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Scott County Historical Society
Scott County, Virginia

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Paul Addington

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February 1, 1938


Shoemaker History High Lights

Colonel James L. Shoemaker was born near Lebanon, Russell County, Virgina, December 7, 1809.

He was a descendant of an honorable ancestry. His grandfather, James S. Shoemaker, was of a good family in England, and, in 1749, immigrated into America. He espoused the cause of his adopted country in her struggle for independence, enlisted in the American Army, and fought valiantly under Colonel William Campbell, of Washington County, at the battle of King's Mountain, North Carolina. Soloman Litton, his other grandfather, was born December, 24., 1751, in Washington County, Virginia. In 1778, while the Revolutionary War, was raging, and the Americans were being assailed by the "red-coats" on one hand, and the "redskins" on the other, Mr. Litton, with his wife, and two daughters, while sojourning in the land of Boone, was taken prisoner by the Indians at Harrodsburg, Kentucky. The four prisoners were carried to Quebec, Canada and held until the close of the war, when they were exchanged.

Colonel Shoemaker was happily married, July 5th, 1842, to Miss Aurelia Paxton Salling, daughter of Dr. Henry Salling of Scott County, Virginia. Twelve years after his marriage his father, Joseph Shoemaker, died at his home in Lafayette County, Missouri, to which place he had moved from Washington County, Virginia.. His mother, Elizabeth Shoemaker, did not long survive the loss of her husband, having died,at the Shoemaker homestead in Missouri the next year, .

Chances for acquiring an education were very meager. Like a great many young men of his time, his only chance to prepare for the responsibilities and duties of life was simply to assume them and learn by experience. How well he did this is demonstrated by his success in business and the philanthropic disposal of a life-time earnings.

He began business in Estiville, (now Gate City), a member of the firm of Alderson and Shoemaker. Aferwards, he bought Alderson's interest and continued as successful business in his own name. He was not an ambitious man, seeking high positions and political preferment; he chose instead to serve the people of his county in less remunerative, though probably more important trust. He was enumerator of the census of 1840, and 1850, land assessor several times, postmaster for a number of years, and County Court Clerk. In all these positions, his integrity and accurate business methods made him a trusted official. The papers submitted by him, as assessor, were declared by the officials at Richmond to be the best in the state.

This quiet, business-like, patriotic citizen, remembering his ,own difficulties in securing a limited education, and seeing the great need of increased education facilities in Scott County, had, for a long time before his death, cherished the idea of giving his wealth to found an institution of learning to be called "Shoemaker." It was his oft-expressed purpose to give $5000 for the erection of a building, and the remainder of his estate for an endowment fund, the proceeds of which were to be expended in paying the expenses of deserving students, financially unable to help themselves. It was his desire. that the institution be located in Scott County, among the people he had loved, and with whom he had labored so diligently. To use his own words: "I have made my money here in Scott county and I want these people to be the beneficiaries of it when I am gone."

After his death, January 9th,. 1894, it was ascertained from his will that the principal part of his large estate was given to the cause of education. After some litigation, the particulars of which need not be given here, only $7,500 of his estate was obtained by the people of this county. With this amount, supplemented by popular subscription, a handsome and commodious building, costing about $13,000 was erected.

The doors of the institution were thrown open for the education of both sexes, October 22, 1897. Six successful sessions have been completed, and the prospects for the coming session are the brightest of her history.

Editor's Note-This material was taken from the Shoemaker Catalog of 1902-1903.


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