Delazon Smith

Delazon Smith

New Berlin, Chenango County, New York, USA
Death 19 Nov 1860 (aged 44)
Portland, Multnomah County, Oregon, USA
Burial Albany, Linn County, Oregon, USA
Plot 4-B (1940 WPA survey) or MCA M4-02-
Memorial ID 7154068 · View Source
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US Senator from Oregon 1859. Son of Archibald Smith and Polly Briggs Smith, and grandson of Capt.Jonathan Smith and Freelove Boss Smith. Delazon Smith was born in New Berlin, Chenango County, New York of distinguished ancestry but very little money. In 1831 at theage of 15, he set out on foot for the Western frontier, where he stayed for two or three years with an older brother and obtained a rudimentary education. Having heard of a manual labor college in Ohio, where a young man could meet his expenses through daily labor, he traveled in 1834 to Oberlin, a center of the Abolitionist movement. Smith did not subscribe to anti-slavery sentiment, but remained two years as a student of Oberlin College. (Shuck, Oscar. Representative and Leading Men of the Pacific. 1870, Bacon and Company.) Delazon's years at Oberlin were marked by his disagreement with school policy and philosophy, which ultimately earned him an invitation to leave and not return. Moving on to Cleveland in 1836, he entered his name as a student in the office of a prominent attorney, and published an imprint entitled "Oberlin Unmasked". The tract was largely a criticism of the Underground Railroad, which he considered to be unlawful interference with private property. The introduction says his book is an expose of the impositions he suffered at this institution, and that he publishes the work that the public may not be wronged by the same means. The actual title of the work was A History of Oberlin, or New Lights of the West. Embracing the Conduct and Character of the Officers and Students of the Institution. Together with the Colonists, from the Founding of the Institution. By Delazon Smith, a Student (Morgan Bibliography of Ohio Imprints, 1796-1850). It wasn't only the Abolitionist activities of which Smith complained. He described the school's co-ed atmosphere, with some erotic detail, as ‘immoral'. He also deplored the lack of religious diversity. While in Ohio, Smith began to contribute to the columns of the local newspapers, frequently becoming involved in controversies over religion and politics, and soon made a name for himself. In 1838, he received an invitation to return to New York to establish a newspaper – the New York Watchman – in Rochester, which he edited for two years while continuing his legal studies. In 1840 and 1844, he was very active in the presidential elections, starting up newspapers and getting into political battles. In return for his party loyalty and energy, President Tyler appointed him Special Commissioner of the United States to the Republic of Equador in 1844. His task was to negotiate U.S. debt claims against the Equadorian government. Smith took eighty days to travel by ship from Norfolk, Virginia to Lima. Along his journey, he was shocked by the backwardness of the area. He got a good look at a nation in the midst of civil war, and learned first hand how difficult it was to determine which of the warring factions represented the legitimate government. At length, he determined not to attempt to collect the debt at that time, and not to wait indefinitely "for the formation of a government which I can properly address." Accordingly he left, and took the arduous land journey back to what he considered civilization. During this escapade, while traveling through what was largely a wilderness, the State Department lost contact with him for eleven months, and subsequently he was nicknamed "Tyler's Lost Commission". Upon his return to the United States, he determined to move father west, relocating to Iowa Territory in 1846. (Iowa State Census Collection 1847) Here he engaged in agriculture and, to a limited extent, the law. His wife Eliza died, and he turned to God. He converted to Methodism and began studying for the ministry under Henry Clay Dean, a well-known preacher, lawyer and anti-war activist. For a while, Delazon was a licensed minister, but his occupation with law and politics lead to the resignation of his license. Around 1848, Delazon was presented by his party as a possible candidate for Congress and Governor. But his real service to the country appears to have been his support of his party during the presidential campaign. In 1852, having suffered from several deaths of loved ones, poor health and other misfortunes, he resolved to move further west, setting out with his family in an ox wagon for the Territory of Oregon. The journey took five months, from the Missouri River to the Columbia, during which time illness, deprivation and loss of property were his lot. But once in the new Territory, he selected a land-claim in Linn County, under the act of Congress of 1850, in which lands were granted to all citizens who would reside upon and cultivate them for four years. "Having thus provided a home, he applied himself vigorously and unremittingly to the practice of law, devoting the proceeds to the cultivation and improvement of his farm, and the comfort and elegancies of life." In 1854, nearly twenty years into his political career, he was elected to public office in the territorial legislature. Re-elected in 1855, he became Speaker of the House and was known as the Lion of Linn for his oratory skills. He was again elected to the legislature in 1856. In 1857, he became a delegate to the constitutional convention which would frame the state government in preparation for statehood, and founded Albany's first newspaper, The Oregon Democrat (now the Albany Democrat-Herald). That year, the territorial legislature sent him to Washington in anticipation of Oregon admission to the Union. The admission did not come that year, and Smith returned to Oregon. However, he