The Little Cities Archive

Shawnee, Ohio

The Story of Homer Smithers

Posted by JRW on November 10, 2012

Homer Smithers (from the Miners Registry)

Although Homer and his wife Laura had no children of their own, they raised my grandfather, Walter Garfield Smithers from infancy. Walter’s birth father was Homer’s brother Edward. His birth mother was Elsie, who was Laura’s sister. Elsie reportedly died in, or shortly after childbirth.

Homer Smithers married Laura F. Pack on October 26, 1876 in Hinton West Virginia. (Summers County)

Edward Smithers married – Elsie Pack Johnson on April 24, 1884 in Kanawha, West Virginia. Elsie was a 22 year old widow, born in Franklin County Virginia at the time she married Edward

The 1880 Census shows Homer, age 26, and his wife Laura, age20, living in the Greenbrier District of the Town of Hinton, WV. His occupation is listed as a Bateaux man. This means he operated a Bateaux boat on the New River in Hinton. A number of other blacks in the area are also listed as bateaux boat men.

Homers next door neighbors in this 1880 census are James H. Johnston, age 55; his wife Amanda Jane Pack, age 46 and their son Robert Henry Pack, age 24.

Amanda is Laura’s mother, Johnson is her father. James H. Johnson and his son Robert Henry Pack were also Bateaux men.

As the railroads became established, the bateaux boats days were numbered in Hinton on the New River

Meanwhile 200 miles to the north in Perry County, Ohio, the abundance of coal in the Hocking Valley was creating a boom for the area.

Black miners, from Hinton WVa in the New River region were recruited by Ohio Central Coal Company and Colonel William Rend. In addition to the coal mines many African -American men were coming to the area in hope of finding work laying rail for the Columbus Sandusky &Hocking Valley Railroad (CS&HRR) from Burr Oak to Sandusky, Ohio.

This is what brought my ancestors, Homer Smithers, Edward Smithers, Henry Pack and others from Hinton WVa to Rendville, Ohio to work in number 3 and 9 mines in the 1880’s.

Homer Smithers purchased a house on top of Scotch Hill across from the cemetery in Rendville in the1890’s. The house still stands and is owned and used by the Smithers Family Heritage Association Inc.today.

 

O. Lester Smithers, Jr.

Enon, Ohio

 

To learn more about Batteaux Boats Click Here

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