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Mini Bios of People of Scots Descent
Biography of John B. LAING


Submitted by Valerie Crook, <vfcrook@trellis.net>

The History of West Virginia, Old and New
Published 1923, The American Historical Society, Inc., 
Chicago and New York, Volume III, pg. 188

JOHN B. LAING, of Lewisburg, judicial center of Greenbrier County, has made a record of constructive
enterprise as a coal operator and railroad builder in West Virginia, in which state the family residence was established when he was an infant. His father, James Laing, was born and reared in Scotland, and came thence to the United States in the year 1867. In Pennsylvania this sterling young Scotsman became identified with coal-mining enterprise, and there was solemnized his marriage with Miss Susanna Kay. In 1878 they came to West Virginia and settled in Fayette County. In 1888 removal was thence made to Raleigh County, where James Laing had charge of the opening up of the mines of the Royal Coal & Coke Company, which was the first coal corporation to initiate mining operations in that county. In 1896 Mr. Laing opened the first shaft and first slope on the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad, at Sun, on Loup Creek in Fayette County. Here he organized the Sun Coal & Coke Company, and here he continued operations until 1904, when he removed to Lewisburg, his death having here occurred in 1907. He was possessed of the thrift and the mature judgment that are characteristic of the Scotch type, and ordered his life on a lofty plane of integrity and honor—a man who was reserved, unostentatious, tolerant and kindly and animated by fine principles of personal stewardship, he having been a devout member of the Presbyterian Church, as is also his widow. Of their eight children the firstborn is Janet K.; Margaret died in infancy; and the names of the other children are here recorded in respective order of birth: John B., Thomas K., Anna J., James K., Susanna K. (wife of Dr. R. L. Speas), and Bess Belle (Mrs. Charles M. McWhorter).

John B. Laing was born in Mercer County, Pennsylvania, September 23, 1876, and, as before stated, was an infant at the time of the family removal to West Virginia. He received the full advantages of the public schools of this state, and at the age of twenty years became associated with his father in coal operations. In this connection he opened the mine at Sun and the Lanark Mine on Piney Creek in Raleigh County. He remained at Sun after the removal of his parents to Lewisburg, but since selling the mine property at the former place he has maintained his home and business headquarters at Lewisburg. He has given much of his time to the development of coal properties in the western part of Greenbrier County, under the corporate title of the Nelson Fuel Company and here is controlled by the company one of the best coal properties in the state, beside one of the last of the great smokeless fields to be developed, the product being a smokeless fuel of the best grade. In the development of this property it was found essential to provide a railroad outlet, and the result was that in 1919 the Greenbrier & Eastern Railroad Company was organized, its line having been completed in 1921 and this important work having been done under the direct and effective supervision of Mr. Laing. The road is eleven miles in length and at present connects with the Sewell Valley Railroad, an independent branch of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad. This connection is at Meadow Creek. Mr. Laing erected the first all-steel tipple-in Monroe County, it having five loading tracks (in addition to supply track) for the making of prepared coal. He is president of the Greenbrier & Eastern Railroad Company, is vice president of the Lewisburg & Ronceverte Electric Railway Company, is president of the Lewisburg Seminary, a director of the Bank of Lewisburg, and is president also of the McKinley Land Company, the Laing Mining Company, and the Craig-Giles Iron Company. It is uniformly conceded that he has done more for the development of the natural resources of Greenbrier County than has any other one man or minor group of men, and he has made definite incidental contribution to the civic and material advancement of the state in general.

April 20, 1898, recorded the marriage of Mr. Laing and Miss Margaret Nelson, and they became the parents of three children: Martha Spence, James and Andrew, the younger son having died in 1918, at the age of fifteen years. Mr. Laing is a Shriner Mason and a member of the Presbyterian Church.


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