Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Drowning of George Arthur Smith, My Step Grandfather

One of the amazing items I found recently among the Carlinville newspapers in the Fulton Post Cards database was an obituary of my step grandfather, George Arthur Smith. He was the first husband of my grandmother, Lena Sarah Marlow, and the father of eight out of her nine children. My aunt, Roberta Smith Riddoch, recounts the story of the family in Verdant Valleys in and Around Lougheed, which is copyrighted, but fortunately available on line, where you can view a picture of Arthur and Lena with their first three children. Aunt Roberta does not give details of her father’s drowning, but family stories indicate that it was the most traumatic event any of them ever experienced. Unfortunately, it was one event in a string of tragedies: the untimely losses of Lena’s sisters Winnnie and Dollie, and Dollie’s daughter Ruby Belle, the death of her father Joseph to cancer, the fire which burned down Lena’s house after her husband’s death, a destructive hailstorm in July of 1930, and the subsequent suicide of her next husband, George Leslie Hart, to whom she had only been married for six weeks. Of course, all of this took place in the lead up to and onset of the Great Depression.

Arthur’s obituary, which appeared in The Carlinville Democrat on May 20, 1928, was one of a series of obituaries and letters home written by the Marlow family to their previous hometown newspaper, which were my great fortune to discover in the Fulton Post Cards historical newspapers database. This database contains mainly New York newspapers, and very few from other places, but includes five newspapers from Carlinville, Macoupin county, Illinois, the home of many of my Marlows and Bosomworths. The following obituary confirms the stories told to me by my cousins:


George Arthur Smith, living on the J. W. Pfouts place, at Hardisty, Alberta, Canada, was accidentally drowned while out on the lake on a boat near his house. The boat took water and started to sink.Mr. Smith jumped from the boat and attempted to swim to shore. The water was deep and ice cold and he was a long ways out. He was attacked with cramps and was drowned. His eldest son, Glenn, tried to help him but had to turn back as the water was too deep. Mr. Smith was drowned before the eyes of his wife and children. The body was found at about 4 o'clock Tuesday morning May 15th. The accident occurred Monday evening about 8 o'clock, May 14th.

Mr. Smith was born April 18, 1892 near Chesterfield, Macoupin co., Ill. He grew to manhood in and near Chesterfield and Medora. He joined the Harmony Baptist Church when a boy. He was married to Lena Sarah Marlow, daughter of Mrs. J. H. Marlow, Feb. 20, 1912. Eight children were born to this union, six boys and two girls, namely: Glenn Marlow, Joseph Vernon, Wilbur Arthur, Roberta Annabelle, Dorothy Elizabeth, Byron William, Elwood George, and Ralph Fredrick. In the fall of 1913, he came to Lougheed, Alberta, Canada, stayed six months, and February 15, 1914, started back to Medora. He stayed there six years, and Sept 28, 1919 removed to Hardisty, Alberta, Canada, where he resided until his death. He leaves to mourn his death, his widow and eight children, the eldest being 15 years and the youngest 14 months, all at home. His mother, four half brothers, living in Illinois, besides many other relatives and friends.

The funeral was held in the English church at Lougheed, May 16th, conducted by Rev. Arthur Murphy of Hardisty. Burial was in the Lougheed cemetery. The services were attended by many relatives, neighbors and friends and there were many beautiful flowers. The pallbearers were Jim Hays, Frank Curtis, Leigh Kelsey, Hamlin Cooper, Percy Cooper and Robert Johnson.

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