James B. Smail


JAMES B. SMAIL, chief burgess of the borough of Leechburg, to which office he was elected in 1909, is one of the leading business men of that place and a citizen whose influence for progress and good government are felt in all its activities. Mr. Smail was born in Burrell township, Armstrong county, June 8, 1857, son of Daniel Smail and grandson of Jacob Smail.

Jacob Smail came to America with his family from Germany and settled in Armstrong county, Pa., about four miles northwest of Leechburg. He engaged in farming, prospered, and became one of the well-known residents of the community, where he continued to live until his death. He is buried in the old Smail graveyard in Bethel township, this county. Though he had seventeen children he took up enough land to give each a tract of fifty acres. Mr. Smail was twice married, the second time to Nancy J. Elliott. His first wife was the mother of all his children, among whom were: George; Philip; Joseph; Peter; Daniel; Josiah; Phoebe; Priscilla; Leah; Hettie - all now deceased but Priscilla, who resides in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Daniel Smail, son of Jacob, was born in Germany, and was but a child when brought by his father to this country. He was reared in Armstrong county, and farming was his life work. During the Civil War he enlisted in Company I, 78th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers, under Captain Elwood, of Pittsburgh, was wounded in battle by a shell and taken to a hospital, later being sent home, where he died from the effects of his injuries Jan. 3, 1863. He is buried at the Forks Church in Gilpin township, this county. By his first wife, Elizabeth (Altshouse), Mr. Smail had two children, both of whom died young. His second marriage was to Catherine Helery who was born on a sailing ship coming from Germany, and by her he had four children: William, who died in 1863; Lucy, who. married James Bruner; James B.; and Maria, who married William Irminger, of Missouri.

James B. Smail attended public school in his native township, and he was practically reared by W. H. Carnahan, with whom he remained until he was fourteen years old. The next three years he was in the State of Missouri, where he was employed at farm work and in a rope walk. Returning home he drove team for Schwalm & Carnahan, merchants, at Cochran's Mill, Pa., for one year, and then was with Major Beale for one year. After that he began farming in Parks township for Abraham Heckman, and later locating in Parkville, this county, engaged in the mercantile business. Under President Cleveland he was appointed postmaster at that point, the post office being known as Dime, and remained there for eight years. He was next employed at the coal mines by Capt. Alfred Hicks, now of Pittsburgh, first as weighmaster. Resigning from this position he went to the Duff College in Pittsburgh, where he took a commercial course, after which he returned to Mr. Hicks' employ, working in his store at Leechburg. Subsequently he was made general superintendent of mines on the Monongahela river and at Monongahela City, and also had charge as such at Neffs, Ohio, for some time. He then entered business at Leechburg as a member of the firm of Smail & Fiscus, general merchants, and in time became the head of the firm of Small, Stull & Hill, hardware dealers, Mr. Smail erecting what is now known as the Smail building, on Second street, 60 by 53, feet in dimensions, for the accommodation of their business. By strict integrity and honorable methods, combined with, efficient management, Mr. Smail has-been very successful. HE believes a man need not be rich before he invests, but must invest before he can expect to get rich, and he has proved the worth of his opinion. He has become deeply interested in western mining concerns, is general manager of the Pennsylvania Mining & Milling Company, located in Missouri, where the company has purchased seven hundred acres of land valuable for its deposits of coal, lead, zinc, etc., and is general superintendent of the Belmont Coal Mining Company; as a supporter of local enterprises he is president of the Leechburg Realty Company and of the Leechburg Board of Trade, was one of the organizers of the First National Bank of Leechburg (of which he is a director), and is a member of the Leechburg Volunteer Fire Company. Socially he is affiliated with the local lodges of Elks and the Royal Arcanum. Mr. Smail is regarded as one of the representative citizens of this section, and stands so high that though the borough is Republican and he himself is a Democrat he was elected burgess in 1909 by a very large majority, and has served continuously since. Mr. Smail is very well known and has the respect of a wide circle of friends and acquaintances. He is a member of the Methodist Church, which he is serving at present as treasurer.

In 1877 Mr. Smail married Mary E. Baker, daughter of Griffith Baker, and to this union were born four children, namely: Myrtle married Dr. J. H. Chessrown, of Youngstown, Ohio; Chrissie is at home; James Alfred (so called after Capt. Alfred Hicks) is a chemist, at Vandergrift, Pa.; William died in infancy. On Jan. 17, 1893, Mr. Smail married (second) Ella Mechling, daughter of the late Maj. Frank Mechling of Kittanning, Pa. They have no children.

Source: Pages 440, Armstrong County, Pa., Her People, Past and Present, J.H. Beers & Co., 1914
Transcribed September 2001 by Vaughn Davis for the Armstrong County Beers Project
Contributed for use by the Armstrong County Genealogy Project (http://www.pa-roots.com/armstrong/)

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