By Tiffany Conigam (MC, ’08)

The dynamics of Chester James Smith and his variety of involvement in the city of Monmouth was exactly what the city needed in the early 1920’s. At a time in the history of Monmouth when few men desired to be mayor, Chester Smith stepped up to the challenge, serving two full terms.

     Chester Smith was born in Kirkwood, Illinois, on the fifteenth of September, 1885.[1] He was the son of Fletcher and Mary (Rusk) Smith. He had one sister and three brothers, Jane Elizabeth, William Glenn, Raymond Edwin and Walter Rusk.[2] Chester was a family man, and he shows this later in his life when became a co-worker to both his brother and his father.

     He got a good start to developing character in school, where he was outstanding in athletics. Chester Smith got his debut in athletics while he was at Monmouth High School where he participated and achieved very highly in football and track.[3] After high school, Chester Smith attended Colorado College in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and then returned home to attend Monmouth College. Chester Smith was a football star at both colleges. While at Monmouth he was active in sports, as he participated in track, basketball and baseball. [4] Chester Smith also has great success in his track career, where he held the Monmouth College pole vault record for many years.  Smith played at the quarterback position in both 1906 and 1907. In the 1908 Monmouth College yearbook, Chester Smith is discussed in the “Gridiron Gossip for Season of 1906.” The article reads, “Turnbull, Norwood, McMillan and Smith made a back field that for speed and ability out-classed any team we met…”[5] The 1906 team made it to the state championship game that year in what was considered the “most hard fought of the season” against Lake Forest on the seventeenth of November, 1906. Monmouth won this game, their only scores coming from “three drop kicks by Smith.”[6] Monmouth also played a Western Collegiate championship in Monmouth on the twenty-fourth of November, 1906. The yearbook states, “On November 24, Beloit College, as champions of Wisconsin and Michigan, came to Monmouth to play for the Western Collegiate championship. On a field of snow and mud Monmouth wrested her titles from her in the greatest game in the history of Monmouth College football. Two touchdowns by straight football gave Monmouth her victory.”[7] In this year, Chester Smith was twenty-one years of age and listed as in the class of 1908. He is recorded in the yearbook as being five feet eight inches and weighing in at one hundred thirty-five pounds. Coach Bell said of Chester, “I consider Smith by far the greatest of collegiate quarterbacks. For all around ability, he is the strongest man on the team. He is a faultless tackler, carries the ball well on quarterback runs and is a tower of strength in interfering for his fellow backs. He is a consistent drop kicker. In is running of the eleven, headwork, generalship, judgment of plays and finding of weak spots in his opponents he has shown himself to be one of the headiest of College players. In carrying the ball in a broken field he is without a peer.”[8]

In the 1907 football season, Chester Smith became captain of the Monmouth College football team. As in his previous season, Smith was the quarterback. In 1907, Smith was twenty-two years old and listed as being in the class of 1909.[9] Chester Smith was listed as part of “The Machine of 1907” written up by Coach A.G. Reid in the 1909 Monmouth College yearbook. He is listed this season with the same height and weight. Coach A.G. Reid said of Smith, “’Chet’ Smith, captain and quarter back of the team stands without a peer among the colleges of the Middle West. Fast, nervy and using good judgment he has run the team well and fast. In carrying the ball from his position he has been one of the best ground gainers on the team. In long clean tackling and open field work he excels and as a clever drop kicker has few equals. Injured in an early season game, he has not shown the strength of former seasons but his big game has led his team on to victory with his old time spirit and skill.”[10]

     After college Chester Smith would go on to begin a life of business, community and family. Chester Smith married Orma Archer Innis in Rushville, Indiana, on October, 5, 1911.[11] That was the hometown of Orma Archer Innis and her parents still resided there. Orma Archer Innis was also a student at Monmouth College, where the two met. She was highly involved in the reinstatement of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority to Monmouth College. While interviewing with Chris Cook, Sharon Aquilla Smith and William Glen Smith, Chester’s grandchildren and great grandchildren, they spoke of how large the wedding was: “They were very well known throughout both of the communities. They had a very large wedding. I imagine it was beautiful”[12] Photos on their wedding day.



From 1908-1913 Chester Smith worked as a credit man for Fredrickson Kroh Music Company in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.[13] This was Chester Smith’s first position, and it gave him a good start to the jobs he would take on later in his life. When Chester Smith returned to Monmouth, he joined his father in the grain business of F. Smith & Son. Chester would continue with this until 1927, when he gave up his position to his younger brother. Then, he opened a dry cleaning business. He operated that until 1937, when ill health forced him to retire.[14] Aside from all of this business, Chester Smith was very much involved in the community.

