Appalachia

Brittain’s Store

Brittain's store

Today’s Guest Post was written by Misty Kelischek. Photos are also by Misty Kelischek.

—————————————

Have you ever heard of Brittain’s Store? I had not until recently, as a student in Billy Ray Palmer’s “History of Appalachia” class. Brittain’s store was established in 1884, just outside of Murphy, NC. The general store closed its doors in 1932. William T. Brittain, the store’s owner, walked home for lunch; had a heart attack; and died. Since his widow was not interested in being a shop keeper, she closed its doors to the public. 79 years later, they were opened to us.

I’m unclear about the 79 years between then and now. I don’t know why it was kept as a time capsule. I’m just glad that it was. The thing that made my heart skip a beat is that it feels too good to be true. Tools that I have only seen rusted and lacking paint are still shiny, new and abundant. Beautiful old tins, jaw harps, harmonicas, pocket watches, corsets, shoes, gun powder, and even candy! We were told that every box still contains merchandise, but we respectfully left everything untouched. Luckily, the dynamite was removed once it began to liquefy several years back.

The store itself is built from rough hewn, old growth, heart pine and chestnut. I didn’t see any ghosts, but felt them. There is so much life in that dimly lit space. I can imagine kids on their tip toes, trying to see into the candy jars; tired farmers sitting at the checker board; heat rising from the wood stove to warm the ladies up on the second floor who might be working on a quilt.

I cannot believe that this family has not sold out. It could bring them wealth and status, yet they humbly lock it away as if no one could be interested in their history. Do they know that my heart is filled with love for these things and that I want it all? I’m so grateful for their willingness to share this piece of history with me.

—————————————

I’m so grateful Misty took us along on her trip-aren’t you? Misty is an amazing artist-check out her work at The Patterned Bird.

Tipper

 

You Might Also Like

31 Comments

  • Reply
    Gaye Blaine
    May 5, 2020 at 5:30 pm

    Oh, my, I would give a “plug nickel” as my Daddy used to say to tour this store and see items that were at the core of mountain living years ago. The old preserved buildings have a certain aroma to them of tobacco, salt cured meat and of dried fruit ( apples ) as they were referred to. Almost forgot the leather smell and kerosene for lamps. A trip back in time.

  • Reply
    Ethel
    August 2, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    I don’t know how I missed this post, what an amazing “time out of time” experience for you! It gives one chills, doesn’t it? Something similar happened with my great-grandmother’s house. Her parents had built the house when they married in 1901 and she had lived in it most of her life. It sat empty from the early 50’s to the mid-80’s. It was like stepping back in time! She was a bit of a packrat, there were victorian dresses, magazines from the early 20’s through the late 50’s and family papers stretching back to the 1830’s. These places that get lost in time are absolutely magical – if you don’t fall through a rotted floor! Thank you for sharing this one with us!

  • Reply
    Mary Berrong
    July 21, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    Tipper, This is wonderful. I’m a native of Hayesville and live across the Georgia line above Hiawassee. I don’t know where this store is. I thought I knew all about Murphy. Can you give us some directions??? Thanks. I love your site.

  • Reply
    Becky
    July 20, 2011 at 7:40 am

    So cool! I would love to spend a little time poking around in there!

  • Reply
    SandyCarlson (USA)
    July 18, 2011 at 11:20 pm

    Then is now and here. What an amazing experience. Your post drives home how fast time moves, how short life is, how good it is to remember and to know.

  • Reply
    Mamabug
    July 18, 2011 at 9:46 pm

    Tipper this was so wonderful. A virtual treasure trove of the past. I went and viewed the slideshow of all the additional photos of the old store. Amazing!
    And you were right, Misty art is wonderful and unique. I hope more folks will go to Misty’s blog and see her beautiful work.

  • Reply
    Nancy
    July 18, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    That’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. Imagine being able to see all of those wonderful artifacts in new condition. Great post. I loved it. 🙂

  • Reply
    Misty
    July 18, 2011 at 7:56 pm

    I love that you all are as excited about this as I am. I have sources who are looking for grant funding that would assist in preservation. Whether or not the owner wants that, I do not know.

  • Reply
    downthelanegirl
    July 18, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    Be still my heart!! My dream vacation is not a place…but a time from years past.I would love to open a door and step back 50 years in the community I live. I would walk the roads my mother and father walked and see the dear people who’s stories I grew up on. One can only dream! How wonderful this family kept this store as it was.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    July 18, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    Thank you, Misty, for sharing this with us. I look at your pictures and I am speechless. How can this be, it doesn’t even look like there is any dust in the store. It must be in a time warp!
    I can hear voices talking about politics and how the country is going to hell in a hand basket. I can see women with braids pinned to there head. I can hear the sizzle as tobacco is spit into the fire.
    That is an amazing piece of the past!

