William Smith, son of Louis Smith – Caughnawaga Entertainer
Today I’m delighted to introduce you to a new guest author – American family historian Melody Morgan. As you will read below, Melody has a connection to Kahnawake through her beloved step-father William Smith, son of Mohawk entertainer – Louis Smith. She spins her tale below, and ends with a request for anyone with information about this family to contact her. You can do so by leaving a message in the comment box below, and I will send you her email information. Thanks!
Guest Post by Melody Morgan
When I was a young woman, my father died and my mother remarried. My new step-father was William Smith and he used to tell marvelous stories about his parents – mostly his father, Louis Smith.
Bill would proudly boast that Louis Smith was an Iroquois Indian from Caughnawaga. He was very proud of this heritage and he wore the genes of this heritage like a badge . There was no mistaking his Native origins. Unfortunately, Bill died about 20 years ago, before I became interested in genealogy. I never asked him the questions I should have. Now I search for the facts necessary to make a place for him and his ancestors in our family tree.
I know a little about William’s mother. She had been ill with tuberculosis for many years and was in and out of hospitals and tucked away in sun porches for healing air. She died when he was only 10 years old so I don’t think he had many real memories of her at all. His mother’s name was Terese Kaherotonkwas. She was apparently a performer too and used the name Weeping Corn Husk.
I have managed to uncover a few facts about Louis Smith, which led to a few more facts, but I don’t even know the details of the accident that took his life or where he is buried. I cannot confirm his possibly German father or his Native mother, don’t know when they died or where they are buried and am not sure where else to turn.
Fortunately, several stories of the Canadian Mohawk and Iroquois who performed in Vaudeville or traveling shows have turned up on the internet so I have learned quite a bit about Louis’ associates and the life they lived. There are stories and photographs on the web about both of the witnesses at his marriage. It is quite a fascinating time in history. Below is a summary of what I know about Louis Smith. I have also attached a piece from the 1897 New York Times which tells a bit about him and shows his picture.
* 1881 – Canadian Census – LaPrairie, Sault St. Louis – child Louis Smith living with mother Felicite Kaerotonkwas
* 1897 – Louis Smith married Annie Braden in New York City – indicates he is Indian born in New York – father Louis Schmidt – mother Teresa Kaherotonkwas – witnesses Dr. Hartley Snow and Susan Dibeaux
* 1899 – The New York Times reports that White Moon, Little Thunder and Eagle were treated badly while performing in Puerto Rico
* 1900 – United States Census – New York City – Louis indicates he is an actor born in New York
* 1910 – United States Census – New York City – Louis indicates he is an actor born in New York
* 1918 – World War I Draft Registration – New York City – Louis indicates he is a native born American who is a showman and wears heavy glasses
* 1920 – United States Census – Cranford, New Jersey – Louis indicates he is a traveling salesman for a drug company born in New York
* 1943 – March 27 Billboard Magazine says “Wigwamming from the Indian reserve at Caughnawaga, Que., Doc White Moon (Louis Smith) tells that altho his sight is failing he still enjoys The Billboard – would like to see pipes from any of his old friends of pitchdom”.
* 1947 – Sept. 17 issue of The Worcester Times of Worcester, New York:
“William Smith and his daughter, Miss Mildred Coombs, left on Tuesday of last week for Montreal, Canada to attend the funeral of the former’s father, Louis Smith, who died the preceding day at the Indian Reservation, Caughnawaga. The elder Mr. Smith was an Indian chief, whose tribal name was White Moon.”
And there my story ends … without really an ending at all.
Can anyone add to this story? Or confirm the parentage of William or Louis Smith?
Or perhaps the burial spot of Louis Smith?