He teamed up with his brother to help coach athletics at Monmouth College, starting in 1922, just one year after he was elected as the Mayor of Monmouth.[15] Chester Smith was also a faithful member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and sang in the choir for twenty-six consecutive years.[16] This same musical ability and passion is what helped him to land his first business job at the music store in Oklahoma. Chester’s grandchildren, Sharon Aquilla Smith and William Glen Smith, spoke of what a wonderful voice he had. They said he would sing at many funerals and weddings throughout Monmouth and, of course, at the church, along with his sister Jane Elizabeth Smith[17], who would go on to be a missionary in Egypt.[18]

Just months before the primary in 1921, the city began searching for candidates. Mayor Hanley had made it fairly clear that he would be stepping down from his position, and the city began wondering who would take his place. Friday, January 28, 1921, The Monmouth Daily Review headlines read, "Look Forward to Elections Next Spring—Important Offices in Town and City to be Filled at that Time."[19] In this article the author made predictions and informed the reader of the talk that has been going around the town about the mayoralty prospects: "The name of John S. Brown has been put forward by some of his friends but Mr. Brown has not initiated whether he would be willing or unwilling to accept. Alderman Peacock has also been suggested, as have R.M. Work, president of the Association of Commerce; Chester Smith, secretary of the Rotary Club; Professor L.E. Robinson of the college and James Dick."[20]

Campaign photo from 1921.

Months before the election took place, the town was still not sure who their candidates would be, as the Tuesday, February 15, 1921, Monmouth Review headline stated, “Candidates Are Few and Far Between—both Local Parties Hunting High and Low for Mayoralty Timber.”[21] This article came out two days before the candidates petitions were due. The article stated that “The chief question being asked on the streets these days is: ‘Who are going to be the candidates for mayor?’ and no one seems ready to even venture a guess that might be considered accurate and it looks now as though the names of the candidates would be kept a secret until Thursday when they must come out because petitions of candidates at the primary must be filled by 12 o’clock tomorrow night.”[22] The headline, “Candidates Are Few and Far Between,” proved true, as the last petition was turned into City Hall just before midnight, the night before the primary election.  The Monmouth Review released the names of those petitions submitted to City Hall for the primary election on February 1, 1921, with the candidates for mayor being Chester Smith, J.H. Jayne for on the Union ticket and W.J. Glitner for the Progressive side. “All three of the men mentioned for mayor are well known and capable so that no matter which one is finally chosen to serve the people the city is assured of being well taken care of for the next two years.”[23] With J.H. Jayne being up for mayoralty on the Union ticket, along with Chester Smith, the effort he would have to make in order to win the campaign was going to be much greater than that of the Progressive ticket, but Chester Smith would soon find out good news. Just a day later, Friday, February 18, 1921, the headlines of The Monmouth Review would read, “J.H. Jayne Refuses to Enter List.” The Union mayoralty candidate had endured much confusion when he saw his name appearing on the ballot. According to The Monmouth Review, “The local political situation was somewhat clarified today when J.H. Jayne, one of the men for whom a petition was filed for nomination as mayor on the union ticket Wednesday, sent his withdrawal to City Clerk Lusk. This leaves the field clear for Chest Smith, the other candidate for nomination on the union ticket and virtually means that Smith and Dr. W.J. Giltner will be the men opposing each other at the election the third Tuesday of April.”[24] J. H. Jayne’s letter to the City Clerk (J.W. Lusk) read as follows: 

     “J.W. Lusk, City Clerk,

Dear Sir:--I have authorized no one to present my name as a candidate for mayor of this city, and I therefore request that you withdraw my name and the petition now on file in your office.

                                             Yours Truly,

                                                      J.H. Jayne[25] 

That being done, Chester Smith would have an assured spot at running for Mayor of Monmouth against Progressive party candidate Dr. Giltner. The two candidates could now begin their campaigning to win the votes for the office of Mayor. Still, on the day before the primary, the town was quite, there had been no major efforts at campaigning by either candidate. The Monmouth Review states, “So far neither Dr. Giltner of the progressive party, of Chester Smith of the union has made any strenuous campaign, although the friends of both have already been doing some missionary work and as the time draws nearer the election the following of each is expected to grow larger and the election made a real contest.”[26] Sure enough, the fact that there was little campaigning done before the primary election was held showed in the voting. There were a very small number of people who voted in the primary election on March 8, 1921. Aside from little campaigning, the primary was not a sufficient way to measure who would win the actual election, because there was no competition between many of the parties in the election. “A comparison of the vote received by Dr. Giltner and Chester Smith does not help a great deal toward solving the question of which will win when the election day rolls around. The doctor has more than twice as many votes but that is due to the contest among the progressives in No.5. Even in their own precincts neither had many votes cast for him, simply because it was already assured that each would be the nominee of his party.”[27] Giltner would gain 262 votes while Smith pulled in 117.

