Clyde: They are few and far between

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 25, 2022

“Tis the song, the sigh of the weary: Hard times come again no more” written by Stephen Foster in 1855, 10 years before the war. With the sale of the old City Motor building on South Main Street, the era of the Rufty family-owned businesses in Salisbury comes to an end. As the old codger queried, “Where did they come from?”

A proud family of German Lutheran roots, Geo. Rufty owned land on the waters of Panther Creek adjoining Mathias Frick and John Trexler in the 1820s. Before that, he had owned tract No. 57 in the South Square along Innes Street where the P.O. is now, inundated with “guests” to our town who don’t know where they come from or where they are going. John Langdon took him on as an apprentice to the carpenter’s trade. He went to work and never quit. The routine of everyday life can easily become a rut which surprisingly comes from the same root word “route.” Choose one.

His son Edward purchased the Wilhelm Mill on March 28, 1853. Before St. Matthews Church was built, they met there and also it was the site of neighborhood dances where he played the fiddle. His fiddles were listed in his will estate inventory along with his children. His flour mill with a capacity of 20 bushels a day, was water powered, French burr type wheel produced yearly 2,000 bushels of ground wheat and 80,000 bushels of flour with a value of $4,600. “Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished; but he that gathered by labor shall increase” (Proverbs 13:11).

Edward’s son Thomas married Elizabeth Shephert Bringle, like the ferry, who owned a store at Trading Ford. After he died, the will was sold and the mill stones valued at $15 were used as a foundation under the dam at High Rock Lake.

“Betsy” named her son Oliver Oscho after an Indian chief of the Florida Seminoles in Osceola. So that’s where all those Oschos come from! He moved to town to avoid the bad vapors from the mill pond and worked in a general store for Will Lyerly, then in his uncle Milton’s general store until 1917 when he became owner and operator of O.O. Rufty General Store until 1952 when he transferred ownership to his sons. They all worked there at some point of another. They had to.

He was of medium height and build with gray-blue eyes and dark hair. They got that too. They say he had 12 farms and 12 children and kept a notebook on each property that could be easily produced for the tax collectors. There was no time for idle hands. The landmark site of the general store needs a bronze plaque for tourists who were not lucky enough to get Floyd Tucker to take you to the basement with an unforgettable inventory the likes of which will never be seen again downtown. Their motto was “If you can’t find it at Rufty’s, you don’t need it.” It was history in real life.

O.O. and Nannie Mary Lizer Lemly’s prodigy in order of birth were:

• Helen Ona Holsclaw, who married a house painter and lived on East Bank Street beside the R.R. tracks, where tall the kids run from the 50/50 to see the steam engines.

• Thomas died with scarlet fever, aged 4.

• Mary Florence taught school and piano.

• Addie Catherine worked tirelessly at the general store with a pencil in her hair bun; she price coded each item and lived in the family home on South Long, the site of many home cooked meals for anyone who would join their table. Wash your own plate.

• Oliver James ran the Garden Shop where he trained Bill Godley and Charlie Smith to be gentle with plants. Apprentices, if you would be one.

• Raymond Wilson was the fix-it man and sold Case knives.

• Ernest Ray succumbed at age 3 from “membranous croup.”

• Saw Farmer Guy Deal came to town and knocked on the door to meet Virginia Dare who cooked and canned and made pickles for him for 55 years.

• Fred Council Rufty danced his way into the hearts of kids by offering them candy or a slice of hoop cheese.

• Ruth did not have a middle name until she married Mr. Patterson from Spencer, but named one of her boys Rufty.

• Harold supplied the plants and homemade mints for the store and started Piedmont Garden and Floral Supply with imported “silk” flowers from his trade trips to China with his wife Barbara. Their Chrismon Shop still goes on to inspire us all.

• And lastly, Charles William who was born 23 years after the first born. He ran the Southeastern Plumbing Shop and his daughters’ names all ended in the letter “a.” He was the last to go, in a glass horse drawn coach, nonetheless.

They all are gone now, a testament to hard work and frugal living. Even in their time off, they worked on projects to benefit others. They came along at just the right time to help build this town. A timely lesson for us all.

“Let him that stole steal no more, but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth” (Ephesians 4:28). “Well done thou good and faithful servant.”

Work and be happy.

Clyde is a Salisbury artist.

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