Francis H. Smith was born in Leesburg, Virginia. His father was Daniel Grove Smith, a merchant who later moved to Albemarle County, Virginia. His mother was Eleanor (Buckey) Smith, originally of Frederick, Maryland. Francis was educated at the Leesburg Academy, and attended Wesleyan College at Middletown, Connecticut. He attended the University of Virginia in session 26-27 (1849-1851). He graduated with a Master of Arts. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa of Wesleyan College, having been elected in 1851 after graduating from U.Va.
Smith was soon appointed Assistant Instructor in Mathematics at U.Va., and two years later, he was elected Professor of Natural Philosophy. Professor Smith taught at the University for 53 years. During the Civil War, he served as the Commissioner of Weights and Measures, an appointment by the Confederate Congress.
On 21 Jul. 1853 he married Mary Stuart Harrison (1834-1917), the daughter of U.Va. Professor Gessner Harrison (who was also a U.Va. graduate). The couple had the following children: Eliza Lewis Carter, Eleanor Annabel, Francis Albert (d. infant), Maria (d. infant), Lelia Maria, Gessner Harrison, Summerfield (d. infant), George Tucker, Mary Stuart, Rosalie, Courtney (d. infant), and James Duncan Smith.
Francis and Mary Smith were buried in the University Cemetery in Albemarle County, Virginia.
- Ancestry.com. 1860-1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc.
- Barringer, Paul B., University of Virginia, its history, influence, equipment and characteristics. New York, 1904, v. 2, p. p.4-5.
- Harrison, J. Houston. Settlers by the Long Grey Trail: Some Pioneers to Old Augusta County, Virginia, and their descendants of the family of Harrison and allied lines. Dayton, VA, 1935, p. 555-556.