James A. Smith, along with his twin brother Wesley, was born in Chester District South Carolina, on September 25th, 1804, to Joshua and Mary Smith. Their parents were of Irish, Welsh descent. They moved the family to Tennessee when the twins were about 3. When James was 17 in 1818, the family moved to Lauderdale County Alabama. James A. Smith married Anne Killen on February 26, 1828. They had 4 children. James was converted to Christianity at a prayer meeting in 1831 in Franklin County Alabama. Brother Smith became a preacher in the Shoal Circuit Tennessee Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church South. In 1843 the Smiths moved to Tishomingo County Mississippi where James father Joshua, passed away in 1845. Soon after, his mother Mary died in Franklin County, Alabama. The Smith family Moved to Dallas in the new State of Texas in the winter of 1846-47. They settled in the Peters Colony area, about 8 miles north of Dallas, and a mile north of the present site of S.M.U.
In 1849 Smith and John Neely Bryan were delegates to the Convention for improving the Trinity River. James A. Smith was initiated in Tannahill Lodge #52 on May 31, 1851, Passed on June 28 and Raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason on July 26,1851. On one of the largest farms in the area, comprising more than 800 acres, Reverend Smith was one of the first farmers to raise cotton in Dallas County. Smith and William Cochran built the first cotton gin in the area. To sell the cotton, they loaded a raft with bales of cotton and Buffalo hides and shipped them down the Trinity River to Porters Bluff, near Palestine and transferred the cotton and hides to wagons and took it to Houston. It was said that this took too long and the raft ran aground and sank. He got out of the cotton business and started raising wheat. Reverend Smith was known for his contribution to the spread of the Methodist denomination in the Dallas area.
On April 3, 1861, Anne Smith, James wife of 32 years died, surrounded by James and their children. It was written that the effect of his loss (Smith) bowed in meek submission to the will of his Heavenly Father, he never fully recovered his joyous spirit. During the call to arms that year (1861) Smith became Captain of the Dallas Home Guard, a company of in the Texas Militia. Two years later after a long illness, James A. Smith, age 61, was summoned to the Celestial Lodge above.
J. Lafayette Smith, a son of James A. Smith was killed on the courthouse steps on July 2, 1867.
John Wilson a unionist killed Brother Smith and was arrested but was released and allowed to leave the state. This was during the upheaval after the war and there was a lot of turmoil over just about everything, especially land rights. A lot of people invaded Texas, unionists, carpet baggers, etc and there was a lot of dissension and violence for several years.
Reverend James A. Smith came to Texas in 1846 and in that year was the first preacher to establish a Methodist Church in Dallas County. Brother Smith planted the first cotton plant and constructed the first cotton gin in Dallas. It is written in the Dallas Herald Newspaper that Brother Smith floated the cotton down the Trinity River on rafts to Porters Bluff, near Palestine, Texas, then overland to Houston Texas. This took too long and the raft got torn up on the first trip, so he quit raising cotton and started raising wheat. Reverend James A. Smith was raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason on July 26th, 1851.
In that year, Brother Smith was appointed the task of raising funds to erect the first Masonic Lodge building in Dallas. In 1855 Brother Smith was elected as the 7th Worshipful Master of the Tannehill Lodge #52 in Dallas. In 1859 he became the Chaplain of the Tannehill Lodge and served the lodge in that office until his death. On December 8th, 1858, Reverend Smith was appointed the first president of the first annual Dallas County fair, which is now the State Fair of Texas.
On December 7th, 1859, the Democratic Party elected Reverend Smith to be a candidate for Dallas County Commissioner of Precinct #1. Brother James A. Smith died in 1863 and is buried in the Masonic Cemetery in downtown Dallas, near Young and Griffin streets. The historical information concerning the Reverend James A. Smith and Past Master of the Tannehill Lodge was obtained from the Microfilm Section of the Dallas Public Library.
The James A. Smith Lodge No. 395 A.F. &A.M, the Masonic Lodge of Farmers Branch, Texas was charted in June 1874 at the Grand Lodge meeting in Houston, Texas, and named in honor of the Reverend James A. Smith. The Charter was brought from Houston to Farmers Branch by horse back. The first Worshipful Master of the James A. Smith Lodge in Farmers Branch was Reverend James A. Smith’s son, Brother William Smith.
The James A. Smith Lodge that was charted in 1874 in Houston ,Texas and had its first building at Mound Prairie, Texas (what we now know as Midway Road and Northwest Highway area). That was in the Bachman Lake area of present day Dallas. The lodge moved from Mound Prairie around 1898 to the Odd Fellows building in Farmers Branch at the corner of old Denton Road and Valley View lane. The lodge remained there until 1957 when it moved to its present location at 12823 Demetra Drive, Farmer Branch, Texas.