Born in Africa.

A.M.E. Zion minister Owen L.W. Smith served as United States consul general to Liberia from 1898 to 1902. His family, which included second wife Adora Oden Smith and their children Flossie and George E. Smith, remained in Wilson during his post.

Flossie Smith died in 1901, and baby George and Adora Smith in 1906. On 24 February 1908, Rev. Smith married Cynthia A. King Isler in Pitt County, North Carolina.

The 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County, lists Owen W. Smith, 58; wife Lency A., 45;  children Jessy A., 27, and Carry E. Smith, 10; and stepchildren John H., 12, and Mary A. Isler, 10. John and Mary Isler were Cynthia “Lency” Smith’s children. Jesse Alexander Smith is described in Rev. Smith’s will as an adopted son. And what of Carrie E. Smith?

Carrie Emma Smith died 2 September 1917 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 29 December 1899 in “African (Liberia)” to Owen L.W. Smith and Mary Johnson. The certificate does not specify her place of burial, but we know she was laid to rest in the Masonic cemetery in the Smith family plot.

Her headstone is one of four remaining in the plot — Rev. Smith’s is not visible — and states: CARRIE EMMA Adopted Daughter of Rev. O.L.W. & Adora Smith Dec. 29 1899 Sept. 2  1917.

Carrie Emma Smith’s headstone in the Masonic Cemetery. The stone lying flat is that of O.L.W. Smith’s mother, Maria Hicks, who died in 1902. 


Carrie E. Smith was born in Liberia during Rev. Smith’s stint at consul. His wife Adora Smith remained in Wilson. Carrie Smith’s mother is named, per information provided by Rev. Smith, as Mary Johnson of South Carolina. Was O.L.W. Smith Carrie Smith’s biological or adoptive father? Did he bring the child home to Wilson when returned from his diplomatic post in Liberia? Who was Mary Johnson?

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, September 2022.

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