W.H. McKinney Grocery – Elmwood


These photos and story by D. Mitchell Pettross

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W.H. “Henry” and Martha “Etta” Grisham McKinney opened a general mercantile business in the late 1920s to serve the Elmwood community. The original store was located near Snow Creek across from a site that later became the Fay Lewis Store (later occupied by Taft Massey Grocery). The original building is no longer standing. Etta ran the store while Henry concentrated on his other business interests of blacksmith work and general contracting of houses. For a time their sons, Jess and Bonnell, ran a peddler wagon with merchandise from the store.


In the early 1930s the store relocated into the heart of Elmwood. This site was later occupied by Armistead’s Store (later converted to a house in the mid 1970s and torn down to build a new log cabin in the 1990s). Upon graduating from high school, the McKinney’s youngest daughter, Ina B., became the storekeeper while Henry operated his blacksmith shop beside the store (no longer standing).

W.H. McKinney Grocery - early 1940's


Henry built a new general merchandise store directly across U.S. Highway 70 in the early 1940s on the site of the former Elmwood Institute. Being a general contractor, Henry built the store, plus a blacksmith shop and a nearby house for his family. Over the years this store was expanded with several additions, including public restrooms and a side storage room. (The blacksmith shop was located on today’s Clarence Lane, but is no longer standing).


For many decades McKinney Grocery served as a “one stop shop” in the Elmwood community and a favorite place to visit with neighbors over a soft drink. Before the construction of the interstate system in the later 1960s, U.S. Highway 70 was the primary route heading east to Knoxville. A Trailways bus stopped daily at the store and transported riders eastward.


After Henry McKinney’s death in 1959 ownership of the business transferred to Ina B. and her sister, Odelle McKinney Ramsey, and the name changed to W. H. McKinney Company. Odelle began working part-time to help Ina B. in the store. In July 1975 a fire damaged the interior of the business, but the store reopened a month later with renovations.  When Odelle died in 1991 her partnership in the business transferred to her daughter, Billie Ramsey Pettross, who operated the business with her aunt until the business closed in 1996.

W.H. McKinney Grocery - early 1990's


McKinney Grocery and it operator, Ina B., were spotlighted in an August 3, 1989 issue of the Carthage Courier. The feature story was written by Karenna Gore, oldest daughter of former Vice President Albert and Tipper Gore. In 1967 W. H. McKinney Company was recognized by the Texaco Company for 30 years of continuous selling of Texaco products.


After over a half century of operating in the Elmwood community, W. H. McKinney Company closed on June 8, 1996 when the contents of the store were sold at auction. The store building and McKinney home still stand today. Fond memories are still recalled by family and friends who have passed through the doors of McKinney Grocery in Elmwood.


I am D. Mitchell (Mitch) Pettross  the son of  Glenn A. Pettross, who volunteers at the Smith County Heritage Museum. My mother is Billie Ramsey Pettross, whose family owned McKinney Grocery.


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