Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Family Plot of the "Father's Day Family"

Father's Day began in 1910 in Spokane, Washington. The woman behind the movement was Sonora Smart Dodd, who wished to honor what her father, William J. Smart, had done in raising his family as a single parent.

In October 2011, I visited Spokane's Greenwood Memorial Terrace. It is my favorite cemetery in Spokane, a lovely place to walk and soak in the history of the area. Around the cemetery, one will come across banners like these, which point to historical markers and tombstone of famous folks buried nearby. 

The Smart family plot is located in the middle terrace.

Smart Family Plot Marker

Historical Marker Commemorating Sonora Smart Dodd, the "Mother of Father's Day"

Sonora Louise Smart Dodd
The "Mother of Father's Day"
February 18, 1882 - March 22, 1978
Sonora Louise Smart was born in Jenny Lind, Arkansas, to Civil War Veteran William Jackson Smart (1842 - 19191) and Ellen Victory Cheek - Billingsley Smart (1851 - 1898). In 1889, when Sonora was seven years old, she moved with her family to a farm located between Creston and Wilbur, near Spokane. Her mother passed away in 1898, leaving 16-year-old Sonora and five younger brothers. 
Sonora Dodd related the following story in the Spokesman-Review in June 1942.
One windy March night in the late '90s, Mr. Smart, a grief-stricken father just returned from burying his wife, sat with bowed head in the front room of this farmhouse in the rolling hills of the Big Bend, near Spokane. Knowing nothing of the finality of death, the children looked toward the door, expecting their mother's return momentarily. Finally one lad, frantic, rushed out into the snow to seek her in the woods. His father roused himself, went out into the snow to seek the boy, and finding him, brought him back to mother him before the fire. From that moment, he became both mother and father to the six children.

Historical Marker/Bench of William Jackson Smart, the Father Behind  Father's Day

William Jackson Smart
Beloved father of Sonora Smart Dodd
Inspiration for Father's Day 
At the end of the Civil War, Sgt. William Jackson Smart returned to Jenny Lind, Arkansas where he courted and married Elizabeth Harris. The Smarts had six children, Mary, Martha, L.V. (who died in infancy), William J., Susan, and Anna. Elizabeth passed away early in life in 1878, leaving William alone to raise their young children. 
In 1880, William Smart and Ellen V. Billingsley (a widow) were married. With Ellen's three children, John E., Jesse J. and Lieuary joining the Smart family, William's responsibilities increased. Together William and Ellen had seven more children, Felix (who died in infancy), Sonora, Charles, twins Henry and George, Marshall, and Fred. They jokingly said the family was made up of "steps, halves, and wholes." 
In Jenny Lind, farm life was difficult. The Smart family made ends meet by selling coal from an outcropping on their land. Many from the area were looking to the "Big Bend" country of Washington Territory for a better life. In 1889, William sold his farm to a mining speculator for $5,000, purchased the Miller farm between Wilbur and Creston, and the family traveled west by train. 
Ellen passed away in 1898 leaving William with six children at home. Once again he assumed the role of both father and mother and devoted himself to raising his young children.
The life of the man who inspired the creation of Father's Day may be summed up in the words from the poem "My Choice" by Sonora Dodd. 
"If I might choose from all exalted positions of the nations the one in which I feel I could best serve humanity, I would choose the high office of Fatherhood. In this responsible niche, I could best build for today and for tommorrow [sic]." 
William Jackson Smart certainly lived up to his responsibility and his memory lives on as an example to fathers everywhere.

Founder of Father's Day
1882 - 1978

G. A. R.
1842 - 1919

William J. Smart
The "Father" of Father's Day

1853 - 1898

Ellen Victory (Cheek) Billingsley Smart
Mother of Sonora Smart Dodd and wife of William J. Smart

1870 - 1945

Husband of Sonora Smart Dodd
One of the original founders of Spokane's Ball & Dodd Funeral Home

1872 - 1936

Son of William Jackson Smart and first wife, Elizabeth Harris

1878 - 1952

Daughter of William Jackson Smart and first wife, Elizabeth Harris

SEPT 3 1936     JAN  29 1955

A descendant of William J. Smart

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