JAMES L. SHOEMAKER was born near Lebanon, Russell County, VIrginia, December 7, 1807. He was descended from
an honorable ancestry. James Shoemaker, his grandfather, was a member of an old English family and Immigrated to
America In the year 1749. When the Revolutionary struggle with the mother country came on, he espoused the cause
of independence, enlisted In the American Army, and fought under Col. William Campbell, of Washington County, at
the battle of King’s Mountain. His maternal grandfather, Solomon Litton, was born December 24, 1751, In Washington
County, Virginia. Solomon Litton and his family were among the early immigrants into the State of Kentucky. In
1778, while the Revolutionary War was raging and the American patriots were being assailed by the British soldiers
on the one hand and the Indians on the other, Litton, his wife, and two daughters were captured by the Indians
and carried to Quebec, at which place they were held until the close of the war, when they were exchanged. Elizabeth,
one of the captured girls, became the wife of Joseph Shoemaker, the father of James L.
Following out the pioneer impulses which took him to Kentucky, James L’s father continued to go west, this time
to Lafayette County, Missouri. Here James L’s father died, and his mother survived her husband three years.
James L. Shoemaker’s opportunities for acquiring an education were very meager. Like many young men of his time,
his chance to prepare for the duties and responsibilities of life was simply to assume them and learn by experience.
How well he did this is shown by his success in business and the philanthropic disposal of a lifetime’s savings.
He began business in Estillville (now Gate City) as a member of the firm of Alderson and Shoemaker. Later he bought
Alderson’s interest and continued a 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, trusts. He was enumerator of the federal census of 1840 and 1850, land assessor several
times, 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 land assessor were declared by the officials at Richmond to be the best
In the state.
This quiet, businesslike, patriotic citizen, remembering his own difficulties in obtaining a limited education,
and seeing the great need for Increased educa. tional facilities In Scott County, had for some time prior to his
death cherished the Idea of giving a large part of his wealth to found an Institution of higher learning, to be
called "Shoemaker." He often expressed the purpose of giving $5,555 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, where, as he said, "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, which occurred January 9, 1894, it was found from his will that he had given the principal part
of his estate to the cause of education. Scott County realized $7,500 from his estate. This sum was used In founding
Two daughters were born to James L. and Aurelia Paxton Shoemaker; Elizabeth, born January 10, 1844, and died September
9, 1845; Mary A. W., born June 8, 1846, and died September 1, 1852.
His wife was a daughter of Henry and Rachel Ritchie Salling. They were married July 5, 1842. His family and he
are buried in Estill Cemetery, Gate City, Virginia.
History of Scott County, Virginia
By: Robert M. Addington
Privately Printed 1932
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