Saturday, November 21, 2009


On the northwest side of what is now the intersection on McMinn County Roads 180 and 187 at one time stood Papa Wattenbarger’s Store. He sold mostly non-perishable items like flour, meal, salt, soda baking powder, coffee, candy, etc. He also carried a pretty complete line of clothing and some farm supplies. Kerosene was a big seller as all homes were lighted with kerosene or “coal oil” lamps as we called them. Papa Wattenbarger closed the store about 1940 as most people by that time had cars and bought their supplies in Athens. Much of the clothing was still on the shelves when he died in 1955.

Papa Wattenbarger was also the last Postmaster at Fiketon, serving in that capacity from June 21, 1898, to February 28, 1903, when the Postal Service was moved to Athens. The name Fiketon was applied for by Absolom Fike who served as Postmaster from 1885 until my Grandfather Wade was appointed Postmaster February 25, 1892.

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Grandpa Wade then started Rural Route 1 out of Decatur, arranging for the route to pass into McMinn County and by his house. That is the reason we to this day get our mail out of Decatur, even though we live in McMinn County. Aunt Ocea would on some days go with grandpa and drive the buggy. I have grandpa Wade’s mail log and the remains of the large umbrella that covered his buggy.

My most vivid memory of Papa Wattenbarger’s store was a large poster that for a time was nailed to the wall inside above the double entrance doors. The poster portrayed the death of John Dillinger, a notorious gangster of that era. It was a gruesome picture with bullets passing through his body from different directions and blood spurting out the exit wounds. After I saw the picture I would not enter the store again until Papa Wattenbarger finally took the picture down at the insistence of my grandmother.

A covered porch extended along the entire front of the store and parallel to the road. This is where the men of the community gathered and swapped tales. On the south side and between the store and what is now County Road 180 was a covered scalehouse for weighing wagons.

On the Rogers Creek Church homecoming day the store porch became a concession stand. Royal Crown Cola banners were nailed between the supporting posts and formed a continuous separation between the servers and those purchasing candy, drinks and ice cream. The store also served as a voting precinct after some rowdiness occurred in the church where the voting had been done.

The store was torn down after Eliza Thomas bought the property at the estate sale in the 1960’s, thus the property was reconnected to the Jonathan Thomas place.

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