Wednesday, August 29, 2012

My great-grandfather's Kennedy Country Store ... Alleghany County, North Carolina

My mother's family has deep roots in Alleghany County, North Carolina, where they settled in the mountains just over the state line from Virginia and outside of Sparta, NC. Drive the back roads and you'll see lots of Kennedys.

Cross the New River from Grayson County, Virginia, into North Carolina's Alleghany County, and follow the winding country roads to an area called Turkey Knob that has been inhabited for generations by my relatives. This is the Kennedy Country Store, started in the 1880s by my great-great-grandfather.

The Kennedy Store was started by James L. Kennedy -- my grandmother's father -- in the Potato Creek Community in the late 1800s selling peanuts and coffee. He and his son, Carl M. Kennedy, took weekly turns working the store and going home to Turkey Knob Community to farm.

Around 1907, Kennedy Store was moved to a wooden building in Turkey Knob Community across the road from its present location at the intersection of Mount Carmel Road and Turkey Knob Road. Part of the old store stood in its original place until 2008 when it became necessary to tear it down from years of wear. The existing store was build in 1937.

Carl M. Kennedy eventually became the operator of the store, along with his wife Drucy Hash Kennedy. The store served the Turkey Knob and other neighboring communities including some in  Virginia.

Kennedy Store served as a true country store and trading post to people for miles around. Life here was often hard for people whose living was made chiefly from farming or copper and iron mining. A store that offered supplies and services was essential to survival for the hardy people who lived here.

Memorabilia from those years can be seen today in the store.

As Carl and Drucy continued to operate the store, they added country ham curing to their business. Carl would buy up hams from farmers around in Alleghany and neighboring counties and bring them to Turkey Knob to process and cure. He sold the cured hams at Kennedy Store and to many restaurants in North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and Texas. Mr. Carl, as many called him, ran his business until 1970.

The Kennedy Tartan colors....

Eula Kennedy Hauser (pictured on this calendar cover) -- youngest daughter of Carl -- and husband Holt Hauser operated the store for about 15 years after Carl and Drucy became older. 

After Carl and Holt's deaths, McDale, Carl's youngest son, and his wife Iva Mae ran the store until it closed in 1988 when McDale's health began to fail

Kennedy Store was open continuously from its opening until this closing, making it possibly the longest operating store in Alleghany County. 

Many of James L. Kennedy's descendants are still living in Turkey Knob near Kennedy Store, and others -- like myself -- stop by when we are visiting the area.

During the years that the store was closed, people were often spotted taking pictures and posing on the porch. People got a real feeling for the past as the peeked in the windows to get a glimpse of the old counters and shelves that once held precious and needed supplies for the hard-working people of the area.

In October 2011, fourth and fifth generation family members, with much help from "Aunt Eula," reopened Kennedy Store ... 24 years after the closing in 1988. 

They hoped to bring back that same good old feeling today that folks used to get when visiting Kennedy Store years ago.

Pictured is the Southern States Cooperative roster from the early 1960s.

The store offers antiques, art, and handcrafted goods consigned by many talented people from the local area.

The usual snacks ...

... packaged sandwiches ...

... drinks, and groceries can also be purchased along with old fashioned candy, homemade jellies and jams, gift baskets, goat milk soap, and jewelry.

My mom was fascinated during out visit in June 2012, and excited that family memorabilia was on display and the store's doors were again open. The store was started by her grandfather on her mother's side. My cousin Joan has spent hours working to reopen the store, a much different experience than when we were little girls running and giggling up and down the aisles while Uncle Holt watched with an amused look on his face.

My grandmother married James L. Osborne, a farmer from Grayson County, Virginia, and moved away from the Turkey Knob Community of North Carolina. She and my grandfather eventually moved from the Depression-ravaged mountains of southwestern Virginia to Chesterfield County outside Richmond where they raised their 10 children. However, she never forgot her roots, and she and my grandfather visited their relatives in the Virginia and North Carolina mountains for the rest of their lives. Both passed away in the 1960s.

Horse and farm supplies can also be found at the reopened Kennedy Store.

Take a trip to this beautiful community ... shop at the Kennedy Store ... and enjoy a visit to the past!

Kennedy Store
15 Turkey Knob Road
Sparta, NC 28675
Phone: (336) 372-4900 or (336) 385-0141
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Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
Historical text by Joan Kennedy
June 2012

Contact Lynn Randall Mitchell: /

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