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Peter Smith, born in Brechin, Scotland, sailed to America to join his older brother, John, who had already been living there for several years. John had started a cotton machinery manufacturing business with two other men, both of whom died shortly after the venture began.

Peter, along with John Dove, a friend from Brechin, entered into the business with the elder Smith. John Dove convinced John Smith that there was a market for flax products in America. They incorporated this into the business and it became so lucrative that they abandoned the cotton machinery all together. Peter was in charge of managing the business, a department in which he excelled.

He donated a great deal of money to the Andover Memorial Hall Library, the Theological Seminary, Phillips Academy, and Abbot Academy. He was a deacon at West Parish Church for 48 years, teaching Sunday school and inspiring respect and affection in his employees, students, friends, and fellow townsmen.