Sarah "Sallie" Saunders Claytor Leftwich Smith

Sarah Leftwich Smith was born on September 28, 1807 in Bedford County, Virginia to Rev. William and Sarah Leftwich. Her father, William, was the son of Col. Thomas Leftwich and her mother, Sarah, was the daughter of Augustine Leftwich II, brother of Thomas. Thus, William and Sarah were first cousins, which was quite common at that time.

Sallie, as she was called all her life, married John Wesley Smith on March 14, 1827 in Bedford County. John ran the plantation in Pittsylvania County of his father, Reuben Smith, who had been wounded in the face during the Revolutionary War and Sallie joined him there. Their first three children were born on that plantation. Sallie's father had given the young couple a farm in Bedford County and in 1831 after Reuben's death, they removed to the Lynchburg area of Bedford County where seven more children were born.

In March 1844, John Wesley Smith died leaving Sallie with ten children to raise. Sallie's brother, William Burwell Leftwich, had emigrated to Pettis County, Missouri and Sallie decided to sell the Lynchburg plantation and start a new life in Missouri. In October 1846, she left Virginia with her ten children, five boys and five girls from ages 3 to 16 years old, to undertake an overland journey of a thousand miles. According to a letter written years later by her son (Ferdinand I believe), they traveled with fourteen slaves, three wagons of household goods and a ten-seat carryall wagon equipped with tents for camping. For four weeks they progressed over the mountains of Virginia and finished their journey by steamer down the Ohio River to St. Louis where they were met by John's sister, Judith Smith McCartan. Resting at Aunt Judith's home, they then proceeded for another two weeks through rain, sleet and snow, arriving in Pettis County in December 1846, after a journey of six weeks. William had a log cabin prepared for them and there they began a new life. Sallie ran her tobacco farm and raised her children. She later lived in Wellington and Lexington, Lafayette County, Missouri.
In 1875, Sallie traveled across the country again to Los Angeles, California to care for the large family of her eldest son, William Jasper Smith, who had been recently widowed. She remained in California until 1878, returning to Cooper County, Missouri where she lived with her son Captain Leslie Smith and his family. When Will first announced his engagement, Sallie wrote in a poignant letter that she feared she would never see him again and wished that gold had never been discovered in California. Gold had lured Will, Ferd and Leslie to the wild West and Will stayed, starting a vineyard and later an orange grove with money he made driving cattle to the West from Missouri. (There is a family story that Sallie made an earlier trip to California to bring Leslie home to Missouri when she learned that he was entangled with a woman. The details are a deep secret and no record of the woman or subsequent child have been passed to posterity.)

Sallie S. C. Smith died April 6, 1881, in Boonville, Cooper County, Missouri. She is buried in Walnut Grove Cemetery next to the obelisk of her son T. Leslie Smith and his two wives. The stone was eventually covered with moss and illegible. The summer of 2006, her great-granddaughter, Doris Smith Haley and great great-granddaughter, Dianne Haley Gomez, cleaned the stone, and using shaving cream to raise the lettering, discovered her grave.

Sallie S.C. Smith led a remarkable life and we honor her courage. Born at the beginning of the nineteenth century, she raised ten children alone, traveled the wide expanses of the American frontier and now rests in a beautiful little cemetery in Boonville, Missouri.

Dianne Haley Gomez May 23, 2008