Roger C. Davis
Up to and including World War II the country
store and post office were a social/commercial institution that has
remained in rural Gloucester County from the 1850s. Transportation and
goods distribution limited the distance traveled for most people. Radio
and telephone were in their early development stage. People still took
time to “sit a spell” and talk about the war and community news. They
shared their sorrows and hardships when they gathered at the post office
and country store.
The storeowners and operators became the center
of this local information exchange and community structure. The families
became an integral part of Gloucester County.
February 1999, Kimble A. David, architectural historian, prepared a
Final Report, “Country Stores and Rural Post Offices of Gloucester
County.” She reviewed thirty-nine stores, ten at the intensive level, and
documented her findings. Eight stores were determined eligible for
listing on the Virginia Landmarks Register and National Register of
Historic Places by Virginia Department of Historic Resources E-team,
October 1998. These stores are Zanoni Store and Post Office,
Arthur Tab Store and Ware Neck Post Office, Freeport Store and Post
Office, P. E. Muse Store and Coke Post Office, W. E.
and J. Edgar Pointer Store and Bena Post Office, R. P. Gray Store
and Signpine Post Office, Horsley Store and Short Lane Post Office,
and Roanes Store and Post Office.
I have asked Ben Borden to tell us some
history and family lore about some of these stores operated by his
family. Ben is a grandson of Peachy Elbert Muse and
Valentine Haywood who operated the P. E. Muse Stores. We have
a genealogy of the Muse family for those searching this line. A
copy will be placed in the Vertical File of the Virginia Room at the
The heritages of the country stores in
Gloucester have been recorded in pen and ink drawings by Harriet Cowen
and published in two books, “Driving Tour - Gloucester County’s
Country Stores and Post Offices” and “Field Trip Guide for Elementary
Schools.” Mrs. Cowen, a resident of Bena, has captured the
character and beauty of these wonderful country store landmarks. She has
consented to let us publish some of her drawings in this issue.
At the Gloucester Genealogy Society Meeting
held on September 27, 1999, our guest speaker was Mr. Ben Borden, and our
guest artist was Mrs. Harriet Cowen. Ben told about the country stores in
operation in the 1940’s and 50’s, during and immediately after World War
II. He shared information about his grandfather, Peachy Elbert Muse, and
others of his family who were involved in the operation of these stores.
The following are excerpts from this meeting:
Mr. Ben Borden...
Thank you Roger. I consider this a real
pleasure to talk about something I like to talk about. But you may think,
before I am through, that I didn’t have but one granddaddy and that was
Peachy Muse. I did have a Grandfather Borden, but my daddy was
from Front Royal and I only saw that Granddaddy but once or twice a year
but Peachy Muse was just down the road.
I would like
to, in this short time, give you a picture of the Muse family and
Peachy Muse in particular; how they migrated to Gloucester County
and the country stores that they operated, because there were more than
one. Some of their descendants are still living here, and I hope that it
will be of interest to you.
Peachy Muse was next to the youngest of
seven children and born in Essex County in 1871. His father, Samuel
William Young Muse, left his first five children, one of which was an
infant, and went to Tappahannock and enlisted in the Confederate Army. He
was discharged at age 42. That always interested me that he would leave
his wife and five young children, one an infant. My granddaddy,
Peachy, came along in 1871, and I don’t think he was the first Muse
to come to Gloucester County, but I’ll get to that later.
The three stores I want to cover and the three
locations are the Eddie Minor’s store in Coke or the P .E. Muse
Store, (it stayed the Eddie Minor’s longer than P. E. Muse),
the Bridges store and the store at Ordinary. The Ordinary store
had two locations. The property where the first store was located was
bought by Newton Motor Company and Chrysler Plymouth Dealership so my
grandfather bought another store across the road, which had been owned by
a Mr. & Mrs. Dutton.
Let me take you now to Coke in about 1895. I
am not sure who built that store building and house, but I think it was a
man named William Haywood. William Haywood was my
grandmother’s, Annie Valentine Muse, uncle. Both her parents had
died and Annie was raised by William Haywood and
Elizabeth Hogge Haywood. He also raised Mable Willet Buck,
those two called each other sister, although they were not kin, but were
raised together and many people today think we are kin to the Bucks,
but we are not, but it was through that association a long time ago.
around 1895 Peachy Muse came on the scene in his early twenties.
