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HISTORIC BUILDING COMING DOWN
By Marshall McClung
One of Graham County's landmarks will soon be no more. The old Snowbird Supply building in Milltown which dates back to the 1920's is in the process of being torn down.
Tim Roberts and Diamond Hedrick who operate a log yard near the old building purchased it last May. Roberts said the building is in too poor condition to keep. Roberts says he knows of no immediate plans for the property once the building is torn down.
Snowbird Supply owes its origin to the logging industry in Graham County. H.C. Bemis purchased land in Graham County in 1924 on Big Snowbird and West Buffalo. In 1926, Bemis began construction of a sawmill in what is now known as Milltown where the recycling center is now located. A portion of the original mill burned in 1967 and was replaced by more modern equipment.
Construction of the Snowbird Supply building was thought to have started soon after the mill, probably around 1927-28. Devereaux Carringer who came from Clay County built the original Snowbird Supply building. Carringer and a crew of men he was in charge of also built the "company houses" in Milltown for Bemis employees to live in.
The store was referred to by many as the "company store" or "the commissary. Snowbird Supply was a general store and kept just about anything needed for a family including groceries, feed and seed, household appliances, farming tools, and a full line of building materials.
The original building had the gas pumps and entrance on the left side of the store as opposed to being in front in later years. A large stairway, probably six or eight feet wide led to the upstairs where the manager's office and a balcony were located. The stairway was a favorite gathering place, and often, several men would be sitting on the stairs. The building was heated by a large Warm Morning brand stove which sat in the middle of the building with the stove pipe ran straight out the top of the building.
In 1948, a fire burned part of the back section of the store causing part of the top to fall in. This was repaired by Frank Wilkey. Frank and his son Blake Wilkey did other additions and improvements to the building from time to time. In 1954, an addition to the side of the building toward the Bemis office was completed. In 1955, Frank and Blake built a shed in back of the building for lumber storage. They also built counters, display tables, and cashier counters.
In the earlier days of Snowbird supply, an item called "scrip" was used in trading. Bemis employees were paid once a month then, and as is often the case now, the check ran out before the month did. When this occurred, a Bemis employee could go to the Bemis office and get scrip to buy groceries with or whatever the need might be. Then when the next check came, the amount of scrip would be deducted from the check. There were no banks in Graham County in the early days making it very difficult to get a check cashed. Some stores would not cash a check at all. Some stores would cash your check providing you took up half of your check with them in trade.
Snowbird Supply worked many local people down through the years. Josh Crisp served as a store manager, Joe Carver, K. Patterson worked in the lumber/hardware section, Fred Beasley was a butcher and later became store manager, Sam Adams worked in the lumber/hardware section and was later a butcher, Mack Grant was a butcher there, Patton Carver was a wood scaler. Effie Humes, was a dry goods clerk there for some time. She lived in Robbinsville and walked to and from work each day for years. Charlie Orr was a butcher, Blake Wilkey and Vernon Hedrick were delivery truck drivers, Bill Corbin worked there, Oleta Neims, Nola Waldroup, and Ruth Wiggins were some of the checkout cashiers.
In later years, the ownership of Snowbird Supply changed hands several times. Other owners included the Cleo and Ruth Smith family, and Gerald Tinney. The building was known as Moody Supply during its last period of operation.
Blake Wilkey, Doyle Brock, and Wayne McClung contributed to this article.
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This page is maintained by Tom Livingston, Robbinsville, North Carolina