Joseph Alastor Smith Sr.

Male27 December 1852–2 January 1924

Brief Life History of Joseph Alastor

The source of all the information on Joseph A. Smith, Sr. and Edgewood Hall is “Providence and Her People.” Some is quoted direct and some is condensed. Joseph A. Smith was born in 1852 in England. When he was fourteen years of age his family emigrated to America. Joseph was an exceptionally bright and ambitious person. He sought after education and culture, the best that was available. “In 1883, when he was twenty-nine years old, he received a ‘call’ to serve in the Swiss-German mission. Joseph was a distinguished missionary. He quickly acquired fluency in German and edited Das Stern, the German language missionary publication. Serving as mission secretary and president of the North German Conference, he traveled extensively in Denmark, Germany, Austria, Belgium, England, France, and Switzerland. ‘I could,’ he wrote in the Millenial Star, ‘write volumes about the beautiful scenery of these lands.’ “ Upon returning to Utah after his mission Joseph had the opportunity of going to Rexburg, Idaho to manage a church cooperative store. He lived there for eight years. “Exactly when Joseph first envisioned an estate on the Providence Bench is not known. But certainly by 1886, while he was living and working in Rexburg, a plan was formed, for in that year he purchased one and one-half acres of land on the Providence Bench for eight dollars. The first Providence settlers had ignored the bench lands. The soil was thin and rocky; the prime agricultural land was situated on the gently sloping ground on the valley floor. In addition, church officials did not usually encourage families to establish their homes outside the immediate boundaries of a settlement. “The bench lands were used for grazing cattle and for summer maneuvers by the local militia. Originally, the bench had been covered with perennial grasses, but by the 1880’s, grazing cattle had destroyed the grass, and sagebrush covered the land. Rocky Mountain Maple, chokecherry, elderberry, and cottonwoods grew along Spring Creek Hollow and lower Dry Hollow, but the rest of the landscape was barren. “Joseph had often walked the ‘uplands’ as he liked to call the bench. The view of Cache Valley and the surrounding mountain ranges was extended and varied. But particularly from the brow of the hill, on a small promontory between Dry Gulch and Dry Hollow, the entire length and breadth of the valley could be seen. And directly below, there was the village of Providence. “During the next eight years while working in Idaho, Joseph methodically and systematically purchased nearly all the land between Dry Gulch and Dry Hollow in more than eighteen separate transactions.” It was during this time that he envisioned and planned his Edgewood Hall. “Certainly all British converts must have suffered an environmental shock upon arrival in the Great Salt Lake Valley, for Zion was a desert. Britain is green, a gentle rolling land, with a nearly endless variety of trees, shrubs, flowers, and grasses. But especially the hardwood forests of oak, beech, elm, and ash that are inextricably entwined with British literature, history, and culture. For Joseph the shock was acute. “After purchasing the first few acres of land, Joseph and wife, Annie, began the most important work, the planting of trees. For if the barren land between Dry Gulch and Dry Hollow were to be transformed into a paradise, it was imperative to first establish a forest. During the first planting season, they planted more than 1,000 hardwoods. The buying of land and water rights, and the planting continued during Joseph’s years in Idaho. “In 1894 he returned permanently to Providence. The building of Edgewood Hall now proceeded rapidly. Laborers were employed to build roads to different parts of the farm, outbuildings were constructed, irrigation ditches dig, board fences built and stone retaining walls laid. Most importantly, thousands of new trees were planted in groves, woodlots, shelter belts, and along the lanes that connected the different parts of the farm. One grove of ash contained more than 1,500 trees. Specimen ornamentals were established in an arc around the promontory between Dry Gulch and Dry Hollow. “Joseph used a common tactic in his day for employing a portion of the farm labor force. Passage money to Zion was advanced to sturdy German converts against a prescribed time of back breaking labor at Edgewood Hall. But there were compensations. Some of these men and their families lived in The Lodge, a log house that Joseph had constructed near the mouth of Dry Hollow, and Joseph was one of the few Britishers in town that could speak fluent German. Joseph chatted with his men about the beauties of Germany, his walks down Unter den Linden and tramps in the Harz Mountains, snatches of poetry from Heine, Uhland and Goethe, and choruses from robust German folk songs. Best of all, he usually kept a barrel of beer in the spring house or cellar.”

Photos and Memories (11)

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Family Time Line

Joseph Alastor Smith Sr.
Annie Maria Matthews
Marriage: 24 September 1878
Charles Mathew Smith
Annie Elaine Smith
Joseph Alastor Smith
Aenone Mary Smith
William Geraint Smith
Margaret Irma Smith
Myra Vega Smith
Arthur Mathew Smith
Buelah Evangeline Smith

Sources (31)

  • Joseph A Smith, "United States Census, 1880"
  • Jos. A. Smith in entry for William Fred Man and Vega Smith, "Utah, County Marriages, 1887-1937"
  • Joseph A. Smith in entry for Rulah E. Smith, "Utah Death Certificates, 1904-1964"

Spouse and Children

  • Marriage
    24 September 1878Providence, Cache, Utah, United States
  • Children (9)

    +4 More Children

    Parents and Siblings

    Siblings (11)

    +6 More Children

    World Events (8)


    Age 11

    Abraham Lincoln issues Emancipation Proclamation, declaring slaves in Confederate states to be free.


    Age 12

    War: Prussia and Austria vs. Denmark.

    1872 · The First National Park

    Age 20

    Yellowstone National Park was given the title of the first national park by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant. It is also believed to be the first national park in the world.

    Name Meaning

    English and Scottish: occupational name denoting a worker in metal, especially iron, such as a blacksmith or farrier, from Middle English smith ‘smith’ (Old English smith, probably a derivative of smītan ‘to strike, hammer’). Early examples are also found in the Latin form Faber . Metal-working was one of the earliest occupations for which specialist skills were required, and its importance ensured that this term and its equivalents in other languages were the most widespread of all occupational surnames in Europe. Medieval smiths were important not only in making horseshoes, plowshares, and other domestic articles, but above all for their skill in forging swords, other weapons, and armor. This is also the most frequent of all surnames in the US. It is very common among African Americans and Native Americans (see also 5 below). This surname (in any of the two possible English senses; see also below) is also found in Haiti. See also Smither .

    English: from Middle English smithe ‘smithy, forge’ (Old English smiththe). The surname may be topographic, for someone who lived in or by a blacksmith's shop, occupational, for someone who worked in one, or habitational, from a place so named, such as Smitha in King's Nympton (Devon). Compare Smithey .

    Irish and Scottish: sometimes adopted for Gaelic Mac Gobhann, Irish Mac Gabhann ‘son of the smith’. See McGowan .

    Dictionary of American Family Names © Patrick Hanks 2003, 2006.

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