By April Smith Patterson
It all started with a dream – a dream that eventually came to fruition. My father, Doug Smith, was born Feb. 24, 1943, to Lemuel Smith, a blacksmith and sawmill operator, and his wife, Leam, a homemaker. Along with Dad’s seven siblings, he grew up farming in the Union Hill community of Clay County, Tennessee. Everyone worked hard to help the family to survive. Times were tough. There was no electricity, running water or many of the conveniences we have today. Oftentimes Dad found himself working in his father’s sawmill.
It was growing up in those conditions that my Dad decided he never wanted to get in the sawmilling business. Keep that in mind as our story continues.
Dad graduated from Hermitage Springs School in 1960 and began his college studies. He soon found himself in the United States Army, where he received the American Spirit Honor Medal on Nov. 18, 1966. He earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at Tennessee Technological University in 1967. In June 1968 he was awarded a certificate of achievement for “performance of outstanding service” during an 18-month period he spent conducting missile tests in the Mohave Desert as a Mechanical Engineer in the Army’s Requirements and Analysis Branch of Army Material Command.
His commendation from U.S. Army Missile Command stated that he “demonstrated unusual ability in planning, evaluation and reporting” and showed “ingenuity,” initiative” and “quality.”
Multitalented and driven, Dad was well traveled and well versed in many subjects, giving him the chance for much success in his career. He was first employed in the private sector with General Electric in Cincinnati, Ohio. Yet, he always had a dream of one day owning his own business. It was the late 1960s when Dad returned home to Clay County and launched this dream of his.
He started by making mop and broom handles. It didn’t take long to realize there wasn’t a lot of money in mop and broom handles, and he ended up selling them as tobacco sticks to farmers in the area. While this first business wasn’t a success, that didn’t stop Dad from pushing forward and trying again. Since he had helped his father in his sawmill growing up, Dad decided that should be the business he would begin to develop. That small business grew from one sawmill to pallets to dry kiln lumber and more.
One of the most important things that happened to Dad during this time is that he married my wonderful mother, Janie, on March 31, 1973. I’ll never forget him telling the story about how he saw her cross the street in downtown Celina and decided then that he needed to know more. He asked someone who she was, looked up her number in the phone book and the rest is history. Together they took risks, expanded the sawmill and even started several other businesses.
Dad also dreamed of living in a log home and offering that dream to others who he thought would like a log home too. So, he sat through dealer orientation for an established log home company, but with his engineering mind decided he could make it even better. He came home and grabbed my grandfather, and they began cutting poplar trees. They then came up with a way to notch the logs to make the log walls air- and water-tight. In 1974 they built their first log home – the one where my bother, Shane, and I were raised and where my mother still lives today.
We lost Dad in 2011 to cancer, but his dream of log home living is still being carried out. Our family’s goal is to serve those who want to make their own dream of log home living come true, along with supplying customers with high quality dry kilned lumber and landscaping material needs. It’s through the Lord’s abundant grace that my family has been able to provide jobs and goods for the past 50 years. We look forward to building upon the great foundation our parents have laid before us and seeing a third generation of Smith’s take hold of the Smith Family legacy.
Dad passed away in September of 2011 leaving a huge void and emptiness in us – his family – and in the companies as well. It’s a hole that will never be filled, but we know his dream and concern was that the companies continue providing jobs for the amazing folks in our small rural area.
While our family faced challenges in taking their new roles and becoming second generation leadership in the companies he and mom developed, we wanted to honor this amazing legacy and build upon the great foundation set before us, thanks to dad’s and mom’s hard work and years of dedication.
Today our companies stand strong and continue to grow by blessings from the Lord, no doubt. My brother, mother and I work together to continue the operations, and we are looking optimistically toward the future for the opportunities that lie ahead.
We have an amazing team that is leading our core companies and are thankful for their commitment to making these companies a continued success. It is a team effort, and we as second generation owners are building our team just like Dad had in the beginning.