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Smith of Smith Halls


The Harvard Graduates' Magazine tells the story of an obscure benefactor of the college, who chose to call himself George Smith. Where he was born nobody knows. He came into the world as Connelly, son of a porter in the employ of a great mercantile house in St. Louis. The name indicates his adventurous and individualist spirit. One regrets that he abandoned it for its neutral substitute. He did this in honor of James Smith, head of the firm, who, without adopting him, treated him as a son. Mrs. Smith was equally fond of him.

In 1850 he entered President Eliot's class as a sophomore. The wild boy from the West at once stirred the mischievous instincts of the conventional little undergraduate village. He wore his hair in long curls floating over his shoulders. Upon his secure hour his comrades stole, poured molasses on his ringlets, treated them to a sandblast. So the long prairie grass had to know the barber's shear. Connelly could do nothing against numbers, but he was as punctilious on a point of honor as any Southern student of the time.

Some of his classmates knew enough Latin to translate him into "Opifex," a Smith. Reduced to "'Pifex," this was his appelation henceforth. His college days must have prefigured the rest of his strange life. After he was graduated his Smiths made him a fat allowance, but he was a queer lad, he was. He wore out the patience of his patrons. They cast him off. He became a sort of tramp. He tried his fortune in mining camps, in New York buoket shops, in the Chicago grain market. He even haunted, as his chaste Cambridge biographer puts it, "sections of Philadelphia which did him no good." After the death of James Smith his widow offered to let bygones be bygones. 'Pifex the playboy came back to St. Louis.

Mrs. Smith died in 1891 and left him her husband's entire fortune. The blood relations had a fit. The contest over the will lasted ten years. 'Pifex, now become a sour and suspicious recluse, won. He kept his window shades down. Cats were the only guests at his table. Lawyers were his only acquaintances. In 1892 he was writing to the class secretary of his "old love for our Alma Mater." He left the bulk of his estate for the erection of those three Smith Halls, James Smith, Percy Smith and George Smith Halls, where the freshmen are gathered. New York Times.

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