Obedience Smith (1771-1847) Pioneer of Three American Frontiers: Her Ancestors and Descendants.
By Audrey Barrett Cook. Houston: Early Publishing Co. 1745 Marshall, Houston, Texas 77098-2801), 2008. Hardback with multi-colored illustrated jacket, maps, illus, genealogy charts, ports, endnotes, index, 520 pages. ISBN 978-9818196-3-1 $39.95. http://www.obediencesmith.com/
Audrey Cook provides this considerable volume on one of Houston’s earliest important women. Genealogical in nature but more broadly historical in content, Cook embarked on a years-long quest to put her subject in context. The physical volume is divided into four “books,” tracing the paternal Fort and maternal Sugg families and the subsequent Smith family (a Highlander crew) histories. The families’ trails begin in Virginia (some say most good things do), and continue to North Carolina, over the Cumberland Trail to Tennessee and Kentucky, and down the Natchez Trace into Mississippi, and finally to Texas at Point Pleasant (northwest of present Angleton , and finally Houston in 1836.
Obedience Fort Smith was a remarkable pioneer in the truest vein. And Cook is congratulated for bringing her to life on these pages. After bearing 11 children in Tennessee and raising the youngest in Mississippi, her husband died in 1835, and she followed her son to Texas when she was aged 65-years-old. (Some family members preceded her in 1833.) She arrived early in 1836 before the Declaration of Independence, got caught up in the Runaway Scrape, returned to Point Pleasant, and moved to Houston later in the year where she cared for family and others for the next 11 years before dying in 1847, after annexation.
Although the family was landed, they were “land poor.” Cook cautions us that Obedience was not the “Land Queen” or richest woman in Houston, but rather preferred the background. But she was recognized and honored by her husband when he made her one of the executors of his estate. It’s also untrue that she shot a lawyer who was allegedly trying to steal her land. The family’s history includes some “less well behaved” members, but most hewed the line of propriety. Cook’s frankness is gracious but informative.
The volume, although with genealogical intent, is largely informative narrative and makes for a wonderful read as the reader transits the history with rich documentation and frequent splicing of document excerpts.
As Mrs. Smith migrated from frontier to frontier, little did she know that her life would be so thoroughly recorded so many years later. And this book is a really outstanding chronicle of that journey.