[imic_button colour=”btn-default” type=”enabled” link=”#intro” target=”_self” extraclass=”” size=”btn-lg”]Introduction[/imic_button]
[imic_button colour=”btn-default” type=”enabled” link=”#prindle” target=”_self” extraclass=”” size=”btn-lg”]The Prindle Sotre[/imic_button]
[imic_button colour=”btn-default” type=”enabled” link=”#gillette” target=”_self” extraclass=”” size=”btn-lg”]Gillette Brothers[/imic_button]
[imic_button colour=”btn-default” type=”enabled” link=”#amenia_union” target=”_self” extraclass=”” size=”btn-lg”]Amenia Union[/imic_button]
[imic_button colour=”btn-default” type=”enabled” link=”#hiram_price” target=”_self” extraclass=”” size=”btn-lg”]The Hiram Price Store[/imic_button]
[imic_button colour=”btn-default” type=”enabled” link=”#nathan_smith” target=”_self” extraclass=”” size=”btn-lg”]The Nathan Smith Store[/imic_button]
[imic_button colour=”btn-default” type=”enabled” link=”#calkinstown” target=”_self” extraclass=”” size=”btn-lg”]The Calkinstown Store[/imic_button]
[imic_button colour=”btn-default” type=”enabled” link=”#ellsworth” target=”_self” extraclass=”” size=”btn-lg”]Ellsworth[/imic_button]
Throughout Sharon’s early history a number of entrepreneurs ran shops throughout the town. As was typical in country stores, the early merchants of Sharon sold and traded a wide variety of everyday goods including food, clothes, tools, and home goods. More than that, Sharon’s early places of business were also places to meet and discuss news and events. During war times especially, these stores were the hearts of communication in Sharon.
Click on one of the categories to the right to learn more about specific stores, their owners, and areas of commerce in early Sharon. If you have any questions or would like to research any of the information you see here in more detail, we would be happy to work with you, so don’t hesitate to get in contact.
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.[/full_width]
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King’s Old Stand
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
The Prindle Store
On the 23d of February, 1810, Cyrus Swan, Esq., sold a small piece of land to William Taylor, calling it a quarter of an acre and bounding it on the east by Sharon Street, on the north by the Valley Road, and south and west by Charles Elliott and Christopher Champion, Hatters. No mention is made of buildings on it at that time. Taylor kept it for ten years (1820) and then sold it to Hezekiah Goodwin, with a dwelling upon it.
Two years later (1822) Goodwin sold it to Charles Elliott, giving the same description, but calling it a half acre, more or less. Elliott had it for thirteen years, and then sold it to Samuel J. and Mark Prindle (1835), with all the buildings upon it. John Cotton Smith had a mortgage upon it at that time, and in releasing it to the Prindle’s called it a third of an acre with a dry goods store and other buildings on it.
This is the first mention of the store, which was probably built during Elliott’s ownership. Dwight St. John, our oldest living authority says the Prindle’s built the store for Charles Elliott. As the Prindle brothers were builders, this statement is doubtless correct. Nothing is shown that Mark Prindle was a partner with his brother Samuel J. in the mercantile business, but that Samuel J. was a merchant, is shown by his books, which are still in possession of his daughter, Miss Ruth Prindle, the present owner of the Prindle Homestead (1915).
Some time before the year 1860 Mr. Prindle leased the store to George H. Chase. On the margin of the map of Sharon, made in 1853, the store is shown with the sign, ‘George H. Chase,’ across the front, where it remained until 1860, when Prindle sold the store property to Gillette Brothers.
The map of Sharon also shows a smaller building standing within a few feet of the store, which Charles M. Prindle, son of Samuel J., the merchant, says his father built for an office, and that he afterward kept store there in a small way. When Prindle sold to the Gillette’s he described the south line as having a jog in it, thirteen feet and an inch from the southwest corner of the “old store.” The term old store implies that another and newer store was standing near the old one.
Records show that Elliott’s Hat Shop, stood fronting on Sharon Main Street, and four feet south from the land he sold the Prindle brothers, which places it on the exact spot where Mr. Prindle built his new store.
