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Buckingham Smith

In the December 26, 1868 edition of the St. Augustine Examiner it was reported that the "Hon. Buckingham Smith" was back in town after an absence of several months, and that he had visited the former residence of Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles, while he was in Spain.


Smith returned to his home on 42nd Street in New York in 1870. On January 4, 1871, he suffered a heart attack and was found unconscious on the street by a policeman who thought he was intoxicated and locked him in a cell in the police station. The next day he was transferred to Bellevu Hospital, where he died, still unknown, without regaining consciousness. His body was removed to the morgue and was about to be buried in potter's field, when it was identified by an acquaintance and sent to St. Augustine for interment in the Protestant cemetery near his mother and sister.


Buckingham Smith's will, made in St. Augustine in 1869, was not immediately found, but was later located, it is said, in the safe of a local merchant. there were no banks or safety deposit boxes in St. Augustine at that time.


Although he and his mother had both been slave owners, Buckingham Smith sympathized with the North during the Civil War. He left a life interest to lands in St. Augustine to a Negro named Jack, once his slave, and $100 each to three other former servants.


After disposing of personal effects to friends and relatives, he left the rest and residue of his property for the use of the black people of St. Augustine and their successors in all time to come..."providing first for the aged and invalid of those blacks which have been mine."


Dr. Oliver Bronson of St. Augustine was his executor. As soon as it was practicable, in order to make a more permanent provision for accomplishing the purposes of the testator, Dr. Bronson determined to create a corporate institution, which was named The Buckingham Smith Benevolent Association.


In order to carry out the intentions of Mr. Smith, and to put the institution on a permanent basis, Dr. Bronson purchased at his own expense, had erected a commodious building completely furnished with everything necessary to make it comfortable, which he deeded to the Directors. There were ample piazzas on the north and south sides, a large dining room and sitting room, and an apartment for the matron; an outbuilding for a commodious kitchen and rooms for the domestics. This was connected to the main building by a room open on the south designed as a sitting room in pleasant weather.


Dr. Bronson donated this without cost to the Association, so that the income from Mr. Smith's estate could be devoted to the maintenance of the inmated of the home.


A "Board of Lady Managers" was formed to aid in this benevolent work, with a membership composed of some of the most prominent ladies in town. Miss Margaret Worth was the Secretary, her sister, Mrs. John Sprague, and the Misses Humphreys and Benet were Vice Presidents, Miss Rebecca Perit was Treasurer, and Miss Sarah Mather, the President.


These ladies immediately began making articles of clothing and other necessities for the home, and on December 8, 1873, six aged colored women and two colored men took their first meal in the newly erected Home. Others were admitted from time to time. The institution was in charge of a matron, assisted by a cook and a house girl.


The first officers of the Association were Oliver Bronson, M.D., President, General John T. Sprague and Oliver Bronson, Jr., Vice Presidents, Dr. Andrew Anderson, M.D., Physician and Secretary, and Mr. James W. Allen, Treasurer.