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