Not much is known about his early days. He is believed to have been born in either Pennsylvania, Virginia or North Carolina. He may have been born as early as 1759 or as late as 1767. When Smeathers was 12 his father was killed by Indians and his mother died shortly thereafter, leaving young Smeathers to tend to his younger brother James and sister Mollie. He was married twice, the second time to Mary Winters of Tennessee. He had two sons, John and Archibald, and four daughters.
In 1782 he was one of the first settlers in the Rough River area of Kentucky, where he built Smeathers Station. Smeathers was also an early settler of Fort Hartford (present-day Hartford in Ohio County), and he helped to build a fort at Vienna (later Calhoun in McLean County) on the Green River in the early 1780s. In 1797 or 1798 he built a home on the Ohio River, at a site that became known as Yellow Banks, becoming the first settler in what is now Owensboro, Kentucky. Smeathers served on first grand jury of Court of Quarter Sessions at Hartford, 1803. In 1808 he was appointed land commissioner of Ohio County. In 1809 he was tried for murder (under the name Bill Smothers) for killing a man who had allegedly raped his sister. He was acquitted but was advised to leave the area temporarily for his own safety. He served in the Kentucky “Corn Stalk” militia in 1803, and he served in the War of 1812 as a captain in the Kentucky Mounted Spies under the command of Major Toussaint Dubois.
He reportedly visited Texas (then under Spanish rule) in 1810, and at some point he seems to have lived in Indiana. He eventually relocated to Texas, and in 1821 he helped Stephen F. Austin explore the coast to choose a location for Austin’s first colony. In 1822 he was one of the five men who established a fort, Fort Bend, at a bend in the Brazos River near the site of present-day Richmond, Texas; the fort gave its name to present-day Fort Bend County. Smeathers is listed as one of the Old Three Hundred, original settlers in Austin’s colony along the Brazos River in Mexican Texas, the first of many Americans to settle in Texas with the permission of the Mexican government. Later he was one of the first settlers in the DeWitt Colony in the Lavaca River valley area near current Hallettsville. His son and three grandsons fought in the Texas Revolution.
Info taken from wikipedia
That is whats commonly known about Smeathers, but Lets dig deeper, and see what we can find out about the man who decided to settle here in owensboro first…
SMEATHERS/SMOTHERS. William (I), John (I), Archibald(I), William (II), John (II), Archibald (II). The Smothers family was originally Smeathers indicated by signatures of literate members of the original family, although the spelling Smethers, Smithers and Smothers appears in some documents and then as Smothers in most later records in Texas. The spelling Smothers apparently became general after its use associated with grandson of William Smeathers, John B. Smothers (II) about the time of his marriage to Mary Hinch. It seems gradually adopted over time among the grandchildren and their descendants and became general in subsequent genealogical records, historic archives and markers both in Texas and back in Kentucky.
The 1837 obituary of William Smeathers written in Columbia, TX states he lived in Texas for 17 years and died at the age of 71 suggesting that he came to Texas in 1820 and was born in 1766. From the current research of descendants, it is believed that he left Kentucky in 1810, floated down the Ohio River to Galveston Island and hung around String Prairie for about a year. He shows up again in KY in 1811 in various records until about 1820 after which he appears as a witness at a hearing in Indiana. According to the most widely quoted accounts, William Smeathers’ father was killed by Indians when he was 12 and his mother shortly thereafter. Elsie Smothers and others suggest that William Smeathers was born ca. 1760 in the Holston River area of Virginia, the son of Anna Marie Chrisman (b. 1735) and Jacob Smithers. The Holston River area was not formerly settled until after 1767 making it unlikely he was born there before that date. Current researchers have found no evidence for the identity of Smeathers’ mother and believe the Chrisman relationship is an error. William Smeathers/Smithers/Smothers is said to have been a veteran of American Revolution battles, King’s Mountain, Guilford Courthouse, Eutaw Springs, and Camden. These sources also contend that he was a member of the Kentucky “Corn Stalk” militia in 1803 and captain of a battalion of mounted spies along the Wabash River in the War of 1812. Recent research efforts of descendants have failed to verify these contentions. Birth dates suggest that William Smeathers of Texas was too young to have participated in the listed battles of the Revolutionary War. Discharge papers in the Hugh Potter Collection at the State Library in Kentucky show that William Smeathers was discharged 30 Oct 1812 before the Wabash battle in Nov. He was 100 miles from his Yellow Banks residence when discharged and was given 15 rations indicating it probably took him 5 days to get home. In CumberlandCo, VA records is an application for a Revolutionary War pension applied for by William Smothers, “a free man of color.” Some current descendants research suggest that it is records of this William Smothers, particularly Revolutionary Service records which have been confused with William Smeathers who came to Texas. This service record was probably used by some descendants of William Smeathers as qualification for DAR membership. According to descendant Nena Smothers, Smeathers built the first cabin in Kentucky on the Yellowbanks of the Ohio River, which became Owensboro and where there is a monument to him and a park named Bill Smothers Park in his memory. It is likely that William or son John Bate Smeathers named Yellow Bank creek and community west of Petersburg in LavacaCo after their home on the Ohio. Smeathers has also been cited on a marker for being helpful in erecting Ft. Vienna, later Calhoun, KY in the early 1780′s. William Smeathers’ sister, Mollie was raped by a riverboatman name Norris when William lived on the Yellowbanks of Kentucky. William killed the man and went to trial for murder. He was represented by a famous lawyer named Daviess which was also the name of the prosecutor. Smeathers was acquitted, but advised to leave the area for fear of safety for his life following the trial in 1809. This is believed to have prompted William to go to Texas where he was on Galveston Island for a month, living off eggs of the birds. William Smeathers was a very colorful man, a hunter and friend of Jim Bowie, but best of all was his subtle humour and his tales and jokes heard in family stories from generation to generation. He was a just and honest man, and fought for truth, justice and individual freedom. He helped establish Ft. Bend, TX where a historical monument is established on the west bank of the Brazos River, south bridge on US 90A …
William Smothers was known as a fierce hater and fighter of Indians beginning from the time of the murder of his father and continued into his last years in actions against Indians which included scouting and hunting trips with James Bowie. Smothers died at his home on the Brazos River, Columbia, Texas on August 13, 1837. An obituary in the Telegraph and Texas Register, 19 Aug 1837 read:
“DIED. At Columbia, on the morning of the 13th inst., in the 71st year of his age, Mr. WM. SMEATHERS, who was one of the earliest pioneers of this country, having resided in Texas nearly 17 years, subject to all the privations of a new, and then wild, uncultivated country, and bravely maintaining himself single handed on a frontier against the assaults of numerous hordes of predatory savages, in many a hard fought fray. But his course has finished and he has gone to his final audit. In his death his country has lost a bold and hardy defender, and his family a kind parent.”