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Stores were very important in bygone days

By:  Jack Swift

Johnson County Historian

Recently I wrote about some of the old stores that were in existence in my young days here in Johnson County. In the days when transportation was more difficult than it is today, it was important to have a store fairly close. After all, there were a few items that couldn’t be raised or made on the farm. Coffee and sugar come to mind.
I mentioned the S. L. Harbin Store and the Dayton Fenner Store as well as the John Smith Store. The first two stores, I noted, were located on Hwy. 67 West, about three miles from Mountain City. The latter store was on Hwy. 421 North, about two-and-a-half miles out. I also mentioned Doe Valley General Store and Pleasant’s Store. Both of them were located several miles down Hwy. 67 West toward Butler. After that column was published, I received a nice e-mail from Lowell Fritts with information about two more stores of the past: the Grady Arnold Store and the Tull Gentry Store. Lowell was a son of Ross Fritts, who was a leading educator in Johnson County for a number of years.
Not long after that, I received an e-mail from Elaine Holman who reminded me of four more stores that were popular back when.  She mentioned the Trade Store that she says was opened when there was trading with the Indians and was possibly the oldest store in the county. It was located on Hwy. 421 South at Trade. She also reminded me that there was once a W. A. Potter Store, owned by Arthur and Cleo Potter. It was located on Hwy 421 near what is now Antioch Road. She also mentioned two more stores: Payne’s Store owned by Bynum Payne and the H. L. Mast Store owned by Hoy Mast.
Doug Hartzell sent me an e-mail message the other day that was very interesting also. He was from Northern Indiana but his wife Joy (Cable) grew up on Dry Run between Bakers Gap church and Dry Run school. He says she fondly remembers the Snider Store and Grover Tester Store. He said she also remembers McClains traveling store. If I remember right, that store visited various communities and sold items from the enclosed truck bed.

I remember a truck like that visiting my neighborhood. We called it the Store Truck. As I remember, the Store Truck carried a pretty good selection of items rural folks would need. I have heard others call a truck that visited other areas called the Rolling Store. I talked with Mary Shore a few days ago and she reminded me that her father Web Powell had a store in Mountain City. I remembered that I had visited that store in my younger days.
The stores I’ve mentioned were a very important part of the community so it is well that we take a nostalgic look back at them at a time when trips to other towns were few. If there are other folks that know of some old stores, please e-mail me at [email protected] A special “Thank You” to those who read my column each week.