He was born in Newtonville, Upper Canada in 1839, the son of N.C. Smith, and was employed as a clerk in his father's business at the age of thirteen. In 1861, he opened his own store at St. Mary's. In the same year, he married Maria Allan. Smith served on the town council there. In 1875, he opened a wholesale dry goods outlet in Toronto, in partnership with a former employee, Duncan Henderson, and moved to Toronto. The store in St. Mary's was managed by another former employee, now a partner, Jeremiah White. Smith also served as an alderman for the city of Toronto.