Wednesday, September 19, 2012

This Estimable Young Gentleman

The numerous friends of [Asa Smith] will be deeply grieved to learn that he was drowned yesterday morning while bathing at Biddleford Pool, Maine.  The announcement was received by the following telegram:

Biddleford Pool, Maine, July 31.
E.P. smith, care Asa W. Smith & Co., St. Louis:
Your  brother Asa was drowned this morning while bathing.  Every effort was made with lifeboat to save his life.  Your mother desires you to come here at once.
E.H. Wheldon.

No particulars were received of the sad affair, so the circumstances attending it are merely conjecturable.  The beach at Biddleford Pool is over two miles long, running for the principal distance north and south, but on the north it takes a turn east, running out about three-quarters of a mile to the "Point of Rocks," where there is a boat-house.  The lifeboat mentioned in the telegram is, in fact, a pilot boat, only used as a lifeboat in emergencies, and not constructed with especial reference to that service.  A few hundred feet south of the Point of Rocks is a ledge known, locally, as "the Barn Door Ledge;" and near the southern extremity of the beach is another and little larger ledge, about the same distance in the offing.  When the tide rolls in heavily, there is an undertow formed, running out to sea in a strong current past Barn Door ledge, and it is supposed that Mr. Smith was caught in this current and was unable to stem it.  To get to his assistance with the boat, unless it happened that it was already manned, a party would have to go out over a rugged road to the Point of Rocks and bring the boat around the point to the beach, requiring many minutes' time.  This was precisely what happened to Mr. Truman A. Post of this city, at the same place, two-years ago; but, fortunately, he was saved, although by the narrowest chance.  Mr. Smith was a good swimmer, but the water from the undertow is cold, and it is supposed that he was so chilled as to be unable to support himself until the boat arrived.

He was twenty-nine years of age, and was the sixth and youngest son of Sol. Smith, Esq., known over the world as an actor and theatrical manager, and was universally esteemed by his friends for his probity and personal good qualities.  He was engaged with his brother, E.P. Smith, as a banker and broker, under the firm of Asa W. Smith & Co.  Mr. E.P. Smith left yesterday evening for Biddeford.  At four o'clock, he received a telegram stating that search was still being made for the body of his brother.
-St. Louis Republican, August 1, 1874

I always find it kind of surprising that, in all of the obituaries and notices of Smith's death, there is no mention of the role he played, as a member of the Union Club, in the development and growth of baseball in St. Louis.  He was one of the most significant figures in the history of 19th century St. Louis baseball and I would argue that he was the most significant figure of the pioneer era in the city.  In my opinion, the three most important people, in the history of St. Louis baseball, were Asa Smith, Chris Von der Ahe and Branch Rickey.  And, sadly, there are only a handful of people in world today who could tell you who the man was.   

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