History of Virginia - Benjamin F. Moomaw

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Benjamin F. Moomaw

BENJAMIN F. MOOMAW. The first commercial fruit industry of Virginia was started in 1867, by the great pioneer of that business, John C. Moomaw. His was not only the first enterprise of the kind in Virginia, but one of the first in the United States. For over half a century the business has gone on and broadened under the management and direction of various members of the Moomaw family, one of whom is Benjamin F. Moomaw.

John C. Moomaw was born at Bonsacks, Virginia, in 1837, and died in 1886. He was a son of Benjamin F. and Mary (Crouse) Moomaw, the former born in the old family home at Daleville in Botetourt County. Mary Crouse was a native of Augusta County. While during his youth his educational opportunities were limited, John C. Moomaw had the sound mind and ambition for attainment that made possible the acquirement of a liberal education through reading and personal experience. He proved his courage and foresight by undertaking the growing and canning of fruit on a commercial scale when there were no other successful concerns as a precedent) and long before his death he saw the business established firmly. His home place was at Cloverdale. He was a large figure in the broader life and development of this section of the State. He assisted in securing the right of way for the Shenandoah Valley Railroad through Botetourt and other counties and had much to do with determining Big Lick (now Roanoke) as the southern terminal of the road. He also had much to do with the building of the Roanoke & Southern, and at the time of his death was vice president of this railroad. Both these lines served to promote the destiny of Roanoke as an important industrial city. The first engine to run over the Roanoke & Southern road bore his name under the cab window.

In spite of his heavy business responsibilities he found much time to devote to the cause of religion. For many years he was a minister of the Church of the Brethren or Dunkards, and also did much missionary work.

His first wife was Virginia Graybill, by whom he had two children, and after her death he married Honoria Elizabeth Bowman of Johnson City, Tennessee, who died June 11, 1900. By the second marriage there were six sons and four daughters. Two of the sons are Samuel .B. and Clarence W., who are partners in an extensive fruit export business, Clarence W. being located at New York City, and acting as shipper of American grown products, while his brother has charge of the selling in England and Continental Europe, where he has been located for fifteen years. Another son is Dr. W. C. Moomaw, a physician at Petersburg, Virginia. John C., Jr., is in the American consulor service at Montreal, Canada. J. I.. Moomaw was until his death in 1914 manager of John C. Moomaw Company, Incorporated.

John C. Moomaw at the time of his death owned a large estate of seven hundred acres at Cloverdale. Of these seven hundred acres, two hundred and fifty acres are now in orchard. It was after his death administered by his brother C. A. Moomaw, but in 1901 the property was incorporated as John C. Moomaw Company, with J. A. Jamison of Roanoke, as president, S. B. Moomaw, secretary, and J. L. Moomaw, manager. The products of this company, canned vegetables and fruits, were sold under the Cloverdale brand in a number of states.

Benjamin F. Moomaw, son of the late John C. Moomaw, was born at Cloverdale, attended local schools there, Daleville College, was a student at Juniata College, Huntington, Pennsylvania, for a time, and began work leading to a career as an electrical engineer at the University of Virginia. His plans for a career in this profession were abandoned. After leaving College he accepted a position with a wholesale grocery firm in Roanoke, and then became junior partner in the firm of J. A. Jamison & Company, merchandise brokers. Since 1902 he has been interested in the sale and distribution of orchard and cannery products throughout the middle Western and Southern States.

In 1903 he became president of the John C. Moomaw Company; serving in that capacity until 1914, and since then as its treasurer and general manager. Recently he effected the sale of the old home place at a consideration of over one hundred thousand dollars.

May 11, 1905, Mr. Moomaw married Miss Harriet Simmons, daughter of Judge and Mrs. W. B. Simmons of Fincastle, Virginia. They have four children, B. F., Jr., Sue Graybill, Harriett Simmons and Kathaline Kline.

Like his father Mr. Moomaw is a prominent leader in church affairs. He was a deacon of the Enon Baptist Church, and is chairman of the executive committee of the Valley Baptist Association, and a member of the Baptist State Mission Board. For eight years he was superintendent of the First Baptist Sunday school at Roanoke. He is a Master Mason, a member of the Rotary Club, the United Commercial Travelers, the Roanoke Chamber of Commerce.

His individual success and his activities as a horticulturist and fruit packer have brought him many responsibilities in a national way. He was the first president of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. He served for many years as a director of the Virginia Canning Association and of the National Canners Association. For two years he was president of the Virginia State Horticultural Society and one of the organizers and a director of the Federated Fruit .and Vegetable Growers, Incorporated.

After discontinuing the fruit and canning business Mr. Moomaw was appointed secretary of the Chamber of Comerce of Roanoke.