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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.

SMITH, Orrin

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Photo courtesy: Linwood Legacies
SMITH, Orrin. (Hamilton Co., OH, August, 1806 – La Crosse, WI, October 30, 1881) (1) Smith moved west in 1822 and became a clerk in Galena. In 1827, Orrin married the daughter of Stephen LANGWORTHY, Mary Ann.

Smith partnered with James LANGWORTHY when he struck the “Phelps lode," one of the biggest deposits of lead found near Hard Scrabble, Wisconsin. The find meant prosperity for all involved and Smith moved to Dubuque and began a smelting business on the William G. STEWART farm. (2)

Smith also became interested in steamboating. He owned and operated the "Heroine" in 1825. With the profits of the Wisconsin venture ($22,000), Solon and Orrin manufactured the steamboat, Brazil, to travel the MISSISSIPPI RIVER in the winter of 1837. It was used to make trips between Cincinnati and Dubuque. In 1847 Smith was one of several investors who formed the Galena and Minnesota Packet Company with headquarters in Galena. and amassed another fortune. This company was dissolved around 1874. (3)

Smith moved to Chicago in hopes of manufacturing a patent brick. This did not prove a wise decision and he lost most of his fortune. (4)

In 1852 Smith and others attempted to establish the town on Montezuma in southern Minnesota. This was before the treaty with the SIOUX had been signed, however and the enterprise failed. In 1855 the ground on which Winona, Minnesota was later built was entered by a special act of Congress and then transferred to its original proprietors--including Smith. He then entered the business of banking and real estate as Orrin Smith & Sons. (5)

He was buried in LINWOOD CEMETERY.



1. "Another Early Settler Gone, Daily Herald, November 1, 1881, p. 4

2. Ibid.

3. "Navigation in Former Times," The Daily Herald, May 6, 1874, p. 2

4. "Another Early Settler...."

5. "Navigation in Former..."