He had some business dealings with William Haywood and met my
grandmother. They got married and then we find that he was operating the
store. The building across the road was the residence and they are both
still standing today. In some of our publications there are pictures of
Peachy Muse's children: the first of
which was Dolly, then Ella, Willie and Cassie
were all born in Coke. Lot of people don’t know that. The two youngest
were born later at Bridges in 1917 and 1920, respectively.
Now I think that the store business was
evidently good at Coke and I often wondered why he wanted to move. There
was a really large population in that particular area of people who were
rather prosperous in the oyster business, forestry and numerous other
things that took place at that time. He often told of some of the best
customers he had in the store business were at Coke. One of which
happened to be my wife’s, Frances, great granddaddy; a man named
Benjamin Franklin Oliver, who had an oyster business. There were many
stories of salesmen who called on him. But if you visualize the store,
there was not any electricity then. I think they had gaslights, it wasn’t
Delco, I think that was something that came later, but it was gaslights.
Papa (Peachy Muse) used to talk about two
blacksmith shops in sight of the store. One was Claude Brookes’
and the other was Sylvester Oliver’s. And he would talk about how
many horses would be tied around different trees and posts on Saturday for
people who came to get the services of the blacksmiths.
He talked about the people in the community who
had particular talents. One was a man named Eddie Oliver who was a
great marksman. There was hardly anything that he couldn't hit with a .22
rifle. My granddaddy said that on one occasion a salesman, for either the
Winchester Arms Company or Remington Arms Company, who came to the store,
challenged Eddie and beat him. He said that was the only time between
around 1900 and 1915 that anybody was better with a rifle than Eddie
Another tale that he
told was a ghost story, sort of, that we like to hear him tell about my
grandmother waking him up in the middle of the night and the children were
all asleep and that somebody was walking downstairs. Papa said that he
went downstairs and a cat had gotten in a rocking chair and kept it going
back and forth and the cadence was exactly of someone walking. But anyway
that was a happy ending to that story.
Let me talk a little bit more about Coke in
that during that time a doctor came to Gloucester County named Dr.
Clements. And that one, Papa called Old Dr. Clements. It was
not the James Clements that we all remember down at Ordinary, but
his father. Well he came down from Albemarle County and he didn’t have a
horse and buggy to make his house calls with. My granddaddy loaned him a
horse and buggy. Well for that, in return for that favor he delivered all
the children and gave free medical services as long as he lived and even
up until the time Frances and I were living with my grandmother in the mid
50's at Ordinary and James Clements was still living, he wouldn’t
charge my grandmother anything. And this loyalty between people and
friendship at that time, I think, is something that should be emphasized
about the communities and the various things that happened in these
During the time they were at Coke, Beech Grove
Baptist Church was formed in 1904. My mother said she went to school
there. And then in wondering about why he wanted to go to Bridges
and that made him closer to Hayes Store School. And when we came along
here, we wouldn't talk about Hayes, it was Hayes Store. I didn’t know for
many years later that that was named for a man named Joel Hayes who
was in Abingdon and Gloucester and so forth. And anyway, if they moved to
Bridges they would be closer to Hayes Store School and I think my
mother and Uncle Willie had a pony once and a cart and drove every
morning from Bridges down to Hayes Store School.
Let’s not leave Coke, yet. When Granddaddy
decided to make that move he sold out to Eddie Minor's father. I
don’t know whether his name was Eddie also or Edward and I
don’t know when the young Eddie took the store over. But a lot of
friends I had in Coke called the young Eddie Minor and the old
Eddie Minor that I remember. They called him Bubba and Ed
because they said that when he was a little boy they called him that
to distinguish him from his father. So Eddie Minor took over that
store around 1915 and this is absolutely accurate, as far as I know, and
he operated it until 1964 and of course it was Coke Post Office. Coke
Post Office and Coke was a name for a person.
You have to remember at that time everything
was by horse and wagon. I think Benjamin Franklin Oliver had to
take his oysters up to Clay Bank Wharf and put them on a steamboat and
what groceries came in by wagon. There wasn’t any kind of refrigeration
at that store at that time, I am told. Eddie Minor later
modernized it quite a bit, which I will tell you more about.
Let’s go on to Bridges and we will find
that Papa bought Bridges from a man named Tom Bridges. There
was a home place situated on 20 acres and a store building situated on 5
acres and a farm with 100 acres. I think the Bridges family had
been there for some time for the post office there to be named Bridges.
