Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Update on Smith's Corner

Near Smith's Corner, 1921
A little while back I did a post that, partially, dealt with a State Highway Department picture from 1921 of what they termed "Smith's Corner".  From all the evidence, it appears that what they called Smith's Corner was the intersection of Newport Gap Pike and Old Capitol Trail, what I would describe as being "behind" Price's Corner. The big question I posed was, "Where did the name Smith's Corner come from?" Now, it seems we might have an answer.

As luck would have it, not long after publishing this post I was contacted by someone who may have solved this little mystery for us. I hope to have much more information from and about her at a later date, but it turns out she is the granddaughter of Powell M. Ford. She emailed me after running across the post about her grandfather, and I had to ask her about Smith's Corner, since her family lived in the area at the time. She recalled hearing something from her mother that may solve the Smith mystery (Smithtery?).

It was before her time, but she remembered her mother telling her about "Old Man Smith", who ran a "one pump, ramshackle gas station" that sat on the corner in the 1920's and 30's. She's certain she saw a photograph of it once, and if she finds it she'll forward it along for us. As she recalls, the gas station was a two-story clapboard building, with stairs on the outside. Mr. Smith lived in the upstairs room, with the gas station and a small market downstairs. She wasn't sure, but she thought that before installing the gas pump, it might have just been his house.

This story also seems to be at least partially verified by another source, this one uncovered by the Lower Red Clay Valley Blog's Denis Hehman. Denis had stopped in one day about a month ago to talk to the owner of a house on Old Capital Trail that was about to be torn down. You can find the story and some nice pictures here. The house was just around the bend from Smith's Corner (in fact, it probably is just behind the trees behind the car in the picture above), and the owner, an older woman, was born in the house. She didn't remember the name Smith, but did remember an old gas station down at the corner. This was probably "Old Man Smith's" place.

She did remember it as being Michener's Corner, for the car lot that was later there. This was a bit before my time, but Denis (not an old man) remembers it, so it must have been there for a while. I still haven't found the right Smith in any census yet, but I see 33 year old Harry Michener in the 1930 census, listed with the occupation "Owner & Mechanic -- Garage". There's no Smith listed around him, so maybe he was "gone" by then. If I'm able to find out anything more, I'll be sure to pass it along.


  1. Nice follow up Scott...I do remember Michners. The last thing I recall was, I believe they sold GMC pickups. I knew a gentleman that use to buy from them. This was back maybe in the mid 70's.
    What baffles me about the photo is the bridge. I have come past there many a time trying to see why it was there. Cant figure it out.

  2. The bridge baffles me a little also, but I believe that at one time a small creek ran through the area. If you look at the satellite photos of the area, you will notice what appears to be a small row of trees following a stream bed between Delcastle High and its football field. The stream looks like it heads north towards the Hollingsworth proper and goes under the railroad tracks and then disappears. I can envision the upper reaches of the stream was graded away with the ensuing development of the area around the intersection.

    Was Old Man Smith's garage located on the south end of the intersection were the transmission shop used to stand? It might be possbible that DNREC has records of the previous owners as they track all known underground storage tanks in the state.

    1. I think you're probably right about the creek, Bill. That's the one I mentioned in the original post, that flows south (the small bridge where it goes under Kiamensi Road was replaced a year or so ago), eventually going past where the old drive-in was, behind First State Plaza, then flows into White Clay Creek. I think that's what was called Old Red Clay Creek.

      Either way, you're right that if you follow it upstream, it ends around the RR tracks. I think you can even see traces of its path further up, and it seems like it would have crossed OCT at about the right spot.

      I don't know yet where exactly "Smith's" was. If I find out, I'll let y'all know.

    2. I think the creek that flows by the old Pleasant Hill Drive-in (there's another topic for an article!) is called Hershey Run. I believe that it is also heavily polluted from the old creosote plant behind the First State Industrial Park and is listed as a Superfund site.

  3. George Smith still lives on Old Capital Trail and I'm pretty sure he grew up in the house just to the right of Hollingsworth. He may be able to shed some light on the Smith's Corner information! George lives at 3503 and often sells produce/annuals from his garage.

    1. Would George Smith be where Smith's Produce is? If so I stopped in there one day and spoke to his wife. She told me that yes he did live next to the old Hollingsworth site. The wierd part is....his family bought it from another family with the last name of Smith and there was no relation. So with all the Smith's there it's no wonder it was called Smith's corner. I need to stop by Smith's. She told me she might have some photos.