By JOSETTA GRIFFITH
FNB Chronicle Editor
As with most towns in the late 1940s and early 1950s, there was a movement of businesses away from downtown to suburban areas. This could have resulted from the post-war suburban housing project "boom" and the inherent need of these families for groceries, gasoline, household items and clothing convenient to where they lived. This suburban movement in Oneida was toward Oak Grove. It was rarely referred to as a suburb, though, it has always been referred to as the "Oak Grove Section."
Because of the huge oak trees that dominate the locale, and the original site of Bethlehem Baptist Church in particular, is probably how the area came to be referred to as Oak Grove. The Oak Grove Section encompasses the general area of three-tenths of a mile circle from traffic light #4 on Alberta Avenue (Highway 27).
This story focuses on the businesses that were in existence or built in Oak Grove in the 1940s and 1950s and how they have evolved.
In 1888, a wood frame building was erected at what is now the corner of Main and Alberta (Highway 27) streets in Oak Grove. This was the fourth location of the Bethlehem Baptist Church which was organized in 1834 at the head of Buffalo Creek in what was then Campbell County. The second location was in a log house on Pine Hill and the third site was in a school house near the present Oneida City Park and lake.
For 97 years the church remained in this location, undergoing countless remodeling and building projects. (See accompanying story in this issue of FNB Chronicle.)
When the Rev. ROY BLEVINS came to pastor Bethlehem Baptist Church in 1937 he was 33 years old. He remained pastor until his death in 1984. Under his leadership, the church began to experience a period of growth which has yet to cease. And along with the growth of its membership, the church building itself began to undergo a series of changes, enlargements and additions, culminating in the present building that was dedicated in 1981.
Prior to the late 1940s, there were only a sprinkling of businesses in what is now known as the Oak Grove section. According to H. CLAY SMITH’s Dusty Bits of the Forgotten Past, one of the oldest stores in Oak Grove was sold in 1904 to FRANK RAYNOR and was located near the Oak Grove Church. It has been told many times that he would never sell the last of any item in his store, remarking that "If I did, I would be out!"
Some time during 1927, Mr. MILT TERRY built a little log cabin restaurant on the corner of Highway 27 and the Litton Road, where a modern building is now located and occupied by Cross Medical Equipment, (the site has been occupied by: PAUL JOHNSON’s Barber Shop, Dr. McDonald’s Office, along with the Session Judge’s Office, a clothing store, Porter’s Barber Shop, Kern’s Bread Outlet, a trophy shop and an ice cream shop.)
Also, Mr. SMITH recounts, The W.A. Terry Building was first erected by MILT TERRY (JOHN MOORE recalls this was erected by his wife, ESTELLE TERRY MOORE), and was situated near the "V" just off Main Street, facing the highway . . . it has been occupied by several people and various businesses. It had first been a general store operated by Mr. TERRY himself, then it was run by his family.
and it became the first restaurant on Highway 27 in Oneida and was known as "Service Cafe". This was from 1926 to 1934. JOHN MOORE recalls a tourist court near the cafe that his wife ESTELLE had built, with three sleeping rooms and one bathroom for all renters to share.
Mrs. OVIA CROSS converted the place into a grocery store and general store, then in 1943 sold to LUKE COFFEY. Here LUKE and his father, HARRY, stayed with the business during most of World War II before moving to the Shoemaker grocery building. The store building was later occupied by TOMMY JEFFERS.
Mr. SHERMAN PHILLIPS and his son, FRED, built a store in the Oak Grove section at the junction of Litton and Grave Hill roads. This business gave way at the death, in 1926, of Mr. PHILLIPS, and his son took up carpentering.
In the early 1930s, Robbins brick payers were laid on about; a mile of Highway 27, which included the Oak Grove Section and were evident (see accompanying picture) in a picture in the late 1950s. Going from gravel to brick made the sounds of traffic traveling on the highway seem extremely noisy.
By 1937 the PRESTON SHOEMAKER-and-wife business in Mountain View had grown to where they decided to build another store in Oneida, as they had several Oneidians as customers of the Mountain View Store. That same year, the SHOEMAKERs bought a plot of ground (in Oak Grove) from the DAVIS heirs and built their first general store. The business grew at such a rapid rate that they put up two other buildings, one for a hardware department and the other to house clothing. (This was a forerunner of our "strip malls" of today.) That was in 1946. LUKE COFFEY leased the grocery store from the SHOEMAKERs and ran it until 1961. In later years a beauty salon was added and was operated by CHESTER
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SEXTON, then EVA STANLEY, and later LORENE GOSNELL. Also, a photo shop was added which was operated to begin with by DEXTER BURKE, son of JOHN BURKE. Mr. SHOEMAKER operated a garage and a Pontiac dealerships, also part of the store building.
JOHN LITTON leased part of the building in 1974 that fronted on Litton Road and operated Big John’s Supermarket. In 1986, with the help of the fire department, the original Shoemaker grocery building was burned to make way for the current occupant, Big John’s Foodette. Big JOHN LITTON was killed in
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a freak accident the day after the burning of the store building in 1986, Today, a garage, video store and a merchandise liquidation store share space with Big Johns foodette in part of the building which began a. Shoemaker’s General Merchandise Cash Store almost 60 years ago.