The descendants from the Bridges family may be of some
interest to you. Dr James Smith, who practiced medicine at Hayes
Store, had a wife who was Tom Bridges’ daughter. Another Bridges
that some of you may have heard about was John Bridges who was, as
my granddaddy used to say, a drummer, he didn’t say salesmen, they were
all drummers, that came around and took orders from Buryn, Old and Eaton
in Norfolk and he called on my granddaddy, as I understand at Bridges
and at Ordinary.
There was a glass over the door as you entered
the store at Bridges that was in gold leaf. It read “Bridges Post
Office.” Well somewhere back in the 1930's some of the Bridges’ relatives
came by, and my Mother and Father gave them that glass. It might be down
in Norfolk somewhere now, but that was the sign above the door.
I am going to tell you in a minute, as time is
rapidly passing, what happened to the post office at Bridges after Papa
moved to Ordinary. It went up the road to Sam Pointer's store and
I can't tell you when they started the rural route at one time from
Ordinary and they closed the store and post office at Bridges, which
was then in Sam Pointer's store.
The operation at Bridges was much larger than
it was at Coke. A larger building, two story, well built, it was paneled
on the inside with beaded paneling. It had a balcony; in other words it
was two stories. But upstairs there was a stairway railing around. There
was a place to display furniture on the second story. There were two long
counters downstairs with a large storage shed on the left. One more
thing, upstairs was a room just for shoes. The back had a unique type of
icebox with walls that were about 6 inches thick and filled with saw dust
and a place at the top like the old icebox to put ice and every now and
then he kept some meat, probably for a short length of time. Where did
they get the ice? On the property there were two very deep holes that we
were always told were “ice holes.” They were near a stream that could be
damned up, and if the winter was cold enough they would take the ice and
put it in the hole and cover it over with dirt and sawdust and hopefully
it would last to around the 4th of July. And you dig down in there maybe
to make a freezer of ice cream. Along that same line, David Burke
told me that one of the biggest occurrences in his life was on the 4th of
July. They would meet a steamer from Baltimore which had ice you could
buy and go home and make a freezer of ice cream. So times were a lot
different then than they are now.
They say my grandmother was a very calm person,
and she was. One day while she was clerking in the store, my Uncle
Willie was on top of the house. It was a two story with a steep roof
and someone came in and said, “Mrs. Muse, Willie is
up on top of the store building walking down the ridge pole” and she said,
“Is that right? I’ll be over there in a minute.” Nothing ever excited
My two youngest aunts, Frances Haywood Muse
and Annie (Betsy) Elizabeth Muse, were born at Bridges.
My daddy, Benjamin Elias Borden, also arrived while Peachy was
still at Bridges. In a little diary at home in something we call a
“fertilizer book,” (fertilizer companies used to put these out and we
carried one) it says, “arrived: Bridges May 15, I believe, 1922.” This
was shortly before P. E. Muse sold the entire store and property
and his residence to someone else and moved out to Ordinary. At
that time the trend was to get out on the highway. He was a notary public
and insurance investigator. They only verified that someone was living.
It was a company that was called Hooper Homes that you could fill out the
little forms that verified that a person lived at certain post office and
had three children and they paid you 50¢ or something like that.
Anyway, while at Bridges he had a
gristmill and people came up Timberneck Creek to a place called Sawmill
Hill, and that wasn't named for Daddy’s sawmill it was named Sawmill Hill
long before my father put a sawmill at Bridges, and they would
grind corn. On up until about 1942 my granddaddy wouldn't have it any
other way but to hook up a pair of mules, get in the wagon and put a bag
of corn in it and go all the way to Haynes Mill Pond. Most of you
know where Haynes Mill Pond is. Well, the other day the flood
(Hurricane Floyd, Sept 1999) almost wrecked the dam and washed the rest of
the mill over into the ravine. I can remember going with him up there to
Haynes Mill Pond and getting corn ground and coming back to be put
out at Bridges. Also, while he was at Bridges, he bought
the property where Rosewell Cemetery is now. That had been owned by
Willie Haywood, who raised my grandmother, and I think there were a
hundred and twenty-five acres in that. That passed to Stratton in
So I think he wanted to go out to Ordinary
and run a small store and maybe be some sort of a gentleman farmer. He
was fortunate to have people help him, and he would, when he didn't have
an automobile, just walk out on Providence Road and hold his hand up, and
it didn’t make any difference who it was, they stopped and picked up
Peachy Muse. He never thumbed or anything or asked them, he just held
his hand up like a policeman. He'd do a school bus same way. If he was
getting from Bridges to Ordinary and the school bus was
coming, Papa would stand and do like that, and they all knew him and, they
would stop and let him get on the bus.
