Middlesex County, Virginia has an area of approximately 211 square miles, and is made up of several unincorporated communities.
For our Country Store tour, we are going to begin “Up The County”, as many locals have referred to it, meaning the northwest area of the county, including the areas of Urbanna, Saluda, Church View, Water View, and Jamaica.
Though the actual age of the store is unknown, ledgers and documents were discovered, including a ledger dating back to 1899 documenting how many people in the county had open lines of credit with E.A. Burch and Son, which suggests that it is well over 120 years old. The Burch Family ran the store for many years until a longtime employee of Bob Burch took it over.
The ledger tells something of what life was like at the store. It shows that in November of 1899, Sarah Braxton charged a pair of shoes for $1.15, a “pig head” for 24 cents and a pair of pants for 75 cents. She paid for a portion of her purchase in December of 1899 with a basket of corn, almost two bushels of bush gray beans, and a dozen eggs. James Burl Jr. paid his bill by working for the Burches. The ledger states that Burl received 17 cents towards his bill for bringing an oxen load of grain from the creek; 25 cents for bringing a load of hay by oxen owned by Bill garner to shore; and 17 cents for bringing a load of goods from the Water View steamboat wharf. Burl also worked four days picking pea vines, worked a half-day running a cultivator, and worked one day plowing and hauling hay.
Miss E.L. Burch’s father, William R. Burch, clerked in the store during the early part of the century. Miss Burch now lives in Water View. She recalls that the store had a credit system whereas watermen and farmers would receive goods by credit most of the year, and when their harvests came I they would pay off their bills. Miss Burch recalls a wire chicken coop out back where people using the “barter system” would bring chickens to pay off their bills.
Dragon Run Store
The Dragon Run Store was originally built in 1913 in Church View, Virginia. The two-story building, named after the nearby ancient cypress-filled swamp, is complete with rolling ladders and dozens of wooden shelves, started undergoing a makeover in 1913 to bring back its charm. This country store houses the very first elevator in the county that is original to the building. To see interior/exterior photos throughout the restoration of this building, head over to the Dragon Run Store’s blog at https://dragonruncountrystore.tumblr.com/
The Neale and Smither Store was a busy general merchandise store at the county seat of Saluda during the early part of the 20th century. Claude Neale was a “prominent” Saluda merchant who ran the large two-story merchandise store in Saluda on the corner next to the courthouse.
Neale’s store had been in business for 40 years in 1934 and Mr. Neale had been postmaster in Saluda since 1914.
Green’s store was operated by Robet F. Green and it was located at Pine Tree, between Urbanna and Remlik. “Having served as clerk for ten years under the capable supervision of J. M. Dericux… Robert brought to his business the ability acquired through a long period of training. Added to his natural capabilities, this experience made him an A-1 merchant” the Sentinel said.
Harper’s Store was one of Urbanna’s finest general merchandise stores and it was located on Cross Street at the current site of the Pure Gas Station. Originally established under the ownership of L. F. Harper and Company, the business was started in 1907 and taken over in its entirety by Harper in 1916, and in 1934 it was in its heyday. “A large store in the heart of the town, Harper’s carries an extensive stock of general merchandise, in the sale of which the policy of high quality as the lowest price is adhered to it.”
J. W. Hurley of Hurlock, Maryland came to Middlesex shortly after the Civil War buying oysters from the Eastern Shore shucking houses. He liked the area and moved to Urbanna in the 1880s and opened J. W. Hurley & Son Seafood on the creek at the foot of Virginia Street. Hurley’s business flourished as the “King of Them All”.
Marshall’s Drug Store
Thomas F. “Doc” Marshall moved to Urbanna in 1929, purchased Richardson’s Drug on Cross Street and opened “Marshall’s Drug Store” During the next 57 years, Doc Marshall became a fixture in the life of the county. His ever present half-smoked cigar and the “Meet Your Friends Here” trademark at Marshall’s Drug typified the atmosphere that has made his store Urbanna’s everyday social gathering place.
R. S. Bristow’s Store
R. S. Bristow’s Store, or “Bristow’s” as it is now commonly referred to, is the oldest operating store in the county. R. S. Bristow, Sr. opened his doors as a general merchandize store in Urbanna in 1876. The present store building was constructed in 1898 and, during the early years, cord wood, coal, coal oil, and railroad ties were bought and sold at Bristow’s along with a full line of groceries and meat. Today, Bristow’s Store carries fashion & accessories for everyone!
Chowning, Larry S., Archie Soucek, and Pat DePina. Signatures in Time: a Living History of
Middlesex County, Virginia. Middlesex County, VA: Middlesex County, Virginia, 2012.
Chowning, Larry S. “Small Country Stores, Seafood Industry Were Booming in 1934.”
Southside Sentinel. July 26, 1990.
Visit The Middlesex County Museum
When it is safe to do so, the Middlesex County Museum will re-open its doors to the public, at which point, we will invite you to visit our Country Store Collection. In the meantime, subscribe to our mailing list for more Country Store articles, and other local history.
Tour Middlesex County
Middlesex County Museum is proud to be a part of the Museums of Middlesex! Visit their website for a map of all of our know Country Store locations, as well as our Historical Markers! https://museumsofmiddlesex.com/middlesex-county-virginia-country-stores/
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