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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Jonathan Sherwood's General Store In Oregonia

Contributor:
Dallas Bogan on 7 September 2004
Source:
original article by Dallas Bogan
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan


Each village in Warren County had its own identity in early times. Sherwood's store in Oregonia was operated as a landmark business that lasted for 89 years.

In 1848, long before the Civil War, Jonathan Sherwood opened a mercantile business in Oregonia that stood out in excellence for a longer period of time than any other business in the county.

The store was located just north of The Little River Cafe, formerly the Freeport Inn. Frank Sherwood built son of Jonathan the latter as a residence about 1870. A road now passes by the inn, whereas in olden times, when the dwelling was built, the road passed north of the general store.

For all its years the general store was a hustle-bustle type business that served the community well. Old-timers for miles around would travel to execute their business, or just hang around for bits of information from the railroad crowd.

The Little Miami Railroad was completed from Cincinnati to Xenia in 1845. This in all actuality put the little village of Oregonia on the map.

Oregonia first took the name Freeport in 1820, but when it was found that a town of the same name existed in Ohio, the name was changed, in 1845, to Oregon, thus becoming the name of the post office.

However, refusing a name change, the railroad company used the name Freeport and the post office used the name Oregon.

A compromise was made in the fall of 1882 through the efforts of Frank Sherwood and Dr. George W. Henderson, and the name Oregonia was adopted by both parties.

Being positioned within a few feet of the railroad, farmers would bring their livestock and farm produce to Sherwood's store to be loaded and sent to places beyond.

The old country store was the gathering place for young and old alike. For the ones who liked a challenge, checkers was the favorite entertainment. Local gossip and a few fish stories held high priority in the conversations.

Groceries, harnesses, medicines and items too numerous to mention, were either sold or traded. Jonathan also was engaged in milling, hog slaughtering and buying and selling grains.

Blacksmithing and wagon repair also played a large part in the enterprise.

One store advertisement stated, "Freeport is the hub of this part of Warren County."

Jonathan extended credit to all who had a need. At the end of each year, he witnessed the shortcomings of many a friend and simply tore up the outstanding bills.

Whig President Millard Fillmore appointed him Freeport's second postmaster in 1850. He also served two six-year terms as Justice of the Peace.

In 1860, Jonathan sold the store and returned to the farm. This move lasted a short time, for within the next year, he and his son, Frank, started a store in Wellman, best known as Henpeck. This venture lasted a mere six months, and again the Sherwoods returned to Freeport.

Frank Sherwood learned the mercantile business when a lad of 15. He was called "a regular chip off the old block." He carried on the same tradition that the general store was founded on, that of fairness and service to the public.

He always met the needs of the community. The old-fashioned shelves were stocked with canton and red flannels, jeans, calico, cotton batting and hundreds of other items.

Everything in the grocery line was sold from the barrel or keg. Soda crackers, green coffee, New Orleans molasses, "C" sugar (granulated was unknown at the time), spices and other products that gave the facility a pleasant smell, were sold.

In 1862, Frank was appointed station and express agent. He was also elected treasurer of Washington Township.

In later years another generation of the Sherwoods took over the store, namely Jonathan, grandson of the founder. He too shared the same semblance as his ancestors, a tradition that was known far and wide.

Jonathan died in 1937 and the Charlie Bradbury family bought the store. Thus ended a tradition of 89 years of faithful service to the public through the Sherwoods.

Jonathan left a wife and a family of three children. Ruth Sherwood now held the responsibility of raising three children.

She was immediately appointed postmistress with a salary of $75 per month. One child was in college, one in high school, and one in grade school.

She raised her family and retired from the post office in 1962 with 25 years dedicated service to the community.

Much of the information for this article was gathered through the efforts of Frank Sherwood, great-grandson of the founder. He relived for the writer a few moments, sharing his memories of the old store and his experiences therein.

Frank was practically raised in the store. He said his father, Jonathan, taught him to make change before he was tall enough to see into the cash drawer. He would nevertheless reach up and feel his way through the different change compartments.

He said the store building; outhouse and his grandfather's house were all hooked up to the Delco power plant that supplied a total of 32 volts. Every evening his father would go out at dark and start the device. They had two of these and a bank of batteries, which they used for their electrical supply.

Frank says all three kids in the family got their clothes from the store.

The general store and post office were open from 5:30 a.m. until 9 p.m., six days a week, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day.

Frank well remembers the evenings after supper when the men from the community gathered in the store to discuss the day's events, the subject being mostly politics and telling jokes.

He learned a dirty word while mingling with the grown-ups. He was ashamed to tell his parents of this ordeal, but finally he garnered enough nerve to discuss it with his mother.

He hesitatingly asked her, "What's a Democrat?" The word must have sounded pretty bad the way the men folks used it at the store.

Frank recalls that the stove in the building was about six or seven feet tall.

The old egg-box was placed behind the counter. Little profit was made in this undertaking as most folks would bring their eggs in and trade for other necessities. Eggs at this time were bought for about 13 cents a dozen and would sell for 16 to 18 cents a dozen.
Also included in the store was the old candy case with lids that rose from the front. A large collection of arrowheads and trilobites were on display. Neighbor kids would gather them and trade them to the store for sweets.

Salesmen would take the train to Oregonia to trade with the store. They would stay all day and take their meals on the premises. One gentleman regularly stayed the night and caught the early train out.

The old elevator had an array of ropes on which Frank used to climb and play.

Politics played an important part in the choosing of postmasters. Frank remembers the Davey Mason store up the street and moving the post office from one store to another in a wheelbarrow, as politics demanded.

Oregonia had always been in the flood district until the building of the Caesar's Creek Dam Reservoir. A notch was put on the scales at high water during the 1913 flood. However, Frank says the 1959 flood far exceeded the previous high water mark.

The old store was torn down in the middle forties, but lives through the memories of the ones who frequented it. One final note: The old store counter can be found in use at the Golden Lamb Hotel.


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This page created 7 September 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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