     Chester Smith’s first big campaign event helped lift him to victory, with the help of well-known Monmouth man, and future mayor, John Lugg. Lugg was very well known throughout the community, but rarely took a part in the politics of Monmouth. Much of the community was impressed to hear of John Lugg’s approval of the Union party candidate. This was a huge boost for Chester Smith’s campaign. The following is the speech John Lugg gave during this campaign for Chester Smith. “I think the time has come when we should be careful to whom we give our support—regardless of whether it be city or national politics. I am here tonight because of some things I have heard and as one who speaks for Chester Smith as a mayoralty candidate in Monmouth. 

“It has been said he is too young, but I want to say that a man must be young before he can be old, and that I am sure Chester Smith is old enough to preside over the affairs of the Maple City. He is old enough to have a mind of his own, and so far as he is concerned, he has his own mind.

There is not a person in Monmouth who can say a word against the character of Chester Smith. His life is an open book and he goes into this campaign with his hands free. He has made no promises to anybody.”[28] 

Following John Lugg’s speech, the chairman, O.S. French said of Chester, “The Union party has picked a candidate of high order, a man who is young, but who has established himself in business and in community enterprise. We take just pride in the record of the Union party in city administration and believe we can be assured of a continuance of this record under our candidate this year.”[29] Chester Smith was a very young candidate, he was thirty-five years old when he was nominated to run for the office of Mayor, but he had established himself in the city. He showed the character and all around young community man that he was. The Progressives would not have as great of a campaign show to put on as the Union party, but they were not silent: “While the opposition staged its first real meeting of the campaign, the Progressives served notice. Last night they intended to get into the battle by staging a booster meeting in their headquarters on South Main Street. They had not prepared such a formal program as the Union clan but from reports this morning, the gathering furnished ample evidence of party enthusiasm that will get results during the last few days.”[30] The Union party had great campaigning for Chester Smith. The advertisements that Chester Smith had and the big meetings that he held, created great enthusiasm from the community and got them involved in his campaign. Did he accomplish this? Absolutely![31]


On Tuesday, April 19, 1921, Chester Smith was elected mayor, headlines read:  

“Chester Smith is the mayor-elect of Monmouth. This fact was disclosed within an hour after the polls closed yesterday afternoon and when all the reports had been received it became apparent that his victory was no meager affair, but that he was the winner in every precinct except the Tenth and finished by piling up a plurality of over 900 votes.”[32] Chester Smith won by a factor that was almost the largest ever recorded in the city of Monmouth. The numbers show how hard the newly-elected mayor and his campaign members worked. It also shows just how well-known and established Chester Smith was within the community, even at the young age of thirty-five. In the election many women went to the polls and voted. This was still relatively new to the city of Monmouth, but their votes are crucial in all the elections.  The official vote total, according to the Record of Preceding for the City of Monmouth were, Chester J. Smith 2430, and William J. Giltner 1514.[33] One of the first indications that Mr. Smith would win was when he took the First precinct, “as this was in the home precinct of Dr. Giltner, the wise acres immediately foresaw the big victory of Chester Smith looming in the near distance.”[34] 

The Mayor had the following statement to follow up with his election:  

“There is little that I can say other than to express my sincere thanks for the loyal support of my friend at yesterday’s election.

I have always felt the deep responsibility of friendship, and this morning am impressed more than ever before with a sense of obligation which comes with the honor that my friends have given me

I am especially thankful for the manner in which the campaign has been conducted. It is gratifying for me to know that the campaign ahs been honest and clean throughout and I know the leaders of the Progressive party share this sentiment with me.

My position as mayor of Monmouth will be just what I have said during the campaign. Briefly, I realize the size of this new responsibility and want to reiterate what I have so often and during the campaign—that I intend to make the best mayor of Monmouth that is possible for Chester Smith to make.

