While visiting New York City in 1874, Gerrit Smith suffered a stroke on December 26. He deteriorated rapidly and died on the afternoon of December 28 at age seventy-seven. His body was returned to Peterboro, arriving on December 31. He was interred on the same day. Though he had stated during his life that he did not want a grandiose funeral, his family and the many around Peterboro he had assisted with his charity were having none of it. The Smith mansion overflowed with mourners, among them Smith’s cousin Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Some five hundred people braved temperatures of -20° F, making a half-mile procession to Peterboro Cemetery, where his body reposes today.
Statements of praise for the fallen philanthropist came from every corner of the republic. Though Smith had many bitter conflicts over strategy with the famed abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, after Smith’s death Garrison praised him, writing: "His case is hardly to be paralleled among the benefactors of mankind in this or any other country."