Friday, May 19, 2017

Courtland Hawkins Smith (1850-1892)

Smith's obituary from the Alexandria Gazette, July 25, 1892.

   Alexandria, Virginia mayor Courtland Hawkins Smith received brief mention in May 9th's write up on Kosciusko Kemper, a three term mayor of Alexandria. Smith was the man who defeated Kemper in the race for mayor in 1878 and, of the several political figures I've profiled on my visit through Virginia-Washington, D.C., Smith is arguably the most obscure. No portrait of Smith could be found to post here, and a death notice for him has proved an adequate substitute in lieu of a portrait. 
    A lifelong native of Virginia, Courtland Hawkins Smith was born on August 29, 1850, being one of several children born to Francis Lee and Sarah Gosnelle Vowell Smith. Little is known of Smith's early life, excepting notice of his service in the Confederate Army and his being a lawyer. Smith married on December 15, 1875 to Charlotte Rossiter,  a native of New York state. The couple were wed until her death in 1880 and would have two children, Francis Lee (died in infancy in 1877) and Courtland Hawkins (born 1878). 
    Courtland H. Smith served as a member of the Alexandria city council prior to his election as mayor of Alexandria, that election occurring in 1878. He defeated three term mayor Kosciusko Kemper that year and would serve one two-year term (1879-1881) and declined renomination. Smith's tenure as mayor saw him preside over Alexandria's centennial anniversary in 1880.
   Following his term as mayor Smith served as assistant adjutant general of Virginia, and was a member of the staff Virginia Governor Fitzhugh Lee at the dedication of the Yorktown Monument and the inauguration of President Cleveland in 1885. Smith continued to reside in Alexandria for the remainder of his life and on the day of his death accompanied his sister into Washington on a shopping excursion. While visiting the city, Smith suffered a "sudden pain", which he tried to ease with a large dose of morphine. Described as being "accustomed to the use of the drug", the dosage Smith took appears to have led to his death, as he was brought to his home in an unconscious state, and died in the evening of July 22, 1892, never having regained consciousness.
   Remarked by the Alexandria Gazette as having been "genial, whole souled and generous to a fault", Courtland Hawkins Smith was preceded in death by his wife Charlotte and both were interred at the Presbyterian Cemetery in Alexandria. On the same day as my visit to the grave of Kosciusko Kemper I was able to seek out the Smith family plot, located a few hundred yards away from Kemper's burial location. Surrounded by a wrought iron gate, the plot is quite cramped, as several members of the family are interred in close confines to one another. And now some photos from the trip!




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