The new store, as we may now call it, was put to many uses after Mr. Prindle retired from business. Samuel Roberts, and old time resident of Sharon, and who has a wonderfully retentive memory, says James Orr, a lawyer, had his office there and kept the post office in it. Then Col. Jenkins became post master and put his brother, William, in charge, at the same place. Eliakim Stoddard, Esq., next occupied it as a law office and post office, and after him came Walter Patterson, another lawyer who kept the post office until 1865, when it was removed to the Gillette Brothers Store.
I believe the next to occupy the Prindle store was Samuel Wheeler, from Westport, with a stock of clocks, watches and jewelry. Peter Liner, a shoemaker, was the next. He kept his shop in the rear room, and had ice cream and soda in front. It was with him that Peter J. Kenny began his mercantile education. After Liner came Ford Cole, who kept a line of groceries in connection with drugs. Then came Dr. W.W. Knight and Charles B. Dakin, with drugs and groceries. Under the firm of Knight and Dakin, the business so increased that the building had to be added to. In a short time they again outgrew their accommodations, and Dakin sold out and went across the street to more commodious quarters in Reed’s Store. The doctor remained until 1904, when on account of failing health he gave up business altogether. Clarence H. Eggleston succeeded him, and has since conducted the drug business there.
The store itself has met with many changes during the time its many occupants had it. One, if not more additions were put on the west end, and finally the owner, Miss Prindle decided to build anew. The old store, with Dr. Knight and his stock of goods in it, and with John B. Smith as driver, set out on a journey across the yard, to remain until the new store was ready. The doctor and the original building survived the journey, but the additions and the goods that were in them fell by the way.
The building as we now behold it was put on the old location. At this time, 1914, Clarence H. Eggleston occupies the first floor and basement with his drug equipment, while Miss F.S. Knowles has a fancy goods store and living rooms on the top floor.
The Gillette Brothers, Henry Martin and Edward Franklin, were from Canaan, Conn. The fact that Hiram Weed had married their sister, Abigail, probably influenced their coming to Sharon.
Tradition has it that Henry M. Gillette and Hiram Weed were partners in the furniture business, somewhere in Calkinstown. It is known however, that Elisha Knight and Henry M. Gillette were together in the Calkinstown store, in 1859, under the firm name of Knight and Gillette. It is not shown how long the partnership had existed, but it is known that it did not last long after that date, for soon after that time, Elisha Knight left Sharon, to reside in Danbury.
On Sept. 1, 1860, the Gillette Brothers purchased of Samuel J. Prindle, the store at the head of Main Street, Sharon, which ever since has and is still known as “The Gillette Store.” Here they conducted a flourishing business in hardware and furniture, in addition to an assortment of other goods, usually kept in a retail store. Henry M. removed the old house which stood on the corner, to a point farther west, where it was occupied by one Charles Ieorc, a tailor, whose widow is still living in a small house near the site upon which the old house was placed. He then built the house which has always since been known as the Gillette House, and which is now owned by Mrs. Clarence H. Eggleston, the youngest child of the late Edward F. Gillette.
The Gillette Brothers Store became popular at once. The post office was removed from Patterson’s Law office into it, where it remained until its removal to its present quarters, in the Town Hall. The firm continued until 1865, when Henry M. left Sharon, to live in Salisbury, where, in company with Hiram J. Bissell, who had been a clerk in the Gillette Store in Sharon, they opened a store and began business under the firm name of Gillette and Bissell, and so continued until Mr. Gillette’s death, in 1870, at the early age of forty-three.
When Henry M. Gillette left Sharon, his brother, Edward F. sold the house he had built on the corner of New Street and went to the one vacated by his brother, where he continued to reside until his death in 1903. In 1893 his son, E.F. Gillette, Jr., became a partner in the store with his father, and assumed active control of the business. The firm name then changed from E.F. Gillette to that of E.F. Gillette and Son. E.F. Gillette, Jr., has since died, and the property has passed into the ownership of his sister, Mrs. Clarence H. Eggleston, who with her husband, is carrying on the business under the name of E.F. Gillette and Son.
This seems but little to say of a family such as the Gillette’s have been. Prominent both in church and society, it is doubtful if any family has ever lived in the place, who have left a more lasting impression for good than they. There were no black sheep among them, to mar an otherwise clean record. The name was never associated with a movement that had not for its end the betterment of Sharon and its people. What more need be said of any family?
