October 11, 1897: Death of former Duluth mayor Vespasian Smith

On this day in Duluth in 1897, former Zenith City mayor Vespasian Smith died at the home of his son, Frank B. Smith. Born in Ohio in 1818, Smith first came to the Head of the Lakes in the 1850s, settling in Superior before moving to Bayfield, Wisconsin, along Lake Superior’s South Shore to work as an Indian agent for the federal government until 1868. A medical doctor by training, he relocated to Duluth a few years later and became involved in politics. He served as Duluth’s fourth mayor in 1873 and 1874 and afterward as a Customs official and for the state board of health while maintaining private practice. Historians Woodbridge and Pardee described Smith as “a staunch, sterling old character that builded well with his great common sense while enlivening his fellows as they went with his kindly humor. He became mayor of the city in April, 1873, and he got 226 votes, but one being cast against him. When his term was out he was again elected, but he was not so fortunate this time, for there were three votes against him. He used to say that the only vote against him the first time was his own, but that during his second term he made two enemies, so there were three votes against him on his second election.” Reverend C. C. Salter, an old friend of Smith’s, presided over his funeral.

Vespasian Smith, Duluth’s fourth mayor, elected in 1873 and 1874. (Image: Duluth Public Library)