When David Smith first came to Columbus in 1814, the new capital city of the state of Ohio was only two years old.

When David Smith first came to Columbus in 1814, the new capital city of the state of Ohio was only two years old.

America was at war with Britain in the War of 1812 and most of the soldiers and the trade that went with them were across the river in frontier Franklinton.

Columbus, such as it was, was a village of about 500 people living in a forest on a ridge whose few streets were hacked from the woods and still full of stumps.

The only state building in the capital city was a two-story stone house with a fenced enclosure that served as a penitentiary. It had been built first so prisoners could help build the rest of the public buildings in the town.

Other than cabins, lean-tos and a few frame pole houses, the major private structure in the new town was a two-story brick tavern at the southwest corner of State and High streets. It was built at that spot because the new state capital would be cater-corner to it at the southeast corner of Statehouse Square. But the capital had yet to be built.

It was not a very prepossessing place for a young man and his new wife to make their start on a new life. But that is precisely what David Smith decided to do. Because he was an attorney by training and was one of the first - if not the very first - of his profession to arrive in Columbus, he immediately came to be called "Judge Smith." He was not a judge. He had never been a judge. But in time, he would be a judge and much more as well.

David Smith was born in Francistown, N.H., on Oct. 18, 1785. His family had been helpful to the crown in the capture of Londonderry, Ireland, during the reign of William and Mary of England, and had received land free of royal taxation in the new world. David Smith grew up in the "Free Lands" of New Hampshire and after a local public education, he graduated from Dartmouth College in 1811.

Founded as a school to train people to work with Native Americans, Dartmouth in 1811 was still quite strongly committed to that work. But David Smith had other plans.

Having taken up the study of the law while at Dartmouth, Smith was quickly admitted to the bar shortly after his graduation. But like many of the restless young men of his generation, he did not immediately take up the practice of law. Marrying Rhoda Mitchell of nearby Massachusetts in 1814, he immediately set out to make his fortune with his new bride in the new capital city of Ohio.

Chafing a bit under his title of "Judge Smith" but with no real inclination to practice law, Smith immediately began to look for a business that would both make him some money and earn him a place in the social order of the frontier state.

He decided to publish a newspaper.

In 1814, publishing a newspaper was not all that difficult. All one really needed was a printing press and the assistance of someone who knew how to use it. In 1814, with the help of Ezra Griswold of Worthington, Smith began publishing a newspaper in Columbus. The new paper had some competition in the Western Intelligencer of Columbus and the Freeman's Chronicle in Franklinton.

But the new paper - with the formidable name of the Ohio Monitor and Patron of Husbandry - persevered and soon had a vocal, if rather small, audience. Smith found that he enjoyed newspaper work tremendously and he put most of his daily energy into the paper.

The newspaper with the lengthy name was soon shortened to The Monitor, and during the golden days of the Era of Good Feelings of the 1820s, it had no real political leanings. But that soon would change.

David Smith was a firm believer that slavery was an abomination and should be abolished as soon as possible. As might be imagined, this point of view did not make him a lot of friends among the residents of Columbus who had migrated from the South and still had friends or relatives in that part of the world. Persevering nonetheless, Smith and The Monitor supported John Quincy Adams for the presidency in 1824.

That support evaporated, however, when Adams appointed Henry Clay to be his secretary of state in what came to be called the "Corrupt Bargain."

Leaving Adams behind, Smith became a strong supporter of Andrew Jackson and his emerging Democratic Party. The Monitor became the voice of the Democratic Party in central Ohio in an age when ideology was molded in the weekly newspaper press. Over the next several years, it became, in the words of one later observer, "an independent, influential and much-quoted Democratic newspaper."

In 1836, The Monitor was sold to Jacob Medary. With his brother, Samuel, Jacob Medary merged The Monitor and other papers into its new Ohio Statesman, which would become the voice of Democratic Party politics in central Ohio.

By then, David Smith had moved on to a different career. Having earned his designation as Judge Smith by becoming a local jurist, he ran for office and was elected to the Ohio General Assembly in 1825. A vociferous opponent of Ohio's "Black Laws," which legalized African American discrimination, Smith soon was disliked even within his own party and was not re-elected.

Over the next several years, Smith practiced law and followed other business pursuits while staying active in the Democratic Party. In 1836, he went to Washington and accepted a job in the Post Office Department of President Andrew Jackson. He held that post until 1845, when he resigned, finding himself unable to support the pro-slavery policies of President James Knox Polk.

Returning from Washington, Smith soon found that his health was beginning to fail. Over the next several years, he lived increasingly with one or the other of his four children in different parts of the country. To the end of his life, he was a classic example of an anti-slavery Democrat in a time when many Democrats did not hold that opinion.

More than a century ago, a Columbus writer observed that Smith "was a man of force of character and his memory is still treasured by a number of the older residents of this city. In the growth and progress of this city, to which he, in some measure contributed, he always took the greatest pride."

David Smith died on Feb. 5, 1865, in Manchester, Ohio, and was buried in the Old North Graveyard in Columbus. His body was later was removed to Green Lawn Cemetery when the graveyard was closed and replaced by the North Market.

Ed Lentz writes a history column for ThisWeek.