once again journeyed to Washington in 1858, this time via California, the Panama Canal and New York City, becoming seriously ill on the way. Upon Oregon's admission to statehood, he was elected to the U.S. Senate; because of the delay in admitting Oregon to statehood, and because he and his fellow state senator agreed to decide, by a drawing of straws, which of them would take the short term, he served one of the shortest on record – less than a month - in 1859. Although he ran for re-election in what he thought would be an easy campaign, he was defeated in a bitterly contested race. Following his defeat, he was full of energy and good health and anticipating many years of domestic contentment and active involvement in political affairs. But within a week after the result was known of the Presidential election (Lincoln, the victor, was a Republican and opposed to slavery), he was taken suddenly ill, and died a few days later in Portland, Multnomah County, Oregon. It was November 19, 1860, and he was forty-four years old. He was buried in the Masonic Cemetery of Albany, Linn County. Some thought he had been poisoned. The following correspondence dated December 11, 1860 at Portland from Delazon's physician to his oldest son Volney, then 18, provides insight to concerns surrounding Smith's death: …..Yet I cannot say that his disease was anything else than simple inflammation of the stomach, and without a chemical analysis of the internal viscera, as the stomach and liver, it could never be ascertained clearly whether he had been foully dealt with or not. An examination, I think, should have been made at the time so as to have satisfied those who may have had any suspicions upon the subject. It would not be right in me to give an opinion upon this subject as the evidences in the case were not of that character as to be at all conclusive, indeed only to cause a suspicion. Simple inflammation might produce all the symptoms in this case, but it would be a very uncommon case indeed. I should be, at any time happy to give Mrs. Smith any information upon this subject in my power. Please present my best regards to your mother and accept the same yourself. I remain, Yours truly, I.C. Hawthorne. (Oregon Historical Society. Delazon Smith Family Papers, 1848-2004.) About 1985, more than a century after the fact, an analysis of the available information surrounding Delazon's death was performed, and the following opinion written, by Arne S. Jensen, MD of Waldport, Oregon:"Analysis of a sudden death occurring 126 years ago, and with sketchy facts allows a wide latitude, limited only by imagination….. These (diagnoses) come to mind: (1) perforated peptic ulcer with resultant peritonitis (2) mesenteric thrombosis with resultant peritonitis (3) acute pancreatitis with resultant peritonitis (4) thrombosis of the portal vein (5) ruptured gallbladder with resultant peritonitis (6) poisoning, mercury….One could develop many others, but these appear to be the more likely cause of death. All of the first five could be related to alcohol, the 6th to enemies or error due to drunkenness." (Oregon Historical Society, Delazon Smith family papers, 1848-2004). In a notice of Smith's death, the 14 Dec 1860 edition of the Racine Wisconsin Daily Journal ran the following piece: "advices from Oregon bring the news of the death of Mr. Smith, who was a resident of Northern Ohio, afterwards, in the reign of ‘Tyler too', was a foreign minister and subsequently, under Democratic (rule) because, for a few short months, a U.S. Senator from Oregon; lately, however, superceded by an abler and better man, Senator Baker. Delazon Smith, long before he came into public political life, received the appropriate sobriquet of Blow-azon Smith. Mr. Smith, under Tyler, got an appointment as minister to somewhere in Central America, we think, and when Mr. Polk came into office, Smith so utterly defied all efforts to find him, that an official (illegible) could not be served on him until near the close of that administration. From thus successfully eluding pursuit, Minister Smith received the second sobriquet of Delusion Smith. Mr. Smith finally took up his residence in Oregon, and through one of those singular freaks of politics that often occur, was foisted into the U.S. Senate, where he served a few short months, and for once, really served his country by getting the Democracy by the ears, and thus securing to Oregon a Legislature that elected, in Smith's place, the able and worthy Mr. Baker, who has just taken his seat. The author of Delazon's biographical sketch wrote a review that was not influenced by politics: "The most prominent characteristics of Mr. Smith were energy, perseverance, warmth of feeling and attachment. Whatever he resolved upon doing, he did with remarkable energy and singleness of purpose: no impediment deterred, no adversity appalled him; he never flagged or faltered, nor would he readily bow or bend to the storm; if he did, he rose again, and not less determined than ever. No man was more devoted to country, home and friends. Unreserved, frank and candid, no one would go further, or sacrifice or suffer more, to serve his friends. As a debater, he reasoned deductively and analogically; was always ready, forcible and elegant; and none who heard him were permitted to doubt either his patriotism or his sincerity." (Shuck, Oscar. Representative and Leading Men of the Pacific. 1870, Bacon and Company.) During WWII, a Liberty ship built by the Oregon Shipbuilding and Kaiser for the U.S. Maritime Commission was named for him.

Bio by: Perfield Girl

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: Marko
  • Added: 6 Feb 2003
  • Find a Grave Memorial 7154068
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Delazon Smith (5 Oct 1816–19 Nov 1860), Find a Grave Memorial no. 7154068, citing Masonic Cemetery, Albany, Linn County, Oregon, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .