U.S. Senator Ellison DuRant "Cotton Ed" Smith was a legend in his time. He was born at his ancestral home, Tanglewood Plantation (formerly Smith's Grove), in 1864, during the War between the States. Tanglewood is located in lower Lee County on SC Hwy 341 near Lynchburg. In 1864 this area of Lee County was part of the Old Sumter district. After the war, it was redistricted and named in honor of Robert E. Lee.
Cotton Ed's father was William Smith, a Methodist minister. His grandfather was Jesse Smith and his great grandfather was Arthur Smith. Arthur migrated from Smith Island, NC, and received his first land grant for Tanglewood Plantation from King George II in 1747. The first plantation house, a two story cypress log home, burned in the early 1800s. The present 2 1/2 story Greek Revival mansion was built on the same site as the original house in 1830 using materials and labor from the plantation.
Senator Smith's father married Isabella McLeod, known as "Miss Bella." Miss Bella's nephew, Ellison's first cousin, was Governor Thomas McLeod. Ellison D. Smith was the youngest of several children. His brother, Coke Smith, was the Methodist Bishop of Virginia. His sister, Anna Belle, married John Andrew Rice, Sr., a past president of Columbia College. John Andrew Rice, Jr. was born at Tanglewood Plantation and was a famous writer and Pulitzer Prize winner, publishing many award winning books and contributing to Collier's Magazine.
Ellison Smith graduated from Wofford College and returned home to farm his plantation lands. He first married at the age of 28 to Martha Moorer of St. George, SC. She died giving birth to their son Martius Ellison. At 19 Martius was accidentally shot by his own gun while drinking water at the barnyard well. He died five days later.
In 1906 Ellison married Annie Brunson Farley. Her uncle Henry Farley fired the first shot in the Confederate Army, serving under J.E.B. Stewart, and gave his life for the Southern cause. Ellison and Annie had four children of their own, two boys and two girls. Their oldest daughter, Anna, was married to L.L. Smith, vice president of Kohler Plumbing Co. of Wisconsin. Isobel Smith Lawton moved to Florence, SC, when she married. Ellison DuRant, Jr. married Vivian Manning, daughter of Governor Manning. Charles Saxon Farley, a past member of the SC Legislature from Lee County, married Laura Douglas. Laura was the daughter of Oscar Douglas (co-founder of the F.W. Woolworth empire.) All five of Ellison DuRant Smith's children are now deceased.
Ellison Smith, who inherited the plantation, was a farmer with vision. In 1901 he organized the Farmer's Protective Association. In 1905 he was a leader in the Boll Weavil Convention in Shreveport, LA. He later organized the Southern Cotton Association in New Orleans and was elected its first president.
Ellison Smith served in the SC Legislature from 1896 to 1900. In 1908 he was elected to the U.S. Senate and served for 36 years, longer than any other Senator in the history of the U.S. at that time. He was Chairman of the Agriculture and Forestry Committee in the Senate. He also was Chairman of the Interstate Commerce Committee. In 1940 he was elected Dean of the Senate. His close involvement in cotton and farm issues made him internationally known as "Cotton Ed" Smith. He believed in the Constitution of the U.S., and worked tirelessly until his death in 1944.
Ellison Smith died at Tanglewood Plantation in the same bed he was born in. He is buried at St. Luke's Cemetery near Wisacky in Lee County.
Based on an article in the Lee County Observer October 16, 1996