By Doug Hylton
Another family of Syrian immigrants who have had an enormous impact on the Greenbrier Valley is the Aide family. Aitha El Sakhar (Aide) was an immigrant from Syria who arrived in America in 1895. He settled first in Fort Wayne, IN, where there was an enclave of Syrian immigrants. Aitha was a pack peddler, a profession that he also had when he lived in Syria. He worked for two years in the United States and then returned to Syria where he brought over his family. The name was changed to Bashara Aide after this move, probably to help with the assimilation of the family into the American culture. His son, Farris, his wife, Fahine, and their three sons, George B., Andrew and Michael, settled in Boomer, WV, where they established a store. The family gradually became associated with Charleston. The 1918 directory shows Farris Aide connected with the National Ice Cream Company on Kanawha Avenue.
The Aide family closed the Boomer store in 1923 and moved to Charleston, where they opened a business. This store was destroyed in 1932 when a fire started in a neighboring hotel. It was then that an acquaintance suggested that they move their store to Mt. Hope, where the brothers, George B., Andrew and Michael operated the business.
Andrew Aide’s young son, George, was born Nov. 30, 1918, in Boomer. According to his son, Gary, George was not a good student, and had a difficult time focusing on a career path.
His Uncle Mike took him under his wing and had George work with him during the 1930s in Charleston with his ice-cream business, most likely the National Ice Cream Company associated with his grandfather, Farris. The ice cream business was to fail due to the Great Depression. George also worked for the Kroger store making $2.50 per day.
From this experience, George learned a work ethic which was to follow him for the rest of his life. In 1938, George learned of a company store in Richwood, which was going out of business. He and his father, Andrew, purchased this business, and for the next year had a bankruptcy sale. It was in January 1939, with the proceeds of this venture, that George opened his first store in Rainelle, starting the influence of this family on Greenbrier County.
This business continued to flourish and was expanded several times. In 1962, George opened a business in eastern Greenbrier County in Fairlea. This first business was located at the site of the former John’s Paint Store, then moved to the old IGA store and later he moved to the location of the current Shewels Furniture Store. In 1971, George and his family opened the Red Oak Shopping Center and continued to run the discount store until the family closed the stores in 1995 and moved more to commercial rentals. George died in 2007.
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Salem G. Yarid was another man whose family has impacted the Greenbrier Valley and continues to do so to this day. The Yarid Style shop has been a fixture in Lewisburg since 1918. Salem (Samuel) Yarid was born in Beirut, Syria, now Lebanon, on May 22, 1893. Samuel immigrated to the United States August, 1908. By 1917, with the advent of World War I, he was registered as living in White Sulphur Springs and was a traveling salesman. Samuel Yarid became a naturalized citizen in 1924.
Samuel married Dora Hanna and soon began a family. They had two sons, Edward, born in 1922, and Munir born in 1924.
History of the Yarid Style Shop shows the business opening in Lewisburg in 1918 with a dress shop. The 1940 census describes the family running a dress shop in Lewisburg. Sometime during this period, a men’s store was also opened, as in the 1960s, following the death of Samuel, the two brothers combined the businesses into one department store. The Yarid family is the only remaining business of the Syrian immigration to the county and continues to represent high quality fashion to residents of the county.
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A final family to be mentioned with a connection with Syria is the Hamood family. Saleem Cassem Hamood was born in Salima, Syria on Dec. 25, 1862. He immigrated to the United States in 1902. As he got established with a dry goods business, he began bringing his family to the states. Hamood settled in Ronceverte, and in the 1910 census he was listed as a merchant. Like many immigrants, Saleem came to America leaving behind his wife, Mafathala, and five children, Syman, Joseph, Assema, Athea, and Warif, back in Syria. Two sons, Slyman and Joseph, immigrated to Ronceverte in 1911. It is not known whether the remainder of his family came to the states, as Saleem died on Jan. 2, 1914.
It was then up to his sons to carry on as merchants in the county. Slyman Salem Hamood was born Mar. 20, 1890. Slyman was listed in 1917 during the draft as living in Rainelle. By the 1920 census, he was married to Ora, with two children listed. Mabhia, born in 1907, who was listed as deceased, and Karim, who was born in 1909. The 1920 census shows Slyman as managing a store so he was working in the same occupation as his father.
Slyman was to settle in White Sulphur Springs sometime around 1930. He lived on Big Draft Road, and it was at this time he established a small grocery store on Tuckahoe Road. Around this time, Slyman’s wife, Ora, had died, as she is not mentioned in the census. This left Slyman with a son, Kiram. The grocery store continued to prosper, and in 1941, Slyman remarried to Dottie Virginia Craft, but this marriage ended in divorce. Slyman went on to open a supermarket in White Sulphur Springs off of Tuckahoe Road and Gum Street where now sits Bostic Warehouse.
Slyman later remarried for the last time in 1961 to Isadora Wyatt Craft. Slyman continued to be a prominent grocer in White Sulphur Springs until his death on Dec. 6, 1973. Slyman also owned an apartment building in downtown White Sulphur Springs which had a small grocery store in the bottom floor.
Slyman’s only son, Kiram Hamood, was born in 1909. He learned from his father the business sense necessary to be a successful businessman. He worked with the family grocery business as a young man. Karim enlisted in 1943 in the army for the duration of the World War II. When he returned, Karim operated the grocery store in White Sulphur Springs. Karim was married to Helen Fairbanks. Karim continued to live in White Sulphur Springs until his death on June 4, 1975. His wife, Helen, also continued to live and be a prominent member of White Sulphur Springs social and civic groups. She died on May 2, 1992.
This does not include all the families who immigrated from Syria to West Virginia and especially to Greenbrier County. Still, it allows an understanding of the impact these people had on the entire county. The standards of quality that these families strived to achieve, the values of excellence in business, and the dedication to service provided to the citizens of our county, and within the communities they served, epitomize the extraordinary influence these Syrian immigrants had on our towns and the county. We owe a debt of gratitude to these families who made their way to West Virginia and became part of the fabric of our lives.
So when there are calls to restrict the immigration of Syrians to our county and to our state, we must show diligence in those who we allow in our state, but we must also remember that these immigrants are people trying to begin their lives anew, much like those who came here before them.