Country Stores Flourished In County’s Early Years
By Charles Cooper
Hello everyone, hope you’re having a good week. First I’d like to make a correction in the 7/10/08 column. It should have read a month after D-Day not the month before.
Jim Peacock asked me how the Delay Road got its name, and I told him I thought it was named after a settlement somewhere in Lafayette County. If any of you have any further information, please let me know. In the 50 years from 1865 to 1915, country stores sprang up all over the south. Usually they were located at cross roads or near rivers as river traffic was still a factor before railroads crisscrossed the country.
This is probably where settlements like Delay came into being. In Yalobusha County we had Velma, Bryant’s Junction, Pine Valley, and O’Tuckalofa. At one time Velma was a flag stop for Illinois Central as was Bryant’s Junction. Bruce was one of the few that grew into a town after the Bruce Lumber Company located their mill there in 1927.
Most of these settlements died out by the end of World War II, but the names remained. Many of these country and small town stores evolved from peddler’s packs. These peddlers traveled the south after the War Between The States with heavy packs on their backs and to isolated farms they were welcome.
They would unroll their packs and display their goods to a family and make a sale on the spot. Many were from Eastern Europe and were Jewish. They spotted likely locations and set up their stores some which are around today.
Harry Gordon was one of these, although he was never a back pack peddler. He had worked for some stores in Mississippi before settling in Coffeeville. Anyone who ever knew him will remember what a gentleman he was and how he related to his customers and how much he was respected.
After World War II the Rolling store did good business for several years before better roads and more automobiles made it easy for people to shop in town. In many small settlements the merchant would also be the postmaster. Some of these small stores had an unsavory reputation because they were also bootleggers.
One such establishment was a few miles from Papa Badley’s farm and was owned by Mr. Watts. Kids seem to always know what’s going on and I was no exception. I knew that he sold illegal liquor, but Papa and Nannie were not the kind to condemn anyone. I had been in the store many times when Pap would buy some small staple groceries when it wasn’t convenient to go to town. Mr. Watts was a genial man who looked like many other merchants of his day.
He sold out before beer was legalized in Lafayette county and if he had stayed on a little longer he could have had a legitimate business. He had a small store in Oxford and I would stop in after I was grown and we would talk about the old days. He knew that I knew of his past and he didn’t seem to mind talking about it. Sometimes when I think of all the stories that I could write about I’m still sticking to the original premise of this column. Let me hear from you as I always appreciate the input. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org or write me at P.O. Box 613189 Memphis, Tn 38101 and have a great week.