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Open W-F, 12-4pm, Sat 10am-2pm | (860) 364-5688

King’s Old Stand

By Lawrence Van Alstyne

The following is an excerpt from the writings of Lawrence Van Alstyne, who between 1890 and 1910 wrote a series of histories about Sharon and it’s people.

King and Mills appear to have been partners in a large number of land transfers, but there is no record of them having been partners in the mercantile business. As Col. King had been acting as merchant for the Government, it is natural to suppose he took up the same line of business upon coming to Sharon. So as far as the store is concerned we may leave Mr. Mills out; in fact he left Sharon for soon after, he is called Eli Mills, of Amenia, N.Y.

The store, “King’s Old Stand,” was built in 1784. The figures indicating that date were boldly painted on the gable fronting the road, and remained there until 1877, when the store was destroyed by fire. It was a story and a half building, with a gambrel roof, standing end to the road, and so near the brick house that when it burned, it was with difficulty that the house was saved. As it was the casings and cornice were scorched, in spite of wet carpets being hung over them. There was a lean-to across the east side, in which, fifty years ago, Daniel Sidney Woodruff did shoemaking with his brother, John Woodruff and Isaac O. Pennock as helpers. Miss Foote says it had formerly been Stoddards law office, and one of her most vivid recollections is of hiding under the stairs and listening to a law suit, concerning a Spotted Cow.

After Mr. Woodruff’s death in 1870 Peter Liner carried on the same line of business for a time. March 14, 1877, when the store burned, Wm. P. Townsend was using it for a tin shop.

Miss Foote, now seventy years old, says she went to live with the King family when four and a half years of age. Col. George King had then been dead for several years, but he was often spoken of by the family and others, that she seemed to know him almost as well as any of them. One incident which she relates so plainly shows the character of the man that it may be mentioned. It was her chief delight to listen to stories told her by old Mrs. Skinner, George Skinner’s mother, about her own childhood days. The one which stood out plainest of all, in the old lady’s memory was the memory of a ride in Col. King’s carriage, with a coachman to drive and the Col. himself for her escort. Col. King and Gov. Smith, it appears, were the only ones who owned carriages, and these were only used for going to church and on other important occasions. The one best remembered by the child was Col. King’s, because it had yellow wheels. She used to go to church early, so as to make sure of seeing it driven up to the church, and once more feast her eyes upon its wondrous beauty.

One morning the Col. asked her why she was always so early at church, and waiting outside, sometimes in stormy weather and she told him it was to make sure of seeing his carriage drive up. Not long after this the great event of her somewhat eventful life occurred. Col. King came in his carriage and took her for a long ride. Miss Foote says the old lady could not remember where they went, or how long they were gone, but the fact that she had ridden with Col. King in his carriage, and treated with as much politeness and ceremony as if she was the greatest lady in the land, had ever been her most cherished recollection. No one will read this who knew Col. King, but I defy any one to read of this simple act of kindness to a child, without thinking the better of him because of it.

Mr. Gilbert L. Smith adds an interesting item to the above by recalling what his father once told him about it. “When the ride was about to end, as the carriage rolled up at the door of the little Miss, the Col. asked her if she had enjoyed it. “Yes,” she said, “but if I only could have stood on the sidewalk and seen myself going by.”

No one pretends to know how long Col. George King was a merchant of Sharon. Sedgwick says, “He prosecuted business for many years and with great success.” “The legend Old Stand” bears out this statement. Miss Foote says she has always understood that Roswell King, son of the Col. succeeded his father but that he did not remain long as he went south to live and did not return to Sharon.

Zacheus W. Bissell is said to have traded here, also David H. Cole. A James Watson is also credited with having been a merchant there, so are Chauncey and Charles White. No one is now able to tell in what order they should be named or how long they remained. Abel R. Woodward, now of Winsted, says his father began trading there about 1856, in company with Elias B. Reed, who is mentioned elsewhere as a merchant of Sharon, and continued until 1863, when he exchanged his store stock with Henry V. King, son of Col. George King, for his farm, a little north of the village. Henry V. King died in December of that same year and the goods were disposed of and the store left without an occupant.

In the spring of 1865 Lawrence Van Alstyne and George Solomon Drake, the ‘Sol.’ so often mentioned in the “Diary of an Enlisted Man,” both home from the army and out of business, decided the surest way to get rich quick, was to open a meat market in Sharon, and that “King’s Old Stand” was the place to do it. Accordingly “King’s Old Stand” being unused at the time was leased and operations were begun. It took them less than a year to find out their mistake, and more than a year to make up for what the lesson had cost them.

After them came Charles H. Rowley and William Gibbs, who as Rowley and Gibbs carried on business there for a few years when Gibbs went out and a new firm, Rowley and Whitney, began business in the basement of what was then called “The Pleasant View House,” now the Taghkanic Inn. William H. Orton succeeded Rowley and Gibbs at “King’s Old Stand.” Mr. Orton remained there until his new building on New Street was finished, the one now known as The Telephone Building, when he went there being succeeded at “King’s Old Stand” by George Cole, the last to occupy it for any purpose, as it was during his occupancy that it took fire and burned to the ground. Daniel Sidney Woodruff, who had used the lean-to as a shoemaking shop, died in 1870, and Wm. P. Townsend was occupying it as a tin and stove shop at the time it took fire, about 4 o’clock on the morning of March 14, 1877, having withstood the storms of winter and summer for ninety-three years.

The Harlem Valley Times
Saturday, November 27, 1915

Lawrence Van Alstyne
Lawrence Van Alstyne

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