Wesley Smead (1800-1871) “Finally” at Rest 1879
The Smead Mausoleum resembles a church in appearance and is located on a knoll in the Center of Section E. As one gazes upon this imposing structure which can’t be missed on a leisurely walk through the cemetery, one can’t help but wonder who is interred within its walls, what life events preceded the interments in this ionic structure with its stately columns and, was there a story behind the mausoleum’s erection? Let us now explore the answers based on the author’s research.
When Spring arrives and the plantings in the cemetery are in bloom, a walk up to the opened cemetery door reveals two large sarcophagi just inside with a marble bust of Wesley Smead on a stand between them. The inscriptions on each sarcophagus read as follows;
Wesley Smead Delia Smead
Born 23 December 1800 Wife of Wesley
Died 6 January 1871 Died 26 December 1909
Cemetery office records confirm two interments in this massive structure.
Wesley Smead was born in Westchester County, worked as a newsboy, became a printer and later studied medicine at Ohio Medical College. Soon realizing the practice of medicine was a slow way to accumulate wealth, he practiced there as a druggist, very quickly accumulated wealth and loaned it with interest. In Cincinnati he also served as president of the Citizen’s bank and in 1850 founded the Widow’s Home there. His obituary published New York Times Jan. 7, 1871 reads “Death of Dr. Wesley Smead at Poughkeepsie . . .Poughkeepsie, N. Y., Jan. 6. – Dr. Wesley Smead died in this city to-night. He celebrated the seventieth anniversary of his birthday at the Morgan House [Poughkeepsie], two weeks ago, on which occasion he gave $5,000 to the Widows’ Home in Cincinnati, making $37,000 he has given to that institution in all. He has also given liberally to charitable institutions in this city.”
At present it is not known exactly what brought Wesley Smead to Poughkeepsie. According to various published genealogies, Delia was not Wesley’s one and only wife. She is however believed to have been his last wife. Wesley Smead’s 1864 will, proven January 30, 1871 in Dutchess County Surrogate Court, names wife Delia as his executrix.
In 1910 several heirs of Delia sought to break her will. A November 22, 1910 Poughkeepsie Daily Eagle news article regarding the subject states “….Mrs. Smead, was born in Ireland. She had lived many years in this city, coming here in early life. She married Dr. Wesley Smead, an old man, whom she had served as a nurse for many years.” A widowed Delia Smead age 40 is enumerated in the 1880 Census for Poughkeepsie.
Although it is not known for certain where Dr. Smead’s earthly remains rested from the time of his death in 1871 until July 28, 1879 when they were finally laid to rest in his sarcophagus in the mausoleum, it may be conjectured they rested in the cemetery vault..
Cemetery office records reveal Mrs. Delia B. Smead took title to eleven (11) lots in Section E January 28, 1879. Through various newspaper articles the story of the erection of the Mausoleum is found.
Poughkeepsie Daily Press – April 6, 1874 – A Costly Sepulcher – “We learn that a mausoleum of Quincy Granite is to be constructed for the estate of Wesley Smead who died in this city in 1871. . . . .at about $50,000. . . . .expected, will be one of the finest in the country.”
New York Times – April 8, 1874 – Costly Memorial of the Dead – “The exterior dimensions of the structure will be about eighteen feet above the ground.”
Poughkeepsie Daily Press – August 31, 1874 – Building Notes – “Mr. Broas [George E. Broas] has also been awarded the contract for setting the granite vault of the late Dr. Wesley Smead.. . . stones were cut in Boston . . . . . of large size and closely resembles a church in appearance.”
Dutchess Farmer – April 27, 1875 – “The Dr. Smead vault at the Cemetery is now completed, and adds another to the many beautiful and imposing structures which adorn the city of the dead.. . . . . some trouble between the contractors and the owner of the vault about the price. . . . involves about forty-thousand dollars will probably come before the courts. . .”
Poughkeepsie Daily Press – October 21, 1878 – The Smead Mausoleum – “The Smead mausoleum in the cemetery has been levelled [sic] to the ground and will be rebuilt. The cause of its demolition was the refusal of the widow of Dr. Smeade [sic] refusing to accept the work because she was dissatisfied with one or more of the blocks of granite used. Contractor is a Boston man. The huge granite blocks that were brought from eastern quarries required the united strength of six teams of horses to hall them to their destination. It is a big and bothersome job, the contractor has in hand.”
Poughkeepsie Daily Press – July 28, 1879 – A FINAL Resting Place – “The remains of the late Dr. Smead will be disinterred and placed in the sarcophagus designed for them at the Rural Cemetery to-day. Dr. Smead died about 10 years ago.”
Considering the imposing size of Dr. Smead’s final resting place, one directive in Delia Smead’s will seems unusual. Delia directs that after her interment in the mausoleum there are to be no further burials ever in the “Tomb” and no flowers shall at any time ever be placed in said tomb. The keys and deed to the twelve (12) plots of land surrounding it are to be delivered to her nephew, Thomas W. Burke, to be held by him forever.
There are still many questions to be answered regarding the life and times of Wesley and Delia Smead. However, it is certain they both rest in peace in an impressive ionic church-like structure in Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery among “many beautiful and imposing structures which adorn the city of the dead” or, what we prefer to term Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery.
Prepared for Friends of Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery by Virginia A. Buechele, April 12, 2008 – The author wishes to acknowledge the assistance of Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery Office Manager Vicki Fells and James Storrow for their assistance in providing resources used in the preparation of this article.