Ann Eliza Brainerd was born in St. Albans, Vermont on October 7, 1819. The daughter of Senator Lawrence Brainerd and Fidelia B. Gadcombe, she was raised and educated in St. Albans. In 1842 she married Governor J. Gregory Smith, and they had six children. One of their sons was Edward Curtis Smith, who also served as governor.
Career as author
Ann Eliza Smith wrote essays, poems and other works, and is best known for her three novels, Seola, Selma, and Atla.
Her first published work, From Dawn to Sunrise (1876) dealt with the historical and philosophical religious ideas of mankind. Its success caused Henry K. Adams, author of A Centennial History of St. Albans Vermont to call it "[t]he smartest book ever written in Vermont."
Her second work was Seola (1878), which was written as an antediluvian diary.
The next novel published was Selma (1883), a Viking love story.
The third novel, Atla (1886), was about the sinking of the legendary lost island called Atlantis.
In 1924 Seola was revised by the "Bible Students"—later known as Jehovah's Witnesses—and retitled Angels and Women.
Smith wrote under her married name, Mrs. J. Gregory Smith. Both Seola and Angels and Women were published anonymously and are ascribed to her by the Library of Congress.
On the afternoon of October 19, 1864, the northern-most land event of the Civil War occurred, the St. Albans Raid. Confederates infiltrated the town, robbed several banks, wounded two citizens (one mortally), and fled north to Canada. Since he was serving as governor, the home of J. Gregory Smith was a target of the raid. Governor Smith was not at home, and when Mrs. Smith appeared in the front doorway carrying an unloaded pistol (the only weapon she could find), the raiders decided to bypass the house. She then worked to organize the people of St. Albans to mount a pursuit of the raiders, which unsuccessfully attempted to prevent the raiders from escaping to Canada.
For her actions in defending the Smith home and efforts to rally the people of St. Albans in pursuing the raiders, Governor Peter T. Washburn named Mrs. Smith a brevet Lieutenant Colonel on his staff. Washburn, who served as governor from 1869 until his death in 1870, had served in the Union Army early in the Civil War, and then spent the rest of the conflict as Adjutant General of the Vermont Militia. Under Washburn's direction, units of the militia had attempted to pursue the Confederate raiders, and later patrolled the border with Canada to ensure there were no further efforts to conduct Confederate activities in Vermont.
Ann Smith died in St. Albans on January 6, 1905. She was buried in Greenwood Cemetery.