Bio Bite: Clara Bell Smith

By Eilene Lyon

Clara Bell Smith Blaylock (1890–1954)
Wedding photo of Clara Bell Smith and Floyd Nathaniel Blaylock, 1908, Colville, Washington.

Clara Bell was born in Lafayette County, Missouri. She married Floyd N. Blaylock, a farmer, in Colville, Washington, when she was just 17. Clara Bell and Floyd had only one child, Ruby. Sadly, Ruby had a heart defect and died before her 18th birthday. Her death nearly derailed the Blaylock marriage.

Ruby Doris Blaylock (1911-1928)

Clara suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, which added another challenge to her life. Along with the Smiths, Clara Bell and Floyd relocated to Latah County, Idaho, in 1910, remaining there for life. Floyd continued farming until the Depression, then took odd jobs thereafter.

“Clara worked seasonally for the Washborn Wilson seed company. … Clara supervised a room full of women who sorted peas on an endless belt system run by foot pedal. This displayed the peas in front of them for selecting out the ‘Rogue’ peas. Clara had a talent for supervising people.”

Clara Bell, Ruby, and Floyd Blaylock, about 1913 in Latah County, Idaho.

Smith, Laurence. “The Passing Parade.” February 15, 1990.

36 thoughts on “Bio Bite: Clara Bell Smith

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      1. My great aunt died in her thirties of a heart defect that was the result of rheumatic fever she’d had as a child. My mom told me that my grandmother (the aunt’s sister) said her mom often visit her grave and cried on it. Maybe she felt some kind of guilt for the illness. Sad.

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      2. That is sad. I know that rheumatic fever does weaken the heart and I’ve got a cousin in my gold rush book who I am sure died in his early 40s because of it. I don’t think it is typically described as a “defect” though. I think of those as leaky valves and such.

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      3. I think a heart defect can be congenital or acquired. With no way to treat rheumatic fever I’m sure many people survived but ended up with damaged heart valves that eventually caused big problems. My aunt (born in 1903) was in that situation. But by her time they were able to do surgery. She had a pig valve implanted in the 1960s.

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  1. I’ll bet Quality Control in factories was much better then, than it is now. Interesting about the foot pedal conveyor belt too. I like that they were sorting “rogue peas” from good peas. That’s a nice wedding picture as well as the last picture with Ruby. Sorry to hear of Ruby’s demise at such an early age, but I guess Clara Bell and Floyd patched up their marriage in the end and carried on after their daughter’s death.

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    1. I expect QC now depends more on whether there is a serious liability issue, not on wanting your product to be the best it can be. I thought the conveyor belt was interesting, too. I suspect the speed and stop/start were controlled by feet, but not the actual driving of it.

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      1. Yes, that’s true Eilene. About 10 years ago I opened a can of creamed corn and ate a tablespoon of it while pouring it into a pot. Then I saw a huge dead fly in the corn. I was horrified, took pics of it (did a blog post actually) and sent it to Del Monte. They gave me another can of corn, despite my saying “I don’t want another can of corn, but I want to know why there is a huge fly in this can of corn, which I tasted?” I was told the corn is in a large vat and never touched by human hands, nor seen by a human – it’s all part of the assembly line of robots. I’ve never bought creamed corn since. I suspect the conveyor belt stop/start might be like a treadle sewing machine operated by a foot.

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