died there at 75 on Oct. 16, 1918, and is buried with his comrades in the Veterans Cemetery in Los Angeles near his brother, Edward H. Smith. Anna returned home to Grand Junction to live next to her children. She died in Grand Junction on Dec. 27, 1919 and is buried next to her daughter from her first marriage, Margaret Quinlan Deacon; her mother, Mary Elizabeth Pickering; her son, Newton Smith Jr.; and grandchildren, the Deacon boys. She started her journey in England with her mother and ended her life's travels next to her mother at the Orchard Mesa Cemetery.The other two children, Frank Edward Smith, and his sister, Belle Smith, with their families moved to California in the mid 1920s after Newton and Anna passed away. The only descendants living in Grand Junction today are family members from her mother's second marriage to Joseph Pickering. One would think for a man who had so many stories written about him in local papers, between the years 1881 and his death in 1918, there would be a photo of Newton Nelson Smith. In Mesa County there is not one photo of him yet to be found! Fortunately, there are photos of Anna Butt Smith, her sister-in-law, Mary Smith Hall of Michigan, and her mother-in-law, Minerva Brown Smith, for the reader to view. So to any brave soul, who plans to start a new community out in the wilderness, please get your picture taken for historians.Pioneers are defined as those with vision and faith who go before to prepare a way for others. Thank you, Newton and Anna, for being Mesa County pioneers.=================Garry Brewer is storyteller of the tribe; finder of odd knowledge and uninteresting items; a bore to his grandchildren; a pain to his wife on spelling; but a locator of golden nuggets, truths and pearls of wisdom. Email Garry at brewer62@bresnan.net.------------------------------SOURCES/PHOTOS: Wanda Allen; Debbie Brockett; Pat Stelter; Larry Easley; Museum of Western Colorado, Loyd Files Room; Michael Menard & David Bailey; Snap Photos; Mesa County Library; Bill Buvinger; Grand Junction News; Daily Sentinel files; records of Merle M. McClintock, Nannie Blain Underhill and J. Clayton Nichols.


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The Post Independent Updated Aug 28, 2012 10:06AM Published Aug 28, 2012 10:02AM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.