E. Franklin Gillette, Frank Gillette, as he was known and called by all, was the last to go from among us. His illness only lasted a few days, and when the word went around that Frank Gillette was dead, the community received a shock it will long remember. It was a long time before the people of Sharon could realize that Frank Gillette was dead, and longer still before the responsibilities he had assumed could be shifted to other shoulders.
Stores and Storekeepers of Amenia Union
While but one of the stores of Amenia Union was on the Sharon side of the line, it is natural to suppose the others were patronized by Sharon people, as freely as by those living on the Amenia side of the line.
The imaginary line, dividing New York from Connecticut, ran close to either store, and it seems proper to mention those who carried on business in them, as among the merchants of Sharon.
From the best information to be had at this time it appears that the so-called lower store was the first to be established in that neighborhood. According to Deacon Newton Reed, the historian of Amenia, it was in use as early as 1785. Mr. Reed says that Solomon Chandler was trading there then, and so continued until 1800, when the property was purchased by Solomon Hitchcock, for four hundred pounds. One acre of land went with the store.
From the time of Mr. Hitchcock’s coming there to trade, the place took on the name of “Hitchcock’s Corner,” by which name it is still often spoken of by the older inhabitants of Sharon and Amenia. Just when the name Amenia Union was given it I am unable to say, but presume it happened at the time the post office was established there in 1823.
Mr. Chandler, after the store passed from his possession traded for a time in the John Reed house, which I am told is the brick house on the Leedsville Road, now spoken of as the Hunter place.
Just who or how many are the merchants who have carried on business at the Lower Store, or the order in which they succeeded one another, is something we may never know. The old store, the only witness to their coming and going, is silent on the subject, and we must depend on tradition, helped out by now and then a recorded fact or figure to tell us who they are. Nathan Smith, John Knibloe and Newton Juckett, life long residents of the neighborhood; papers left by Dea. Reed and Dr. Dedrick, who spent a long lifetime there, together with the recollections of Mr. Edward R. Hitchcock, who was born and raised at Hitchcock’s Corner, son of Amariah Hitchcock, one of the best remembered of all who traded there have each been consulted, and while they differ somewhat as to order in which names should be mentioned, the average of opinion by them must answer the purpose of this paper.
Solomon Hitchcock, as stated, succeeded Solomon Chandler, who doubtless was the pioneer merchant of the place. How long he continued does not now appear. Edward Hitchcock says the store was at first a part of the house, still called the Hitchcock house, and that the store proper was not built until 1812.
After Solomon Hitchcock came Capt. Benjamin Conklin, and with him came John J. Hollister as clerk. After Capt. Conklin, came Thomas and Robert Hitchcock, and soon after the firm name changed to “Hitchcock and Hollister,” showing that Hollister had become a member of the firm.
The next change was to John J. Hollister alone. Dea. Reed says he was there a long time and was postmaster a great many years. Reed’s history of Amenia, says the post office was established in 1823, and it is quite likely that Hollister was the first postmaster, and that he continued until the appointment of Amariah Hitchcock in 1847.
After Hollister came Sherman and Gregory. Dr. Dedrick says, “Walter Sherman came here first as a clerk for Uriah Gergory, who had a small store standing on what is now my garden lot.” He and Mr. Gregory bought out Hollister, who was then trading in the lower store. Gregory did not remain long and his place in the firm was taken by Shadrach Sherman.
The Sherman’s were succeeded by Amariah Hitchcock, a nephew of the original Hitchcock proprietor, of forty years before. Here we have a date, as Edward R. Hitchcock says his father, Amariah Hitchcock, was made postmaster and began trading in the lower store in 1840, and was postmaster there until his death in 1886. Nathan Smith the present postmaster, succeeded him, being the third postmaster Amenia Union has had since its history began.
Judah Swift, brother-in-law of Amariah Hitchcock, became a partner with him in the store, and the firm continued until 1861, when they retired from business and the store was let to Charles Wattles, who had been in trade in the store now owned and occupied by Nathan Smith. In 1862, Mr. Wattles sold his lease of the lower store to D. Edward Lambert, who continued in business there until 1866.
