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Ernest Archer "Frog" Smith
Birth: Dec. 14, 1896
Death: Aug. 3, 1993
Florida, USA

Christened Ernest Archer, Smith was born in 1896 at Pinebloom, Ga. First tagged little Bud, he came by his present moniker later on. His father George, an engineer on the Flint River and North Eastern Railroad, had a colorful though brief life and was the inspiration for many of his earliest writings. A rugged, handsome man who had a speech impediment when excited he was generally known as "Stuttering Dick."

The descendant of two aristocratic families, the Bradshaws and Pritchards - landed gentry until the Civil War - Smith was deprived of his monetary inheritance, but blessed with the assorted talents of his distinguished forebears. Artistic, eloquent, and endowed with a fantastic memory Smith was destined for a bright future then his father died of typhoid fever.

"He had a premonition he hadn't long to live," Smith said, "and took out several policies with his lodges and insurance company. He only paid one installment before he death."

Mollie Smith used the money to buy a small plantation at Lennox, an 9 year old Bud had to quit school to help with the farming and support of his siblings, Thelma, Arthur, and baby George, born six months after his father died. That was the boys last full year of schooling and education from then on was in "snatches". Relatives lent a helping hand, but plowing, planting, and even digging the well were chores willingly assumed by Bud.

He was twelve years old when Mollie finally sold the land and accepted her brothers offer to share his home in Staunten. Smith had no sooner enrolled in school than his uncle broke his leg and it was imperative for him to again care for the family.

Buds first real job was a sawmill and following that trade for sometime he traveled down to Florida. At Otter Creek, 20 miles from Cedar Key he was promoted to oiler for a local lumber outfit. Responsibilities eased when Mollie married Giles Easter. But his stepfather periodically ill with malaria, was a poor provider, and young Smith had to abandon plans for returning to school.

When Mollie lost her first child by Easter and young Arthur was fatally stricken with a rare fever, Bud moved his grieving mother and family to kin to Washington County. Temporarily, he worked on construction of the BC and STA Railroad, then rafted logs and "fired" at a saw and gristmill near Chipley.

Always hopeful of bettering himself he moved on to other sites, and while he was in Moultrie, Ga., fell in love with Perlie May Tucker .
Exempt from service in World War I due to a hip injury, Smith returned to Chipley and was hired as a night operator at the powerhouse. With a good assured income of $10.50 per week, he went back to Moultrie and married Perlie May.

That was the beginning of an almost intinerant life for the couple - 120 moves in all - which provided much of the lore Smith drew upon.

After several years he gave up his job as operator of the powerhouse, ice plant and waterworks in Chipley for that of sawyer at the plant in Bonifay owned by Frank Sikes, father of U. S. Representative Robert Sikes. From time to time he brushed elbows with the famous, among them aviatrix Jacqueline Cochrane, then a nurse at the mill dispensary.

For two years he zigzagged about the various jobs and finally settled back in Georgia, where their first child, George, was born. After the birth of another boy, Leroy, he was assigned to set up a mill in Monticello, Florida. Opportunity beckoned from St. Petersburg in 1925 and the Smiths were on the go again. Smith went into structural steel work, also manned the refrigeration plant and fathered a third son William.

A year later with the imminent collapse of the Florida boom and cutbacks in his business Smith went to Clewiston to run pipe lines into the new sugar mill then under construction. When that job was completed he had to look for another job and at last found one as a machinist and log scaler in a lumber mill at Melbourne. Shortly after his last son, Ernest, Jr., was born the mill was closed down and no other prospects in sight, Smith conceived the idea of hunting frogs, a new delicacy with the fashionables up North.

He fared well at the occupation and when he was called back to the U.S. Sugar Corporation, he continued to supply "legs" to the Fulton Fish Market in New York. A country boy whom knew how to find the slippery creatures, and snag them, he kept his hunting grounds secret and netted a good additional income. On one occasion alone, he snared enough to dress out a whole barrel of legs, reputed to be the largest batch ever known to be caught in a single night with a hand rig.

Envious chums constantly twitted him about his success and gave him the nickname he is best known by today. "I cussed out several good friends with no luck," said Smith, and "finally had to wear the name, Frog."

The Smiths "last move of any distance was in 1942 when Frog came to Slater Mill in North Fort Myers which furnished him with a modest house on Polecat Curve. But hard luck dogged their footsteps. The mill closed in 1944 and jobs were scarce due to wartime, Frog labored at the ice plant, a welding company and numerous other jobs to make ends meet. With lumber from two shanties the mill owner had given to him, he built a very presentable eight-room house on Old Bridge Road. And started fishing commercially, especially for frogs, to pad his income. It was at this time, despite his many duties, he began writing.

Just to try his wings he sent a ditty about his father and mother's trip in 1895 down the Suwannee River from High Springs to Fanning Springs for the critique of former Tampa Mayor D.B. McKay at the Tampa Tribune. Commissioned to submit more such folk tales, he was a columnist on the paper for 10 years and initiated the pen name of "Frog." He also contributed 26 chapters to the pioneer Florida history written by McKay admiringly stated "there would never be another like Frog Smith." Between times he wrote for the Railroad Magazine, other periodicals and published a limited edition of his homespun stories. His columns, attracted the considerable attention and in 1954 was hired by Editor William Spear to write for the New-Press. Smith's regular Sunday features were a potpourri of nostalgia and fact.

