As a writer, George Franklin Smythe is remembered as the historian of the early years of Kenyon College. He was born in Toledo, Ohio in 1852, the son of Anson and Caroline Augusta (Fitch) Smythe. In 1874 Franklin received an A.B. degree and in 1877, an M.A., both from Western Reserve University. He was married to Anna C. Hall of Hudson, Ohio, in 1878.
Smythe taught high school for two years in Cleveland, Ohio, and for two more years at Greylock Institute in Massachusetts. In 1885 he was ordained a deacon and the next year, a priest, in the Protestant Episcopal Church.