Born in Gartly, Aberdeenshire, Scotland on July 17, 1853, she was strictly raised as a Presbyterian by her father, William Smith, a schoolmaster. At 18 she began to teach at the Gartly school with her father. Four days after her marriage to childhood friend John Smith, she and her husband left Liverpool on February 5, 1884 with James Teit and sailed to New York. The couple reached Spence's Bridge, B.C. by taking a work train up the Fraser Canyon. Her training in music, banking and teaching did little to prepare for her pioneering life as the wife of an orchardist. The young couple left "The Bridge" to endure a difficult time homesteading in a valley south of Merritt, returning to repurchase their former orchard in 1897. After her husband died in 1906, unable to fully recover from a minining accident at Granite Creek, Jessie Ann Smith persevered with a successful orchard operation with the help of her children. They were able to grow a remarkable variety of apples. In particular, their Grimes Golden apples won many awards in agricultural shows in North America and England. King Edward VII once sought the apples of the "Widow Smith of Spence's Bridge" when they were available at a London Horticultural Show in 1909. Assisted by three granddaughters, Jessie Ann Smith wrote her memoirs in the 1930s, continuing to do so into her 90s. She died on February 7, 1946. Her memoirs were edited and published by Murphy Shewchuk.


Widow Smith of Spences Bridge (Merritt: Sonotek, 1989), as told to J. Meryl Campbell and Audrey Ward.

[BCBW 2003] "Women" "Agriculture"