Many remember the historic marker at City Cemetery memorializing Caleb Smith. It was a source of pride, but one day it disappeared, and this tale is one of the more mysterious stories in the two hundred plus year history of our city.
Caleb Blood Smith was born in Boston, Massachusetts on April 16th, 1808. When he was six his family made its way to Cincinnati, and he attended Miami University graduating in 1827. In the fall of that year, as the story goes, the five foot eight inch tall light blue-eyed Caleb walked from his parent’s home in Cincinnati, to the Connersville law office of Oliver Smith to ask to study the law under him. In 1828 he was admitted to the local bar and within five years his star was rapidly rising. He by then, owned a local newspaper and as a Whig politician was elected to the state legislature. In three more years, he would be Speaker of the Indiana House and on his way to Congress. His speaking ability it is said, made him a standout and brought him to a life changing event as a young Congressman. Another standout speaker at the same time was entering the United States House from the state next door, Abe Lincoln. These two young men only one year in age difference became quick friends. Just 15 years later Caleb would forever endear himself to Abe Lincoln by delivering the Indiana delegation at the 1860 Republican Convention to Abe Lincoln, effectively setting him on a straight path to the White House. A book could be written about the illustrious career of Caleb Smith but that will be for another day. After being elected Caleb Smith went to Washington to be the new President’s Interior Secretary in one of the most tumultuous periods in our country’s history. He was the first cabinet member in Indiana history and served two years in this role. Caleb’s health began to fail some, and he was happy to accept an appointment to the bench back in Indiana as Judge of the U.S. Court for the District of Indiana. After about one year on the bench, he was in court and had a coughing fit. He suffered a ruptured blood vessel in his stomach and only lived a brief time after being carried to his home and died January 7th, 1864. His funeral held a week later, was attended by the Governor of Indiana and most state officeholders and leaders. The President ordered a 14-day period of mourning for his friend. His funeral procession was a formidable one and included the Masonic Fraternity, a national Guard Band, a carriage of ministers, then the hearse, drawn by four black horses, the Governor with state officials and a large number of carriages with friends and family.