This biography was submitted by Sandy
Spradling, E-mail address: <[email protected]>
History of Greenbrier County
J. R. Cole
Lewisburg, WV 1917
James Laing, son of John and Margaret Bowie Laing, was born at Slamanan, near
the city of Glasgow, Scotland, January 2, 1846.
Mr. Laing's parents, realizing the larger possibilities that the United
States offered, emigrated with their family to America in 1866, settling in
Mercer county, Pennsylvania, where they engaged in farming and mining. On December 31, 1872, Mr. Laing was married to Susanna Kay, second daughter
of Thomas and Janet Kerr Kay. Miss Kay was a Scotch lady, born at Lanark,
Scotland, April 29, 1851, and came to America with her parents in 1870. The
Kay family settled first in Sharon, Pa., and later in West Virginia.
Mr. Laing bought a large tract of coal land in West Virginia and moved with
his family of two children to Quinnimont, Fayette county, in 1878. At this
time the New River coal fields were just beginning to be developed. Mr. Laing
organized the Royal Coal and Coke Company in 1891 and opened up the Royal
mine, which was the first mine to be operated in Raleigh county, and was
managed by Mr. Laing until 1896, when he organized the Sun Coal and Coke
Company and sank the first shaft ever used in the New River coal field, at
Sun, which he managed with remarkable effectiveness and success. Mr. Laing
continued the management of these mines until 1904, when he retired from
active service in mining operations, though he continued his interest in
other activities, and until the time of his death was president of the Laing
Mining Company, the McKinley Land Company, the Craig-Giles Iron Company and
the Mountain Lake Land Company.
Mr. Laing had long dreamed of spending his declining years in a quiet country
community, and selecting the small but well-known town of Lewisburg, purchased property and built a large and handsome stone house,
"Canipsie Glen," into which he moved his family from Fayette county, in 1904.Mr. Laing was a trustee of the Lewisburg Seminary, from which institution
his daughters received their education. This school was dear to his heart
and he labored zealously for its development and power. His interest in Christian education was felt over the entire church, and in 1907, shortly
before his death, he was appointed a trustee of Hampden-Sidney College, where
two of his sons had been educated.
He was just realizing the ambition of his boyhood comfort and quietness for
himself and his loyal and saintly wife and having a constructive part in the
education of the youth of his beloved State and church-when his death occurred, after a brief illness, at his home in Lewisburg, October 31, 1907.
Surviving him are his widow and seven children: Janet Kerr, John Bowie, Thomas Kay, Annie Jean, James Kay, Susanna Kay (Mrs. R. L. Speas), and Bessie
Like most of his Scotch countrymen, Mr. Laing was an ardent Presbyterian,
devoted to his church and liberal in its support. While at Quinnimont, in 1882, he was ordained a ruling elder in the church,
and with a fidelity and fitness realized by few, he served in that sacred
capacity wherever he lived.
Mr. Laing lived in Lewisburg only three short years, but it was long enough
to win an enviable place in the esteem and friendship of the people of the
town and community. In politics, he was a Republican, believing firmly in the
McKinley principles of protection. As a man and citizen his life and conduct
were ever above reproach, modest and unassuming, true to his convictions and
firm in his stand for right as he saw it; he held the respect and confidence
of those who knew him best and was admired and honored by his many business
associates and employees. In his death his family lost one of the truest and
best husbands and fathers, the schools of which he was a trustee a wise and
trusted counsellor, his town and State a constructive and loyal citizen, and
the church, his choicest pride, a most faithful member and officer.