by April Hancy
Ann Eliza Smith, First Lady, author, Honorary Lieutenant Colonel, took homemaking to an extreme. As a life-long resident of St. Albans and the daughter of Senator Lawrence Brainerd, Ann understood government protocols and was passionate about her community and state.
As the wife of Governor J. Gregory Smith and mother to six children, she also spearheaded an exhibit about Vermont women for the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876, and was a published author.
Smith loved writing about the lands of her Norse ancestors (Selma), and the even further away island of Atlantis (Atla). Philosophy, poetry, travel diaries, and local history were also in her repertoire. But there’s more.
One day in 1864 when the Governor was at work in Montpelier, things took an unusual turn at the Governor’s mansion in St. Albans. Ann had, a few days earlier, met a newcomer to town named Bennet Young, and, being the gracious first lady she was, gave him a tour of the mansion, grounds, and stables.
As it turned out, Young was the leader of a bumbling group of fellows working for the Confederacy whose job it was to cause confusion at the Northern border by doing obnoxious things like threatening the townspeople and attempting to rob banks and set fires, none of which they were very good at.
When Ann heard of the raid she settled her servants in the house and stood outside with an unloaded gun, thinking that the raiders wouldn’t shoot a woman on purpose. The mansion was bypassed by the invaders, but the Governor took his wife’s prowess and bravery seriously and twice after that event dispatched soldiers directly to Ann to receive their orders.
For her participation in the Raid on St. Albans, Smith was awarded the title of Honorary Lieutenant Colonel in 1870. Of course one of their sons became a Vermont Governor, Edward Curtis Smith.
The most well-known books published under the name Mrs. J. Gregory Smith, include Seola, Selma, Atla, From Dawn to Sunrise, and A Centennial History of St. Albans.
Sources: Wikipedia, Kiddle, st.albansraid.com