Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on June 29, 1975 · Page 90
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 90

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, June 29, 1975
Page 90
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Milton and Sarah Smoot. Thev started the flan. There's^a family of Smoots in West Virginia, whose members affectionately call themselves a clan. And they are by broad definition as a group who can trace their origin to a common ancestor, but not so in a narrow sense as a clannish lot whpTceep;to^i;hemseives. . They are an extended black family with roots in Boone County since, shortly after toe Civil War. Now six generations later, members of the clan are scattered throughout the United States. But most keep in touch with their West Virginia kin and reunite annually at the old homestead near Madisom . The Smoots are teachers, coal miners; housewives, government wprkere, grocers, caterers, build- injg craftsmen, and contractors. They all, however, have a common originjn the world of work on hilly farmland in an area near Madison now known as Price Hill. Progenitors of the clan were Milton Smoot and his wife, the former Sarah Chapman, both of whom were born in slavery in Tazewell County, Va. They were married in 1863, two years before emancipation, and came to Boone County in 1871. Milton Smoot.first settled on Workman's Branch with his budding family. But later, the family moved to Sulphur Spring Branch, a hollow off Pond Fork of Little Coal River in the Price Hill area. Smoot purchased 119 acres of land in the'area, part of which remains in the possession of heirs, including those who still live on this ancestral land. Much has changed since Milton Smoot moved in and began felling trees and turning the hill into farmland. There are still signs, though, 6m CHARLESTON. W. VA. of the sawmill and the grist r mill that Smoot once operated at Pond Fork. He sold lumber and timber mat went to market as far. as St. Albans by way of "the Coal River. Through fliese; enterprises, Milton and Sarah reared a large family. In all, there were seven sons and two daughters who made up the second generation of Smoots. They in turn had big families .for the most part to give rise to me clan whose members live today in Charleston, Logan, fluritington, Beckley, Page and Madison as well. the oldest living member is Cecil CiSmooti 78, of Madison, a retired masonry contractor. He's a third -gertet^tipn SMopt who grew up wim 10 sisters and brothers and a great many first cousins. (Mdly, CeeU'Smpot's home is the former schoolhouse where he, his sisters, brothers and cousins went to grade school. It was a onie-room school for all the Negro community between 1909 and 1929, until it was supplanted by a grade school for blacks in South Madison. Cecil acquired the old schopl building in 1930 and .converted it into a four-bedroom home. The gables and upper sections of the two- story home of the original building thatCecU bricked up and decorated the exterior walls with marble. His father, Joseph Smoot, had deeded the land: for the school to Boone County with the stipulation that the property would go back to the family if the county moved or discontinued the school. "I went to school here for two terms, in the sixth and eighth grades," Cecil recalls. "I. skipped the seventh grade. If you went beyond the eight grade, you had to go to Institute for higher education. "In 1915, there w.asn't ji;;high school in Bo^ne C^unty.''^ adds;' "ScottHigh School was the first and it was built, I believe, in 1930." .(School recprds show that Scott High was built in 1925). Scott was fpr whites and it was years later before :there was a Carver High Schopl for blacks during the days of the djuaTschool sys- . tem. " ~ - . " . · . . ·'\^o-': : *: - " . ' : Cecil Smodt picket up brick masonry and taught himself to read blueprints and to perform other skills as a builder; S "I started put doing carpentry, but on the account tifathe money I took up maspiu7 wdrk,'' v he says. He was influenced byhis'brother, William, to makei the switch; William had taken brick masonry at West Virginia Collegiate Institute, now West;Virginia State College. The brothers had threefirst cousins who also studied the trade at In- stitute.The cousins were Sherman, Henry, and Virgil Smoot. Separately and together, the Smoots built a number of homes, schools and other buildings in Boone, Kanawha, and surrounding counties in the 1930's and early 1940's. ''I worked in Kanawha County from 1932 to 1948," Cecil remembers. "I started with Sherman and his brothers. At that time, whites wouldn't take colored bricklayers in the union. We were getting most of the work, so round 1937 the Union started taking colored bricklayers." . - · ; . - ' ; ·'- · ·'- At about this time, Cecil Smoot decided .to go on his own as a subcontractor of masonry work. He stepped up his pace with a crew that at times included as many as 15 bricklayers alone. In the crew were his brothers William, Oscar, Charles, Seigal, and Boyd; and lat- Josephand Nora Smoot; er his sons Samuel, larenee; and Athol; and a nephew, Carl E. Price. - , --\..:.-.. ; · ; / . : : · 'When I first begatf wording; in Charleston, mere were only a few houses in Kanawha City," says M:. cil Smoot,"I didl a lot bf masonry work for the Thomas Brbttiers -Edgar and. John -- who were general contractors. They built many homes and buildings in Kanawha City and other sections of Charleston." v.";'. r ·., r -;\..'., Smoot also subcontracted masonry work or supervised the same for other builders and developers, in' and out of Kanawha County. One of his first big jobs was the Danville Grade School that was built in Btkmei County 'abput493Q r; Later, he added the gymnasium and fpur classrooms to Scott High School. \ In 1948; he built Whartpn High School, and in 1963, Mount Hope High School, the last of his big jobs But earlier, in the 1940's, during the peak years of his building career, his jobs iii Charleston included the Regal and Edgewater apartments on Kanawha Boulevard, and the Ambassador apartments on Bradford Street. These were among Charleston's firstluxury apartment buildings. Single family dwellings built by Cecil Smopt included homes for John Thomas, John F. Suter, and Robert Myers, all in Kanawha City. Smoot supervised the brick work on the home of Dr. Page Seekford, Kanawha-Charleston health director, on Rock Holly Road, in 1959. "Mrs. Seekford got up on the scaffold and laid a corner brick,'' Smoot recalls with pleasure. For about 17 years, Smoot's daughter, Mrs. Audra S. Dillard of Cross Lanes, was his bookkeeper. In addition to the building business, the family alSjbbperated a ant and a g^e^sior' 'HiU. The; Jat:e Mrs. Nina M;Smbpt, wife and mother/ was m charge of ; A cousin, Ray Smoot of Madison, has b^n a gjpcer-iri -the^city tor about 25;ye^rsj His is i amrtheriraini- ^ly business like that f orwjuch Mrs. Dillard used to keep the books and . the payroll. r ^ ';.':· · .".' Mrs; Dillard is thinking of using her busihess experience toward a bachelor's degree.pffered under the new plan by the West Virginia Board of Regents. Her husband, Thomas Dillard, is a retired serviceman. They are parents of five children. Mrs^ Dillwtffe^taldiig a course in se(ietarial,fecienceiat . .It isn't easy;fof a m grandmother to gel back to j sciiopl, but the idea of eairahg"all^rfi^ is very appealing to her; Mrs. ^Dillard , says.:-.-: ··-.:^ ;;. ^~'^^:^:i~ .'· Her fatheif t^lls her,l^I;always said and believed -^ and still dp -^ that what a petson thinks he or she can do and goes at it and stays with it, he or she ^willip it:" . Cecil Smoot of fers his philosophy of life matter-of-factly, something he came by through heritage and experience as did other Smoots His cousin, Sherman R Smoot, for example, is still with it and at it, so to speak, as one of the largest masonry cpntractors in Central Ohio, He is president of the Columbus-based company that bears his name and does business in several states. His brothers, Henry and Virgil, are dead. Sherman, 68, and his wife, the former Betty Penman of Meadville, Pa., moved from Charleston to Columbus in 1956. In Ohio, they Jtine 29. 1975. Sundav Gazette-Mail

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