I realize the great possibilities in Monmouth’s future and I want the loyal sincere co-operation of all my friends during my administration.”[35]  

At such a young age it takes a wide range of qualities to make a person suitable for such a prominent position in a city. Chester Smith had exactly the right mix. The Monmouth Review said the following about Chester Smith’s victory: “The victory of Mr. Smith was a clean cut one and is all the more credible because the campaign throughout was a clean one, with both sides playing the game hard, but playing fair.”[36] Chester Smith had the help of a great campaigning crew, but the respect he had gained throughout Monmouth can assure the people that he would be great at the position he was elected to.

When the mayor finally officially took office, his plans began to unfold, one of them, a plan to grade all the city streets: “The plan is simply to engage the township highway commissioner, C.M. Burford, to grade and drag the dirt streets of the city and to charge the city the exact cost of doing the work.”[37] Monmouth also had a water ordinance that was expiring during the first few months of Smith’s mayoralty and the town was very anxious to see what Smith was going to do with the ordinance; they, of course, looking for a big reduction in their water rates. This was also a big issue in the campaign for mayor. Sure enough, on Friday, June 3, 1921, The Monmouth Review headline was: “Water Rates Come Down Next Month.”[38] The city also would have many other changes that Smith would have to provide ordinances for and make sure his official family was prepared act on them. As the automobile was being mass produced, the city prepared for what was to come with the ‘Roaring Twenties.’ Many sidewalks and streets would be improved, including paved sidewalks and streets, street signs, street lights, and parking ordinances. The city council also revised an old curfew ordinance. When the council was confronted with the problem, they began to think of an ordinance, but found that one had already been written, but was just not being enforced: “Under the provisions of the ordinance as it stands it is unlawful for parents to allow children under 15 years of age to be on the streets unattended after the hour of 9 o’clock during the months of May, June, July and August, or after 8 o’clock during the other eight months of the year. The ordinance also provides that the police force shall see that the curfew law is enforced and that fine of $1 for each offense shall be levied.”[39] It was imperative that it was immediately enforced because one of Smith’s promises during his campaign was that he would be sure that all the laws of the city were being enforced. A final ordinance that Mayor Smith would pass during the year of 1921 would control the conduct of aircraft over the skies of Monmouth.

Within the first few months of his first term, the Mayor left for Indiana, without appointing someone to take his position as the chief executive of the city during his absence. The Monmouth Review stated the city was without a mayor for nearly twelve hours before the message of who was to be appointed finally reached the city.[40] Chester Smith was in such a hurry to catch the midnight train that he had forgotten the important step of choosing his replacement for the period of time during his absence. When the council meeting was finished, Chester Smith hurried to a long distance telephone booth to call his wife, he had been staying in Rushville, Indiana, visiting her family. His wife asked him to come out to Rushville, Indiana, in order to accompany her and the youngest two children back to Monmouth. The paper makes a special note to mention that Smith had time to pack his fishing reel and tackle, but failed to remember that he would need to appoint a mayor pro team until after he had left Monmouth. After failing to get through to any of the aldermen, he had given a reporter a message to give to the council that left L.E. Robinson in charge.[41]

Perhaps the biggest addition that Chester Smith made to the community during his time as Mayor was the construction of the new waterworks plant. On Tuesday, October 4, 1921, the council announced that they would be making plans to consider the best options for getting a new waterworks plant running. It was stated of the plant at the time, that “none of the three wells is yielding more than about half its rated capacity because of the condition of the casing which allows escapement.”[42] As soon as the council found this out, Mayor Smith would put together a committee to investigate the situation further, and its possible solutions.

Starting off in 1922, sidewalks were still a main issue for the Mayor and his council. “Sidewalks and circus parades are the chief topics discussed and acted upon by the city council at its meeting Monday evening, and before the session was adjourned the aldermen had passed ordinances calling for about a half mile of cement sidewalks.”[43] These changes were very important in the development and progression of the City of Monmouth. Chester Smith always wanted to look forward in order to provide Monmouth with the best opportunities, and make it the best City that he could.

In 1923, a year after the water plant troubles, not much had been done. In a meeting early in the year, reporters had the following to say: “Contrary to expectations there was no discussion of the waterworks proposition at the meeting of the city council last evening, as the mayor decided to let the waterworks question rest until he had received the report from the Chicago engineering firm which was engaged some time ago to investigate and present a report on the feasibility of continuing the plant as it is, or moving to a new location.”[44] The Mayor and city council were going about the situation in the correct manner. The process may have been slow, but they wanted to make sure they did it right, and since it was a very expensive matter, they needed the community’s support in carrying out the duties.

