Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Foard's Store

Foard's Store, Spicer's House, and "The Rock"
Of all the different types of businesses and institutions around in the 1800's, one has always held a particular interest for me -- the general country store. Maybe it's because my own great-great-great grandfather ran one in the rural Bronx, or maybe it's because Mr. Oleson is my favorite "Little House" character. Either way I've generally had little luck finding much concrete information about the various stores that once served Mill Creek Hundred. Recently, though, my (our) luck changed. I was contacted by Mrs. Ruth (Ford) Smith, daughter of Edward Ford and granddaughter of Powell Ford. She forwarded to me a wonderfully descriptive paper written by either her father or grandfather, detailing one of these businesses -- Foard's Store in Marshallton.

Foard's Store sat on the southwest corner of Old Capitol Trail and Newport Road, across that road from the present Big D's Pizza. As best as I can tell it would have stood mostly between the road and the building that stands on the corner today. The Spicer's house (seen in the top photo and mentioned in the post) would have been in the middle of the current road. Remember that until 1931 Old Capitol Trail dead-ended at Newport Road. Not until that year was the cut-off and bridge completed. So, many thanks to Ruth for sharing her family's recollections. Also thanks to Denis at the Lower Red Clay Valley Blog for use of the pictures of the store. Now enjoy your tour through Foard's Store!

About 1902 Mr. John H. Foard bought from Mrs. George Spicer the store in Marshallton which was located at the southwest corner of Newport Road and Washington Avenue opposite the Marshallton elementary school. It faced on Newport Road and was of two story brick and frame construction with a porch across the front and part way down the Washington Ave side. The porch had a brick floor and was maybe eight or ten feet wide. Under the front porch there were two show windows with a double door in between. There were wooden benches under these windows. Fresh vegetables and fruit were displayed in season and at other times pots and pans and other merchandise were displayed in both windows. A couple hitching posts were in front of the store and near the corner of the porch was a large rock maybe three feet in diameter and a couple feet high. Kids had worn it smooth from "riding the rock". Two signs hung under the porch roof. "J H Ford" was on one and "Post Office" on the other. The post office for Marshallton was in Foard's store for several years in the early 1900's but later moved to John Mullins house near the bridge.

A step up from the porch led one into a typical country store filled with all the things necessary to service a growing rural community. On the wall to the right of the front door was a slate which served as a call board for the Doctor. When there was sickness in the family the name was put on the slate and the Doctor, after checking, would make his call on the sick. Needless to say this was before everyone had a telephone. The candy counter was on the right at the front of the store. Here one could get such goodies as chocolate drops, licorice sticks, sour balls, stick candy, tootsie rolls, non pariels, chewing gum, peanut bars, candy suckers, peppermint patties, butterscotch, chocolate fudge.

There was a desk at the end of the candy counter and then came the serving counter and the grocery department where you could buy such things as salt, sugar, oatmeal, spices, extract of vanilla, soda crackers, corn meal, flour, lard, cheese, eggs and other kitchen staples. Seeds for planting could be bought in the spring. The business department came next and this included a record of the charge accounts, the cash drawer, and later the cash register. Further toward the back of the store was the Post Office with its boxes for the mail and the window for stamps. Further back was the coffee grinder which was turned by hand and later a large refrigerator for milk and pork and other perishables. Salt meat and salt fish were also in this general area.

Returning to the front of the store -- on the left was the work clothes -- pants and shirts and overalls. Straw hats were a must in the summertime. Then came a grand array of shoes. Most women's shoes were high top. Some were lace and some button -- some with flat heels and some with French heels. For men there were work shoes and dress shoes -- some made from just plain leather and some from patent leather. The there were overshoes and boots and shoe strings and shoe polish and stockings for the whole family. There was underwear too -- the long woolies for winter and then the BVD. Further back there was a display of buttons and Clark's sewing thread and yard goods and patterns and hair ribbons. Just past the hair ribbons one came to the shelves loaded with patent medicines of the day. You could get anything from cough drops to horse linament including such things as swamp root, vaseline, iodine, Smith Bros. cough drops, beef wine and iron, syrup of squill, Lydia Pinkhams, Carters Little Liver Pills, plant juice, Doan's Kidney Pills, peroxide, Father Johns cough syrup, Sloans Liniment, and Black Draught. Black Draught was especially important because every year the company put out a calendar which not only showed the seasons, it showed what kind of weather we would have during those seasons.

At the back of the store and up a couple steps in a sort of storeroom one could find the barrel of vinegar, the barrel of molasses, and the barrel of pickels. Potatoes and turnips and corn and beans and all kinds of fresh vegetables would appear in season. Feed for hogs and chickens was kept in built-in bins in this section. There was also a large scale for weighing bulky items. A bin for potatoes as well as a storage bin for coal was also kept in this section. An outside entrance from Washington Avenue afforded easy access for handling the bulky items. Coal oil was kept in a large metal tank under the side porch.

A large coal stove stood in the middle of the store. Behind the stove there was a wash basin and a towel rack. Nearby, the telephone was later attached to a post in the center of the store. Coal oil lamps provided light on dull days and at night in the wintertime. The second floor of the building was rented and entrance to the apartment was made by enclosed stairway about half way back on the Washington Avenue side. In back of the store there was a short lane which led to a small barn where the horse and buggy were kept. The Spicer family lived in a double house next to the store and those who worked in the store as well as the family living in the apartment over the store used Spicer's outhouse (toilet). They also used Spicer's pump for a supply of water.

Foard's Store left of the new OCT cut-off

The story goes that in 1909 a runaway horse and carriage was stopped by Mr. Foard in front of the store causing him to be thrown and dragged. After the bandages were removed from his head his hair had changed from black to white. Mr. Foard's mustache remained black so he decided to remove it and he never grew a mustache again.

The store was closed on Sunday but was open from seven in the morning till six every day through the week. On Friday and Saturday it stayed open till ten at night. In 1905 Mr. Foard moved his family from Newport to a large two-story frame house on Washington Avenue. In 1943 Mr. Foard died and the store was kept open by Miss Florence Ware. After the death of Hilton Foard (son) in 1944 in Italy the store was sold and the building was taken down and the property soon cleared away.


  1. Good one Scott. I am also intrigued by what used to be the community general store before the 7 Elevens and Wawa’s came around. I am also impressed by someone who would take the time to write a detailed description (inside and out) of a corner store. They must have been a local history buff and had the insight to record it.

    Just a side note….the house on the right in the DelDot photo is the house Anna May Hedrick was born in. She is approaching 100. I enjoy enlarging the photo it see all the outbuildings and such on the property. One day I will have research it to see its true age.

    1. I was thinking the same thing. If you were to sit down and write about your local area today, how long would it be until you got around to describing the interior of Wawa or Walgreens or Sears? But as we see with the Doctor's board, the local store was more than just a place to buy stuff. I think they were often de facto town squares and town centers. My guess is that they were just so much a normal part of everyday life that most never thought to write down anything about them at the time. I mean, everyone knows what a store is like, right?

      Good point about Anna Mae. Seems like so long ago, but there's at least one person still around who undoubtedly shopped there.