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    July 18, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    Tipper–a splendid bit of local lore in your guest post. What no one seems to have mentioned is that stores such as this one were once the heart of communities throughout the mountains. There were several of them somewhat in this mold in the Bryson City of my boyhood and one of them, Clampitt’s Hardware, is still in existence.
    Even more memorable though were various crossroads stores I visited as a boy, mainly in connection with rabbit hunting trips with my Dad and others. Sometimes we’d stop at such a place to get directions, buy some sardines or Vienna sausage (essential gourmet items for a proper field lunch), purchase a dope (and anyone who doesn’t know what a dope is needs to enroll in Appalachian Culture and Folk Talk 101), or maybe look for something like a cured ham.
    The checker board was seemingly essential furniture, as was a pot-bellied stove in winter and a drink box cooled by ice in the summer.
    What a treasure of history! Sort of like an insect in amber, it is captured for posterity and takes us back to a world we have lost. And kudos to Billy Ray for teaching his students Appalachian culture in a practical way, something which is all too often lacking in higher education.
    Jim Casada
    http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com

  • Reply
    Anne
    July 18, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    What a treasure trove of pure history is in that store..The angels must have been guarding the door of that store for it to be totally intact after being locked up right on the edge of a highway for 79 years!!
    Do you reckon that anyone has suggested that the family open the store as a museum??
    Down here, way out in the country of Southern Louisiana, there are several ancient stores that have been preserved with every thimble still in it’s display box, as it were…and they are open on special occasions for the public to peek into the past for a day..
    Perusing those photos, I could almost ‘hear’ Saturday shopping day conversations, ‘see’ a little fellow on tip toes deciding which new marble shooter to choose, and just imagine the souls that had spent time in there purchasing their every day necessities, which today we would label “collectibles or antiques of great value”..
    Oh my, a place like this, where time has stood still, makes my heart skip a beat..What a delight it would be to spend hours in there, just looking unto your heart’s content..
    We will be vacationing in the Murphy area this fall..I hope we will, by chance, pass by this piece of history, be able to stop a minute, and dream a bit of all the people who have crossed that threshhold..
    Thank you for sharing with us, Tipper..Once again, you have provided a bright spot in my day!

  • Reply
    Tom
    July 18, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    Thanks Misty and Tipper! How I would love to see this store and be transported back to a simpler place and time.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    July 18, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    This is absolutely wonderful. I hope it can be protected always. When I was a little girl we had two of these stores in the area. One was a little grocery with a board floor & the people’s house was attached to it. Stock was on shelves around the walls.
    The other store was more a general store like the one in this story. They carried credit accounts for the farmers & had everything from fabric to shoes.
    I remember being fascinated by the bolts of cloth–remember my grannie making me a dress on her peddle sewing machine from some of that fabric. They had cut a paper pattern to make it by & I loved the “paper” dress. I still have a doll dress she made for me so many years ago.
    This same store provided much of the sugar that made the famous moonshine from the area. In a research article yrs. later, the owner denied this even though many had witnessed the sacks being unloaded from the train stop down the hill behind the store. If you look for Medon, Tn. you can read this story.
    My daddy was a moonshiner & a bootlegger like most of the men in the area & a few yrs. ago while Mama was still able to get around, we walked downhill behind the little cemetery to the spring where he had one of his stills.
    Well, haven’t I been wandering? Thanks for this wonderful article & the memories it brought back
    Wanda

  • Reply
    Ed Myers
    July 18, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    Wow! No cobwebs, or dust, or apparent insect or water damage. Someone clearly loves it and its former proprietor dearly, a reminder that love is indeed expressed in many ways.

  • Reply
    Ken
    July 18, 2011 at 11:59 am

    Tipper,
    I really enjoyed this “Touch of the Past” from Misty. Thank you.
    I can relate to most of these
    commodities, especially the old
    ‘backer’ cans. Many times have I
    filled those Prince Albert cans
    with baby waspers and caught my
    fill of trout. Thanks for all
    the photos and memories…Ken

  • Reply
    Jen
    July 18, 2011 at 11:12 am

    Thank you Misty and Tpper! What a wonderfulk treasure this is. I truly hope it stays that way and can be shared for many more people. Such a piece of American history…think I could spend hours there.

