By Helen Virginia Martin Shoemaker
Special To The FNB Chronicle
Every person has, throughout their lives, angels that look after and take care of them. A lonesome road in Georgia in 1944 as I traveled from Avon Park, Florida to Scott County after my husband of three years had left for World War II duty, produced an angel. A giant of a man, dark as the night but a bright ray of relief as he repaired the tire on my 1940 Pontiac. Two young girls and a weary mom trying to get to the safety of home and family to await the return of their father and her husband.
Other angels have made their way into my life. My first angel was my mother, ETTA MARTIN. Wisdom, long suffering and love of family were seen through her life. Next to my mother, the person that was an angel not only to me, but all that she knew, was my mother-in-law, Josie Jane Ellis Shoemaker.
JOSIE JANE ELLIS was born July 6, 1894 to SANDERS and VADIE PARKER ELLIS in the Black Creek community of Scott County. On October 18, 1918 she became a Shoemaker, marrying WALTER PRESTON SHOEMAKER, also of the Black Creek area. They lived their entire lives raising their family and operating successful businesses in Scott County. Bethlehem Baptist Church was where she could be found on Sunday mornings and evenings. On December 31, 1966 at the age of 72 she passed away, leaving family members and friends to mourn her death.
My relationship with Scott County and the Shoemakers began in October 1932 when the MARTIN family moved from Fitzpatrick, West Virginia to New River, Tennessee. My father, Edwin D. Martin, was a lumber grader for W. M. Ritter Lumber Company and had moved to this small Tennessee community and the Ritter Lumber camp to help ship out Scott County lumber. My first memory of the SHOEMAKERs came from Flora Keen, a girl friend. She mentioned the son of the SHOEMAKERs, FLOYD HURSTLE. The SHOEMAKERs were the family that owned a big grocery store at Mountain View. He was dating a friend and FLORA implied that she was a lucky girl because FLOYD had a car. It was not until my sophomore year at Huntsville High School that I would meet my future husband and begin my relationship with his mother. It was a blind date and as I remember it, I wasn’t very impressed. But that changed.
It was a sunny Sunday afternoon when I first met my future in-laws. Being busy at school kept us from seeing each other very much. The relationship grew and FLOYD asked me to marry him and my answer was a firm "when you graduate." We were married in a sunrise wedding (7:00 a.m.) on July 2, 1941 by the Rev. ROY BLEVINS, FLOYD’s uncle. The ceremony was held in the dining room of the W. M. Ritter Lumber Camp boarding house. This began the long relationship I had with my mother-in-law, JOSIE JANE SHOEMAKER. I called my mother-in-law Mother SHOEMAKER — we were best friends and never in our lives had a disagreement.
Mother SHOEMAKER was a woman before her time. She had a great sense of humor and was totally honest. She was educated at Tennessee Technological University and became a successful teacher, riding horseback to her school room. A successful merchandiser, many times she was misunderstood because everything she touched seemed to turn into gold. The worst cook ever — actually couldn’t make Jello — and hated housework by her own admission. Up until her grandchildren came along, Mother SHOEMAKER cared little for her appearance. However, a noticeable change occurred just about the time the first grandchildren were born. She began to curl her hair, she chose her clothing more carefully, she became interested in accessories, her sense of humor heightened and she actually seemed to become younger!
The contribution of the SHOEMAKER family to the business community of Oneida and Scott County are numerous. Mother and Dad SHOEMAKER were always in business and there had been no extra time in their lives. During the war, PRESTON operated a saw mill in the lower end of Scott County in support of the war effort. Mother SHOEMAKER knitted and sold men’s socks on Saturdays at the Courthouse in Huntsville. Her customers would line up and wait for her to arrive with a new crop of socks. The Shoemaker Store in Mountain View was built in the early 1930s and expanded to the Shoemaker Cash Store in 1937 in the Oak Grove section of Oneida. A chain store in Scott County, unbelievable! These were general merchandise stores with both dry goods and groceries. The Oak Grove business continued to grow and expanded into Oneida’s first mini-mall. The first addition to the Shoemaker Cash Store was a beauty shop, then a photographic studio. In the late 1940s the building that housed Shoemaker’s Cash Store was leased to LUKE COFFEY, another longtime Scott County resident, as a grocery store. Mother SHOEMAKER then built on Shoemaker’s Department Store, which she operated, and Shoemaker’s Hardware and Furniture Store, operated by FLOYD.
The department store was a very modern store, the first to have mannequins to display clothing, a full service shoe department and no credit. Her motto was "owe no man, and let no man owe you." Although that would probably not be very practical in today’s business world, it worked for Mother SHOEMAKER. There may not have been any credit but there was always compassion and love for the community and its people. Shoemaker’s Department Store would furnish clothing for the deceased at no charge to the family and if a family was in need there was always help. Mother SHOEMAKER would rather give away merchandise if the need was real than be owed by a family. Another addition to the Oak Grove mini-mall was Shoemaker Motors. Dad SHOEMAKER began with a small building and a few used cars and it became the Pontiac-GMC dealership.
Mother SHOEMAKER retired from business but kept really busy. She began several hobbies with each hobby eventually turning into a home business. She grew and sold African violets, building a large room onto her home with shelved glass walls for growing the plants. She became a dog breeder, raising Chihuahuas, Pekingese, and Pomeranians. There was also a parakeet business. A large parakeets house with six walk-in cages with a screened outdoor cage attached to each was built between her house and Shoemaker Motors. People came from miles around to purchase her plants, animals and birds.
The Oak Grove mini-mall was a part of the Oneida business community for many years. In the 1970s, JOHN TOM LITTON made FLOYD an offer he could not refuse. The Big John’s Company changed the face of the Oak Grove section by tearing down the buildings built by Mother and Dad Shoemaker and replacing them. The new buildings housed a modern grocery store and was later changed into the Big John’s Foodette and several other businesses.
The impact of JOSIE and PRESTON SHOEMAKER on our community will never be forgotten. They left behind them a proud heritage, a loving family, and volumes of memories. The lives they touched and the love they showed will affect Scott County and Oneida for years to come.
FNB Chronicle, Vol. 8, No. 1 – Fall 1996
First National Bank
P.O. Box 4699
Oneida, TN 37841
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