Lewis B. Dorcas

Lewis B. Dorcas was born in 1867 in Catskills, New York. In 1882, he graduated from Harvard University. In 1891, he married Mary Hedrick. Together, they had five sons: Lewis, Frederick, Herbert, Hubert, and Carl. He had many careers during his lifetime. He was an artist, educator, inventor, and barber. He initially worked as a telegraph operator for the Associated Press. He established the Dorcas School where he taught his five sons. During WWI, he was recruited by the government to conduct telegraph training to prepare recruits to qualify for the signal platoon of the army. Mary, his wife, died October 8, 1921. On February 21, 1925, he married Mary Jane Beard, my widowed great-grandmother.

He invented a “combination stove” which could use oil, coal, or wood interchangeably. He received a US patent for his invention October 15th 1907. He also received a patent in Canada. According to his obituary: “he was widely known as an expert draftsman, pen, and brush artist, and was mentioned in the history of Randolph county as being one of the best penmen in the state”. In addition, he worked as a barber for almost forty years. He was the first to open a barber shop in Dryfork, West Virginia.

Lewis was recognized as a leader in Elkin’s African-American community. The newspaper obituary (clipping without identification of newspaper) describes him as “Leader of Negroes” and “a leader among members of his race for many years and was one of the most widely respected colored residents in the state.” In addition, he was the first African-American to serve as a juror in Randolph County.

He died July 17, 1940 at the home of his son Carl in Charleston, West Virginia.


4 thoughts on “Lewis B. Dorcas

  1. Margaret,
    Thank you so much for sharing this article.
    I have the original patent for the coal stove and the postcards related to this .

    Norma Rogers


    1. You’re welcome. I would love to see his artwork. Someone sent me a photograph of a watercolor that may be his. My grandmother had a pen and ink picture he did hanging in her bedroom. I wish I had paid more attention to it now.



      1. I have a family crest he drew. Also I have photo of one of the Mary’s. My grandfather was one of the twins. I would love to chat with you after all you are family. I know all of his children’s children and their children. I live in San Francisco. My phone number is 510-593-8981. I still have property in W Va and go there at least once a year.

        Norma Rogers


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