Everything for Your Home's
Beauty, Comfort & Convenience 384-2123
704 Jamestown St, Columbia
Dr. Ronald P. Rogers
Support for your body's natural healing capabilities
Click here for details
Click here for information
Real Estate & Auction Co.
Duo County Telecom
Now Available Through
Your Cable Service!
GUN & PAWN
What's Going On
Info about the
Janice Holt Giles
and Henry Giles Society
Columbia Gas Dept.
GAS LEAK or GAS SMELL
24 hrs/ 365 days
270-384-2006 or 9-1-1
Call before you dig
Directory of Churches
phone numbers and more
for churches in Adair County
JIM: Wheats, Williams families of Montpelier, KY store
A brief account of the Wheat and Williams families of the famed Montpelier General Store & Post Office, 1868-1917.
Click on headline for complete account. Click on photo for large render and detailed cutline
By JD Gee
For many decades, the Montpelier General Store and Post Office served as the commercial and secular social center of that section of Russell and Adair counties In its heyday, it was the go-to place for brought-on merchandise -- dry goods to dippers, hosiery to housewares, underwear to undertaking supplies, pumpkin seed to plowshares, hatpins to harness, and the myriad other items carried by the Big Box community stores of the day.
During the dog days of August 1868, Cyrus Wheat, then in his early forties, became postmaster at Montpelier, a post office which had been re-established in the early days of the Civil War. He, the firstborn of Samuel and Anna Rippetoe Wheat's many children, had married fairly young to Sarah Murrah. They had one child, a daughter named Clementine J., better known as Clemmie, who joined the family a year or thereabout so after their marriage.
Almost certainly, Cyrus either immediately started a general store in connection with the post office, or, more likely, continued and grew the one already there. An elderly distant kinsman of Cyrus' told me that "Cy-baldie" -- as he called Cyrus -- got the inspiration to run a store one hot summer day while plowing corn, after expressing the heartfelt opinion there had to be an easier way to make a living.
Although details are sketchy and a bit of apparent conflict exists in different accounts of the following sequence of events, a known fact is that less than a fortnight past Valentine's Day, 1870, Clemmie J. Wheat happily became the wife of Z.T. Williams, a neighbor lad two or three years her junior, just two days after he reached his majority. It is my belief that about the time, and possibly a bit before Z.T. married into the family, he "handled the yard stick," parlance of the day for clerked, at the store, for Mr. Wheat, and that the following year (1871), Cyrus made him a partner in the firm, a partnership that would last until Cyrus Wheat's passing in the summer of 1898, thirty years almost to the day after his appointment as postmaster.
A biographical sketch of Mr. Williams published in 1886 stated
"In boyhood Z.T. Williams received a business education in the schools of Russell and Adair Counties, which he attended every winter--three months--until eighteen years of age, after which he taught two terms in the common schools of Russell County.Cyrus Wheat, known as a good business man, accumulated a fair amount of worldly wealth before venturing into the great unknown. However, his nephew by marriage, the well-known Southern preacher, evangelist, and temperance speaker George W. Perryman, remembered him as the man who helped him (Perryman) as a struggling youth. Wrote the Rev. Perryman:
"[Cyrus Wheat] was one of the noblest and truest men I have ever known. He despised a little thing, he loved the right thing. He was one of the first citizens of the county; his standard of living was correct; his word was gold, his character was spotless. He was a great blessing to his country. "When the poor cried Cyrus Wheat wept. I know whereof I speak. When I was a boy he was my ideal of a man, so firm, so full of business; always on the right side of everything. He lived a life worthy of his profession. He died loved and honored by all who knew him. He lives still in the sweet memories of his friends. He has gone on higher to rest from his toil and to be ever with his Savior, who he loved so tenderly and served so faithfully while here."After Cyrus' death, his widow, Ellen B. Wheat, assumed the role of silent partner until settlement of her husband's estate. The News then carried, on the last day of January 1900, this announcement:
"There has been a change in the dry goods establishment at Montpelier. Mrs. Ellen B. Wheat takes the interest owned by her late husband. No change is made in the style [name] of the firm -- Wheat & Williams. Mr. Luther Williams, who is an excellent businessman, is the manager, and Mr. Albert Epperson, a very popular gentleman, is the clerk. Financially there is not a stronger firm in the county than Wheat & Williams."(Cyrus' first wife, Clemmie J.'s mother, died in the late 1870s. Two or three years later, he married Ellen B. Coffey, a member of the Page-Brawner family, the widow of Jos. S. Coffey, and some twenty-two years Cyrus' junior. Their only child, Samuel Reed, was born in 1884, about two years before Cyrus' sixtieth birthday.)
Z.T. Williams served one term in the Kentucky Legislature
In the 1880s, Z.T. Williams served one term in the Kentucky legislature as a state representative but otherwise continued as an active, working partner in the busy general store until around 1890, when he began an endeavor that would occupy the rest of his days, laboring in the vineyards of the Lord as an Elder (minister) of the Christian Church.
