Smith, George (1800-1868) (DNB00)

SMITH, GEORGE (1800–1868), historian and theologian, born at Condurrow, near Camborne, Cornwall, on 31 Aug. 1800, was the son of William Smith, a carpenter and small farmer at Condurrow (d. 1852), by his wife, Philippa Moneypenny (d. 1834). He was educated at the British and Foreign schools at Falmouth and Plymouth, to which town his father retired in 1808, when the lease of his small farm expired. In 1812 he returned with his parents to Cornwall, and was employed for several years in farm work and carpentering. Having accumulated a small sum of money, he became a builder in 1824, and still further increased his resources. He married at Camborne church, on 31 Oct. 1826, Elizabeth Burrall, youngest daughter of William Bickford and Susan Burrall. Bickford was a manufacturer, who afterwards invented ‘the miners' safety fuse,’ and Smith became a partner in his enterprises, taking out separately or in conjunction with his fellow-adventurers several patents for improvements in that article. Through his business he amassed a considerable fortune.

Smith's energy largely contributed to the completion of the Cornwall railway, which ran from Plymouth to Truro and Falmouth, and he was the chairman of the company to January 1864. All his life he was a diligent student, and he was famed throughout Cornwall for his powers in speaking and lecturing. In 1823 he became a local preacher among the Wesleyan methodists, and for many years before his death was one of the leading laymen in that society. He was a member of the Royal Asiatic Society, of the Society of Antiquaries (23 Dec. 1841), of the Royal Society of Literature, and of the Irish Archæological Society. In 1859 he was created LL.D. of New York.

Smith died at his house, Trevu, Camborne, on 30 Aug. 1868, and was buried in the Wesleyan Centenary Chapel cemetery on 4 Sept. His widow died at Trevu on 4 March 1886, aged 81, and was buried in the same cemetery on 9 March. They had four children, the eldest of whom, William Bickford-Smith, represented in parliament the Truro division of Cornwall from 1885 to 1892.

The writings of Smith included:

  1. ‘An Attempt to ascertain the True Chronology of the Book of Genesis,’ 1842.
  2. ‘A Dissertation on the very Early Origin of Alphabetical Characters,’ 1842.
  3. ‘Religion of Ancient Britain to the Norman Conquest,’ 1844; 2nd edit. 1846; 3rd edit. revised and edited by his eldest son, 1865.
  4. ‘Perilous Times, or the Aggressions of Antichristian Error,’ 1845, an attack on tractarianism.
  5. ‘The Cornish Banner: a Religious, Literary, and Historical Register,’ 1846–7; published in monthly numbers, July 1846 to October 1847, both inclusive, at the cost of Smith.
  6. ‘Sacred Annals:’ vol. i. ‘The Patriarchal Age,’ 1847 (2nd edit. revised, 1859); vol. ii. ‘The Hebrew People,’ 1850; vol. iii. ‘The Gentile Nations,’ 1853. The three volumes were reissued at New York in 1850–4.
  7. ‘Wesleyan Ministers and their Slanderers,’ 1849; 2nd edit. 1849, referring to the charges of the ‘Fly Sheets’ and the action of the expelled ministers, Dunn, Everett, and Griffiths (Bibl. Cornub. iii. 1163).
  8. ‘Doctrine of the Cherubim,’ 1850.
  9. ‘Polity of Wesleyan Methodism exhibited and defended,’ 1851.
  10. ‘Doctrine of the Pastorate,’ 1851; 2nd edit. 1851.
  11. ‘Wesleyan Local Preachers' Manual,’ 1855.
  12. ‘Harmony of the Divine Dispensations,’ 1856.
  13. ‘History of Wesleyan Methodism:’ vol. i. ‘Wesley and his Times,’ 1857; vol. ii. ‘The Middle Age,’ 1858; vol. iii. ‘Modern Methodism,’ 1861, a work of permanent value; the second and revised edition came out in 1859–62, and the fourth edition appeared in 1865.
  14. ‘The Cassiterides, or the Commercial Operations of the Phœnicians in Western Europe, with particular reference to the British tin trade,’ 1863.
  15. ‘Book of Prophecy: a Proof of the Plenary Inspiration of Holy Scripture,’ 1865.
  16. ‘Life and Reign of David,’ 1868. A companion work on Daniel was left incomplete.

[Boase and Courtney's Bibl. Cornub. ii. 662–4 (where particulars are given of his sermons and patents and of several publications relating to him); Boase's Collectanea Cornub. pp. 906–7; City Road Mag. iii. 338–42; West Briton, 3 and 10 Sept. 1868; Cornish Telegraph, 27 Jan. 1864, pp. 2–3.]

W. P. C.