Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 18, 2012
MOORESVILLE — Patti Silverman can’t hide the love she has for this old country store, now her consignment shop, which she opens to the public every Saturday.
“It’s an incredible building,” she says.
Everything tells a story for her.
The wide planks in the floors and walls.
The stone pillars.
The chimney in back.
The old barbershop at the rear corner.
The original cash drawer with its three compartments.
The artifacts stowed away in boxes or still hanging on the walls of the storage rooms on both sides of the sales floor.
The early-1900s store ledgers, written in the beautiful hand of owner Daniel Enoch Overcash.
He recorded everything — his customers’ names, what they bought, when they purchased it and how much they paid — down to a man’s plug of tobacco.
The store sold it all. Neighbors came here for produce, dry goods, kerosene, spices, meat, syrup, shoes, leather, flour, roosters, eggs and gasoline for their early-model cars.
Howard Miller, who owns the building now and is Silverman’s landlord, says his Grandfather Overcash would set out barrels of crackers and sardines for his customers to have while conducting their business or shooting the breeze.
As youngsters, Howard and his twin brother, Harold, often received single sticks of peppermint candy from their grandfather.
The boys’ mother was born next door in the late 19th-century frame house that Howard still owns and rents.
In his ledgers, D.E. Overcash summarized the store proceeds from every month and every year.
“A good day was when he took in $30,” Miller notes.
Overcash recorded, for example, cash proceeds of $4,380 for all of 1904.
“This is just a glimpse into everybody’s lives,” Silverman says, marveling at the old store’s records.
The store building itself also offers a surviving footnote to a long-forgotten name for this N.C. 150 community that straddles the Rowan-Iredell County line.
Today, most people call this specific spot “Centenary,” for its connection to Centenary United Methodist Church. Rowan County places in this area include Miller Airpark, the Centenary fire station, Lazy 5 Ranch and the McLaughlin Sausage store.
For mailing purposes, they carry Mooresville addresses. People who live here also consider themselves at the edge of Mount Ulla.
But a century ago, many families referred to this Rowan-Iredell pocket as “Harts” or “Hart’s” — and it even had its own post office.
Historian Davyd Foard Hood notes in his book, “The Architecture of Rowan County,” that a post office was first established in this community in 1874, and for two years it went by the name of “Atwell’s,” named for the first postmaster, Obadiah Woodson Atwell.
Hood writes that in 1876 the post office name changed to “Hart’s” when Samuel Bingham Hart became postmaster.
The community’s identification as Harts may have lasted at least until 1910, when the post office was discontinued, according to Hood’s history.
Daniel Enoch Overcash had a close connection to the Harts Post Office. Before building the store where Silverman has her consignment shop today, he lived with the Harts and operated — with a man named Corriher — the D.E. Overcash & Corriher store.
That store, which also served as the Harts Post Office, was about a half-mile closer to Salisbury and next to Samuel Hart’s two-story farmhouse.
Both of those historic structures still survive, though the store outbuilding, which served as the post office, has long been shuttered.
Miller has invoices and other papers with “D.E. Overcash & Corriher Dealers” as their headings. They include the store’s address as “Harts, N.C.”
Overcash’s own store, farther up the road toward Mooresville, came a bit later. Overcash bought the house where Miller’s mother was born in 1892 from the Hart family, and Miller puts the date of the store’s construction at “circa 1885.”
“That’s a guess,” he says, “from what an uncle told me.”
It’s not believed the Harts Post Office was ever in the store building where Silverman’s JRyans consignment is now.
Overcash operated the store until his death in 1935. An uncle of Miller’s took over for a couple of years until it closed for good.
Over the decades since, the building also has been used for storage, antiques and as a used bookstore and thrift store.
Miller says his grandfather was “a sophisticated man,” who received a better-than-average academy school education. A hard-line Democrat, he was good friends with Silas McLaughlin, a Republican.
The men would ride together to the poll on Election Day in a two-seat buggy, and their friends always kidded that it was a wasted trip, because each man was canceling the other’s votes.
Silverman started leasing the old Overcash store three years ago. The name, JRyans, honors her 6-year-old son who died many years ago from cerebral palsy.
During the week, she works full-time as an executive assistant for the general surgery department at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte.
The building has never had plumbing and still doesn’t. For heat, it relied at first on a central fireplace in back, followed later by pot-bellied stoves.
Cement around the hearth still carries the footprints of a child and the initials “D.E.O.” for the original owner.
Silverman routinely finds pieces of glass from soft drink bottles around the building and in the parking area. “Look how thick it is,” she says of one chunk.
She has collected the glass and hopes to make a wind chime from the pieces some day.
Silverman likes to dream up stories behind the dirt, grime, oil, paint and knotholes that give the pine floors so much character.
She also imagines all the people who have tread on the rear granite step outside the tiny barbershop, which she now uses as a small kitchen.
Original doors throughout the store are secured inside with strong wooden boards crossing their widths at top and bottom. Some of the windows and all the shelving also date back to the store’s beginning.
“We ought to put it on the (national historic) registry,” says Miller, a retired Piedmont Airlines pilot and owner of the airpark, “but we haven’t yet.”
Miller says this community didn’t have electricity until about 1930, and he remembers walking the highway before it was paved.
His grandfather once owned an early Oakland model car, which barely logged 4,000 miles before the engine blew up.
Miller laughs when he sees a turning crank for the Oakland in a box and one of its skinny tires hanging on a wall.
A storage room on the side still holds the tank for kerosene, along with its pump handle. Miller, born in 1926, remembers that the store also sold gas from a tall Standard Oil pump to the left of the porch out front.
Silverman sees names such as Freeze, Overcash, Hart, Christie, Beeker, McNeely, Pope, Nesbit and scores of others throughout the old store ledgers. She speaks frequently of her hopes to bring old-timers together and record what they remember about growing up here.
“I love showing them to people, especially people who have relatives in this area,” she says.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or email@example.com. A telephone number for Patti Silverman and the JRyans store is 704-728-1780. Again, it is open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturdays only.