Even so, he held full if generally inactive partnership (at least in the day to day management) in the store until the opening days of 1903 when this announcement appeared in the January 14, 1903 edition of the paper:
"To All Whom It May ConcernBy this time, Z.T.'s beloved wife Clemmie J. likely was in failing health, as she passed only five months later. Her death notice described her as "A kind and sympathetic neighbor, a devoted wife and a loving mother, a friend to the unfortunate, a God fearing and a God serving woman."
Also by this time, Z.T. and Clemmie's son Luther, the eldest of their six children, already had been serving both as postmaster since his grandfather's death and as the de facto managing partner of the firm for several years, so the change effected by the sale largely was one of a legal manner.
Ellen and Cyrus' son Sam R. apparently had no desire in carrying on the family business. In early 1906, he married Miss Zilpha Dunbar, also of Adair County, and they soon removed to near Dallas, Texas. (After they went their separate ways a few years later, Sam spent several years in the US. Army.) It isn't known with certainty when Ellen Wheat sold her share to her stepson Luther Williams, but a reasonable guess would place the transaction around the fall of 1906 at about the same time she removed from Montpelier to take rooms in the household of W.A. Coffey of Columbia, a nephew of her first husband.
(Four years later, Ellen sold the property at Montpelier known as the Cyrus Wheat farm and residence for just under $6,000. In December 1910, the new owner, Willis Grider, sold a boundary of timber off the farm, and a filler piece in the mid-September 1917 paper made mention of an English elm in the lawn of Willis Grider of Montpelier, stating, "It is a beautiful tree and [was] planted by the late Cyrus Wheat.")
Z.T. Williams remarried in 1904, moved to Columbia, KY as pastor of Columbia Christian
Z.T. Williams remarried in late 1904, and he and his second wife moved to Columbia a year or so later to be nearer the church he then served, the Columbia Christian. With Ellen leaving Montpelier as well, Luther Williams stayed to mind the store and post office as owner and postmaster, the last of the family to take an interest in so doing. Those who clerked for Mr. Williams during the first decade of the 20th century included O.A.. Taylor, Joe Calhoun, Albert "Bert" Epperson, and C.G. Jeffries. (O.A. Taylor's first wife and Luther were first cousins.)
Luther kept the store until the latter part of 1917 when an out-of-county opportunity presented itself, an opportunity requiring that he divest himself of Adair County business interests. In early November, 1917, the real estate firm of Tutt & Reed, of Columbia, advertised for sale the general store as well as Mr. Williams' farm. Under the heading of "A Rare Opportunity," the notice said of the Wheat & Williams store:
"The business consists of a stock of general merchandise which would invoice now from $2000 to $3000 but is being reduced. Will make special inducements on stock. Good storehouse, rent reasonable. This business has been established forty-seven years and is one of the best country stores in this section. It has always been a prosperous business. Reason for sell, Mr. Williams is going to engage in other business on another county."Two weeks later, the News reporter for Montpelier (possibly Jan Vetter Dudley) noted in the newsletter that Mr. Williams intended to "remove to Cave City, where he will engage in the drug business."
Buyers quickly came forward, and an early January 1918 edition of the paper informed readers that
"Mr. Luther Williams has sold his farm to Eldridge Montgomery for $3,500. He has also sold his stock of goods to Eldridge Montgomery and Osborn Lawless, the purchasers will take possession about January 1st." (From the wording both of the advertisement and the notice of sale, the store building itself didn't change hands, only the business interest and the inventory.)
This story was posted on 2016-02-08 06:07:31
Printable: this page is now automatically formatted for printing.
Have comments or corrections for this story? Use our contact form and let us know.
To sponsor news and features on ColumbiaMagazine, please use our contact form.
More articles from topic Local History:
Tax check-off program to help KY communities showcase history
Billy Collins comments on School which never was
Russell Co., KY: Memories of Gosser Ridge / Green River Knob
Brawner-Smith Cemetery comment: Nancy Ann Speake
Mr. Marshburn researches meaning of Fairplay family name
Walter Montgomery (1886-1901) died of spinal meningitis
Darryl Smith: A Brawner buried in Brawner Smith Cemetery
Brawner-Smith Cemetery is off Pelly Lane on Linda Taylor farm
Mike Watson: Melvin Alvah Traylor
Von Price: Varying memories of Paw Paws - good; not so good
View even more articles in topic Local History
Click for Info
Bank of Columbia
If You're Thinking of Selling,
Let Us Do the Yelling
Principal Broker & Auctioneer
Burton Real Estate
& Auction Service
Call Us For Appraisals
Click for Listings
On This Site
or Click Here
Columbia in the Movies
from the archives of
Click for Stories
The Best of
Local Stories of
The Greatest Generation
Order Book or e-Book
See who's celebrating
Birthdays and Anniversaries
Special Events List
Find Great Stuff in
Antiques, Help Wanted,
Autos, Real Estate,
Legal Notices, More...
ColumbiaMagazine.com content is available as an RSS/XML feed for your RSS reader or other news aggregator.
Contact us: Columbia Magazine and columbiamagazine.com are published by D'Zine, Ltd., PO Box 906, Columbia, KY 42728.