James Smith arrived in Jackson from Glasgow, Scotland, by way of New York City around the same time that Manship came from Baltimore, Maryland. Smith soon established a hardware business in Jackson making and selling stoves. During the early years of the new capital city, Smith and Manship, along with other civic-minded pioneers, worked to establish this area’s municipal, social, educational, religious, and cultural foundations.
Several years later, Mrs. Smith’s poor health prompted the family to return to Glasgow, where Smith established “Smith and Wellstood,” a lucrative manufacturing foundry producing American-style iron stoves. In 1854, on one of his many transatlantic journeys, James Smith survived the infamous sinking of the U. S. mail steamer Arctic. More than 300 people were killed. Smith survived three days in a tin-lined wicker basket on a small raft he built from debris. His account was widely publicized, and Currier and Ives produced a popular print of the sinking vessel based on a sketch done by Smith.
During the Civil War, Smith was an ardent supporter of the Confederate cause. He was deeply affected by his twenty-six-year-old brother’s death, Col. Robert A. Smith, who was killed at the Battle of Munfordville in 1862. Smith Park in downtown Jackson was later named in his honor.
The Manship and Smith families maintained close ties for many years. In a memoir written late in his life, Charles Henry Manship wrote of his visit to Smith’s home, “In January of 1874 I received a very cordial invitation from Mr. James Smith with my wife to visit him and his family at Glasgow Scotland and after a lengthy discussion on the subject decided to accept and in May of that year, about the 20th, accompanied by our daughter Kate set sail from New York…My wife and self were given the room a short time before occupied by Ex-President Jefferson Davis.”