Researched and Written by Chris Kelly
James Smith was born in Ireland in December 1838 or 1839. He came to the U.S. in 1853. By 1860 he was living in the family of Daniel Rockenstyre, a wagonmaker in Cropseyville, also working as a wagonmaker. He must have been a young man with something on the ball, as when the 125th NY Regiment was forming in August 1862, James enlisted as a Sergeant, though he was just 23.
This is his NYS Muster Roll Abstract, where his service and experiences during the war were recorded. His occupation is listed as “mechanic,” which reflects his work building wagons. The first battle of the 125th was Gettysburg, from July 1-3, 1863. Evidently James came through unscathed, but he was wounded at Auburn, Virginia on October 14. This wound couldn’t have been too severe, as he returned to duty. The 125th participated in many more battles through 1864, which James survived, only to be wounded in the last days of the war. The exact date is unclear in the record, but while the rest of the regiment was sent home in June, James was sent North to recuperate inhospitals in Albany and Troy. He was promoted to Sergeant, then to Lieutenant, at the time he was mustered out in June. His wound must have been severe, as he applied for an invalid pension in December 1865. A list of Rensselaer County Pensioners in the Troy paper in 1883 lists he had a gun shot wound to the left side, leg, and arm. He received an invalid pension of $12 a month. An article in the Troy “Times” in 1889 reports that James was injured in an incident with a runaway horse on Congress Street in Troy, breaking a rib, in the same place where he was wounded in the war.
We know, of course, that he recovered. Finally in 1871 or 1872 he married his across-the-road neighbor, Eliza Cropsey, who lived in the Morrison house. She was the child of David and Clarissa Morrison Cropsey, born in 1843. David died and Clarissa moved in with her parents, James and Sarah Morrison. She died in 1855, and Eliza and her sister Margaret lived on with their aunts and uncles.
In the 1875 census, James was listed as a 36-year-old wagon maker who owned his own home. He and Eliza, 34, had a 2 ½ year old daughter, Fanny. A son, Percy, was added the next year. James continued to do business in Cropseyville for the rest of his life. He participated in the Grand Army of the Republic, the Union veterans’ association, attending reunions and serving as an officer.
When James made his will in 1902, he left everything to his wife Eliza. As of 1900, son Percy was not at home, but Fannie, 27, was a dressmaker, living with her parents. James gave his will to his life-long friend, Brigham Morrison, for safe keeping. Brigham was his wife’s first cousin. James died in 1903. Daughter Fannie died in 1907 and wife Eliza in 1913. All are in the Morrison Cemetery.