hundreds of small towns in East Texas, the general store was the
hub of the community--a place where neighbors visited, made purchases
of everything they needed, and usually put it on credit.
Few, if any, of the old general stores remain today. Most were simply
victims of changing times.
However, in the little town of Milam near the Texas-Louisiana border,
you can sample the flavor of what old general stores looked and
family owned such a store, starting as early as 1880. Today, it
has been converted into an antique store, but much of the fixtures,
some of the merchandise, and even the old ledgers where customers
made credit purchases are still on display.
stood on the old El Camino Real (now Texas Highway 21) where people
poured into Texas by the thousands after Texas won its independence
from Mexico. Nethery's was the forerunner of a trading post called
"Red Mound" built in 1834 by John S. Roberts. The name was later
changed to Milam.
The oldest continually operated business in Sabine County, Nethery's
was begun by C.A. Nethery, who came to Milam from Patroon as a young
man. He and his wife Amanda built a home on Main Street and later
opened a general store and saloon.
The first store
burned during a snowstorm in 1913, but a new store was quickly built.
The "new" building is still standing.
After his father's
death in 1942, C. A. (Buddy) Nethery, Jr., operated the store until
his death. His nephews, Gene and Doule Nethery, kept the old store
open until 2000, selling hardware and providing a place for local
domino players to meet.
Wanting to retire, but not wanting to close the store, the Netherys
choose to keep the store open as an antique place. Ellen Melton,
Laura Tichnekl and Susan Nethery came to the rescue and opened the
store as Nethery's Antiques.
Today, the store still offers a step back in time.
The old pot-bellied stove still works and is surrounded by chairs
in much the same fashion as it was in the 1880s. The walls are lined
with relics like oxbows, crosscut saws and scythes. And the counters
are stacked with old tobacco tins, antique photos of people long
deceased, kerosene lamps, old radios, a corn sheller, earthen ware
and glass ware, and much more.
Even Nethery's old store ledger, dating back to the early 1900s,
rests on a counter near the pot-bellied stove. People put their
purchases on credit and usually "paid up" at the end of the month.
James Allen, for example, bought 65 cents in potatoes and a five-cent
hinge on credit on February 16, 1917. Robert Henderson bought $1.60
in flour and 25 cents worth of corn the same year.
In 1918, Miss Pearl Dowdy made a major purchase, a rocking chair
that cost her $3.50. And A.B. Russell purchased four sacks of flour
for $14.00 the same year.
Each May, Nethery's holds its annual Trades Day, a good time for
East Texans to relive the uniqueness of an old-fashioned general