George Lafayette Carter

Submitted by Alice Warner

Author: Lyon G. Tyler LLD

GEORGE
LAFAYETTE
CARTER

CARTER, GEORGE LAFAYETTE, was born in Carroll county, Virginia, January 10,
1857, and his parents were Walter Crockett Carter and Lucy Anne Jennings. He
comes of a family very distinguished in the annals of Virginia, whose first
representative was Colonel John Carter, who settled at Corotoman in Lancaster
county about the year 1649. He was a royalist who despite the subjection of
Virginia to the authority of the parliament, demeaned himself in such a manner
as to occasion his arrest for treasonable utterances. He married five times, and
his son by Sarah Ludlow, daughter of Gabriel Ludlow, of Massachusetts, was the
celebrated Robert Carter, who by reason of his vast estates and corresponding
pride was known as " King Carter." He married twice, and had twelve children. A
son named Edward, by Betty Landon, settled in Albemarle county, where he was
known as Colonel Edward Carter, of " Blenheim." He married Sarah Champe,
daughter of John Champe, of Lambe's Creek, King George county, Virginia. After
Colonel Carter's death, the estate went to his son Charles, who married Betty
Lewis, and one of his sons was William Farley Carter, who emigrated to Kentucky
with his cousins - Lawrence and George - to take up lands given to his mother's
father, Colonel Fielding Lewis, by the government of the United States. Robert
Carter was a son of William Farley Carter, and married Jane Crockett, daughter
of the first clerk of Wythe county, and they were great-grandparents of George
Lafayette Carter, now of Bristol, Virginia. Walter Crockett Carter, father of
George Lafayette Carter, was the youngest of seven children, and because of his
father's losses received only a meager inheritance of a few acres in Carroll
county, Virginia, from his mother. On this small inheritance he lived, and
reared his family, and was respected as an honest, hard working man. He held
several public offices in Carroll county, and at the outbreak of the War between
the States, was captain of a company of the Carroll militia. This company was
not called into service until May, 1862, when with two other companies it was
organized into a new one, under the command of L. H. Hampton, of Grayson,
captain ; Giles S. Martin, of Carroll, and Isaac Webb, of Carroll, first
lieutenants; and Walter Crockett Carter, of Carroll, first sergeant. It thus
became a part, with nine other companies, of the 63rd regiment of Virginia
volunteers, and was brigaded with the 50th Virginia regiment, and other
regiments under General John S. Williams, and for a time was in General Loring's
division. Mr. Carter's first engagement was at Charleston, West Virginia, in
September, 1862, and not long after, upon a reorganization of all " the Carroll
boys " of the regiment into one company, called company I, Mr. Carter was made
one of the three lieutenants. In February, 1863, a battle was fought with the
Federals before Suffolk, Virginia, and in this affair Colonel Poage, commanding
the regiment, was killed, and Lieutenant Carter so badly wounded in the leg that
its amputation became necessary. He returned to his farm and with a courage that
no difficulties could subdue renewed the struggle of life, and kept it up till a
few weeks before his death twelve years later, showing in his last days the same
fine sense, perseverance and self-reliance which had distinguished him
from the first.

Upon his father's small farm, George L. Carter, the first of nine children, was
born not long before the war; and though apparently physically unfitted to
endure the labors of the field, he had the resolution of his father, and during
the spring, summer and autumn worked on the farm, and in the winter went to a
small country school. At sixteen years, his father determined to engage him in
some avocation more suitable to his condition, and secured for him a position in
a store at Hillsville. In this new capacity he proved himself industrious,
faithful and honest, and he found time early mornings and evenings, to gratify
his taste for reading. Among the books read in this early period of
his life were: Franklin's Autobiography, Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, and the
Bible, which afforded him a great deal of information and valuable mental
culture. After four years spent in the store at Hillsville, he secured a
position with the Wythe Lead and Zinc Mine company, at Austinville, Virginia.

This proved to be the opening of his wonderfully successful business career, and
it was not very long ere he struck out on his own financial ventures. The great
opportunities of Southwest Virginia for mineral enterprises were now awakening,
and Mr. Carter was one of the first to interpret the signs of the times. He
connected himself with the Dora Furnace company, at Pulaski, as vice-president
and general manager. His success enlarged his views and he aspired to victory in
even wider fields. He saw that ten or more furnaces were idle and large coal
fields in Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee were undeveloped. He conceived the
idea of uniting a number of these separate and crippled enterprises into one
great organization, which should be inspired with new life and energy, and
capable of carrying out the natural result. He sought out capitalists in New
York, and Moore and Schley, bankers, financiered the movement, and in a short
time capital to the amount of $10,000,000 was provided. A company was organized
in January, 1899, under the name of Virginia Iron, Coal and Coke company, and
the name of George L. Carter, its president, became famous in all Virginia.
Besides the furnaces two railroads were comprised in the deal and 175,000 acres
of mineral and timber land in Tennessee and Virginia. Unfortunately, there
occurred what frequently happens, at some time or other, with every business
corporation. A faction developed unfriendly to Mr. Carter, and in 1901, by snap
methods, the company was thrown by Moore and Schley into receivers' hands. Mr.
Carter would not submit, and an appeal to the courts was taken by him, which
resulted in the appointment of Judge A. A. Phlegar, the personal friend and
counsel of Mr. Carter, as one of the receivers. Under their able direction the
interests of the Virginia Iron, Coal and Coke company, which are immense, were
put in first class shape, and the receivers discharged by the court in 1903.
Mr. Carter, who from his youth has been interested in farming operations,
although in a very small way, in his earlier days, is very fond of agricultural
pursuits, takes his only recreation by occasionally spending a day or two
looking after his considerable farming interests, cattle and other live stock.
In 1902 and 1903 Mr. Carter bought two small railroads in Virginia, Tennessee
and North Carolina, and a large acreage of coal lands in West Virginia, Kentucky
and Virginia, and immediately commenced the development thereof by opening up a
number of coal mines on properties, and building railroads thereto.
He is now (1906) backed by strong New York and Boston interests in a forty
million dollar company, which is making further developments of its about two
hundred and fifty thousand acres of Virginia coal land, and in completing an
extensive low grade line railroad from the Virginia coal field to connections
with the South Atlantic coast. In response to the question, what will most
contribute to achieve success in life, Mr. Carter replies : " A complete
knowledge of anatomy, and a proper observance of the laws of nature, with
constant industry, frugality, honesty of purpose, nobility, courage, persistent
energy, and the fear of God."
In politics, Mr. Carter is and has always been a Democrat, although he has never
sought office and cares nothing for it. The religious element in his character
is deep and earnest, and, though he has never identified himself with any
church, he prefers the Presbyterian way of thinking. He states that his mother's
influence upon his intellectual, moral and spiritual life was very great and
this is probably the source of his deep veneration for the Sabbath day, which he
wishes to keep " holy," no matter what may be the call upon him. This deep
religious instinct was probably the governing principle of his conduct after his
father's death when made guardian to his younger brothers and sisters. His
supervision extended down even to the smallest details of their lives; and their
physical, intellectual and spiritual welfare were ever the objects of his
tenderest care. Feeling the inconveniences which he had encountered from lack of
early mental training, he took care, at the expense of much toil and anxiety to
himself, that each of his brothers and sisters should receive the best
educational advantages.

On April 9, 1895, he married Mayetta Wilkinson, and their only child, Jimmie W.
Carter, is still (1906) living. His address is Number 210 Solar Street, Bristol,
Virginia.

Additional Comments:
From Men of Mark in Virginia: Ideals of American Life by Lyon G. Tyler LLD, 1907.

 

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