Samuel Taylor Copenhaver

Historical Biography

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Samuel Taylor Copenhaver

Samuel Taylor CopenhaverSAMUEL TAYLOR COPENHAVER, who is proprietor of one of the most prosperous business institutions of Bristol, was for many years engaged in the railroad contracting business, and while his native home is Southwestern Virginia, he has built portions of railways over many States of the Union.

Mr. Copenhaver was born near Marion in Smyth County, Virginia, February 12, 1871. His grandfather, Samuel Copenhaver, was a life long resident of Smyth County, and owned a large amount of land and many slaves. His home property was three miles south of Seven Mile Ford, where he died. At his death his farm was divided among his ten children. His wife, Eliza Tilson, was also a native of Smyth County. William H. Copenhaver, father of Samuel Taylor was born in Smyth County in 1829 and about 1859 established his homestead two and one-half miles south of Seven Mile Ford, where he lived the rest of his active years. He died there in 1901. He was a very prosperous and energetic farmer, a republican in politics and for many years was a deacon of the Baptist Church. He was a leader in the progressive farmer element, a member of the Grange of Smyth County.

William H. Copenhaver married Nancy Caroline Dungan, who was born at Seven Mile Ford in 1842. She was descended from a distinguished line of early American settlers who landed in New England in 1632. They had a family of eight children. Virginia, the eldest, is the wife of A. W. Edwards, a farmer at Bluff City, Tennessee. Robert J, farmer at Seven Mile Ford and later engaged in railroad contracting, moved to Cincinnati, Ohio in 1902, and in the same year he and four of his children were killed by a train in that city. The third child, Melissa, is the wife of Wiley Senter of Grayson County, Virginia. Lillie Belle died when fourteen years of age. Susie is the wife of Robert Gollehon, a merchant at Seven Mile Ford. James C., who is engaged in the wholesale and retail feed and seed business at Bristol, is president of the Bristol See and Grain Company and vice-president of the Lincoln Furniture Company. Meek Hampton is in the produce business at Bristol. He was a member of the State Senate of Tennessee in 1920.

Samuel Taylor Copenhaver acquired his early education in Smyth County, graduating from the Oak Point High School there in 1891. During 1892 he was a student in the W. R. Smith Business College at Lexington, Kentucky, and following that he was for two years employed in Chicago as a bookkeeper. Soon after the resumption of business following the panic of 1893 he engaged in railroad contracting, and his first important work was building a section of the Milwaukee Railroad near Grays, Wisconsin. He then double-tracked a portion of the Milwaukee line for a distance of twenty miles west of Davenport, Iowa, and built a section of ten miles of the Muscatine North and South Railroad. Mr. Copenhaver constructed the Louisville & Nashville Railroad Yards at Corbin, Kentucky, and following that he moved his headquarters to Wapakoneta, Ohio, where he built a line of railroad from Wapakoneta to Canton.

He then built then miles of the Walsh Road near Danville, Illinois, and following that constructed ten miles of railroad at Huntington, Indiana. His next contract was at Nashville, Tennessee, a very successful steam-shovel job involved in building eight miles of the Louisburg Northern. At the conclusion of that work he sold his contracting equipment, in 1912, and soon thereafter returned to Virginia and at Bristol engaged in the seed, feed and implement business, in which he had been interested for some years. He gave his active supervision to this business until 1918, when he went to Idaho Falls, Idaho, acquired 960 acres of irrigated land and plowed and cleared 2,200 acres, giving all his energy and much capital to a strenuous program for the increase of wheat production as a means of supplying war demands. He remained in Idaho for eighteen months, and on his return to Bristol he engaged in the several business interests with which he is connected. He bought an interest in the Hamilton, Bacon & Hamilton Company, and has since acquired the sole ownership of this firm. He has built a large warehouse and offices, this building having been originally constructed by him in thirty-seven days for use as a tabernacle for Billy Sunday. This warehouse and offices on Commonwealth Avenue near State Street include 38,000 square feet of floor space and is of brick with hardwood floors. In this line, Mr. Copenhaver has built up one of the leading businesses in Southwest Virginia, and his volume of trade has reached approximately one-half million annually.

In addition Mr. Copenhaver is identified with a number of other prosperous commercial enterprises. He is president of the Virginia-Tennessee Motor Truck Company of Bristol; is a director of the Union Trust Bank of Bristol; director of the City Bank of Bristol, which he helped organized in 1923; is a director of the Service Mill Company at Bristol. He owns at the corner of Moore and Cumberland streets the only reinforced concrete, strictly fireproof building in Bristol. He owns much other real estates, including his handsome home on West State Street and a farm of large acreage of valuable land three miles west of Bristol in Sullivan County, Tennessee. Mr. Copenhaver is a republican in politics. He has served as a deacon in the First Baptist Church, of which he is a member. Only those who know him intimately are familiar with the generosity and philanthropy that characterize Mr. Copenhaver. On December 28, 1904, he married Mrs. Sena (Anderson) Pierce, daughter of Isaac Campbell and Eliza Jane (Dungan) Anderson. Her parents are deceased. Mrs. Copenhaver was educated at Virginia Interment College when that institution was located at Glade Springs, Virginia. Mr. Copenhaver has one son, Samuel T., Jr., born December 1, 1917. He also has three stepchildren. The oldest, Hattie Jane (Pierce) Anderson, wife of Dr. Harry Seniones, of Roanoke, Virginia, is president of the Parent-Teachers' Association of Virginia and was selected as Queen of the Virginia Historical Pageant in a state wide contest in l922, held at the State Capitol. The second daughter, Hizelle Frances (Pierce) Anderson, a graduate of Ward Belmont College and a singer of ability, is the wife of Frank Goodpasture, vice president of the Virginia-Tennessee Motor Truck Company of Bristol, Virginia. The son, John Gilbert (Pierce) Anderson, a graduate of Washington and Lee Law School, is now practicing at Bristol. Mr. Anderson has the distinction of being the youngest postmaster of a first class post office in the United States, and is recognized as one of the leading platform speakers in Southwest Virginia. He was a candidate for the Legislature when only twenty-one years of age.

Source: Virginia and Virginians, Vol. VI, pp. 276-278.