One of the Upper Ohio Valley's most successful and colorful sons, Charles A. "C.A." Smith was born April 14, 1867, in Wellsville, the youngest of eight children of Alexander and Margaret Smith.
At an early age, he went to live with the Alex Mahon family of the Arroyo area of nearby West Virginia. When about 17, he became interested in the oil and gas business while working as a water boy for a crew laying a gas pipeline in the district.
Smith seemed to have been blessed with something of a Midas' touch at the launch of a colorful and varied career that spanned more than a half century, reaching into many phases of growth of the valley beginning in the 1890s.
His interest in the oil and gas business prompted him to begin drilling operations in the McDonald, Pa. area. Constantly expanding his interests, he eventually acquired the Ohio Valley Gas Co., which he sold in 1898.
In 1899, Smith began the development of what is now Chester, W.Va. Smith bought farms in the area to lay the groundwork for the community, named after an uncle, Chester Mahon.
It was during the late 1890s that he launched Rock Springs Park as an amusement center, became one of the builders of the Chester-East Liverpool Bridge and started the East Liverpool-Rock Springs Railway. The bridge was opened in 1898.
Linked with the growth of Chester, Smith established the South Side Water Co. about 1900 and paved the streets of what is now the upper part of Chester. In 1946, he sold the water company to the city of Chester.
During the busy days of 1900, Smith also turned to the pottery industry. That year the Taylor, Smith & Taylor Co. was built in Chester, with Smith, his brother, W.L. Smith, and John Taylor and sons, the original stockholders. In 1903, Smith and his brother bought out the Taylors, keeping the controlling interest in the pottery.
Also about 1900, Edwin M. Knowles constructed a pottery in Chester, and Smith became one of the original stockholders. Smith also was connected with what became the American Vitrified Products Co., which once operated in the East End.
In 1914, Smith moved further into the transportation field, becoming the owner of the Steubenville, East Liverpool & Beaver Valley Traction Co., with headquarters in East Liverpool. The purchase of the traction company returned ownership of the Chester Bridge to Smith's hands. In 1938, he sold the bridge to the state of Ohio for $2,185,000. Smith also purchased the light and power rights in the Steubenville-East Liverpool area. Those interests were sold in 1917 to what became the Ohio Power Co.
Partial abandonment of the trolleys started in 1935, and in 1939, the traction company went out of business. The Valley Motor Transit Co. began in its stead. Also that year, the Smith concern took over the East Liverpool-Newell run. Smith served as president and general manager of both organizations. To his death in October 1953, Smith remained active in Valley Motor operations.
For the last 10 years of his life, Hillcrest Farms near Chester was Smith's principal interest. Hillcrest Farms took form in 1917. In 1919, Smith went into the Hereford cattle business and began producing champion stock. At the time of his death, Smith's herd numbered about 700 head and was considered one of the best in the United States. Hillcrest Farms produced the grand champion bull of the Chicago International Livestock Exposition in 1947, 1949 and 1951 and the grand champion female at Chicago in 1950 and 1951. Smith's prize bulls were frequently sold for record prices of the times.
Apple growing also played a big part in Hillcrest's success. Of the farm's 4,000 acres, 1,000 were devoted to apples.
Smith was married twice and had five children by the first marriage.