General Stores

The operator of the general store "was a very flexible, versatile, and durable man with astonishing skills and accomplishments and a considerable knowledge of the world. […] His knowledge of the community was minute and intimate, his contact with it more continuous than that of the doctors, the lawyers, or the clergy. His store was the necessary core of crossroads life. […] A salesman, middleman, issuer of credit, banker, supplier of necessities and some luxuries, as shipper of farm crops and local manufactures, the country trader had contacts with all his neighbors and the larger commercial world. […] There was perhaps no other rural citizen, living within a radius of ten to twenty miles of the store, who touched life at as many different places as the retailer1.

Since David Pearson is listed as a partner in stores in Woodsfield and Clarington as early as 1815, it is possible that he had a store in the house that he built on Lot 3 in 1835. John B. Oblinger bought this house and Lot 5 in 1846 and, sometime between 1850 and 1855 he built a major building on this site. Based on subsequent tax evaluations, it is likely that this was the two-story structure that served as Miltonsburg’s first and largest store until the early 1930s. Photographs taken about 1900 show a two-story residence abutting the store; however, it is not clear whether or not this structure was built at the same time. In any event it had been removed by 1930. Sometime before 1880 Oblinger sold this property to Samuel Groux who owned it until the early 1890s when it was purchased by B. A. Yunkes, who was the owner when these photographs were taken.

Joseph Spangler bought the store around 1910 and continued to provide essentially everything the residents of the town and the surrounding community needed-and much of what they wanted. One could buy, among many other things, tea, sugar, coffee, spices, candy, axes, nails, rifles, paint, varnish, kitchen utensils, cutlery, china, pins, needles, clocks, watches, hats, shoes, men’s and women’s clothing-and you could mail a letter or package and pick up your own mail. Spangler’s went out of business in the early 1930s when this mini-department store became a victim of better roads and better shopping opportunities in Woodsfield.

Sometime around 1930, the original Town Hall on Lot 18 was razed and this building began to serve that function as it continues to do in 2006. The rest of Lot 5 remains in private ownershi

In addition to the normal activities of the town council the building was used for meetings of a Community Club which sponsored local plays, socials, and other community activities until paved roads, radio, and television made Miltonsburg apart of a much larger world rather than a compact world of its own. In the 1950s the second floor, which had deteriorated badly from deferred maintenance, was removed; however, some aspects of the original store front remain.

George Shell Jr., who owned Lot 10 as early as 1835, sold it to Daniel Ott in 1837. Ott promptly sold the lot, for a profit of one dollar, to Nicholas Stout who built a structure (probably a house) in 1848.Between 1850 and 1866, this property was owned by Gotlieb Blocker, John Mantz, and Philip Kremer. Around 1870 it was purchased by the National Stove Company and a major building, almost certainly the store, was added. By 1880 the store was owned by Gramlich and Eberly, who continued to operate it until about 1920 when it was purchased by Vance Slusher. About 1930 it was purchased by Charlie and Alma (Schrader) Hinderlong, who operated it during my childhood. They sold the business to Roman Reischman about 1950 and various owners continued to operate in until (?), when it became the last general store to do business in the village.

The design of both Yunkes’ Big Store and the store on Lot 10 reflected a vernacular interpretation of the architectural style of the time. Modest classical pilasters were actually hinged doors that concealed storage shelves for items that were related to more immediate exterior use, such as kerosene, and motor oil in later years. Based on various descriptions of other stores, the arrangement that I recall from Hinderlong’s store on Lot 10 was fairly typical throughout the country. The dry goods counter was on the immediate right as one entered the store and toward the back on the same side were hardware, utensils, and other large items. On the immediate left were the candy and tobacco cases, the grocery shelves, and the counter with cash drawer, scales, etc. In the center of the room just opposite the cash drawer was the coal stove surrounded by chairs and benches for the "loafers. The Park Store in Marr, which was still in operation in 2006, is organized essentially the same way.

1 : Carson, Gerald. The Old Country Store . New York: Dutton, 1965. 117-18.