Smith, Stephen

Stephen Smith (1797-1873)

Wealthy businessman and agent on the Underground Railroad


During his lifetime, Stephen Smith was one of the wealthiest African Americans in the United States. He was born in Columbia, Pennsylvania, and went on to build an empire which included the Smith, Whipper & Co. lumber and coal yard.
In 1867, he donated property and cash worth $250,000 for the establishment of a home for the aged and infirm. The home, which bears his name, was dedicated two years before Smith's death and still operates today.

(From: Blockson, Charles L. Philadelphia's Guide: African-American State Historical Markers. Philadelphia: Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection / William Penn Foundation, 1992.)


Comments

Stephen Smith was not born in

Stephen Smith was not born in Columbia, PA, but kidnapped along with his mother by Thomas Boude, Lumber Mill Operator in Columbia, when he witnessed them being mistreated by their indentured owner. We suspect his age at 9 years old when he came to Columbia, he bacame Boude's accountant at 16 years old and owner of lumber mill at 21 years of age.
This man is so underlooked as a one of the leaders of the Underground Railroad. His money and knowledge of logistics and investment in property and religion is truly amazing.
His story needs told, along with his brother in law and partner William Whipper.

Agreed!  Let's begin by

Agreed!  Let's begin by getting his house (921 Lombard) designated as a local landmark by adding it to the Philadelphia register.  I teach at Penn and would be glad to work with anyone on this.  See the Preservation Program's website for contact info.