Scott County Historical Society
Scott County, Virginia
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Historical Sketches

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Historical Sketches of Southwest Virginia
Publication No. 21 - 1987

COLONEL JAMES L. SHOEMAKER, 
BENEFACTOR OF EDUCATION

by Omer C. Addington

Col. James L. Shoemaker was born near Lebanon, Russell County, Virginia, December 7, 1809. He was a descendant of an honorable ancestry. His grandfather, James Shoemaker, was born of a good family in England and in 1746 immigrated to America. He espoused the cause of his adopted land in her struggles for independence. He enlisted in the American army, and fought under Col. William Campbell of Washington County at the battle of King's Mountain, South Carolina.

Solomon Litton, his other grandfather, had immigrated from Pennsylvania to Elk Garden in 1769. He had married Martha Dunkin, a sister of Captain John Dunkin, one of the early militia officers of Russell County, Virginia. The families of Solomon Litton, Captain John Dunkin and their brother-­in-law, John Laughlin, moved to the Licking River in Kentucky in 1779. They were taken prisoner when the British, under Captain Byrd, swooped down from Canada with five hundred Indian allies in the spring of 1780, and overpowered the few settlers at Martin's and Ruddell's Stations. They were all taken to Canada and held until the end of the Revolutionary War. Elizabeth Litton, the daughter of Solomon Litton, married Joseph L. Shoemaker and became the mother of Col. James L. Shoemaker.

Co I. Shoemaker married Aureha Paxton Salling, daughter of Dr. Henry Salling of Scott County, Va., on July 5, 1842. To this union two daughters were born, both deceased in infancy.

Joseph Shoemaker died at his home in Lafayette County, Missouri in 1856, to which place he had moved from Washington County, Virginia. His wife, Elizabeth, did not long survive the loss of her husband and died at the Shoemaker homestead the following year, 1857.

The will of Joseph Shoemaker, dated March 7, 1853 in Lafayette County, Missouri was probated June 18, 1856 and gave James L. one hundred dollars. The other three children getting much more. His son, George, receiving largest share of the estate.

James L. began business in Estilville (now Gate City) as a member of the firm of Alderson and Shoemaker, afterwards buying Alderson's interest and continued a successful business in his own name. He was enumerator of the census of 1840 and 1850, Land Assessor several times, postmaster for a number of years, and was elected County Clerk in 1857.                    -

Col. Shoemaker dealt extensively in real estate in Scott County buying and selling farms, and financing the buyer at the prevailing rate of interest at the time the farm was sold. Interest rates ranged from four to six percent. He also owned farm land which he rented on a share crop basis.

On May 14, 1861 the County Court ordered that James L. Shoemaker, H. S. Kane, and Henry Morrison be appointed Commissioners to furnish the volunteers of the county with necessary provisions during the time they might be in training, and also to procure the service of a suitable person to train them, and make out and return to the court an account of the expenses hereto and hereafter incurred by the Volunteers up to the next term of Court. (Court Order Book 13, page 144/45)

It has been told and written that James L. Shoemaker served in the Confederate Army. The State Library says he does not have an army record, but served in the home guard from the first of 1864 until the end of the war on April 19, 1865, and was given the title of Colonel by Governor Smith of Virginia.

The Will of Gov. Shoemaker dated 14th day of February, 1887, and probated 12th day of February, 1894, consists of ten clauses and is probably the longest will recorded at the Clerk's office at Gate City.

In his will he gave money to his and his wife's relatives and some of his friends, but the principal part of his large estate was given to the cause of education. The people who received money from his estate had to wait three years after his death before the money was paid to them by his executors. The personal effects and household property they came into possession of soon after his death on January 9, 1894.

The ninth clause of the will is the most important clause.

Col. Shoemaker, remembering his own difficulties in securing a limited education and seeing the great need of increased educational facilities in Scott County, had for a long time before his death cherished the idea of giving his estate to found an institution of higher learning to be called "Shoemaker".

The ninth clause reads as follows:

"I will and direct that whatever funds I may have at the time of my death in the Exchange and Deposit Bank in Abingdon, Washington County, Virginia either in bank stock or deposits, as well as such other funds as I may direct by my will to be placed there by my Executors, shall remain and continue in the said bank as a permanent fund for the purpose of educating such young white men and ladies as may be unable to educate themselves, provided that the interest, dividends and profits only which annually accrue. The fund shall be expended only in the payment of tuition and the purchase of suitable text books and stationery, and then only in a college to be erected on a certain lot or parcel of land dedicated by me for that purpose in the town of Estilville, Virginia, but should the college aforesaid not' be erected, then I will and direct that the annually accruing profits shall be expended in as nearly official proportion at Emory and Henry College and Martha Washington in Washington County, Virginia, for the purpose aforesaid and in order to fully carry out and accomplish the objective aforesaid, I hereby appoint Patrick Hagan, James B. Richmond and William T. Edmonds as Board of Trustees."

