The History of Taylor County Chapter Two Hundred-Fifty


The Passing of Colonel James K. Smith

Quo Vadis, the story of the dawn of Christianity, under the management of E.J. Carpenter, starring Miss Lillian Lancaster as Lygia, the beautiful Christian martyr, in this drama of the struggle for Christianity in the Roman empire. This massive production with its elaborate scenery that appealed to the press and pulp and had their hearty endorsement came to the Opera House April 25, 1901. Miss Lancaster, young marvelously beautiful with a face of angelic purity and talent, that won sympathy of her audience in the persecutions inflicted on her by the minions of the emperor of Rome.
Considerable agitation over rumor that the Baltimore and Ohio railroad contemplated erecting a new passenger station on that part of Latrobe Street west of Burns alley, caused property values along this o’d thoroughfare to enhance in value. There must have been some truth in the rumor as Colonel John T. McGraw purchased the marble shop of S.J. Willhide for a considerable sum of money. But for some reason the matter of the station was dropped when the officials of the railroad declared nothing definite had been determined.
Henry C. Colerider, boot and shoe dealer on Main Street announced closing out of his entire stock of footwear and findings as it was his intention to remove his farm in North Carolina recently purchases on which he expected to make his future home. Mr. Colerider came to Grafton in 1875 and established a shoe repair shop in the basement of the Beverlin furniture establishment and by industry and close attention to business, accumulated a very good competence, and become the owner of a number of very good paying properties that yielded a nice income.
The passing of Colonel James K. Smith, one of the most colorful figures in the business and political history of Taylor County, who died at his home in Fetterman, May 20,1901. A son of Abraham Smith, famous as the first post rider who gained distinction when he carried word to Washington of Commodore Oliver H. Perry’s great victory over the British fleet on Lake Erie in 1813 and at whose home the 17 justices met or organize a new county in western Virginia. James K. Smith was elected the first prosecuting attorney at the formation of Taylor County. A graduate of old Ractor college, he completed his law course in the office of Attorney Burton Despard, and was admitted to practice law at the Taylor county bar in 1844. A business career appealed to him with greater force than the law, he retired from the profession and foreseeing considerable business was to be done at Valley Bridge (Fetterman) with the coming of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad he came to the old toll village and erected the first mercantile establishment at the north east corner of the approach of the historic old covered wooden bridge in 1850. His early training in the store of his father at Pruntytown, his business ability in a line to his liking, his great honesty in his dealings brought him much business in the territory adjacent to his store and at the coming of the railroad, which established its terminal at Valley Bridge, he was appointed freight and passenger agent for the railroad, a position he held until his death. He was active in the State Militia, serving as a captain when but a boy of 18 years, and was promoted to lieutenant, major and colonel prior to the information of the National Guard.  A prominent political leader of the Democratic party, he served in the house of delegates of Virginia from Taylor County in 1859. Often called into the councils of his party and in campaign served as delegate to state and congressional conventions. For many years he served as a magistrate in Fetterman District, and for 14 years served on the board of directors for the West Virginia penitentiary. While he did not favor the removal of the county seat from his place of birth, yet he did not seriously object to its relocation, realizing the movement was more for the common good of the people of the county.
He was one of the first to agitate the establishment of a banking institution in Grafton for the convenience of the merchants and town folks, who were compelled to ship money to Baltimore and Wheeling in exchange for consignments of merchandise and served on the board of directors when the Grafton bank was chartered under the federal banking system and renamed the First National Bank of Grafton, he continued to serves as director until his death.
He was one of the organizers of the Taylor County Agricultural and Mechanical Society for the promotion of better farming and stock raising in the county and served as the vice president of the society now only a memory to a very few oldsters who still recall the fine fairs held on the ruins of the old Fair Grounds in West Grafton. After the removal of the seat of courts in 1878, Colonel Smith was, perhaps, the prime mover in having the state take over the old court house and land for a school for underprivileged boys of the state when the movement was agitated in 1888-89, and was one of those committed to pledge the sum of $5,000.00 and a free gift of the county property for that purpose.

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