Born: June 15, 1826, Lawrenceville, Georgia
Died: August 24, 1903
Buried: Oak Hill Cemetery, Cartersville, Georgia
Married: Mary Octavia Hutchins
- 1861 Joined the Confederate Army reaching rank of Major under Colonel Francis Bartow
- 1861 -1903 Starting with a letter to President Lincoln, Smith wrote books, articles, letters and a column under the name “Bill Arp“
- Author Mark Twain was quoted to consider Smith as “one of the few real American humorists”
Charles Henry Smith became the South’s most widely read newspaper columnist during his lifetime. As a young man in Lawrenceville, Georgia, he attended the Lawrenceville Academy and the Gwinnett Manual Labor Institute, before entering Franklin College (now University of Georgia). Forced to leave college early due to his father’s health, Smith took over the family store briefly. During this period, he met and married Mary Octavia Hutchins, also of Lawrenceville. In 1849, Smith began studying law in the office of his father in law, Nathan Lewis Hutchins, a wealthy lawyer and planter in Gwinnett County, Georgia and in 1851 was admitted to the bar in Lawrenceville. Later in 1851, Smith and his wife moved to Rome, Georgia. He became a city alderman in 1861, but left office a few months later to join the Confederate Army reaching the rank of Major on the staff of Colonel Francis Bartow. After Bartow’s death at Manassas, Major Smith was assigned to the staff of General George T. Anderson. In 1863 Smith received an appointment from Confederate President Jefferson Davis for special judiciary duty, serving as Judge Advocate General of the military court in Macon, Georgia. Returning to Rome following the war, Smith was elected to the state Senate in 1865, and in 1868 became Mayor of Rome.
In response to a presidential proclamation ordering “southern rebels” to “disperse and retire” in 1861, Smith wrote a pointed and satirical letter to “Mr. Linkhorn, Sur.” At the request of his friend, Bill Earp, a typical Georgia cracker, Smith published the letter under the name “Bill Arp”. This letter and dozens that followed during the war and reconstruction made Bill Arp a household name across the South. In 1877 Smith retired from law and moved his growing family to “Fontainbleu” a farm on the outskirts of Cartersville on the Tennessee Road, now Highway 411. Ten years later, Smith moved into town to a home he called “The Shadows” on North Erwin Street. At the invitation of Henry Grady, editor of The Atlanta Constitution, in 1878, Smith began writing a column that, at its peak, was syndicated to hundreds of papers across the South, and a few places north. Painting scenes of life on the farm and at home, Bill Arp’s weekly columns struck a chord with post war Southerners and helped ease their reconciliation with the New South. In addition to his columns, Smith wrote five books, Bill Arps Letters (1870), Bill Arps Scrapbook (1884), The Farm and Fireside (1891), History of Georgia (1895) and From the Uncivil War to Date (1903).
In 1899 hundreds of people gathered at The Shadows in Cartersville to pay their respects and celebrate the Smith’s golden wedding anniversary. Four years later, in 1903, they returned to mourn Smith’s passing. The whole of Cartersville grieved, and merchants shut their doors to honor the town’s “First Citizen”. Renowned Evangelist Sam Jones preached the funeral, saying,
“Though we bury today Major Smith, Bill Arp will live through future generations.”
On the day of the funeral, Sara, Smith’s beloved eight month old granddaughter died, and she was laid to rest with her grandfather. The renowned author, Samuel Clemens, alias “Mark Twain”, considered Smith, “one of the few real American humorists”.