The Hefner General Store at Mill Point

December 28, 2012 |

In the days before Wal-Mart, the general store was a fixture of most rural communities, like those along Route 219. Here was your post office, grocery store, gas station, and hardware store. Listen as Bill and Richard Hefner talk about their family’s general store in Mill Point.

Meandering through the Allegheny Mountains, US Route 219 passes through many small cities and mountain towns as it makes its way down West Virginia. Driving through Pocahontas County, its easy to miss a once thriving community like Mill Point. At one time, Mill Point was known for its mills, which lined Stomp’n Creek. There were a number of stores there too, and a post office. Bill and Richard Hefner grew up with their family in Mill Point. As young boys, they spent a lot of time in their father’s general store.

“My dad owned the Hefner Store in Mill Point, right on Stompin’ Creek, right across from the old grist mill,” says Bill.

“It was built about 1900, 19-1, something like that. A man named Billy Auldridge ran it. He was the post master and had the old general store. And then his son took it over, Rube Auldridge.   And my dad went to work for him, when he was about 19, I think, in that store. And he worked in there for awhile. My dad became post master in that old store. So we pretty much grew up in that old store,” says Richard.

Bill and Richard Hefner in their younger days at Mill Point.

“It was just one of those big, old time country stores, y’know?  It had everything there,” says Richard.

“Of Course pop, candy, of course all kinds of groceries, they had loose beans in a bin that you could sack up. And they had flour that you could get back there, horse and mule feed. Chippewa Boots. Woolrich jackets, and stuff like that. They had guns, all kinds of rifles, shotguns, pistols, right behind the post office. It was in the same building. Then they had the different kinds of stuff, like snake root, witch hazel, in bottles that you could buy for remedies, home remedies. Coffee. There was just all kinds of stuff you could think of — furs and ginseng, bloodroot, and goldenseal—different things like that,” says Bill. 

The old Hefner store was situated right on Stomp’n Creek, which runs down from Kennison Mountain through Mill Point and down toward the Greenbrier River. It has always been a scenic location and tourists came then, as they do now, to fish in the water or hunt up in the forests, or just to view the beautiful mountain countryside.

“There was always dozens of people stop there a year to paint pictures or do drawings with chalk, pastels, watercolors, everything,” says Bill.

“You know, everybody gathered at the store. The post office was there. There was a huge big pot belly stove in the middle of it. There was Alec Allen, who always came in there and had those hob nailed shoes on that the loggers used to walk on logs. It actually had nails sticking up out of the bottom of them.  And Wheeler Hogset, who loved up Marvin Chapel,” Richard remembers.

“And you know Wheeler walked down to the store every day. He lived up on the holler. He’d walk to the store every day and hang out. And he wore a straw hat, in abig overcoat and smoked a big ole pipe. Harley Staggers who was a congressman. He was good friends with Dad and every time he came up to the country he’d stop by and visit Dad. Dad had a friend, Sam Mead, who was a railroad detective, who rode the trains. He was all the time bringing ammunition and trading with Dad,” says Richard. “But that was my favorite part of my life was hanging around that store and being around those old people. And Dad actually closed the store in ’59. I was about 13 I guess then.”

Today, the old Hefner General Store is gone, and so is the post office that used to serve the community at Mill Point. But the Hefners are still around.  Both Richard and Bill are still active in the area, making music. Now, if you drive over the little bridge that crosses Stomping Creek and look to the empty banks, across from the one remaining Mill, you might just be able to imagine those old characters going to the Hefner General Store, where they might come to buy some goods, or trade something, or maybe just to chat and hear the latest news.

This story was produced by Dan Schultz of the Traveling 219 Project.  The project is supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the West Virginia Humanities Council.

General store post office in West Virginia, ca. 1939.



Category: Blog, Family & Community

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