Try, Try, Try Again

Sedgwick Smith had known Eunice Myers since she was a little girl. She was the daughter of Lucy Myers who was the sister of Ethel Smith, wife of Burnett Smith, Sedgwick’s brother. And the little girl he knew from family gatherings grew into a beautiful young woman.

In the summer of 1912, when Eunice was 16, her mother announced her engagement to Sedgwick, now a Harvard graduate and heir to a modest fortune, bequeathed him by his father, Edmond Reuel Smith, who had died the year before.

Before they wed, Sedgwick sent Eunice to St. Agnes Episcopal School in Albany, for finishing, and in March of 1913 they were married at her mother’s home in Skaneateles. The Myers’ house was decorated with carnations, ferns and palms; the bride carried a bouquet of red roses, and the Krebs catered.

After a honeymoon in Bermuda, the couple returned to 28 West Lake Street, the Smith family home since 1851, and an apartment in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Sedgwick was pursuing post-graduate studies at Harvard. The Skaneateles household also included Eunice’s mother, acting as housekeeper, and Eunice’s younger brother, along for the ride. Unfortunately, there was little happiness in either place, and neither the bride nor the groom turned out to be the person the other had dreamed of.

Eunice later testified in court, “A terribly unhappy situation began immediately after my marriage and grew worse and worse… I told my mother that I hated him, I loathed him and never was going to have anything more to do with him.” Eunice left Sedgwick in Cambridge and returned to Skaneateles. When Sedgwick came home to the village for the holidays, his “housekeeper” later testified, he smashed furniture.

And what did the family of this 17-year-old girl have to say? Her mother, Eunice recalled, “said I was behaving like a foolish, spoiled child, ruining my life and Sedgwick’s, who threatened to divorce me and withdraw his support from my mother and brother if I did not obey.” Eunice’s grandmother threatened to disown her and never allow her to enter her home again. Her grandfather begged her not to make a scandal as there had never been one in the family history. Her aunt, Burnett Smith’s wife, urged her to be obedient.

And so, after the holidays, “yielding to the pleadings and entreaties” of her family, Eunice returned with Sedgwick to Cambridge, where, she said, he locked her in their apartment when he went to class. Ten months after the wedding, Eunice left Sedgwick for good, and the free ride for her mother and brother came to an end.

When Eunice finally went to court, on January 25, 1917, the Auburn Citizen reported, “Dark haired Mrs. Eunice Myers Smith, a striking young girl with classic features, big eyes, slender and graceful, and wearing an expensive fur coat which was the envy of all the other unhappy wives in court this morning, told her sad story to Justice Leonard C. Crouch in the attempt to have her marriage annulled.”

Sedgwick Smith was not present, nor was he represented by an attorney, so we will never hear his side of the story. But the judge did have some choice words for Eunice’s family, saying, “These people were willing to sacrifice their daughter to their own purposes.”

The marriage over, Sedgwick went into the U.S. Army, serving in France in the Signal Corps during the First World War. By 1920, he was back on West Lake Street, living alone. He spent the next 18 years teaching at the high school, coaching the hockey team, and allowing his students to wear their skates into his house after skating on the Cove. In 1934, he published his Sailing on Skaneateles Lake: 1812-1934, a wonderful, indispensable history.

And then, in August of 1938, in a triumph of hope over experience, he married again. The bride was Lillian Hollister Lindberg, a “socially prominent” widow with three children.

The sanctuary of St. James’ Episcopal Church was decorated with summer flowers and tall fronds of ornamental grasses. Before the ceremony, Mrs. Mary Byrne Dye sang, “Love, I Have Won You,” and, for the shadow they cast on later events, I include the lyrics:

Love, I have won you and held you
In a life-long quickening dream
When the meadows sprang fair with flowers
And the river was all a-gleam

Warm shone the sunlight around us,
And clear were the skies above;
Till the stars peeped forth in the twilight,
And the moon rose pale with love.

Love, I have won you and held you.
Life has no more to give;
Then come to me in the sunshine,
It is summer. Ah, let us live!

The bride wore a gown of ice blue chiffon, a blue picture hat, and an arm bouquet of pink roses and delphinium tied with white satin ribbons. Manson Glover, who was Best Man in 1913, again did the honors. Following the ceremony, Sedgwick and Lillian left for a wedding trip through the Adirondacks, Canada and New England.

The next year, Lillian Smith went into a partnership with her son, David Lindberg III, and Ferdinand “Pop” Poppelsdorf, owner of the Village Pharmacy, to create a restaurant, which they called the Lindorf. They purchased the building that housed the pharmacy and completely renovated and modernized the interior and exterior, from a new storefront to three back terraces leading down to a lakeside dock. After months of spare-no-expense preparation, the restaurant opened with an inaugural buffet in March of 1940.

In a parallel development, the business relationship between Lillian Smith and Ferdinand Poppelsdorf (husband of Mary Agnes Poppelsdorf) reached a startling degree of ripeness.

One month after the Lindorf opened, the census-taker found Lillian Smith and her two young children sharing a house with Ferdinand Poppelsdorf. And at the next house: the Rev. Henry Scott Miller, the cleric who had married Lillian Lindberg to Sedgwick Smith less than two years before. It is difficult to imagine who was made more uncomfortable by this proximity.

Sedgwick Smith, having been played and traded, once again lived alone on West Lake Street.

By way of an epilogue…

In April of 1921, Sedgwick’s first wife, Eunice Myers Smith, married Dr. William Thomson of Skaneateles. In February of 1922, she died in childbirth at Auburn City Hospital. Her infant son, Frederick Thomson, died seven months later. They are buried at Lake View Cemetery.

The Lindorf restaurant closed just seven months after its opening. Lillian Smith and Ferdinand Poppelsdorf moved to Liverpool, N.Y., and married. Ferdinand died in 1971, Lillian in 1982.

Showing a courage given to few men, Sedgwick Smith married a third time, but quietly. His bride was Elsa Watts, a widow with a young daughter. Together, they celebrated more than 20 anniversaries. Sedgwick Smith died at home in 1963. Elsa Smith died in 1980.