|Birth: ||Feb. 14, 1815|
|Death: ||Feb. 14, 1884|
District of Columbia
District Of Columbia, USA
A woman of great heart, Lydia Hamilton Smith was born on Valentine's Day at Russell Tavern in Adams County, Pennsylvania, to an African American mother and an Irish father. She married a free black man named Jacob Smith and bore two sons but they separated before he died in 1852 and she raised the children alone.
Thaddeus Stevens of Lancaster, whom Lydia Smith and her mother knew when he was an attorney and abolitionist in Gettysburg, offered her a position as his housekeeper. She moved there with her young sons in 1847. In 1848 Stevens was elected to the U.S. Congress, where he advocated ending slavery. In recent years, archeologists have discovered evidence that the cistern at his Lancaster house was used as a hiding place for freedom seekers and suspect that Stevens and Smith participated in the Underground Railroad. Smith accompanied Stevens on his trips to Washington, D.C. She was a close friend, included in Stevens's social gatherings and addressed as "Madam" or "Mrs. Smith." In 1860 Smith purchased her home from Stevens, on a lot adjacent to his.
The 1860s brought hardship and Civil War. Lydia Smith's oldest son William died in 1860 and Isaac, a noted banjo player and barber, enlisted in the 6th U. S. Colored Troops in 1863. He and his regiment served primarily in Virginia.
After the Battle of Gettysburg in July, Lydia Smith acted upon her compassion for the tens of thousands of wounded soldiers. Driving a borrowed horse and wagon through Adams County to a field hospital, she collected donations of food and clothing and distributed them among the wounded men, Union and Confederate alike.
Smith and Stevens's partnership lasted 24 years, until "the Great Commoner" (as Stevens was known in Congress) died in 1868.
Stevens left $5,000 to Smith in his will. She purchased Stevens's home in Lancaster and a large boarding house across from the prestigious Willard Hotel in Washington, DC. She spent most of her time operating the establishment and earned a reputation as an astute businesswoman, but she returned often to Lancaster.
Saint Marys Roman Catholic Cemetery
Created by: Mark Stoner
Record added: Nov 20, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 61911136
Dear Mrs. Smith,I heard of you for the first time ever today. You were a great woman. I hope you are resting in peace.|
Added: Nov. 19, 2014
Added: May. 22, 2014
So happy to be able to honor your memory here, and proud to call you a Pennsylvanian woman. God Bless, and thank you.|
Added: May. 9, 2014
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