After Col. Shoemaker's death it was ascertained from his will that his estate was valued at 530,000. He had willed that 55,000 be spent to help erect a building and the balance be a scholarship fund.

The General Assembly of Virginia, by an act approved March 1, 1894 granted a charter to Shoemaker College Trustees. The Board of Trustees were slow to act on the charter and begin construction of a building for the college. In the meantime, the Trustees of Emory and Henry College and Martha Washington College had been informed of the will and the wording of the ninth clause, and a lawsuit ensued between the Trustees of Emory and Henry College and the Trustees of Shoemaker College.

The Trustees of Emory and Henry and Martha Washington Colleges argued that Col. Shoemaker did not dedicate a lot or parcel of land before his death, and therefore the Trustees of Shoemaker College had no land to build on. That his will stated that the interests, dividends and profits were to be used to pay tuition, buy text books and stationery, and five thousand mentioned In his will was not sufficient to build a building.

The Trustees of Shoemaker College bought a 4.92 acres tract for $400.00 from the Gate City Land Company Nov. 1, 1896.

After much litigation the suit was settled by the Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia. The Trustees of Shoemaker College received $7,510 of his estate. With this amount, supplemented by popular subscriptions, a building costing $13,000 was erected. It was ready for occupancy October 22,1897, at which time its first session began.

Students who satisfactorily completed a years work in any school of the college were given a certificate of distinction. The college conferred three degrees:

Licentiate of Instruction (L.I.) degree. This was an intermediate degree between the one year certificate and a SA Degree. The SA Degree was conferred upon those graduates who completed two schools, and completed the sub-senior course in all other departments except Greek, which was elective.

The M.A. degree was conferred upon those completing the entire Collegiate course, with the exception of Greek.

Five degrees were conferred in 1902.

The degree of Lientiate of Instruction was conferred on three Scott Countians: R. M. Dougherty, Rufus A. Morrison and H. C. Williams. The B.A. degree was conferred on two people: Catherine N. Ponindexter, Bedford County, Virginia and Clarkie Phillips of Campbell County, Virginia.

The institution was continued as a college until 1906 when it was changed into a high school, and into an elementary school in 1956. The old college building burned in 1957.

At the time of Col. Shoemakers death, he had 37 notes outstanding on loans of money to individuals to buy farms and other real estate.

The tenth clause of his will was also an important clause. It reads as follows:

"The rest and residue of my personal estate that has not been given of every kind and description I direct my Executors hereinafter named to sell the same upon twelve months credit and also all my real estate that I may be seized and possessed of at my death.  I direct that the said real estate be sold at public auction upon a credit of one, two and three years, and that the said money be deposited in the Exchange and Deposit Bank of Abingdon, Virginia there to remain as a permanent fund, and the interest, profits and dividends which shall be applied and used for the general purpose aforesaid in section nine. 

I hereby nominate, constitute and appoint Major Henry C. Wood and Rufus A. Ayers, Executors, of this my last Will and Testament.

Signed: James L. Shoemaker

Witness

E. A. Hoge, Wm. M. Wood

The scholarship fund as of June 30,1986 was 550,505.11.

Interest from June 30, 1985 to June 3.0, 1986 was 55,259.95.

Four scholarships' were given for the school year 1985-86 amounting to 54,500.00.

Present Trustees are: Ernest A. Quillen, Charles E. Broadwater, and

Ezra T. Carter, Jr.

 

Home ] Up ] 5-Confederates ] Kilgore Ft. House ] Catholicism ] Rafting ] Long Hunters ] Dr. McConnell ] Spartan Band ] Hanging Sheriffs ] W.D. Smith ] Frontier Forts ] Chief Benge ] James Boone ] Old Mills ] Whites Forge ] Whiteforge Post Office ] Samuel Smith ] [ James Shoemaker ] Jane and Polly ] Indian Missionary ] Patrick Porter ] Phillips Killing ] Boone Trail ] Stoney Creek Baptist ] Methodism ] Daniel Boone ] Estil Cemetery ] Scott Co. Names ] Confederate Soldiers ] Drayton Hale ] Reids Normal School ] Dr. N. Stallard ] Indian Forays ]