It was about this time, in 1922, that my
father met my mother. Granddaddy Muse came to the small store, although
they built a big bungalow that had three bedrooms, a reception hall,
living room, bathroom, a big dining room and a large kitchen since he
loved people so much that this was to attract the drummers that would stay
overnight. It was like a “Bed and Breakfast.” It was a great time when
two or three of them were there, and they all sat around the big dining
room table. They did not help my grandmother and Dolly dry the
dishes. They all went into the living room to smoke cigars, and you
couldn't even see in the place for cigar smoke. And that is what went on
When all the children had gone off to school,
it just left my grandmother and grandfather there and Dolly. Dolly
was born, and became deaf at a very early age, she was their oldest child,
I think born 3 October 1902. She always stayed at home, helped my
grandmother with the canning and helped take care of the younger
children. My grandmother always thought that she would expire before
Dolly, but it didn’t work out that way. Dolly died 13 February
1954, and my grandmother lived to be 90 years old and died 8 January 1970.
Another quick story about my grandmother. She
had said that both her parents died, and she was raised by Willie
Haywood and Elizabeth Hogge Haywood, that her health was not
good and the doctors told her that she wouldn’t live to be about 20 years
old. And she said, maybe it was old Dr. Clements, said that maybe
you should take some cod liver oil everyday. And she did, all of her
life, and she lived to be (90) ninety.
In 1940, which Roger wanted me to talk
about, the stores where being operated in this fashion. Eddie Minor
had modernized Coke a whole lot. He had a modern meat case,
which had electricity at that time. It seems that because the population
in that area of Cedar Bush Creek, Shley and Coke had
increased some and there hadn't been an exodus of people away from that
community, Eddie did a great business. In recent years when the
Martins took it over and made it Martins Corner, some of his
books were in there and Eddie Minor did an excellent business,
particularly during the late 30's and early 40's. He handled a lot of
hardware, parts for farm implements, horse drawn farm implements, hog
points and such as that. If you wanted to buy a pump point for a pitcher
pump, does any one know what that is; you would go to Eddie
Minor’s to get it. If you wanted to buy a pump he had it and paint
After Papa, in 1922, moved from Bridges
down to Ordinary, he sold to a family, I believe, from Baltimore.
They bought the house and they bought the store but, anyway, it didn’t pan
out. So he had the new house out here to pay for and the new business and
I think somehow he was still responsible, the way banking and that sort of
thing were done, for the place at Bridges. Well my mother and
father got married in 1926 while Daddy was managing a sawmill in
Keysville, Virginia. In 1929 he came back to Gloucester and my mother and
father bought the Bridges place from my granddaddy,
Peachy Muse. The store and house had been vacant for awhile. There
were not any modern conveniences, but anyway in 1929 they moved in.
Daddy’s father and his grandfather had several
sawmills and barrel stay mills, and Mama always said she wasn’t real
anxious to move to Bridges. But she did. Peachy Muse was a
positive thinking person and would always try to encourage someone. I
remember my mother saying that she told my granddaddy once, “You know this
summer all of Ben’s, meaning my father, brothers and their wives
are coming down, and we don’t have any modern conveniences. Papa said,
“Look, Ella, you just make them feel at home.” Well, she did, and
that was the favorite place for all of them to visit from then until they
all passed away. They would come down to Gloucester, and later on we got
a few conveniences. I always liked that story.
Out at Ordinary I can remember the
nights in the store with the men sitting around, and up on one counter
there were cigarettes, loose, and they sold them for a penny a piece.
Young Dr. Clements smoked one after another. He would sit and talk
for awhile with my granddaddy and the other men, and he would go up and
get a cigarette and he would smoke that one and when he would get ready to
go, said, “Here Peachy, I had so many.” And that was all until the
next night he came over.