When Mr. Lambert gave up the store it was again opened by Amariah Hitchcock and his brother Samuel, who kept it going until 1874, when reverse of fortune ended their mercantile career. Since 1874 several different persons have done business there, mostly of short duration; among them David R. Woodward, Allen Wiley, Arthur D. Buckley, Geo. Hunter, Charles Lovell and Harrison B. St. John.
Practically, the business importance of the lower store ended with the retirement of the Hitchcock brothers in 1874. From 1840 to 1874 it had done a large and flourishing business. The Hitchcock brothers carried on butchering and pork packing in connection with their store trade. It was during their time that the Harlem Rail Road was being built through this section and the tradesmen of every kind shared in the general prosperity brought about by that event. In those days Hitchcock’s Corner was in the height of its enterprise and progress. Its cotton and woolen mills, its blacksmith shops and tannery, its plough factory and its wood working shops were all running in their full capacity. The stage horse stables were kept there, the horses being changed as the stages leaving or taking on passengers from the hotel, which did an overflowing business with the travelling public; two schools, full to the doors; two churches well attended and well supported; Hitchcock’s Corner was then a well and widely known place.
– To be continued –
But alas, what changes times hath wrought. The rail road, such a good customer while its building was in progress, now takes away the money and brings in its place various articles, the making of which once gave employment to so many hands; the mills and the factories are gone, the stages no longer leave passengers at the hotel door, but one store remains where three were none too many, the streets are deserted and the prosperity the place once enjoyed has departed and left no sign.
The Hiram Price Store
The store long known as the Hiram Price Store, was built by John J. Hollister, about the year 1816, who used it for a place of trade until his marriage, when he enlarged it, and made of it a dwelling and store combined.
It next went to Dr. Conklin, who further enlarged it, and after him, to Hiram Price, who, Dea. Reed says further improved it. It stood on the Connecticut side of the line and about opposite the Nathan Smith Store. John Knibloe says that as far back as he can remember, it was kept by Hiram Price, and that a sign reaching across the front had on it in big letters, ‘Price and Ingersol, New York Cheap Store,’ showing the firm had been Price & Ingersol, at some time before his recollection.
In the north end was a tailor shop, and Charles E. Benton, once an Amenia boy, but now of Rochester, N.Y., says his first suit of tailor-made clothes was made there. In the store proper, Mr. Price kept the usual variety kept in country stores, and like other merchants of his time, took in trade, anything he could again turn into money. He kept the store for many years, and then sold it to a Mr. Jenks, of whom nothing but his name now seems to be known. The building was put to various uses after Price sold it. One Jed Carey had it for a fish market and beer saloon. When the Connecticut school was destroyed by fire, the one time store was used for a school room, while another school house was being built. At another time it was a cigar store. Finally Mr. Knibloe purchased the building and moved a part of it to his farm, where it is still on duty as a tenement house. The other part he sold to John Barnum, for an office connected with his cigar factory. When the estate of John Barnum was settled the office was sold to Edward L. Whitney, who moved it to his home and made it into an automobile shed.
Mr. Knibloe visited Newton Juckett, in the interest of this paper, who told him that John J. Hollister, the first to own and operate the Price Store; once had a store on the opposite side of the road from the Methodist Church. Probably this is the store mentioned by Dr. Dedrick, as standing on his garden lot, as the location would be about the same.
It would be interesting to know something about this John J. Hollister. He figures in the history of every store Amenia Union has had, and is the only one of the many merchants, who have been identified with the place, whose character is so much hinted at. Deacon Reed ends a brief mention of him with these words, “He was the very embodiment of honesty.” We are not to suppose that Mr. Hollister was the only honest merchant the place has had, but all the same we can but wonder why he was singled out for this meritorious mention.
The Nathan Smith Store
The Nathan Smith Store, the last to be built, and the only one remaining in that once busy hamlet, stands on the New York side, and like the others is close to the state line. It is the second one that has occupied that site, a former one having been burned in 1844.
About the year 1800, one Joseph Crane, a blacksmith, built his shop there. Later on Thomas and William Stephens carried on the same line of business, and still later a tailor named Benedict, was in business in the same building. Dea. Reed says it was moved away in 1835 to make room for a store, and that is because the nucleus of what is now, by repeated additions and improvements, the well proportioned residence of Mr. D. Edward Lambert.
