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SMITH, ANDREW MURRAY, nurseryman and author; b. 24 Sept. 1832 in Brandon, Vt, son of Abel Smith and Elizabeth —; m. first 28 Jan. 1862 Annie J. Gibbs of Lockport, N.Y., and they had six children; m. secondly Matilda T—, and they had a son and two daughters; d. 19 Oct. 1910 in St Catharines, Ont.

Andrew Murray Smith lived on a farm in Brandon until he was 12, when his father lost the land following the failure of a firm for which he had contracted to make charcoal. With their six children, Abel and Elizabeth Smith moved to western New York, where, about 1846, they bought a farm in Hartland. During the winter months Andrew frequented the district school; at the age of 20 he would attend Yates Academy, in nearby Yates, for six weeks. In the summer of 1852 he became an apprentice to E. Moody, a nurseryman and peach-grower in Lockport.

That fall Smith was injured so severely by lightning that he was unable to work for two years, and was left in debt to his doctor, who offered him little hope of significant recovery. Yet, determined “not to give up,” he secured agencies for selling insurance, books, and trees, among other things. Over the next two years, he “traveled the country” as an agent when he felt well enough, and gradually recovered.

During this period Smith visited Grimsby, in the Niagara peninsula of Upper Canada. There fruit was being grown for local use and he recognized the region as “a good location for the fruit and nursery business.” Returning in 1856, he formed a partnership with Charles Edward Woolverton for the production and distribution of fruit and nursery stock. Using a portion of Woolverton’s farm, they planted “about 600 peach trees in orchard and about 6,000 young apple trees and some pears, plums, cherries, etc., in nursery, in all about eight or ten thousand trees,” Smith later recalled. Although Chauncey and Delos White Beadle operated a larger nursery, at St Catharines, no commercial peach orchard bigger than Woolverton and Smith’s then existed in the peninsula Despite warnings from older farmers that the partners would never sell large quantities of peaches and fruit-trees, the venture proved highly successful. At first Smith built sales by importing peaches from Moody’s Lockport orchard. When their own trees began to bear, he persuaded an express company to establish an office at Grimsby. Since the town was on the Great Western Railway, Woolverton and Smith were able to ship fruit to centres previously supplied from the United States. Smith also induced several American fruit-dealers, including Curtis and Company of Boston, to buy apples from Grimsby, and he helped establish a market for Canadian apples in Britain.

Once local farmers saw that fruit production could yield greater profit from fewer acres than mixed farming, production soared in Grimsby and nearby townships. With the introduction of special “peach cars” to take the tender produce to market by rail, the area became the “Peach Garden of Canada.” Although the benefit to the peninsula’s lagging, grain-based agricultural economy was significant, one of the principal advantages of growing and exporting fruit, Smith said, was that it attracted immigrants by providing evidence of a favourable climate. In 1859 Smith, Woolverton, D. W. Beadle, and 15 others formed the Fruit Growers’ Association of Upper Canada (the Fruit Growers’ Association of Ontario from 1868), which Smith would serve as president in 1890 and as a director throughout the 1890s.

Woolverton and Smith dissolved their partnership about 1870, and Woolverton turned his land over to his son Linus*. By this time Smith had purchased land of his own in Grimsby Township; there he continued in business under his own name and as the Dominion Nurseries, which would eventually have branches at Drummondville (Niagara Falls), Lockport, and St Catharines. He had moved to Lockport in 1869, but soon returned to the peninsula. A resident of Drummondville from 1872 to 1880, he lived the remainder of his life in St Catharines, except for a brief period at Port Dalhousie in the early 1900s. Operating as A. M. Smith and Company, he continued to produce and sell fruit and fruit-stock, sometimes in partnership; among his associates were Dennis Vanduzer (early 1880s), Dymore Kerman (late 1880s), H. C. Kerman (early 1890s), and Edwin L. Reed (1899 to after 1908). Over the years, he advertised “prices to suit the times” and explained that he employed no travelling agents and had never “boomed or sold a variety which I did not think was of real value.”

In 1880 Smith was one of five founding members of the Niagara District Fruit Growers’ Joint Stock Company Limited, a mutual-aid organization formed to coordinate distribution and marketing, and the first fruit cooperative in Ontario. In still another effort to encourage the production of quality fruit, he served on the board of control of the Ontario Fruit Experiment Stations, from its first meeting in 1894 to at least 1906. Made up of the officers and directors of the Fruit Growers’ Association of Ontario and representatives of both the Ontario Agricultural College and Experimental Farm and the provincial Department of Agriculture, the board guided the selection of cultivars for testing and oversaw the publication of results.

Smith was not primarily an author, but he did contribute to the literature of horticulture and agriculture in Canada. In 1873 he wrote a prize-winning essay on the “impositions of dishonest tree pedlars,” who were threatening the reputations of honest nurserymen by their door-to-door sale of inferior stock. Over several decades he presented papers at meetings of the Fruit Growers’ Association, in whose annual reports they were published. For its monthly, the Canadian Horticulturist, he prepared items such as a report in 1897 on the Japan plum, which he said growers in the peach belt could “plant largely”; he advised those in colder areas to await the results of tests for hardiness under way at the experimental stations. Although his writing occasionally appeared in the agricultural press, he wrote primarily for specialist growers. As late as 1908 he was among the “special contributors” to the Weekly Fruit Grower, Market Gardener & Poultryman (Grimsby).