About this time he began planning his re-election campaign. The progressives picked a well known citizen who was sure to put up a good fight: “George P. Herbert, the man the progressives have selected to lead their ticket, is well known to many residents of the city, having made this his home for a number of years. He has never held a political office before but his experience in banking and other business makes him well qualified to become the city’s chief executive should he be elected, and as a candidate he is expected to make a lively campaign against Mayor Smith who is seeking re-election this year.”[45]

The second time Chester Smith ran for Mayor of the city of Monmouth, it was not as clean and fair of a campaign. Days before the election the Progressive Party put an add in the paper coming down on the Mayor and his council for the way they had handled the waterworks situation and producing what was said by Smith and the Union party to be “misleading charges.” Smith followed up in the next paper with the following statement titled, “Don’t be Misled by Last Minute Charges.”  

“Since last Saturday there has been a vicious story being circulated to the effect that my administration has spent the sum of $261,000.00 for which no account has been made. To the informed voters of Monmouth this is without doubt ridiculous but because of the fact that the story has been circulated I feel it is my duty to make an answer.

Financial matters of the city are handled directly through the city treasurer, city clerk and the Monmouth Trust & Savings Bank, which this year handled the city funds. Before any bill or account can be paid it must pass the rigid scrutiny of the auditing committee of the city council. Alderman C.S. Peacock, chairman of the Progressive party organization is chairman of the auditing committee of the city council. He is assisted in auditing the bills by Aldermn E.D. Powell and Alderman Harry Wilson, all members of the Progressive party. These three men have passed upon every bill ordered paid by the city council during the last two years. They know more than any others where the money paid out has gone, I know these men are honest. I know that every bill paid by the council was a just one and was honestly ‘O.K.’d’ by the committee.

The financial budget of the city last year was prepared by Alderman L.E. Robinson and members of his committee. The amount appropriated to the various funds was passed upon by the members of the city council. There is not space enough in the columns of a daily newspaper to give publicity to all bills paid each year by the city council. Every bill paid by the council is on file at city all. The clerk will gladly present them for inspection. Remember. The Waterworks proposition can never be decided by the council. Last word must be voiced by the people. The waterworks question is too big to be made an issue. No change can be made until after the majority of the people register their consent at a duly authorized election.”[46] 

Chester Smith thus handled the situation in the most appropriate way that any official could have. After being attacked, Chester Smith politely came back with a respectful and peaceful manner, presenting the facts as they were. This is just one more piece to the character that made him up to be the all around character that he possessed exclusively to himself.

Chester Smith and Mr. John K. Teare both made a statement that published in The Monmouth Review, just two days before the election: “Mayor Smith’s statement follows: 

‘There are two reasons why I am confident of re-election. First, while we all know how impossible it is to please everybody, yet I feel that a large majority of Monmouth people are satisfied with the way I have conducted the affairs of this city during the last two years. These people feel that I am entitled to a second term since I am asking for it on my previous record. In the second place I do not believe a campaign, conducted solely on criticism and false issues and an eleventh hour attempt to mislead the voters, ever has or ever will win an election.

I have the utmost confidence in the ability of the people of Monmouth to choose proper officials to manage the affairs of this city. Election forecasts are entirely out of my line but after a careful survey of the situation Union party leaders have informed me that they are confident of success at the polls. The prediction of the party chairman is that we will carry four wards of Monmouth in the election tomorrow and will break even in the Fifth ward where we have gained considerable ground. One thing more, I want to thank the hundreds of folks who have been kind enough to tell met hey are satisfied with my administration and who have so willingly aided and loyally supported me throughout the campaign.’”[47]  

Two days later Smith won an unheard of victory for the office of Mayor: “Carried into office on the crest of a titanic tidal wave of votes, Chester Smith was re-elected mayor of Monmouth yesterday by the biggest majority ever given a candidate for mayor in the history of the city. Smith’s majority over John K. Teare, Progressive party nominee, was 1,123 votes. The mayor carried every precinct in the city, even invading the Tenth, slated as a Progressive stronghold, and taking it away from the enemy by one vote.”[48] Smith’s statement follows: 

“The people of Monmouth, by a vote of confidence given my administration yesterday, have placed me in a position where I must try my level best to live up to their expectations. All I have ever claimed was that I have worked hard to handle this job of being mayor the very best I could and that’s what I pledge myself to do the next two years. We have a wonderful bunch of loyal workers in the Union party and I think I am happiest of all over the way they handled my campaign and got the vote out yesterday. I am eager to greet them all and thank them personally.”[49]  

Chester Smith made sure he never took anything for granted, especially from his alderman. He was so thankful for everything he got from them, and all of his supporters, and he made sure the whole community saw his appreciation.

