Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Different Direction on Smith's Corner

If you'll recall (or even if you won't), a while back there was a post that included a 1921 picture of a bridge that was captioned as being "near Smith's Corner". Since the picture looked to me to be almost certainly taken on Old Capitol Trail just west of Newport Gap Pike, I spent a considerable amount of time trying to figure out just what and where Smith's Corner was.

At the time, my working assumption was that Smith's Corner was the Newport Gap Pike-Old Capitol Trail intersection that would have been just behind the photographer of the 1921 shot. I and several others then went about trying to figure out why it was called Smith's Corner, a name no one seems to have been familiar with. I spent my effort attempting to find someone named Smith who ever lived at or near the crossroads there. Seemed like the logical answer at the time. A follow-up post even put forth one possible theory for the name.

Since then I've had a thought. OK, actually I've had lots of thoughts, but this isn't about me braggin' on my thinkin'. Specifically, I wonder if I was going about this the wrong way, and the answer was staring us in the face the whole time. If I asked you to name this area now, quite likely you'd say Price's Corner, right? Well, Price's Corner, a name that's been in use since at least the early 1900's, was named after David Price (1811-1892), a long-time landowner on Old Capitol Trail. Price's property was located right about where the Kirkwood Highway-141 interchange is now. Then, it was at the center of the junction of Old Capitol Trail (or Lincoln Highway, as it was previously known), Centerville Road, and Greenbank Road.

David M. Price's property, 1868
What connects Price to the story of Smith's Corner is his occupation, which some of you might know already, and which others might be able to figure out from the above map segment. David Price was a blacksmith. When I finally put this fact together with the idea of Smith's Corner, I started wondering -- Could the Smith being referred to be an occupation, and not a proper name? Might Smith's Corner mean the junction at the smithy, not one near a guy named Smith?

The one problem I'm still having with all of this is that I've still not found another reference to the name of Smith's Corner here. The earliest mention I've found for Price's Corner was 1901, and it was surely in common use by 1903. Since this is long before the 1921 date of the bridge picture, I'm still not sure why it wasn't used as the description for the location then.

The Price/blacksmith connection is just one more theory for the origin of Smith's Corner, and might be just as wrong as any of the others. The answer still could be that Smith's Corner was the intersection of Newport Gap and Old Capitol Trail. What we really need is a corroboration of the Smith's Corner name, to be sure it was a real thing and not just something the State Highway guy wrote on his photo for no good reason. Until then, it's just fun speculation.

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