A good humored and philosophical man, Frog always managed to look on the sunny side until Perlie May became seriously ill. Their home to large and lonesome since the boys went into military service, Frog hoped a change of scene would be beneficial and built her another house on Hubbard Road. Her health worsened, however, and she died in 1966.

With the death of his mother Mollie Smith in 1958 and brother George in 1967, Mrs. Thelma Finch of Vernon, Florida were the only other member of a patriarch family still alive.

Frog was a widower for two years when he recaptured his happiness with Mrs. Gladys Blackman Zenga, widow with one daughter, Donna June (Mrs. Jeffrie Sheridan).

Following their marriage they bought a home on Marianna Avenue in North Fort Myers. Beginning in 1961 at the age of 65, Frog started retiring, - at least a half-dozen times, but always managed to find an excuse to work firing on dredge, operating a highway asphalt plant and of course fishing.

Presumably retired, Frog on the young side of 78 decided to change up his line of work. In the studio adjoining his home, he gave his well-worn typewriter a daily workout and encouraged by Gladys he decided to try out a new talent - oil & water painting. Some of his works are appealing primitives, others are almost architectural portrayals of the old mills and railroads he had known.

Frog Smith was elevated to folklorist and very proud of that. With that Frog eased into a role as one of Florida's all-time characters. Peddling his stories, in papers, magazines, on television and in classrooms. For 25 years he had been a featured storyteller at the annual Florida Folk Festival in White Springs. Frog treasured a framed certificate that reads "1975 Folk Heritage Award for Outstanding contributions to Florida's Folklife.

During the Bicentennial year in the summer of 1976, Frog was invited to perform in Washington D. C. at the invitation of Smithsonian Institution for the Bicentennial Folklore Festival. He was on stage for an hour and a half for 5 days telling stories. Tape recordings of his stories and some of his primitive styled paintings of sawmills are now a part of the Smithsonian's offerings on American Folklore.

Frog's reputation as a tale-teller was known far and wide, He was once featured by Charles Kuralt in an "On The Road" piece for CBS.

In 1977, WINK-TV (Channel 11) in Fort Myers aired a television series called "Florida Yesterday". This half-hour segment series in essence was the Frog Smith show: where Mr. Smith recounted varied aspects of rural life - set mostly in the first one-third of the twentieth century. Each half-hour segment was video taped by two cameras at such locations such as the 120-year-old Welles Ranch in Arcadia and the Henry Ford mansion on the Caloosahatchiee River in Fort Myers. According to the Fort Myers New-Press, "Producer-Director Gordon Gair embroidered Frog's narratives with striking visuals, taking advantage of remote originations." In addition, original art by Frog Smith was used to add to the visual presentation.

His second wife, Gladys passed away in 1984. Once again, Frog was a widower, He started dating Thelma "Ethel" Ward. On July 10, 1986, Frog married married for his third time to Thelma "Ethel" Ward. Ethel was the mother in law of his son William A. Smith.

Ernest Archer Smith passed away on August 03, 1993 in Lee Memorial Hospital. He is buried in Cape Coral Cemetary, Ft. Myers, Florida. 
 
Family links: 
 Parents:
  G A Smith (1869 - 1905)
  Mary N Pritchard Easters (1874 - 1958)
 
 Spouses:
  Pearl May Tucker Smith (1897 - 1966)
  Gladys Blackman Zenga (1909 - 1985)
  Ethel Thelma Snyder Smith (1912 - 2009)
 
 Children:
  George Bonnell Smith (1920 - 2001)*
  Leroy Crawford Smith (1924 - 2012)*
  William A. (Bill) Smith (1926 - 2006)*
 
 Sibling:
  Ernest Archer Smith (1896 - 1993)
  Thelma Smith Finch (1899 - 1987)*
 
*Calculated relationship
 
Burial:
Coral Ridge Cemetery
Cape Coral
Lee County
Florida, USA
 
Created by: kelly
Record added: Sep 04, 2012
Find A Grave Memorial# 96516889
Ernest Archer Frog Smith
Added by: Joanie
 
Ernest Archer Frog Smith
Added by: kelly
 
Ernest Archer Frog Smith
Added by: kelly
 
 
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Dear Pop,I found just the thing for you, a picture of an old steam engine, you loved them so . I do so miss you and your stories, you were so good at telling the tales and I learned from you. Miss you Pop. Love you...
- Joanie
 Added: Jun. 8, 2013
Dear Pop,I am so happy you have a nice memorial page now thanks to your granddaughter. I miss you a lot, I so enjoyed the hours I spent with you listening to your stories, both truth and fiction. You were so good to my mother and every one you came in con...(Read more)
- Joanie
 Added: Sep. 5, 2012
We miss and love you Grandpa Frog!
- kelly
 Added: Sep. 4, 2012
 
This page is sponsored by: kelly

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