When FLOYD SHOEMAKER, son of PRESTON and JOSIE SHOEMAKER, returned from his service as a pilot during World War II, he and his wife, HELEN MARTIN SHOEMAKER, built a home at the corner of Davis Lane and Alberta Avenue. After many remodelings and additions due to the needs of a family of eight children. It doesn’t even resemble the way it looked in the beginning in the early 1940s. It’s a comfortable home today for HELEN, filled to the brim with interesting memorabilia collected over a lifetime of raising a family, traveling and keeping in contact with the servicemen with whom FLOYD served during the war,
A. Z. LONG came to Oneida in 1924 from near Jellico, Tennessee and operated a wholesale and retail business near the Tibbals (now Hartco) mill in South Oneida. In 1939 and 1940, Mr. LONG moved to Main Street, built a modern, two story structure consisting of two stores downstairs with large upstairs space, end carried the full line of a department store. In 1927, he had erected Oneida’s first Holiness Church on property he owned on Highway 27 in the Oak Grove community.
Mr. LONG was the pastor of the church and gave much of his time to it. He took over the old church grounds at Oak Grove, which was in a large grove, and built a now store with the following departments: furniture, hardware, building supplies, clothing, and other lines. This was in 1947, and also in that year he built the new Holiness Church on Second Street.
BILL PRICE came to Scott County In 1939 from Texas during what was referred to as the area’s second "oil boom", and married Miss ZONA ROSSER. He opened the ‘B&Z Grill and Rooms" on Highway 27 in September 1947 in what Bill remembers as, "in the country".
There were no business neighbors close by and very few residences! The rooms, in 1947, consisted of apartments upstairs over the restaurant. The motel rooms were added in 1950. Mr. Price ran the business for 36 years. The restaurant building was torn down in 1986 and the motel now goes by the name of Classic Inn and is owned by KENNY and TOBY MAYS.
In 1948, FRED ELLIS and his wife, DOROTHY, opened a confectionery known as Ellis Sundries. Patent medicines, household medical supplies and cosmetics were among the items offered for sale, and a soda fountain that provided a "hang-out" for teenagers and delicious meals for the lunch crowd. With the advent of supermarkets and aisles dedicated to sundry items, Mr. ELLIS began looking for other areas to venture into that would enhance his sundries and fountain business. In the early 1960 he added the pharmacy, complete with a licensed pharmacist who filled prescriptions.
DANNY CROSS, licensed pharmacist, bought the drugstore from Mr. and Mrs. ELLIS in June of 1964. Danny’s Drug’s remained in this building until it burned in 1975. Miraculously, in three days, a temporary facility for Danny’s Drugstore was established across the street in the Shoemaker building. Construction of a new, modern facility that housed Danny’s Drugs and LORENE GOSNELL’s Beauty Shop, was completed on the site that included the corner
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service station, which was built by LUKE COFFEY and EUGENE DAUGHERTY. Among the operators of the service station over the years were: BILL MAYS, HAROLD STRUNK, HOWARD SEXTON, JACK COFFEY and SCOTTIE CARSON. GEORGE ROARK had operated the service station since 1956 until he built a new Amoco Service Station in 1965, just south of the War Memorial Building, across from the A. Z. Long Building.
In 1989, the offices of OMEDCO located in the drugstore building and Danny’s Drugs relocated in the space added on to the building occupied by Dr. BRUCE COFFEY. Dr. COFFEY’s Office is the remodeled home built by HAROLD and MAUDE CROSS, located on Main Street just behind the drugstore. This property was the homeplace of MILDRED STANFILL SHARP and her family. (See accompanying pictures.)
On May 1, 1949, the American Legion’s War Memorial Building at Oak Grove was dedicated. Besides being the headquarters of American Legion Post #136, the building has served many other businesses, the Employment Office, insurance agencies and a pre-school.
On January 1, 1951, the Scott Motel was opened by RUSSELL TROXEL, HAROLD CROSS and LONNIE "Rusty" WEST. It was managed by LONNIE WEST and also had the services of the Scott Restaurant, owned by RUSSELL TROXEL and operated by Mrs. BILL (HANNA) NEWPORT. The motel was subsequently owned and operated for about 25 years by ARGIL and BEULAH BYRD, and they were also longtime operators of the restaurant. RALPH PRICE was interim owner before the property ownership passed to Dr. BRUCE COFFEY and is currently being used for medical and health related office space.
The property now occupied by the enterprises of DAVID ELLIS was the site of the beautiful homes of Mr. and Mrs. PRESTON SHOEMAKER and the Rev, and Mrs. ROY BLEVINS.
This has been a glimpse of how Oak Grove developed from farmland, complete with corn fields and hog pens, to a thriving business district. Although still identified as the Oak Grove Section, and still a viable business district, it now is an area on the way to yet another business area that developed further from "downtown". Development of the "four-lane section" of Oneida is another story! The main resources for information contained in this story came from H. CLAY SMITH’s Dusty Bits of the Forgotten Past, a History of Scott County. Some amplifications or explanations to Mr. SMITH’s information was added because the book was published in 1985, well over twenty years after he finished his manuscript and ownerships and relationships have a way of changing over time. Interviews with the following individuals helped confirm dates and clarify details that were a little vague. Thanks to: LUKE COFFEY, BILL PRICE, HELEN SHOEMAKER, ADRIENNE BAKER, PAT PHILLIPS MAYS, TERRIE SUE CROSS, GEORGE ROARK, MILDRED SHARP, Bethlehem Baptist Church, JOHN MOORE, BEULAH BYRD, DANNY CROSS and JIM LITTON.
FNB Chronicle, Vol. 8, No. 1 –Fall 1996
First National Bank
P.O. Box 4699
Oneida, TN 37841
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