Hassell's Store Drew Civil War
Veterans and Pranksters

by E. A. Green
Used with permission.

The Hassell Store, located west of Gallatin out Red River Road (Hwy. 25 today) at the intersection of Liberty Lane, was typical of many country stores at the turn of the century. The store was built in 1896 by Jack Baker and Jake Gillispie. Gillispie ran the store. On Feb. 17, 1901, he opened a small post office in a corner of the store. It became known as the Opal Post Office and served about 250 rural families.

In 1905, Charles G. Hassell bought the store. Soon afterwards, the little post office was closed. Hassell, even back then, did not want to put up with the paperwork that the government required.

Hassell ran his store with authority -- his way. He was a very clean person, always wearing a clean white shirt, neatly pressed trousers and shined black shoes. He would often become irritated if some of the local farmers would mess up his store. He used to get on to them for dropping their shavings, from their whittling, on the floor.

Despite his desire for neatness and cleanliness, Hassell was known as a jolly man. He enjoyed pulling jokes on other people. But he didn't particularly like having them pulled on him. For example, one Halloween, some young fellows in the community got an old buggy and put it on the roof of Hassell's store. This upset Hassell so much that some of his farmer friends offered to take it down for him. But he wouldn't let them. He wanted "The durn fools that put it up there" to come and take it down. It stayed on his roof for about two months.

There were always, like all country stores, community men folks who spent their spare time loafing in the store. Many of these were Civil War Veterans. These old Confederates enjoyed telling tales of their war experiences. One claimed to have advanced the farthest into the Union lines during Gettysburg without being killed or captured. Some of these Confederate veterans were Robert (Bob) F. Lawrence, Rev. John W. Rooker, Capt. A. E. Bell, William P. Baker, Robert B. Estes and G. Bailey Stratton.

There was one man in this group who was a sort of "thorn in the flesh" of the others. He was Union veteran, James M. (Flap) Phillips. He was from Pennsylvania and had married a local girl. During the Civil War, he had been a bugler. Phillips was a pleasant and likeable fellow. He enjoyed their jokes and from time to time, poked at them. He once raised their ire by stating, "I almost ran a bunch of rebels to death one time." Lawrence spoke up and sharply replied, "Phillips, I don't believe a word of that." To which Phillips replied, in good humor, "You see, they were chasing me at the time." In order to get to Hassell's store, Lawrence had to pass by Phillips' house. Every time he did so, Lawrence would walk on the far side of the road, turn his head and look the other way.

On Christmas Eve, it was customary for the farmers in the area to gather at Hassell's store for a little fellowship. They would stand on the porch and shoot off some fireworks. As it was usually cold, they would often go inside to get warm. One time, a young man in the community, Frank Frakes, took a big firecracker, known as "Dynamite," and threw it inside the old stove at Hassell's. Everyone in the store scrambled to get out! In their rush to get out, the men knocked over chairs and broke several items. Hassell, seeing what was happening and knowing that that firecracker would probably blow the old stove to pieces and, perhaps, start a fire, quickly opened the door, grabbed the firecracker with his hand and threw it out among all the men. They all scattered. Hassell was mad as a hornet and ready to shoot Frakes. But Frakes had actually removed the powder from the firecracker. It was harmless and never exploded. They all got a big laugh over that incident.

The Hassell Store burned on Sept. 12, 1922. With it went a way of life that has never returned. He built another store in front of his home but it never regained the "atmosphere" of that old original country store. Hassell died in 1936 at the age of 76.

The Civil War veterans all passed away before Hassell. Rooker and Bell both died in 1913 -- both at 77 years of age. Estes and Stratton died in 1923 --Estes at 87 and Stratton at 79. Lawrence died in 1926 at 89. Baker died in 1928 at 85. And the Union veteran, Phillips, died in 1925 at 85.

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