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Old stores, old mills once a part of Johnson County landscape

By:  Jack Swift

Johnson County Historian

My recent columns on old country stores served to stir the memories of a number of residents or former residents considering the number of emails I received on stores of Johnson County. Those stores were scattered about the Johnson Country area and they served a vital need for farm families and others who traded with them on a regular basis due to the distance and time-consuming trips to Mountain City.
I received word from several folks concerning the stores that were a part of their lives in former days and brought to mind due to my columns. Unlike the modern way of purchasing items, one would ask for products across the inevitable counters that the store had as a trading area. The storekeeper would get the item and place it on the counter or scales, if sold by weight. Payment for the product followed. After that, the merchant would put the purchased item in a paper bag if a bag were needed. Some storekeepers would allow payment to be made at the end of the harvest when farmers received the money from his crops. Perhaps others will remember some unique things about country stores. If anyone would like to comment about the old stores, they may contact me at [email protected]
Thinking about the old stores of Johnson County also reminded me of the old mills that at one time existed in Johnson County.  I remember two of them. The Earl Wills Mill was located on Highway 421 North about a mile from Mountain City. The other one I remember was Shupe’s Mill located on the Cold Springs Road. In the early days the mills were built next to a creek or stream as they were powered by water. Later gasoline engines were used to power the mills. My father was a farmer and I remember going with him to those mills to have corn or wheat ground into meal or flour. The miller would often take a portion of the grain for his service. If I remember right, that small portion of the grain was call “toll.” Perhaps someone can expand on information about the old mills. There are few left.
Anyway, discussions about the old stores and old mills refer back to a simpler time. Arguably they were good times or perhaps not so good times — maybe a little of both. Time has a way of helping us remember a little less of the hard times and a little more of the good times.