Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Recovery Of Asa Smith's Body

The funeral of Asa W. Smith, Esq., will take place to-day, at 2 1/2 P.M., from the Church of the Messiah, corner Ninth and Olive streets. Rev. Dr. W.G. Elliott, who for many years was the friend and pastor of the late Sol. Smith, Esq., father of the deceased, will officiate, reading the church service and preaching a short discourse.

The body of the young banker, whose sudden death is so much regretted, arrived in this city yesterday by express, having been forwarded from Biddleford, Me., by Major E.W. Whedon.

As soon as it was known at Biddleford Pool that Mr. Smith was drowned, every possible effort was made for the recovery of his body. Boats were sent out in every direction to watch for its appearance on the surface of the water, or in the coves and eddies along the coast. Rewards were offered by the family of the deceased, but all efforts seemed to be fruitless. At length, on the nineteenth day after the sad occurrence, two boys were out in the bay fishing, and discovered something floating on the surface. As they approached it a human head was visible, and soon the full outlines of the body came to view. The young lads, by means of ropes, drew the body into the boat, and rowed to the shore. An inquest was held at Biddleford on the body, and friends recognized it as Mr. Smith. The flesh in some places was gone and the limbs considerably swollen, but on the whole the body was in a better state of preservation than was expected.

Soon after the drowning of Asa, Mrs. Smith, by the advice of friends, left Biddleford Pool for South Norwalk, Ct., where she has relatives. Mr. Prentice Smith soon followed his mother to the latter place, and remained until Wednesday last, when he left for [St. Louis,] arriving on Friday evening. Mrs. Smith will remain for the present at South Norwalk, her health not permitting a return to [St. Louis.]

Mr. Sol Smith, the actor, a brother of the deceased, arrived from New York yesterday morning. The remaining brothers will attend the funeral to-day, with the exception of Mark Smith, the oldest and most distinguished member of the family. He is now on his way home from Europe, but will not arrive in New York until next week.
-New Orleans Times-Picayune, August 27, 1874 (originally published in the St. Louis Democrat on August 23, 1874)

I had never heard the story of how Asa Smith's body was recovered and had assumed that the body was lost at sea. Smith is a person for whom I have a great deal of admiration and respect and I was actually rather happy to find out that his body was recovered, a proper funeral held and his remains are at rest. I'm sure that sounds odd to some. Smith is a historical obscurity who nobody cares about but here I am with an emotional attachment to the man and his story. I'm relieved that he received a decent burial and I'm looking forward to finding his grave and getting some photos of it.

A couple of notes of interest:

-Rev. Dr. W.G. Elliot was William Greenleaf Elliot, the founder of Washington University in St. Louis, where Asa Smith went to school and founded the Union Base Ball Club.

-Mark Smith, who is mentioned as being in Europe, never made it home to the United States. He died in Paris in August of 1874. As I've written before, it was a difficult summer for the Smith family.

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