James Smith

Burial Location Visited DoI Signer Grave #
York, Pennsylvania April 22, 2010 15th Visited


The monument in this photograph with the                                                As was the case with most
flag next to it marks the spot where delegate                                             prominent men of the period,
James Smith's body lies.                                                                          Smith started out as a lawyer.


Posing at James Smith's final resting place.                                 Smith was one of a handful of people that
Finding Smith's grave was no hassle, but my                               signed the Declaration of Independence
father and I did have trouble finding the                                     without being born in the Thirteen
burial site of Philip Livingston, another signer                              Colonies.
of the Declaration of Independence buried
in York.

                                       *** Interesting Facts ***

* James Smith, one of the fifty-six men who signed the Declaration of Independence, was a native of Ireland, where he was born to a farmer and his wife. During Smith's youth, his large family relocated to America, settling in Pennsylvania. He received a good education and became an adept surveyor and lawyer. Upon passing the bar Smith went to reside in Shippensburg, where he established a practice while continuing to survey land. Later, he moved to the town of York, which he would call home for the rest of his life.

* In the 1760's, Smith went into the business of manufacturing iron, but he was not successful and ended up losing a "small fortune" in the process. He blamed this on that fact that he put his trust in two partners, "one of who was a knave, and the other a fool.” Several years later, he became very interested in the escalating conflict between Great Britain and the Thirteen Colonies and took the side of the latter. At a meeting of the provincial assembly in 1774, Smith, representing York County, suggested hurting Britain's pockets by boycotting British goods. He presented this and other ideas in a paper called "Essay on the Constitutional Power of Great Britain over the Colonies in America."

* That same year, Smith organized a volunteer militia and was named its captain. He maintained command even as it grew into a full battalion, but subsequently handed the reigns over to a man younger than himself. In 1775, he was appointed to the provincial convention in Philadelphia and was sent the following year to both the Continental Congress and his state's constitutional convention.

* As a member of the Second Continental Congress, Smith was able to show his support for the separation of the Thirteen Colonies from Great Britain by signing his name on the Declaration of Independence. He continued to serve in the Continental Congress for another two years, leaving that body in November of 1778.

* After his departure from the Continental Congress, he continued on with public service, serving in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1780. Later, he became a brigadier general in the state militia and then state counselor. Smith subsequently resumed his law career and continued to be an attorney until he retired around the turn of the century. Upon his passing six years later, he was interred in the graveyard of the First Presbyterian Church in York.

Spouse: Elizabeth Armor Smith (1729-1818)

Last Words:

* According to Reverend Charles Goodrich, author of the 1829 book Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, James Smith's true year of birth is unknown. Goodrich states that Smith would not even share the information with his friends, and that "the knowledge of it was buried with him in the grave." The patriot's grave marker says that he was ninety-three years of age at the time of his demise. "It is conjectured, however, that he was born between the years 1715 and 1720," says the reverend, which would make him several years younger.
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