At that time Dr. Clements would charge
$2 for an office visit. And, I guess it is alright to tell this, but when
Newton Motor Company sold a new Plymouth to him a few years after that,
actually it was after the war in 1946, he paid for it in $2 bills.
Okay so Eddie's business was thriving in
the 40’s. Bridges Store was then used by my father to make
barrels. They had a barrel factory at Gloucester Point but the August
storm of 1933 took it all away. And that was the same time they said that
the piano at Clopton's Drug Store was going down the river playing
Anyway there was a migration or exodus, I guess
you say, of people leaving Piney Swamp or Bridges. Daddy
was a bird hunter and we would hunt some afternoons and I’d follow him,
and there was one vacant home after another. These people had all gone to
Baltimore, Detroit or Philadelphia for jobs. There was one vacant garden
after another, which was a good place for a covey of birds.
Just a little bit more now about the Muses.
So my granddaddy, Peachy Muse, had a store at Coke and at
Bridges and he came out to Ordinary and then remember I told
you that when Newton Motor Company was built he bought Mrs. Dutton’s
Store. Now uncle Bob Muse, who lived at Wicomico had a
store at one time where Jones Oliver Store used to be, a sharp bend
in the road directly behind Farm Fresh. Okay, when Harry and I
were going to Hayes Store School there was a store that Carrol Muse
owned and the two people that worked there were Leroy Howlet
and Wesley Jackson. Okay. So Carrol Muse was my
granddaddy’s brother’s child, so he was his nephew, but a lot of people
thought that Carrol and Peachy where brothers, but they were
not. Carrol was Mary Florence Muse's father.
Let’s go back up to Essex a minute.
Tom Muse evidently came down here, my granddaddy's older brother was a
carpenter. Moved back and opened a store at Upright which was near
the “old home place” way out in the country off to the west of Ozeana
and a little south of Dunnsville, that part of Tappahannock. Uncle
Dickey was out on Route 17 at Ozeana and he had a country
store. Uncle Charlie was an oyster inspector at one time and Uncle
Charlie and Uncle Bob both lived in Wicomico and
let me give this to you quickly. Uncle Charlie sold his property
to Spottswood in 1935/36, and he and Aunt Mary moved to
Richmond and she opened a boarding house. Uncle Bob died in 1935
but he owned Uncle Charles’ place called Pigeon Hill, and I
forget now what they call... the same place that they moved the Waterman’s
Museum building from, I think the man who owns McDonalds owns that place
now, it was old Hogge property. In fact, most all the property was
owned by the Hogge family from Timberneck Creek on down the
York River to Hayes.
In 1940 if you had left Coke and gone
out by White Marsh and to come down to Ordinary you would
have gotten to Clopton's County Store Post Office taken a right
when you got to White Marsh there was a large store operated by
Mr. Newcomb. Coming on down the road Tommy C. Hogge had been
in business for a long time. Prior to him operating the store was a man
name Taliaferro. When you got down to Ordinary, there was,
T. C. Hogge in Ordinary, Peachy Muse on one side and
Dutton on the other. That was before the Duttons passed on
and so forth. Now if you came through Piney Swamp which means you
would come out at Eddie Minor's Store and get on
Providence Road off of Cedar Bush Road, you came by Sam Pointer's Store
and you came by Bridges. Bridges was the only one
of those stores that I named, that was not operated in, I believe in
1940. Tell you a little more about Clopton. Mrs. Raymond
Brown, Dr. Brown's wife, Elizabeth, was a Clopton.
I intended to call her to see if she knew what year Clopton's Post
Office closed and what year they went out of the store
business. It is absolutely amazing that all of them could make a living,
but as some of the literature we have here indicated, they all were very
prosperous at that time.
One other thing, I've
covered the Muse men that ran stores. My grandmother used to tell me
about going back to Ozeana to
visit my granddaddy’s relatives. They would leave very early in the
morning and you would get to Saluda by 12 o’clock. You would feed
the horse and rest and eat a sandwich and by dark you would be up in
Essex, at Upright or Ozeana.
Just one thing, you all
probably know this by heart, I’ll close with this.
PEOPLE WHO TAKE NO PRIDE IN THE NOBLE ACHIEVEMENTS OF REMOTE ANCESTORS ARE
NOT LIKELY TO ACHIEVE ANYTHING WORTHY TO BE REMEMBERED WITH PRIDE BY
Thank you. Thank you very much, I enjoyed it.