Smith, Abraham Herr

Life Span
Dickinson Connection
Class of 1840; Trustee, 1847-1892
    Full name
    Abraham Herr Smith
    Place of Birth
    Burial Place
    Birth Date Certainty
    Death Date Certainty
    Sectional choice
    Free State
    No. of Spouses
    No. of Children
    Dickinson (Carlisle College)
    Other Education
    Harrington College, PA
    Attorney or Judge
    Relation to Slavery
    White non-slaveholder
    Church or Religious Denomination
    Political Parties
    US House of Representatives
    State legislature

    Abraham Herr Smith (Dickinson Chronicles)

    Abraham Herr Smith was born in Manor Township near Millersville, Pennsylvania on March 7, 1815 the son of Jacob Smith, a millwright, and Elizabeth Herr.  His parents died when he was eight years old and he and his sister spent the remainder of their childhood with their paternal grandmother.  He received early schooling at the Lititz Academy and also studied surveying at the Franklin Institute in Lancaster.  After a start at college life at Harrington College, Smith entered Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania and joined the class of 1840.  While at the College he was a member of the Union Philosophical Society.  Following graduation with his class, Smith read law in Lancaster with John R. Montgomery and was admitted to the Pennsylvania bar in October 1842.

    He soon established a thriving practice in Lancaster and in 1842 was elected to the State house as a Whig, serving one term.  He moved on to the State Senate in 1845 and served there until 1848.  In state affairs he was particularly active in fiscal responsibility issues concerning the State debt, compulsory education, and the rights of married women.  He also worked for the sale of public works. While in the State Senate he was defeated in an election for Speaker by one vote when, according to reports, he refused to vote for himself.

    After a return to lucrative private practice for some years, he was prevailed upon to stand for the congressional seat that his fellow Dickinsonian, O.J. Dickey, had just vacated.  He was elected on the Republican ticket in the autumn of 1872 to the seat that the famous Thaddeus Stevens had held before Dickey.  He was a success in the Forty-third Congress and was elected to the next five sessions, serving from March 1873 to March 1885.  An ardent protectionist, Smith was noted throughout his time in Washington as a rigid economist in all government activities; for example, he supported the direct payment of pensions through the Treasury rather than through agents, as had been the previous practice.  He was also vigorously an opponent of silver coinage in anything but fractional small change and of a return to governmental specie payment.  He sat on the War Claims Committee for six years and also on the Appropriations Committee.  He was not nominated for a seventh term and retired to his practice in 1884.

    A strong Methodist, Smith had been selected as a Dickinson College trustee when he was thirty-two years old and served in that position for forty-five years until 1892.  He was also a member of the board at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster.  He never married.  Abraham Smith died in Lancaster on February 16, 1894 and is buried in Woodward Hill Cemetery in that city.  His surviving sister, Miss Eliza E. Smith, who had become a well known philanthropist in Methodist and Lancaster causes, on his death donated $10,000 to dedicate in the new Denny Hall building the A. Herr Smith Memorial Hall for the use of the Union Philosophical Society.
    John Osborne and James W. Gerencser, eds., “Abraham Herr Smith,” Dickinson Chronicles,

    Abraham Herr Smith (Congressional Biographical Directory)

    SMITH, Abraham Herr, a Representative from Pennsylvania; born near Millersville, Manor Township, in Lancaster County, Pa., March 7, 1815; attended Professor Beck’s Academy at Lititz, Lancaster County, Pa.; was graduated from Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pa., in 1840; studied law; was admitted to the bar in 1842 and commenced practice in Lancaster, Lancaster County, Pa.; member of the State house of representatives in 1843 and 1844; served in the State senate in 1845; elected as a Republican to the Forty-third and to the five succeeding Congresses (March 4, 1873-March 3, 1885); chairman, Committee on Mileage (Forty-seventh Congress); unsuccessful for renomination in 1884; resumed the practice of law; died in Lancaster, Pa., February 16, 1894; interment in Woodward Hill Cemetery.
    "Smith, Abraham Herr," Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774 to Present,
    How to Cite This Page: "Smith, Abraham Herr," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College,