Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on June 29, 1975 · Page 91
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 91

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, June 29, 1975
Page 91
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Page 91 article text (OCR)

expanded the family-owned corporation that they started in West Virginia. Their son, Lewis R. Smoot, is vice president of the firm and now its sparkplug. He's a 1956 construction engineering graduate of Michigan State University. The firm employs a number of relatives and non-relatives who learned the masonry trade in West Virginia. In 1970, the firm was a subcontractor on the construction of the John E. Amos Power Plant in Putnam County. At the time, Smoot had other jobs in Eastern states. The company continues to work near and far from its Columbus base.. . ····-'· "It isn't normal for a masonry contractor to work as wide an area as we do," observes Sherman Smoot. "BUt I traveled a lot when I was young and I guess it got into my blood." His sister is Mrs Ruby Smoot Woodson of Institute, who is a caterer His daughter is Mrs Nina Cain of Park Forest South, 111. Mr and Mrs. Sherman Smoot have six grandchildren who are fifth generation Smoots Perhaps the magic number among the Smoots is seven, rather than six. At least, Milton Smoot, the patriarch and progenitor, had seven, well as two daughters The significance of seven suggests the Seven against Thebes in Greek legend, in which seven heroes came to the aid of Polymces to recover a share in the kingship that his brother Eteocles had taken It also'Sdggtst* the Seven Hills on which RdmFwas built, or the Seven Seas presumed to comprise all the waters or oceans of the world Anyway, the Smoot family history has it that Milton's seven sons got together with their families at the home of Joseph W Smoot, the oldest son,- in the Price Hill area in 1929 Cecil Smoot well remembers the gathering at his father's home that year -- all the uncles, aunts and cousins. They didn't assemble, however, on that fateful day to help restore a king to his contested throne, or to elect a politician to public office They met to seal and sanctify family ties, for reasons no doubt deeper than the annual family reunion that grew out of this meeting. Milton's mernwj was alive among them, al- thotigfc.Iie'iiad-been dead for five years. He had lived to be 81 His sons knew as did other members of tbe extended family, that social and economic conditions traditionally made it hard forblack families to maintain binding ties It was true in West Virginia and elsewhere, particularly in 1929 the year that the stock market crashed and set off the Great Depression The seven brothers underscored family unity and cohesiveness as lines of defense against adversity They took to heart the old belief that in unity there is strength, One of the brothers -- John Reece, a minister and farmer -sought to demonstrate the meaning of unity. He collected some stick- weeds, put a few of them together and snapped them in two with his hands. Then he took several stick- weeds and made a roll that he could bend but couldn't break. He chal- Sfatfi Magazine. June' 1915 '·'·.;·.-·; This is Smoot elan at 1929 reunion near Madison Cwil C. Smool and pi-eat granddaughter Ora, 3, (sixth generation) hefore family home that was once a srhoolhouse. fenged each brother to try to break it. To the amusement of family observers, they all tried, but none succeeded The demonstration showed that unity meant strength If members of the family stuck together, they could be bent by adversity, but never broken r John Reece Smoot was the third oldest brother He was the first to leave the homestead when he moved to Beckley, but throughout his lifetime he helped keep alive the Smoot sense of family, the self- sustaining qualities that it engendered and me protective reach of the clan. Joseph, the oldest brother, maintained the grist mill and the timber business that Milton Smoot had started. Joseph and his wife; Nora, also operated a grocery store. Isaac E. Smoot, the second oldest brother, was a drayman who hauled the mail between the Madison Post Office and the railroad station for about 41 years. He and his wife, Fannie, operated a restaurant in Madison. The fourth brother, the Rev Andrew Jefferson Smoot, was presiding elder of the Charleston District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church Significantly, the present St. Paul AME Church in Madison grew out of the early church founded by the Smoots and neighbors in Sulphur Spring Branch The other three brothers -- Henry M., W. Elbert and Thomas R. Smoot -- were enterprising hill farmers and lumbermen in Boone County! Henry was Sherman Smoot's father who had a total of 13 children. All of Milton's sons and daughters had children, except Isaac and John Reece. But not to be outdone, Isaac and Fannie adopted a daughter. She is Mrs. Emma Watkins, 86, of Madison, who keeps an eight- room home that many women half her age would spurn as a.burden. But for Mrs. Watkins, it's part of her pleasure of living and the cherished visits of her daughter, Mrs. Cornelia Jenkins of Maiden and a son, Lawrence Watkins of Cleveland, Ohio, grandchildren and other relatives who live in other places. Another son, Carl Watkins, is at home with his mother. Mrs. Watkins is now in the process of turning the back porch into a room. "It seems such a waste of space not to have use for it during the winter," she says, obviously thinking of room for visiting kin folk and friends. "Anybody who is a friend of my children is also my friend," she adds. Mrs. Jenkins, a retired school teacher, cautions her mother against overworking herself. Mrs. Watkins recovered earlier this year from an operation. Drewie G. Jenkins, the husband of Mrs. Jenkins, is a Kanawha County vocational education super- Visor. County teachers are Douglas B. Smoot of the fourth generation, coach at Jefferson Junior High School, and Mrs. Marva Smoot Law who is at Charleston High School. The teachers are first cousins. Douglas Smoot's wife, Carolyn, is job placement director at the Charleston Job Corps. Others in the field of education include Dr. James Stewart Smoot and Ronald F. Smoot, both school officials in the state of New York. They are members of theextende^ 5 family living in the East, West, South, ariNorth. The Smoot genealogy is in a book- i let prepared by Mrs. Doches Smoot ; White of Logan for the 45th family ' reunion last year. Mrs. White is the sister of Cecil Smoot, who designed the Smoot Reunion Pavilion that was built at the homestead in 1966. Another sister is Eassie L. Smoot, the youngest of 11 brothers and sis- . ters, who maintains the early fami- ; ly home. Miss Smoot has albums 6T -; family pictures and other memora- \ . bilia of parents and relatives dating j back to pioneer days. | Much of this collection was hand- ! ed down by the^mother of the 11 -- i Mrs. Nora Smoot, who died in 1969 j at the age of 96. Survivors included ; five sons, two daughters, 33 grand- : children, 83 great-grandchildren · and 17 great great grandchildren ; for a total of 140 descendants. j They are members of one branch : of the Smoot family tree that com- · prises many branches. Members of ; a different branch are James Edward Price and Wesley Price of. Madison, both coal miners. OtheiF · miners are James Bernard Smoot, : Larry Smoot and Kenny Saunders, all of Madison, fourth and fifth generation descendants of Milton Smoot. The coal miners are virtually fueling the Smoot family fires and helping to perpetuate the charismatic clan. As miners, they are workers in an industry of real and enduring black power, the substance of which is sometimes called" black gold. And gold as such compliments .the character of generations of : Smo6ts. ; " ···'·.'-· -'··'· '··'·- (WXffLESTOJV; W' VA.Wm

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