photo from public domain8Frank Milton Smith (December 8, 1868–1920?) was a city clerk in Oakland in 1913-1915. Before serving as clerk, Mr. Smith was a member of the California state assembly. 1 This F. M. Smith is not to be confused with the much more famous F. M. "Borax" Smith.

Frank was born in 1868 in Albion in Mendocino County to George Mead Smith (1831–1904) and Sarah D. Milton (Smith) (1846–?). The family moved to Centerville (now part of Fremont) when Frank was 5 years old.

He married Ella Ruth Trefry (Smith) (1869–1955) and they had four children: Ruth Aliene Smith (Ellis) (1890–1980), Gertrude Smith (Townsend) (1892–1987), Frank William Smith (1894–1973), and Zebuline ("Zebbie") Smith (Hicks) (1895–1962).

In May, 1913, Frank resigned from the state assembly to accept the appointment as city clerk of Oakland. 2 Apparently it was very common at the time to double-dip by having two public jobs, so the San Francisco Call was effusive in its praise of Smith for not also keeping his position in the assembly: "Mr. Smith's reaffirmation of his personal manhood will be as grateful to the California public as it wilt be distasteful to the shameless double payroll patriots..." 3 Smith was appointed to replace Harold E. Magill, who committed suicide by jumping from city hall. 4 The appointment was made by the executive committee of the council, Mayor Frank K. Mott and commissioners F. C. Turner, Harry S Anderson and Forrest. 5

Smith was also re-appointed in 1916 when then-City Clerk L.W. Cummings was removed from the position because of something to do recall against Commissioner Francis F. Jackson.6 However, he refused the appointment and Cummings remained clerk. 9

Smith was a member of the Progressive Party of Alameda County. 7

In 1911, during his term in the Assembly, Smith resided at 1459 24th Avenue in Oakland.8  The 1920 census shows the family living at 1929 24th Avenue in Oakland. [not clear whether the family moved, or the addresses changed, as they did elsewhere in Oakland.] In 1930, the widowed Ella was living with Gertrude Townsend and her family at 5320 Trask Street in Oakland.

There is an obscure family connection to "Borax" Smith. Ruth Aliene's husband, George Carrington Ellis (1886–1970), was the brother of Evelyn Ellis (Smith), the second wife of "the Borax King."

This Frank Smith is ALSO not to be confused with the Frank Smith who shot and killed a police officer who was investigating a robbery. 9 Or the Frank Smith who was a jockey. Or any other number of Frank Smiths who lived around the bay area at the time.

There was also another Frank M. Smith who as a businessman in retail drugs wrote an article entitled Retail Business in the Eastbay District Shows Commercial Soundness for the Oakland Tribune Year Book of 1920 in which he proclaimed "Oakland has assumed an absolutely independent place in the commercial world."


  1. Past & Present of Alameda County, California S. J. Clarke Publ. Co., 1914, p. 175
  2. Resigns from Assembly San Francisco Call May 24, 1913
  3.  One Job Enough for Smith San Francisco Call May 26, 1913
  4. Assemblyman Smith is Made City Clerk San Francisco Call May 23, 1913
  5. Oakland Brevities San Francisco Call May 22, 1913
  6. "L. W . Cummings, Oakland City Clerk, Put Out of Office." San Francisco Chronicle May 26, 1916
  7. "ALAMEDA PROGRESSIVES MEET IN OAKLAND TONIGHT." San Francisco Chronicle Jan 17 1914
  8. California State Senators & Assemblymen Biographies 1911

  9. "TRAGEDY FOLLOWS HOLD UP IN OAKLAND." San Francisco Chronicle Mar 10 1911
  10. "CUMMINGS STILL OAKLAND CLERK: F. M. Smith Declines to Accept Position Offered Him by City Council." San Francisco Chronicle: May 27 1916