Several times during his lifetime, Smith’s colleagues formally acknowledged his dedication. In 1888 the Fruit Growers’ Association of Grimsby recognized him for his leading role in encouraging “the cultivation of large and small fruits” in the peninsula. The Fruit Growers’ Association of Ontario made him a life member in 1900 and an honorary director the following year. It further honoured him at its 50th-anniversary meeting in 1909, when he was the only living original member.

At the time of Smith’s death in 1910, fruit production was the “most prominent and remunerative of all industries in the Niagara Peninsula.” Ninety per cent of the peach trees in Canada were in Ontario and ninety-five per cent of these were in the peninsula. It was generally acknowledged that A. M. Smith, more than anyone else, had recognized and brought to fruition the potential of the area’s climate, soils, and strategic location.

Pleasance Crawford

Andrew Murray Smith published several articles on horticultural topics in the Annual report of the Fruit Growers’ Assoc. of Ontario (Toronto): “Prize essay on impositions of dishonest tree pedlars,” 1873: 38–39; “Farmers’ gardens and lawns,” 1883: 44–45; “Fruit growing in the Niagara district,” 1889: 110–13; “Fruit growing in Ontario and how to make it pay,” 1893: 16–17; “Frauds in fruits at fairs,” 1898: 3–4; and “Fifty years’ peach culture in Ontario,” 1909: 40–43. The last item subsequently appeared as “Fifty years of peach culture in Ontario,” in Niagara Hist. Soc., [Pub.] (Niagara [Niagara-on-the-Lake], Ont.), no.36 (1924): 3–8. He contributed the following items to the Canadian Horticulturist (Toronto and Grimsby, Ont.): “Horticulture and the young,” 11 (1888): 75–76; “About Japan plums – are they hardy?” Canadian Horticulturist (Toronto), 20 (1897): 180; and “Fruit growing in the early days,” 26 (1903): 19–21. Smith also wrote “Overstocking the fruit market,” Canada Farmer (Toronto), 9 (1872): 146; “Experimenting with new fruits,” Farmer’s Advocate and Home Magazine, 15 Feb. 1893: 69; and “Planting and caring for fruit trees,” Farming, 14: 490–93.

Advertisements for Smith’s nurseries may be found in the Semi-Weekly Post (St Catharines, [Ont.]), 4 May 1860 and subsequent issues; the Canada Farmer, 2 (1865), 1–15 March; 5 (1868), 15 Feb.–2 March; 6 (1869), 15 March; and the Welland Tribune and Thorold Mercury (Welland, Ont.), 25 Aug. 1876, etc. Two of his catalogues are preserved in the private collection of John Burtniak of St Catharines: AMSmith & Co’s catalogue of small fruit plants, grape vines, &c. grown at the Dominion Fruit Gardens, StCatharines, Ontario, and fruit and ornamental trees, grown at the Dominion Nurseries, Grimsby, Ont. (St Catharines, n.d. [published in the 1880s]) and Price list, spring and fall 1908; Dominion Nurseries, established 1860; the Smith & Reed Co., StCatharines, Ontario ([St Catharines, 1908]).

AO, RG 22, ser.235, no.3304; RG 55, partnership records, Niagara North County, declarations, nos.279, 389, 434, 586. Daily Standard (St Catharines), 19 Oct. 1910: 4. Farmer’s Advocate and Home Magazine, 27 Oct. 1910. Canadian Horticulturist, 33 (1910): 265. Pleasance Crawford, “Some early Niagara peninsula nurserymen,” Agriculture and farm life in the Niagara peninsula: proceedings, fifth annual Niagara peninsula history conference, Brock University, 16–17 April 1983, ed. John Burtniak and W. B. Turner (St Catharines, 1985), 63–90. Daryll Crewson and Ralph Matthews, “Class interests in the emergence of fruit-growing cooperation in Lincoln County, Ontario, 1880–1914,” Canadian papers in rural history, ed. D. H. Akenson (8v. to date, Gananoque, Ont., 1978–  ), 5: 23–49. Standard cyclopedia of horticulture . . . , ed. L. H. Bailey (6v., New York, 1914–17), 3: 1596–97 (entry for Smith by Linus Woolverton). C. E. Woolverton, “Horticultural reminiscences,” Canadian Horticulturist, 20: 52–54. [Linus Woolverton?], “Some prominent Canadian horticulturists – III: A. M. Smith, the vice-president of the Fruit Growers’ Association of Ontario,” Canadian Horticulturist, 11: 74–75.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Pleasance Crawford, “SMITH, ANDREW MURRAY,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed September 20, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/smith_andrew_murray_13E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/smith_andrew_murray_13E.html
Author of Article: Pleasance Crawford
Title of Article: SMITH, ANDREW MURRAY
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1994
Year of revision: 1994
Access Date: September 20, 2014