Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Stewart's Place

Kendall Stewart started his farm after WWII.  He helped his brother Brownley, a newly minted carpenter, build a two-story home on the farm.  They shared the home until Brownley built his home across the road.  Kendall continued to add acreage to the farm over time, amassing about a thousand acres.  He raised cattle, milking some for his personal use; he also had a horse, some sheep and goats, and occasionally pigs .  He harvested corn and hay to feed his livestock. (That's how my sister and I learned to drive a John Deere tractor !!! At the end of a full day of making hay my sister and I got paid a quarter for our labor which was immediately spent on a small coke and a candy bar.)

Kendall then built and opened a store right next to Patterson Creek Road to provide necessary provisions for a five-mile radius (so those in the community didn't have to go to the Stottlemeyer or Porter stores in Medley, to the Weaver or Wilson stores in Burlington, or even further to Keyser, Petersburg, Romney,or Moorefield.).  He called the store Stewart's Place.  At least once a month he went to Keyser and Cumberland to get supplies.  The Stroehmann bakery, Coca Cola and Pepsi trucks made regular deliveries.  The store also served as a social spot for local farmers to discuss farming experiences, politics, etc. each evening.  And on Friday and Saturday nights in the late 1950s it was a hang-out for blacks from Keyser, Romney, Moorefield, and Petersburg.  He had a jukebox, pinball machine, and table shuttle board for entertainment.  He served soft drinks, beer and some food.  (I assume a BYOB policy covered everything else since the place was packed and lively!!!)  But by the mid-1960s it was just a store.

Kendall was constantly on the move.  He gave meaning to the phrase:  Make hay while the sun shines.  You would hear the pickup or the tractor at six o'clock every morning.  He would work until at least six o'clock each evening, many times later.  He never weighed more than 150 pounds.  He couldn't sit still for longer than fifteen minutes.  He even ate standing up at the counter in the store.

Because the store was almost on the county line the school bus parked there and it was the first and last stop for the local children.  My sister, brother and I would go to the store early each morning to take Uncle Kendall our dad's newspaper from the previous day; in return he would give us a nickle.  Then we would board the bus at seven o'clock and we were returned to the store at four-thirty at the end of our school day.

My last big event at Stewart's Place was Uncle Kendall's 1978 birthday party.  It was the first time I could get a picture of all six Stewart brothers together; I believe it was also the last picture of them together.  (Kendall was very camera-shy.)

The store remained open until Kendall's death December 31, 1979.  Even though he was gone, the plan for the first and only Stewart Family Reunion at the store in 1980 continued in his honor.  It was a bitter-sweet success; cousins, some of whom had never met before, came together in the only known community where Fortune and Rebecca Payne Stewart lived and raised their sixteen children and Homer and Mary Elizabeth Smith Stewart lived and raised their seven children.

After the settling of Kendall's estate, the store became the home of his oldest brother Wilson Stewart and his wife Edna until the 1989 Christmas tragedy, a fire which took the life of Edna.  The structure was totally destroyed and eventually the ruins were removed.

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