John C. Smith was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on February 13, 1832, where he resided until he was twenty-two years of age. He served an apprenticeship as a carpenter and builder and in 1854 moved to the West, stopping for a time in Chicago and finally in Galena, Illinois, where he lived for many years and carried on his trade as a builder. He was married March, 1856, to Miss Charlotte A. Gallaher of Galena, Illinois, and four children blessed that marriage.
In 1859 he was appointed assistant superintendent of the Custom House and Post Office at Dubuque, Iowa, where he remained until the outbreak of the Civil War. He enlisted as a private in 1861 in the 74th Regiment, Illinois Volunteer Infantry. Later in that year he was commissioned by Governor Yates to recruit a company and was elected Captain, and later Major, of the regiment. He participated in various engagements during the War, and for conspicuous bravery at Chickamauga he was commissioned a Lieutenant Colonel. He was wounded in the Battle of Kenesaw Mountain, but recovered sufficiently to participate in the Battle of Nashville. In 1865 he was brevetted Colonel by President Lincoln, and later Brigadier General by President Johnson for his meritorious services.
After the war he returned to Galena and was appointed Assistant Assessor of Internal Revenue. In 1874 he moved to Chicago in the interest of the Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company. In 1875, he was appointed Chief Grain Inspector of the City of Chicago, and in 1878 he was elected State Treasurer, and in 1884 Lieutenant Governor. He died at his home in Chicago on December 31, 1910. Private funeral services were held at his home on January 2, 1911, after which the body was conveyed to Medinah Temple where the beautiful Templar services were held under the direction of St. Bernard Commandery No. 35. Following the Templar Services the body was taken to Galena, Illinois, where it was laid to rest by the brethren of Miners Lodge No. 273.
Sir Knight Smith was raised in Miners Lodge No. 273 at Galena, Illinois, on May 21, 1859. He served as Master of the Lodge for five years. He was Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Illinois from 1887 to 1889.
He was exalted in Jo Daviess Chapter No. 51 at Galena, Illinois, on May 15, 1860, and was High Priest for seven years.
He was greeted a Royal and Select Master in Freeport Council No. 39. Later he was Thrice Illustrious Master of Ely S. Parker Council No. 16, which position he held for many years. He was Grand Treasurer of the Grand Council from 1889 to 1911.
In the Scottish Rite he received the 320 in Freeport Consistory in March 1873, and was created a Sovereign Grand Inspector General 330 of the Northern Jurisdiction on August 19, 1875, and crowned an active member on September 23, 1883. He served as Deputy for Illinois until 1900 when he was elected Grand Minister of State which office he held until his death.