My Great-Grandfather’s Kennedy Country Store … Alleghany County, NC

My mother’s family has deep roots in Alleghany County, North Carolina, where they settled in the mountains just over the state line from Virginia and outside of Sparta, NC. Drive the back roads and you’ll see lots of Kennedys.

Cross the New River from Grayson County, Virginia, into North Carolina and follow the winding country roads to an area called Turkey Knob that has been inhabited for generations by my relatives. This is the location of the Kennedy Country Store, started in the 1880s by my great-grandfather, James L. Kennedy.

James L. Kennedy was my grandmother’s father, and he established the store in the Potato Creek Community in the late 1800s selling peanuts and coffee. He and his son, Carl M. Kennedy, took weekly turns working the store and going home to Turkey Knob Community to farm. This great-grandfather had 24 children … but that’s another family story for another day.

Around 1907, Kennedy Store was moved to a wooden building in Turkey Knob Community across the road from its present location at the intersection of Mount Carmel Road and Turkey Knob Road. Part of the old store stood in its original place until 2008 when it became necessary to tear it down from years of wear. The existing store was build in 1937.

Carl M. Kennedy eventually became the operator of the store, along with  his wife, Drucy Hash Kennedy. The store serviced Turkey Knob and other neighboring communities including some in  Virginia.

Kennedy Store  served as a true country store and trading post to people for miles around. Life here was often hard for people whose living was made chiefly from farming or copper and iron mining. A store that offered supplies and services was essential to survival for the hardy people who lived there. Memorabilia from those years can be seen today in the store, a gold mine for history buffs.

As Carl and Drucy continued to operate the store, they added country ham curing to their business. Carl would buy up hams from farmers around in Alleghany and neighboring counties and bring them to Turkey Knob to process and cure. He sold the cured hams at Kennedy Store and to many restaurants in North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and Texas. Mr. Carl, as many called him, ran his business until 1970.
The Kennedy Tartan colors….
Eula Kennedy Hauser (pictured on this calendar cover) — youngest daughter of Carl — and her husband Holt Hauser operated the store for about 15 years after Carl and Drucy became older.
After Carl and Holt’s deaths, McDale, Carl’s youngest son, and his wife Iva Mae ran the store until it closed in 1988 when McDale’s health began to fail.
Kennedy Store was open continuously from its opening until this closing, making it possibly the longest operating store in Alleghany County.
Many of James L. Kennedy’s descendants are still living in Turkey Knob near Kennedy Store, and other relatives, like myself, stop by when we are visiting the area.
During the years that the store was closed, curiosity seekers were often spotted taking pictures and posing on the porch. People got a real feeling for the past as they peeked in the windows to catch a glimpse of the old counters and shelves that once held precious and needed supplies for the hard-working people of the area.
In October 2011, fourth and fifth generation family members, with much help from “Aunt Eula,” reopened Kennedy Store … 24 years after the closing in 1988.
They hoped to bring back that same good old feeling today that folks used to get when visiting Kennedy Store years ago. Pictured is the Southern States Cooperative roster from the early 1960s.
The store offers antiques, art, and handcrafted goods consigned by many talented people from the local area.
It also offers the usual snacks for travelers and visitors …
… packaged sandwiches …
… and drinks. Groceries can also be purchased along with old fashioned candy, homemade jellies and jams, gift baskets, goat milk soap, and jewelry. And walking sticks – my mom bought one while we were there.

My mom was fascinated during our visit in June 2012, and excited that family memorabilia was on display and the store’s doors were again open. She had visited often in the early years, and knew well this store that was established and owned by her grandfather on her mother’s side. My cousin Joan has spent hours working to reopen it, a much different experience than when she and my sister Gail and I were little girls running and giggling up and down the aisles while Uncle Holt watched with an amused look on his face.

My grandmother married James L. Osborne, a farmer from Grayson County, Virginia, and moved away from the Turkey Knob Community of North Carolina. She and my grandfather eventually moved from the Depression-ravaged mountains of southwestern Virginia to Chesterfield County outside Richmond where they raised their 10 children. However, Grandma never forgot her roots, and she and my grandfather visited their relatives in the Virginia and North Carolina mountains for the rest of their lives. Those were special trips and allowed my sister and me to know our NC and southwest Virginia cousins. Both my grandparents passed away in the 1960s.

Horse and farm supplies can also be found at the reopened Kennedy Store.
If you find yourself in the area, be sure to stop by the Kennedy Store and enjoy a visit to the past as well as this view from the front porch.
Kennedy Store
15 Turkey Knob Road
Sparta, NC 28675
Phone: (336) 372-4900 or (336) 385-0141
“Like” them on Facebook

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
Historical text by Joan Kennedy
June 2012

Contact Lynn Randall Mitchell:
Staunton, Virginia

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