News from The Cartersville News
The Cartersville News
September 3, 1908, page 1
Memorial Tablet Honoring “Bill Arp.”
The Presbyterian church in this city contains a number of fitting memorials to its more notable members who are dead. Years ago Mrs. Eliza Sproull generously donated to the church a marble tablet in memory of Rev. Richard A. Milner, the first pastor of the church. In the nineties Judge John W. Akin had prepared and placed in the church at his own expense a splendid marble tablet commemorative of Rev. Theodore Smith, the young minister, formerly of Cartersville, who lost his life while heroically working among the sufferers of the great yellow fever epidemic in Jacksonville, Fla., in 1888. A few months ago the children and grandchildren of James C. and Eliza Sproull placed a handsome memorial window in the front of the church in memory of their parents and grandparents. The last memorial offering was received by the church last Sunday, and is a beautiful bronze tablet in memory of Major Charles H. Smith known under the pen name of “Bill Arp.” This tablet was given to the church by the late Judge John W. Akin, whose thoughtfulness and generosity is much appreciated by the membership of the church. Judge Akin was an ardent admirer of Major Smith and knowing his virtues and usefulness did this loving act to help perpetuate his noble work among his fellowman. On the tablet is this inscription:
Chas. H. Smith
Major Smith was not only a zealous, consistent member of the Presbyterian church but was a ruling elder in the church, holding that position when he died.
Major Smith was a man who did not like ostentation. He was as modest as he was learned and great. He urged before his death that his funeral should be characterized by simplicity in every particular. Yet the people knew of his greatness, and he was a contradiction to that saying that “a prophet is not without honor,” etc. They are ready to praise the thoughtfulness of Judge Akin in placing this tablet to his memory in the beloved church of his membership.
The home where Major Smith lived, now occupied by his aged widow and several of his children, is still known as the hallowed spot where the work of his later years was done. Cartersville was proud to claim him as a citizen and as the years go by the reverence of his memory grows and grows. He was north Georgia’s great philosopher, the peer of the greatest men of his state.
There was a crowd present that filled the church to the utmost. The tablet that has been placed on the wall at the east side of the western door was presented to the church by the pastor, Rev. W. A. Cleveland, in some touching and appropriate remarks.
Judge T. W. Milner then read the following paper regarding the life and work of Maj. Smith:
Charles Henry Smith was born in Lawrenceville, Gwinnett county, Ga., June 15, 1826, and died in Cartersville, Bartow county, Ga., August 24, 1903.
His father, Asahel Reid Smith, came from Vermont to Georgia in 1817, seeking the fortune which was denied him at home, and after the usual interval at school teaching became a merchant and a most valuable citizen of old Gwinnett.
His mother was Carolina Maguire, daughter of James Maquire, an Irish refugee, a friend and co-conspirator of Emmett, who fled the realm of Britain after the rebellion attempted by his leader and found a new home in Charleston, S. C. The strange vicissitudes of fortune which beset his daughter in her early days make up a tale stranger than fiction, but the record is that after her marriage “she was happy, very happy.” This union of the incisive, enterprising scion of New England with the warm-hearted daughter of Ireland, brought up on southern soil, found its legitimate result in the character of their son, Charles, who to a clear comprehensive and analytical mind added a warmth of feeling and an impulsiveness of charity which respected nor creed nor person.
Marrying early in life a daughter of Judge N. L. Hutchens, of Lawrenceville, Ga., Mr. Smith was soon thereafter admitted to the Bar and began to ride the circuit, as he expressed it “at the tail of the procession” in the company of the Jacksons, the Cobbs, the Hillyers, the Hulls, the Dougherties and others of that ilk, when Lumpkin and Nesbitt and Warner sat upon the Supreme Bench and all were making and moulding the laws which have so much conduced to the prosperity of their state.
In 1851, Mr. Smith removed to Rome, Ga., and entered upon the practice of law with Hon. Jno. W. H. Underwood, afterward Superior Court Judge and noted the state over for his overflowing wit and humor. This partnership continued until the breaking out of the struggle between the states, which the subject of this sketch always denominated the “Uncivil War,” in 1861.