At the beginning of the year in 1924, bonds were finally able to be issued, and that meant that construction of the waterworks plant could begin at once. The community pulled together in support of their newly re-elected mayor and his council in a special vote to issue bonds in the city:  

“Mayor Smith said today that work of getting the new waterworks plant under construction would be started as soon as possible. The best offer for the digging of the wells will be secured at once and as soon as the contract is signed the actual drilling will commence. It is believed that it will be possible to drill the two wells at once and thus cut down the time of construction somewhat.”[50] The Monmouth Review published a statement made by Smith following the city’s approval of the new waterworks proposal: “I am glad to take this opportunity to thank the people of Monmouth for the splendid vote of confidence given the city administration yesterday. We tried to put this question up tot the voters in a fair and square manner, leaving it up to them to decide whether or not we should settle this vexing question which has been agitated so many years. The overwhelming vote favoring the new project now places this responsibility back upon the administration. It will be our duty and privilege to carry out the plan and put it into effect. When this is done Monmouth will have taken the biggest step forward she has taken in years. I want to thank every man connected with this administration. Surely a Mayor is fortunate in having so loyal and capable a group of men working with him. This includes not only the councilmen but every man working of the city in any capacity. Also I wish to express my deep appreciation to the many citizens of Monmouth who have realized the importance of the present situation and who have backed up every step of the way. They are the same women who have made and are still making Monmouth the kind of city we are proud of.”[51]  

The next step in the process of constructing a new waterworks plant for the city of Monmouth would be financial. “After completing the semi-monthly business grind last evening Monmouth city council stood on a recess until Wednesday afternoon at 3:00 when the finance committee of the body will receive sealed bids for the sale of $90,000 in waterworks bonds.”[52] Two days later, the city would find their best buy and it would be very local. “City waterworks bonds, the $90,000 worth which were voted by the people at the special election held January 8, were sold yesterday afternoon to the four banks of Monmouth for $93,000.”[53] The people and the council were very excited about their selection.

The waterworks plant would be one of the last issues that Mayor Chester Smith would deal with. On May 4, 1925, Chester Smith served his last duties as Mayor during the council meeting where the new mayor took oath. The Monmouth Review stated the evening as follows. “After the old council had adjourned sine die, Chester Smith, the retiring mayor, made a few brief remarks in which he expressed his appreciation of the cooperation of his official family and alderman. He especially was grateful to Prof. L.E. Robinson, who retired from the council a year ago who assisted him the management of the affairs of the administrations. He also thanked Alderman Shelar Peacock, who retired from the council last night, for his very valuable assistance. Mr. Smith mentioned in closing that he had received more help and placed more value on his city engineer, Harold Tolberg, than on any other member of his official family. He called attention to the fact that Mr. Tolberg, in addition to his duties as city engineer, was also acting superintendent of the waterworks, street superintendent, inspector of plumbing and electrical inspector.”[54] Chester Smith was very grateful for the opportunity he had and did not forget about those that helped him get there, and those who were there each stop of the way. He left in a very respectful manner, and with the community in good shape for Mr. Lugg.

Tuesday, September 30, 1947, would be a tragic day for the city of Monmouth. One of their most prominent and loved citizens would pass away, after years of illness that had forced him to retire a decade earlier. His obituary follows: 

“Twice mayor of Monmouth, Chester J. Smith, 62, died this morning after a long period of illness.

Funeral services for Mr. Smith will be held Friday afternoon at 2:00 at the Turnbull Funeral Home, in charge of Dr. gay C. White, pastor of the First Methodist church. Burial will be in Monmouth cemetery.

For thirteen years in the grain business, and then in the dry cleaning business for another decade, Mr. Smith had retired in 1937, owing to failing health. As mayor, just after World War 1, he was credited with leadership in the building of Monmouth’s present water plant, and be also was active in the establishment of the present Monmouth airport.

Born at Kirkwood, Ill., Spet. 15, 1885, Chester James Smith a son of Fletcher and Mary E. (Rusk) Smith. He attended both Monmouth high school and Monmouth College, and also Colorado College, Colorado Springs, Colo. He was associated with is brother, Glenn Smith, as an athletic coach at Monmouth College for several years, starting in 1922. Not only was Smith a star football player for Monmouth College and Colorado college, some forty years ago, but he was also considered a top-flight track and field man, holding the Illinois conference pole vault record for years.

