James Smith was a frontiersman and early settler of the Ohio River Valley in the years after the American Revolution.
Smith was born in 1737 in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Not much is known about his youth other than he did learn to read and write. In 1755, Smith was captured by the Lenape (Delaware). At the time, he had been accompanying Edward Braddock's army to drive the French from the Ohio Country. Smith eventually was adopted into the Mohawk tribe and spent the next four years traveling through the Ohio Country and modern-day Canada with his captors. In 1759, he managed to escape near Montreal. He returned to his home in Pennsylvania in 1760.
During the 1760s, Smith assumed a leadership role in the "Black Boys." This was an organization of frontiersmen who protected settlements in western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio from American Indian -- and who conducted offensives against American Indian peoples in the region. The Black Boys had no legal standing and were not part of the regular English army or the militia. In 1764, Smith participated in Henry Bouquet's Expedition against Ohio's American Indians. During the American Revolution, Smith joined the Pennsylvania militia in its attempts to protect western Pennsylvania from English and American Indian attacks. Following the war, Smith moved his family to Kentucky, where he played an active role in the territorial and state governments. In his later years, he became a devout Presbyterian and served for a time as a missionary to the American Indians of Tennessee. His knowledge of American Indian customs and languages, learned during his days with the Mohawks, greatly assisted him in this work. He died in 1814.