Lewis Smith, An Unlikely Wealthy Man

The Baltimore Afro-American Newspaper Article dated August 27, 1955

Mr. Lewis Smith deceived many people in Alexandria concerning his status in society. A newspaper article dated August 27, 1955, after the death of Mr. Smith, described him as an elderly man who drove his horse wagon up and down the streets of Alexandria. Lewis was much of a landmark as the Masonic Temple that overlooked the Potomac River.

Up until six years prior to his death, he was seen wearing worn out old clothes with patches on them and a battered hat. He hauled articles about town in his old wagon. Since the beginning of the 20th Century (1900), Mr. Smith owned a hauling business until 1949 when his old horse died.

Mr. Smith was 87-years old when he died in 1955. After his death, people found out that he was one of the wealthiest African American men in Alexandria, VA. His bank account totaled nearly $100,000. He had a large amount of real estate; he owned properties at 211, 213, 215, 217, 223 and 225 North West Street. He also owned 205½ and 214 North Payne Street, and 1311 Cameron Street. Mr. Smith received 211, 213 and 215 North West Street from his family. He purchased the rest of the properties.

Lewis Smith was born in 1870 in Alexandria, Virginia. His parents were Henry and Henrietta Hall Smith. Lewis’ father came to Alexandria in 1863 from Caroline County, Virginia, and his mother was from Augusta County, Virginia.

Lewis was married to Laura A. Webster. Webster’s people were freed people of color prior to 1865. Laura preceded Lewis in death by 50 plus years.

Lewis and his wife’s family made an impact on the African American history in Alexandria. Lewis’ father had a carriage business and he was a wagon driver. His father purchased several pieces of real estate in his lifetime. In addition, Lewis’ parents lost a child in 1866 named Alfred Smith. That child was buried at the Historical site of the Freedmen Cemetery.

Lewis assumed his father’s role, by having a business as a wagon hauler. He did better than his father in real estate and personal wealth.

Lewis’ wife was from free people of color prior to 1865. His wife, Laura’s parents were Oliver E. and Laura A Dundas Webster. Her father was a carpenter. Also Laura A Dundas was the cousin of Sarah A. Gray, principal of Hallowell School for girls from 1871 – 1890s.

Lewis and his wife Laura have many descendants; some of them are Mr. Harry Burke of (Alexandria, VA), Mr. Roland Burke of (Michigan), Mrs. Dorothy Hughes (Alexandria, VA), Ms. Mary Morris (Centreville, VA) and many others.

At the time of Mr. Lewis Smith’s death in 1955, one of the oldest black lawyers in Alexandria, Virginia, Mr. A.H. Collins said,

“Lewis Smith was an unusual man. When I came to Alexandria in 1920 from Norfolk, he moved my things from the boat dock to my first office. And, every time I moved, he moved me. He sent me plenty of business over the years, but I never handled any of his personal affairs. He used a big law firm in the downtown area to take care of his legal affairs. Some folks say that he lived for himself. ‘That isn’t true.’ He lived to save. He seemed to get a kick out of saving money.”

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