For five years, from 1908 to 1913, he was connected with a music company at Oklahoma City, Okla., but in 1913 he returned to Monmouth permanently and centered into partnership with his father in grain business which, until 1927, was conducted under the firm name of F. Smith & Son. Twenty years ago he sold his interest to his brother, Walter Smith, who continues the business at 716 South Main Street. He then purchased the O.K. Cleaners establishment, which he operated until his retirement in 1937.

Active in Republican politics during much of his lifetime, Mr. Smith was first elected as Monmouth’s mayor in 1921, on the Union party’s ticket, and two years later he was re-elected fro another term. Long a member of the Methodist church, he sang in the church choir for 26 consecutive years. HE had been a member of the Masonic fraternity since 914. At Monmouth College he was a member of the Phi Kappa Pi and at Colorado, of Sigma Chi.

On October 5, 1911, Mr. Smith was married at Rushville, Indiana to Orma Archer Innis when survives with their three Children Robert Innis Smith at home; Fletcher Smith of New York City, and Chester Smith, who is a traveling man covering a territory in the state of Texas. In addition there are two grandchildren, Sharon and William, the children of Robert Smith of this city. Also surviving are three brothers all of Monmouth, Walter Smith, Glenn Smith, and Ray smith and a sister, Mrs. Neal D. McClanahan, Assiut College, Egypt.”[55]



Monmouth College Yearbook, 1906. Chester Smith’s football photograph. Beside this photo, Smith is listed as the captain quarterback for the 1907 College team.

The Monmouth Review, 1923. This is a photograph that was in a an advertisement for the re-election for Smith’s second term as Mayor. The advertisement read, “Chet Smith Deserves Re-election on His Record.”

The Monmouth Review, 1921. This was an advertisement for Chester Smith’s first election as Mayor of Monmouth. Many of his advertisements contained the word, “absolutely.”



This biography  was written in the fall of 2006 in William Urban's historiography class.

[1] The Monmouth Review. September 30, 1947

[2] Our Smith Family Across America 1635-1989 (121)

[3] Our Smith Family Across America 1635-1989 (121) Chester Smith held the Illinois pole vault record for many years.

[4] The Monmouth College Yearbook, 1908 and 1909. There were several Smith’s in the yearbook, and listed as playing sports, but they only listed the last name. It is unconfirmed that he also participated in basketball and baseball.

[5] The Monmouth College Yearbook, 1908, p. 98.

[6] The Monmouth College Yearbook, 1908, p. 99.

[7] The Monmouth College Yearbook, 1908, p. 99.

[8] The Monmouth College Yearbook, 1908, p. 101.

[9] There is no record that he graduated from Monmouth College in this year, it is believed that this is the time in which he would go to Colorado College, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Where he also played football.

[10] The Monmouth College Yearbook, 1909, p. 100.

[11] Historical and Biographical Record of Monmouth and Warren County Illinois (508)

[12] Interview. Through this interview I was able to get some scanned pictures of Orma and Chester on their wedding day.

[13] Historical and Biographical Record of Monmouth and Warren County Illinois (508)

[14] Our Smith Family Across America 1635-1989 (121) Chester Smith was involved very heavily in the grain trades of the county.

[15] The Monmouth Review. September 30, 1947 Chester’s brother, Glenn Smith was a football and basketball coach for Monmouth College from 1922-1924. He finished an overall record for the three years with a record in football of 14-3-2.

[16] Historical and Biographical Record of Monmouth and Warren County Illinois (508)

[17] Interview

[18] Our Smith Family Across America 1635-1989 (118)

[19] “Look Forward to Elections Next Spring—Important Offices in Town and City to be Filled at that Time,” The Monmouth Review, number 27 (January 28, 1921) 1.

[20] “Look Forward to Elections Next Spring—Important Offices in Town and City to be Filled at that Time,” The Monmouth Review, number 27 (January 28, 1921) 1.

[21] “Candidates Are Few and Far Between—Both Local Parties Hunting High and Low for Mayoralty Timber,” The Monmouth Review, number 27, (Tuesday, February 15, 1921) 1.

[22] “Candidates Are Few and Far Between—Both Local Parties Hunting High and Low for Mayoralty Timber,” The Monmouth Review, number 27, (Tuesday, February 15, 1921) 1.

[23] “Three Names on File for Nomination—Union Party Has Two Candidates for Mayor, Progressives One,” The Monmouth Review, number 44, (Thursday, February 17, 1921) 1.