Nathan Smith says his uncle, Columbus Reed, was the first to begin business in the new store. Walter Sherman is said to have been the next, and after him, Charles Wattles, who was trading there when the store burned down in 1844. Newton Juckett, the oldest living inhabitant of the neighborhood, says the firm was Wattles & Lockwood, brothers-in-law, and that they were at the same time running a store in Dover Plains, [N.Y.].
Charles Wattles rebuilt the store and then sold it to his son-in-law, E. Edward Lambert, who carried on business there for twenty years, and then sold out to Arthur D. Buckley. Mr. Buckley kept store for three years, and then sold it to the present proprietor, Mr. Nathan Smith, who now, 1913, is serving his twenty-fifth year as a merchant at Amenia Union.
Mr. Smith says store keeping at the present time is quite another thing from what it was when these old timers were at it. The customers then came to the store for their purchases, and took them home with them. Now we take orders by team or by telephone, and then deliver the goods to the door of our patrons, some of whom we have never seen.
The Calkinstown Store
The Calkinstown Store was built by Capt. Hiram Weed, at some time previous to 1858. At any rate he owned it at that time, as is shown by record. Records also show that Elisha Knight was at that time occupying the house near the store, now owned by William Riley. Old residents speak of the store as Knight’s Store, but it is doubtful if Knight ever had title to it, or did more than carry on business in it. It is said that Henry M. Gillette was a partner with Knight, and that after Knight left Sharon Edward F. Gillette succeeded him as a partner with Henry M., and that the firm of Gillette Brothers began there.
The house and store were near each other, the store a little to the east of the house. It stood end to the road and a set of weighing scales were in front, upon which the ore used, and the iron made, in Capt. Weed’s Blast Furnace was weighed.
In 1860 the Gillette brothers began business on Sharon Street, and Albert M. Rowley and Ezra H. Bartram succeeded them in the Calkinstown Store. The sign, Rowley & Bartram, is still in existence, the Bartram end being now nailed upon the side of Walter H. Bartram’s barn.
The firm of Rowley and Bartram did not continue long and when it came to an end Ezra H. Bartram bought the store building, and removed it to a site a little west of his dwelling house. Here he carried on the mercantile business during the war, and it is said his store was a gathering place for the people of the neighborhood to meet, read the papers and talk about the war. Doubtless the conduct of the war was freely commented on at that safe distance from its scene of operations.
In 1868 Mr. Isaac N. Bartram bought the store building and after taking it to pieces, brought it to Sharon, where he made of it what is now the front portion of the “Taghkanic Inn.”
The upper floor was fitted for family use, also a portion of the first floor. The front portion of the first floor was arranged for a store, in which Mrs. I.N. Bartram and Mrs. H.C. Rowley sold dress and fancy goods. I believe Miss Mary Jane Beebe and Miss Jennie Mallory succeeded them, carrying on a dress making establishment. After them came Andrew J. Wheeler, who made and mended harness there for a while. I am not sure of the order in which these different occupants had the store, but am sure they were all in business there.
In the basement Myron F. Whitney and Charles H. Rowley had a meat market and a store where they sold cigars, candy, tobacco, pipes, etc.
When the large addition was put on at the rear the place was fitted up for a hotel and boarding house, and for a short time was leased by Charles Tuttle, from Amenia. After that it was rented to families, several families living in it at a time. Next John Liner bought it and used it for a hotel with a bar room in the basement. Then Miss Georgia Kirby had it for some years for a boarding house, after which the present owner, Mr. Gilbert L. Smith, with his sister, Miss Helen, have made it their home, renting the larger portion of it for a boarding house. Miss Fannie L. White carried it on until a few years ago when Mr. Luke Hapgood took her place and named it “Taghkanic Inn.”
Stores and Storekeepers of Ellsworth
Mr. Giles Skiff, of Ellsworth, has kindly gathered for me remnants of history concerning the merchants of that part of the town, as are now obtainable. Mr. Skiff has put this information together in so readable a form that I shall not attempt to improve upon it, but will give his letter verbatim.
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Ellsworth, Conn., Sept. 14, 1913
Mr. L. Van Alstyne,
You ask me to give you some account of the merchants who have been in trade in Ellsworth. My excuse for reluctantly attempting the undertaking is hidden in the following little incident.
