Ella Cordelia Smith (1851 – 1919)
For the first time in this lengthy family history we finally get to learn something of substance in regards to the character and personality of some of the women of the family.
Ella was born March 14, 1851 in Petersburg, Virginia. She was the daughter of John Wesley Smith (1818 – 1854) and Francis Sephronia Osgood (1817 – 1903), who prior to the Civil War built a fine house on Smith’s Hill in Richmond. Her grandparents were, on her father’s side; John Walton Smith (1787 – 1861) and Mary Budd (unknown); and on her mother’s side; Sewell Osgood (unknown) and Francis Courtney (unknown), who was daughter of Thomas Courtney of King William County, Virginia.
Unlike most other women in our line, her lineage was carefully recorded in the family record for one crucially important reason; she was a daughter of one of Virginia’s “old” family’s. She was a child of the upper classes (as was her sister Florence, William’s first wife of 1866), and as such she elevated William’s “status” in the very status oriented society of Virginia. Ella’s people probably possessed significant wealth and property in and around Petersburg and Richmond prior to the Civil War. Whether they retained that wealth after the war is less important to the story. In the South (as it is among some of New England’s oldest families), genealogical longevity, establishment in the community and good breeding had more to do with maintaining or building social standing than did actual wealth.
William Ellis Jones (1899 – 1951), recalled his grandmother fondly in The Baby Book. He knew her personally and I cannot improve upon his impression, therefore I will not attempt it:
“…I remember her as a stately old lady with charming manners. In her girlhood she had been beautiful, and she grew old gracefully. She had a gift for social life, and among a wide circle of friends was considered an amusing conversationalist.
She was not as tolerant of the changed order of things in the South after the War as was her husband. She was born a rabid rebel and continued so until her death. She loved the South passionately and had little patience with anything north of the Mason and Dixon Line. With northern people she was polite but constrained. I think she looked on them as undesirable aliens. She lived and died completely unreconstructed…
…She was proud, proud of her class, her state, and her sons. This pride served to create in her a sense of responsibility. It forced her to walk very straight and deal very high all her days. She demanded truth and courage from all persons with whom she had to do. She did not have much patience with weakness, none at all with her own…
…If the foregoing makes her seem a hard person, I have done her a great injustice. She was (one) of the most affectionate and lovable persons, but that side of her nature was reserved for her own. She simply had no taste for the hoi polio. She was an aristocrat by nature and she lived in awareness of that fact and under the obligation of noblesse oblige.”
- William Ellis Jones (1899 – 1951)
Ella Cordelia Smith was seized by a stroke shortly after her husband’s death in 1910. She suffered paralysis and involuntary muscle seizures and cramps, causing her a great deal of pain until her death on January 19, 1919. She was cared for in her final nine years of disability by her daughter-in-law, Addie Gray Bowles, and her sister, Lemira Virginia Gibbs (ne. Smith), who resided in the Jones household.
Ella Cordelia Smith is buried next to her husband, William Ellis Jones, at the Shockoe Cemetery in Richmond.
Primary Source: The Baby Book / William Ellis Jones Jr. Family History, By William Ellis Jones Junior (1936)