[24] “J.H. Jayne Refuses to Enter List—Sends Request to Enter List,” The Monmouth Review, number 44, (Friday February 18, 1921) 1.

[25] “J.H. Jayne Refuses to Enter List—Sends Request to Enter List,” The Monmouth Review, number 44, (Friday February 18, 1921) 1

[26] “Tomorrow is Primary Day, All is Quiet—With Only One Contest Little Interest Will be Shown by Voters,” The Monmouth Review, number 58, (March 7, 1921) 1.

[27] “High Priced Primary was Tame Affar: Ryden Won Aldermanic Contest in the Fift—Only 267 Votes Cast in the City,” The Monmouth Review, number 60, (March 9, 1921) 1.

[28] “Union Party Lifts Curtain for Big Show,” The Monmouth Review,  number 89, (Tuesday, April 12, 1921), 1.

[29] “Union Party Lifts Curtain for Big Show,” The Monmouth Review,, number 89, (Tuesday, April 12, 1921), 1.

[30] “Union Party Lifts Curtain for Big Show,” The Monmouth Review, number 89, (Tuesday, April 12, 1921), 1.

[31] All of the advertisements found in The Monmouth Review ended with a slogan that the community could easily associate with Chester Smith, and that was, “absolutely.”

[32] “Smith was Elected Mayor by Large Plurality Yesterday,” The Monmouth Review, number 96, (April 20, 1921) 1.

[33] Record of Preceedings, City of Monmouth, p. 209-294.

[34] “Smith was Elected Mayor by Large Plurality Yesterday,” The Monmouth Review, number 96, (April 20, 1921) 1.

[35] “Smith was Elected Mayor by Large Plurality Yesterday,” The Monmouth Review, number 96, (April 20, 1921) 1.

[36] “Smith was Elected Mayor by Large Plurality Yesterday,” The Monmouth Review, number 96, (April 20, 1921) 1.

[37] “Mayor Hopes to Grade all City Streets,” The Monmouth Review, number 118, (May 1, 1921). 1.

[38] “Water Rates Come Down Next Month,” The Monmouth Review, number 133, (June 3, 1921), 1.

[39] “Old Curfew Law Coming to Life,” The Monmouth Review, (December 20, 1921), 1.

[40] “Acting Mayor Rest of the Week—City Minus Chief Executive Short Time This Morning-Robinson Named,” The Monmouth Review, number 160, (July 6, 1921), 1.

[41] “Acting Mayor Rest of the Week—City Minus Chief Executive Short Time This Morning-Robinson Named,” The Monmouth Review, number 160, (July 6, 1921), 1.

L.E. Robinson was a veteran member of the council and chairman of the finance committee. He was also a professor of English at Monmouth College and very active in the civic affair.

[42] “Need of New Water Supply is Imperative—City Engineer Tells Council Old Plant is About Warn Out,” The Monmouth Review, number 232, (October 4, 1921), 1.

[43] “Council Orders Many Feet of Cement Walk,” The Monmouth Review,” number 158, (July 5, 1922) 1.

[44] “No Report on Waterworks is Made Yet,” The Monmouth Review, number 16, January 16, 1923) 1.

[45] “Herbert Will Be Progressive Party Leader,” The Monmouth Review, number 46, (February 20, 1923) 1.

[46] The Monmouth Review, advertisement.

[47] “Candidates for Mayor are Both Very Sanguine,” The Monmouth Review, 1.

[48] “Smith Defeats Teare by Biggest Majority Ever Given Candidate for Mayor—Wins by 1123 Votes,” The Monmouth Review, number 95, (April 18, 1923) 1.

[49] “Smith Defeats Teare by Biggest Majority Ever Given Candidate for Mayor—Wins by 1123 Votes,” The Monmouth Review, number 95, (April 18, 1923) 1.

[50] “Waterworks Proposal Wins,” The Monmouth Review, number 10, (January 9, 1924) 1.

[51] “Mayor Smith Thanks the People,” The Monmouth Review, number 10, (January 9, 1924) 1.

[52] “City to Sell Water Bonds to Highest Bidder,” The Monmouth Review, number 33, (February 5, 1924) 1.

[53] “Bonds are Sold to City Banks,” The Monmouth Review,” number 35, (February 7, 1924) 1.

[54] “New Mayor Took Oath of Office Last Evening,” The Monmouth Review, (Tuesday May 5, 1925) 1.

[55] “Chester Smith Former Mayor Died Today,” The Monmouth Review, (Tuesday, September 30, 1947) 1.