Stephen Smith: Businessman, Minister, Abolitionist

Stephen Smith grew up as a Black indentured servant to Thomas Boude, a wealthy businessman. Smith was assigned to work in the lumberyards along the Columbia waterfront and displayed so much executive ability that Boude entrusted him with management of his extensive lumber business.

When he was 21, Smith married and borrowed $50 to purchase his release from indenture. As a free man, Smith continued to work in the lumberyards. In 1822, he went into the lumber business for himself. He became a financial success and invested in real estate in Columbia, Lancaster, and Philadelphia.

Smith was ordained in the Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church on South Fifth Street, Columbia, in 1831. He became an abolitionist and participated in the organization of the American Moral Reform Society and the Pennsylvania State Convention of Colored Citizens.

By the 1850s, Smith had invested $9,000 in the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge, which was burned on June 28, 1863 to stop Confederate troops from crossing into Lancaster County. Although a claim was filed with the Federal Government for the bridge, neither the bank nor its investors were ever repaid.

By 1873 Smith had accumulated a fortune worth more than $1,000,000 in today's modern terms.