He entered the Confederate Army of course, did his full duty and left the service with the rank of Major, and consoling himself with the reflection, “that he had killed as many of the Yankees as they had killed of him.”
He found his home devastated by the enemy and for some months, he and his family subsisted largely upon the proceeds of a chunk of gum opium and a bolt of cotton cloth, which was bartered to the country people for provisions.
He began again the practice of the law, this time in partnership with Hon. Joel Branham, and the firm endured until Mr. Branham was elevated to the Bench of the Superior Court. This partnership was peculiar and characteristic of the men, in that it kept no books, and there was no accounting between the partners. Each took what he wished of the firm’s earnings, and both were satisfied. During the war after his return from the army, and during the troublous days of reconstruction, Major Smith took up the pen which was to make him famous, moved, only, by a desire to cheer and encourage his fellow sufferers. “He was the first bird that chirped after the surrender,” says Henry Watterson, and he continued until his death, to be “guide, philosopher and friend” to many thousands throughout the Southern States.
His earlier writings were draped in the quaint vernacular of the Georgia Cracker, and he took as his nomme de plume the patronym of a local court ground celebrity, William (Bill) Arp, the hero of many a hard fought fight, a homespun wit and surveyor of unfailing jest.
Disguising with the language of the fields, his keen insight into the motives of men, seeking ever the brighter side of affairs, and looking always for the star of hope, drawing his inspiration largely from his own domestic surroundings, the letters of Bill Arp appealed to a greater and more appreciative audience than has ever, probably, greeted any other Southern writer. The smiles and tears of Mrs. Arp and her children, as chronicled by him, found an answering smile or tear at a thousand hearths and the hope he held out to himself and them, of better days and brighter skies, helped many weary souls over their own sloughs of despond. He wrote of home, for homes and housekeeping people.
Despising pettiness and all things that make a lie, he held high all things that make for good. Intensely patriotic, and believing, with all his heart, that the Lost Cause though lost was still right, he never failed to lift his pen in defense of his native land and his people. But his indignation was without malice, his anger bore no rancor, and the keen edge of his wit left no burning wounds, while his unfailing humor was a sure balm for all hurt minds.
An omnivorous reader, with an encyclopedic memory, his reminiscences of men and matters were invaluable, and have been bestowed with lavish pen upon his readers. Living close to Nature and her God, deeply but unostentatiously religious, a profound and fearless thinker, he was enabled by the faith and hope which lighted his own soul, to illumine many darkened ways, and to ground his unfailing philosophy upon a foundation that was bedded in the Rock of Ages.
For about 25 years he was a regular contributor to the Atlanta Constitution, and eagerly read from the Potomac to the Rio Grande. In city, hamlet or country home, it was the same; Bill Arp’s letter was the unfailing feature which did not stale, or fail of hearty welcome.
During the latter years of his life, he practically abandoned the dialect of his earlier writing, but he seemed none the less welcome to his readers, and his weekly comments upon current events voiced the sentiments of a large majority of his people, for he possessed the faculty of getting at the core of a subject, or a motive, and well knew how to turn the light upon the dark places.
A Democrat when Whigs were rampant he continued in the faith, and fought the fight until death without the hope of reward. Except for two terms in the State Legislature, and the service rendered his city as Mayor he had no political office. He was not such stuff as politicians are made of, knew not how “to bend the pregnant hinges of the knee, that thrift might follow fawning,” had no shade of self seeking, but was ever modest and retiring when his own deserts were in question. Moving in an atmosphere peculiarly his own, it was better that he should have sought no place or preferment other than that which he had made for himself in the hearts of a constituency which extended from Virginia to Texas. The introduction which he received to a Mississippi audience well expressed the relation which he bore to his people, “I cannot say that Bill Arp is the greatest man, nor the best man, nor the most eloquent man, but I can truthfully say he is the best beloved man in all the Southland.”
Such a testimonial is of greater worth than place or pelf, and it is given to few men to be so genuinely helpful to others, in life, of so genuinely lamented in death. “He bore eternal summer in his soul,” he warmed and quickened the souls of his fellows, and they shall keep his memory green.
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Last modified: January 26, 2007