Two of the largest funerals connected with Springdale Cemetery took place in January and February of 1918, and Gov. Frank Lowden attended both of them. But, as is often the case with Springdale Cemetery, there are twists…and sometimes the bodies don’t stay put.
On January 4, 1918, Judge Leslie Don Puterbaugh died in Springfield, Illinois, where he was serving as Director of the Department of Public Works and Buildings. He had been ill since shortly after Christmas and Jacob Jobst had gone to St. John’s Hospital, in Springfield, to visit him. Jobst reported that the doctors held out hope for Puterbaugh’s recovery—but then he died and was buried in the Puterbaugh family plot in Springdale, behind the Jobst mausoleum.
Puterbaugh’s funeral was held in the Mohammed Shrine Temple. The funeral was not necessarily religious. The service was conducted by Rev. J. H. Morron, not for religious reasons but because Morron and Puterbaugh had been childhood friends.
Among the pallbearers were the heads of Illinois state departments, and Gov. Lowden. Another pallbearer was Col. Frederick H. Smith, who had been out of town for medical treatment himself. He had been a long-time friend of Puterbaugh and rushed back to Peoria to attend Judge Puterbaugh’s funeral, in spite of being ill.
A month later, on February 4, 1918, Col. Frederick H. Smith also died, also out of town. Smith died in St. Luke’s Hospital, in Chicago.
The Peoria newspapers ran pages of condolences submitted by friends and colleagues of Col. Smith. As with Puterbaugh, Col. Smith’s funeral was held in the Mohammed Shrine Temple. Music was omitted and the funeral services was conducted by the Rev. J. H. Morron, an old friend of the family, and Dr. B. G. Carpenter, of the Universalist Church.
But, of all the beautiful praises written nothing quite compares to two unique things about the death of Col. Smith.
First of all, his funeral was perhaps the first in Peoria that became a fund-raiser for charity. While there were heaps of flowers at his funeral, friends of Col. Smith quickly organized the Colonel Frederick H. Smith Floral Tribute Fund. They didn’t sell t-shirts. They didn’t organize a 10K run. They merely asked.
It was winter in Peoria in 1918. Times were hard. There was a war on. Factories were closed or running reduced hours. There were strikes. People were hurting and Col. Smith had always been generous to those in need. In lieu of flowers, friends were encouraged to donate money to the Fund which would be given to Associated Charities, a local organization serving the poor and disadvantaged.
The day after Smith died, the fund was at $600. That would be about $8,611 by today’s standards.
By the next day, the fund had leaped to $1,500—or about $21,528 in today’s dollars. By the day after his funeral the total reached $25,834. All of it for Associated Charities.
One Special Note
Elsewhere in the newspapers, there was a very special note on behalf of the black population of Peoria, tucked away in a small and separate column. It was a very special praise from Rev. George A. Brown of the Ward Chapel. (This is verbatim, so pardon the terminology.)
Tribute Paid to the Departed by the Pastor of Ward Chapel
Time, the great fortune teller, and God, the greatest of paymasters, are slowly but surely taking from our oppressed people those who have befriended us, those who have had our interest at heart; and now comes the departure of one whose kind deeds and oft-given advice has meant so much to this people of mine in Peoria. Some fifteen years ago, in company with our own great leader, Booker T. Washington, the writer, first met Col. F. H. Smith. Those who knew him will agree that it was always the first meeting and conversation with this broad-minded man that impressed one. In our humble homes today, all among our men, both old and young, can be heard sorrowful sentiment about our friend. Col. Smith saw far ahead for the Negro, and no one ever approached him for advice or assistance but that he had time to listen and lend encouragement; he knew and often said: “If the present deplorable condition of my race was to bettered, then the Negro must better that condition himself, with upright lives, thrift, economy and education.”
Only the other day, in his office, then a sufferer, he placed his hand on my shoulder and remarked, “Don’t give up. You have many friends yet among the thinking fair-minded whites and Fred Smith is one of them.” We did not see him again. Our race will miss him, but we entertain the strong opinion that we who live right will again see him for the wise and true Father above has prepared a meeting place for kindhearted men like our friend, F. H. Smith.
Rev. George A. Brown
The Peoria Star, February 6, 1918
A Temporary Resident
There are all kinds of odd stories among Springdale Cemetery and Col. Smith’s is one of the more unique. Following Col. Smith’s funeral, his body was taken from the Shrine Temple to Springdale Cemetery—but it wasn’t buried.
Col. Smith’s remains were temporarily placed in the Barker family mausoleum! According to the Springdale Cemetery records, he didn’t stay long.
His remains were moved to Saginaw, MI, on May 14, 1918. It is unclear why that location was chosen since he was born in Buffalo, Erie County, NY.
The Puterbaugh and Smith funerals were among the largest that ever took place in Springdale Cemetery, with some of the most famous and influential mourners in attendance. Puterbaugh is still buried there but Smith only stayed a few weeks before moving on.