(Teacher) I have explained to you children what the fabrics we wear are made of. (Johnnie) “Fathers old trousers.” The fabrics of history you desire of me, will, I fear, be as blunderingly answered as was the boy’s in his father’s clothes. But if I can contribute an item worth preserving, it will be a pleasure to me. I cannot give dates correctly; there are few now living who can, and I cannot have the assistance of such; so my simple story is of facts related to me by old people who are now no more. I trust you will pardon the faults of my paper, thoughts of an old man near eighty years of age.
When settlers first came to the southern hills of Sharon, it was a forest, where wild turkey, deer and bear were numerous, and where the path of the Indians was easy to follow. The sturdy pioneers made wide clearings, log houses were hastily erected and homes quickly established. Then the little red school-house had its valued place, old time religion was respected, and the blessings that follow industry, thrift and integrity were enjoyed.
The produce of the productive new lands was taken with teams to various villages and cities, Poughkeepsie, N.Y., being the most favorable market, and returning with commodities to be retailed to the then large families. Therefore we humorously assert the first store was on wheels, the first merchant a clever trader, who carried on his primitive department without the assistance of a “floor walker.”
Population increased, society formed with the name “Ellsworth,” splashed upon it. Under the caption we give a rambling account of the merchants who have been a factor here for more than a century.
Gideon Studley had a store in connection with a tavern where Pedro Griswold now resides. After many years, the store yielded to the importance of an Inn.
Then Herman Skiff set up trade in South Street, near the Per Lee Place, so called, but soon after transferred his business to where success was more certain. His brother, Julius Skiff, continued to trade over the same counter, when e’er long he too was swept from his moorings by the then tide of emigration to the far West.
Lucy Chaffee, for a time dealt in fancy goods in the house opposite the Congregational Church. Years after, Thomas Lovell engaged in general merchandise in the same rooms formerly occupied by Miss Chaffee.
George Peck, became a merchant in the house across the way from the Captain Lord’s place. He was succeeded by A.C. Woodward, who carried on a thriving business for a considerable time, when he obeyed the calling to go over into Macedonia, Kent.
Calvin Peck erected a commodious building for a store opposite the Methodist Church, where he dealt in a great variety of goods than any merchant who had preceded him. One night his store took fire from some unknown cause and burned to the ground, wiping out his future prospects as a merchant.
George Chaffee had a store in the South district, near the Loper place. This store was struck by lightening and destroyed. It was rebuilt by Ransom Everett, who carried on trade there for a few years, when he sold out and the store was moved across the way for a dwelling house.
Ichabod Everett built a store for his son-in-law, John Milton Gregory, on his premises, now owned by Walter Dunbar. Mr. Gregory was a returned soldier from the late war, with an empty sleeve by his side. His father, an experienced merchant, was his partner or assistant. One day at noon, Milton closed his store and went to his dinner. While at his meal a loud report was heard, and it was soon discovered that the Gregory store was blown to pieces. The incident remains a mystery to this day, though many theories were offered.
After this trio of misfortunes; merchants “tried as by fire” Curtis Northrop and Calvin Chaffee went into partnership and built a store opposite the late residence of William Everett. The company dissolved partnership in a short time and the building was moved to Cornwall Bridge.
Then the Morey brothers, sons of Charles Morey, set up trade in the building now used as a Grange Hall, but they soon removed to Bantam, Conn.
M. Corbet had a grocery store at Cornwall Bridge, Sharon side, until his recent death.
Now, 1913, as at the beginning, goods are retailed from wagons to the people here, verifying in part that “History repeats itself.” If this worn prediction be true, former enterprise may return, and the merchants of Ellsworth be a factor hoped for.
(Some later, Mr. Skiff wrote the following, which had not come to his mind when writing the above, if in fact he had ever known about it.)
“This morning, in conversation with Victory Beers, I learned there was once a store at Cornwall Bridge, Sharon side, where the dwelling house now stands at the end of the bridge, near the Catholic Church. The merchant was Myron Harrison, and the store, also the post office was kept there somewhere about 1850. Mr. Harrison was a man of prominence, and his store was like unto him.”