  • Reply
    Kimberly Burnette-Dean
    July 18, 2011 at 9:54 am

    Incredible!!! I would love to see the store in person!!

  • Reply
    Bob Adcock
    July 18, 2011 at 9:24 am

    Reminds me of Bennet Pate’s store in Amboy, Georgia, down in wiregrass country. It was about two miles from my Grandparents farm and the next closest store was ten miles away. It was a sad day in 1979 when Bennet passed on and the store closed.

  • Reply
    Gary Powell
    July 18, 2011 at 8:38 am

    From my Granny’s house to Eubank, Ky were three little one room country stores that were run by the people who lived there on their farms. They are all closed now, and the old buildings torn down or used for storage. I guess back then they weren’t close enough together to actually compete with each other. Cars weren’t that common and roads were creek rock unless it rained, then they were creek rock and mud. Most people would send the kids to pick up what they needed. We wouldn’t think of doing that now.

  • Reply
    Eva M. Wike, Ph.D.
    July 18, 2011 at 8:23 am

    Tipper: WONDERFUL COMMENTARY OF PRECIOUS MEMORIES! I woke my sister, Ida Jane, to ask her WHERE IS THIS STORE LOCATED. She did not know but WANTS TO KNOW! Is it toward Hayesville? I can’t wait to explore more!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Rose C.
    July 18, 2011 at 8:15 am

    Wonderful time piece and untouched by time! I hope they keep this has is and not touch a thing so we can remember those times good or bad!

  • Reply
    kat
    July 18, 2011 at 8:02 am

    Am shocked that the store hasn’t been vandalized!! That family really has a treasure. Would love to be able to see something like it.

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    July 18, 2011 at 7:58 am

    Oh my! What a treasure! Thank you for sharing this.

  • Reply
    B f
    July 18, 2011 at 7:56 am

    this really takes me back tipper keep up the good work
    we dont ever get tired of the old time ways , true … the times were hard but much better than these days
    everyone has got into this electronic age including me but i,d love to go back to just one day when i thought we had far too much to be done ,i,d do it gladly now and love everyone and be glad to show it

  • Reply
    Grandpa Ken
    July 18, 2011 at 7:43 am

    Amazing how could this still be untouched. Can it be kept that way?

  • Reply
    dolores
    July 18, 2011 at 7:21 am

    Such an incredible piece of history. Everything looks like it is ready to be sold. I would enjoy going through a place of that nature.

  • Reply
    barbara gantt
    July 18, 2011 at 7:15 am

    My Dad and an Uncle ran a store during WWII and for a few years after. They only have a few pictures but the look is similar. What an awesome look at a time unknown to most of us, Thank you, Barbara

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    July 18, 2011 at 7:00 am

    Tipper,
    Thanks Misty for the guest post..and always Tipper for posting it…
    Now then, I have a feeling I have seen this store without knowing where or what it was…ooooh…
    I notice that the folks that visited this store was in need of a lot of “snuff”, Chamber pots of all styles, curling irons and the old glass-type fly sprayers (or not). It is hard for me to distinguish what some of the other items are from the photos..
    I would have thought that there should have been some old glass snuff jars as well as tin snuff cans…I am surprised that there wasn’t a green base bottle on at least one of the fly spayers…As far as the chamber pots..Usually the porcelain (not granite ones) would be sold in sets including a chamber pot and lid, soap dish, wash bowl and water pitcher plus a brush holder.. This tells me that he sold what the customers were asking for or needed since it was a small country store…
    Were there any washboards..metal or glass. Were there any sythes large or small, model T Ford tools or wrenches..oil cans for home, machines or tractors..
    I could go on and on…
    Tell the folks that own the place to “LOCK IT DOWN” and put a guard there or open it as a museum…I love it and don’t ever change it no matter what some “picker” wants to buy…It is a time capsule and should be saved…Like the sign states…
    OPENED JUNE 13, 1884…On this sign could added as a true statement!
    “WE DOZE BUT NEVER CLOSE”
    Thanks Tipper and Misty..

  • Reply
    GrannyPam
    July 18, 2011 at 6:21 am

    What a wonderful treasure. So glad you got to see it.

  • Reply
    John
    July 18, 2011 at 4:33 am

    That’s amazing. I’ve only ever seen things like that in museums of rural life where the merchandise has been collected from a variety of sources. But to have the untouched original – that’s unbelievable.
    Thank you,Tipper. Thank you, Misty.

  • Leave a Reply