Born enslaved in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, in about 1797, he escaped by paying a man $5 and a "bowie-knife wuth (sic) $25" to steal freedom papers for him. By 1849/50, he made his way to Canada, where he resided until his death on Christmas day 1908 at the age of 111, having lived during three centuries.
Addison Smith first appeared in the Canadian census in 1851 as a grocer in Chatham. Sometime that year, he married his third wife, Mary Anderson, Hester Freeman Meehan's aunt. He was 50, and she was 16. Twenty-one children were born to this union; descendants of these children remained in the North Buxton area and settled in Michigan, Illinois, and Ohio.
Mr. Smith's first wife, Malvina Drumgold, was sold south into Mississippi. Their three children, "property" of his wife's master, were given to someone else to raise. He never saw his wife Malvina or his three children again after they were sold.
His second wife was Eliza Fletcher. When he escaped enslavement in Tennessee, Eliza feared for the lives of their five children, and she would not go with him. He never saw this family again, either.
Addison Smith fathered 29 children with his three wives, eight while enslaved and 21 in Ontario.
The 1957 obituary for his daughter, Beatrice Smith Harris, referred to Addison Smith as "the militant and public spirited first colored citizen of the village" of Shrewsbury, Ontario, Canada. An 1855 article in the Provincial Freeman reported that when Addison Smith first moved to Shrewsbury, his house on Brock Street was burned to intimidate blacks. Unmoved, Addison purchased the lot next door to his original house, giving him a beautiful, large corner lot to build on.
Addison Smith shares his remarkable life story in an 1897 newspaper article by Mrs. Augusta Doan Richardson. Mr. Smith shares details of his life in slavery, his escape, and his life in Canada.
The original article is at the Buxton National Historic Site & Museum in North Buxton, Ontario. It is shared here with permission from the Museum.
Lisa Landrum researched and shared the enslaver's will posted above with me. She found the information in the book Wills and Inventories of Rutherford County, Tennessee (1828-1840) Vol. #2. By Helen & Tim Marsh, Pub. 1998, 278 pages, Index, Hard Cover, ISBN #0-89308-707-6
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