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Johnson County once had a store in almost every community

There was a time in Johnson County when almost every community had a country store. Some were large enough to be called general stores. There are some still around, but most have been closed for years. Even I remember when country stores were an important part of our lives. I grew up on a small farm in an area that’s now known as Swift Hollow in the Dewey Community.
Now I can understand the Swift Hollow part as Swifts were early settlers in that area, but I never knew how the Dewey Community got its name. If anyone knows the origin of that name, please let me know.
But I digress. I’ll get back to the country stores in Johnson County. There were two stores in the Dewey Community: Dayton Fenner’s Store and S. L. Harbin’s Store. Those stores were located close together about two miles west of Mountain City on Highway 67. Those stores weren’t always operated simultaneously. Harbin’s store was the earliest but Fenner’s Store was the last to close. I can remember a few country stores that were open as I was growing up. While it was a number of miles on down Highway 67, W. S. Stout Store is one of the most notable. That store was originally near Old Butler, but was moved to a location on Highway 67 where it remained many years. As most of you know, its most recent move was to the Butler Museum area in Butler. It was renovated and is now open to the public during certain times or tours can be arranged. It is a nostalgic reminder of the country stores of yesteryear. According to the Butler Museum’s web site, the museum and store will be open each Saturday and Sunday through Spring and Summer from 1:00 p.m. until 4:00 P.M. Group and individual tours can be arranged by appointment Monday through Saturday by calling (423) 768-3534 or (423) 768-2183.
I suppose some older folks will remember the John Smith Store that was located in the Northwest corner of Liberty Church Road and Highway 421 in the Pleasant Valley Community. An important purpose was that those stores saved time and money for the farmers and others located in the area. It usually was a short drive to a store in the neighborhood and folks could pick up needed items saving the gasoline required for a trip to “town.” Gasoline was about 30 cents per gallon or less. But, the economy was such that 30 cents was worth a great deal more than it is now.
Going back further in time, it was usually a short distance, even before automobiles came along, to ride a horse or walk to the store. The Clayton Wright General Store (often called the Rock Store) located on Highway 91 toward Laurel Bloomery was once a popular country store. Another one I remember was the Arthur Potter Store at Shouns.
Those stores as well as the many other country stores in the county served several purposes. Instead of shopping or buying, transactions were often referred to as trading. Many times that is just what they did. Customers would bring chickens or eggs or some other items and exchange them for items they needed. Many of those stores had chicken pens out back. Some also served as post offices and some had lending libraries.
Those stores were also gathering places to sit around the potbellied stove and discuss politics, catch up on the latest news (national or local), or play checkers while munching on crackers and cheese or a moon pie and drinking an R. C.
The number of old country general stores is waning. There are few left but as they fade away from the scene in Johnson County, it would be well to remember those stores and their important function in the various communities of Johnson County. I’m sure I’ve only listed a few of the stores that existed in an earlier time.