Here we are at 150 years old.
How did we get here?
This is our story...
It is hard to believe that a store that was first opened as
the Civil War was ending, has been in, pretty much,
continuous operation for 150 years. This is amazing not
the least because during this 150 years Acworth has had
many stores, by some counts up to six. The Acworth
Village Store in the Union Hall Building in South Acworth
has had many owners and has handled a great variety of products during these years. Through the hard work of its many owners and because of their ability to fulfill the needs of their customers, the store has managed to survive through this period of great change. There is a timeline of the store’s history below. It is really fascinating to read.
South Acworth is no longer the rip roaring mill village that it once was and the store does not handle a lot of the products that it once did when a trip to Walpole or Keene required a day or more. However, the store is still there, now as a community owned and run endeavor, still trying to serve the changing needs of our community. It will only survive the next 150 years if it can find a way to continue to serve the changing needs of the Acworth Community. So, I encourage all who read this to feel free to let us know what you would like to see happening at the Acworth Village Store. We hope the store will continue to serve the community’s needs and provide a place where the feeling of community can be nurtured and grow. Thank you for your support of the Acworth Village Store.
- Jim Neidert, Chairman of the Board of the Acworth Village Store 2015
New book featuring the Acworth Village Store!
Step through the wooden doors of a New England general store and step back in time, into a Norman Rockwell painting and into the heart of America. New England’s General Stores offers a nostalgic picture of this colonial staple and, fortunately, steadfast institution of small towns from Connecticut to Maine.
Makes a great coffee table book or gift!
On sale now at the Acworth Village Store.
Call 603-835-6547 to order your copy.
An Historical Background
A bit of history is in order as we shoulder the struggle to keep this valuable resource afloat in our community. The 1800’s saw amazing changes in our town. Not only were the three large churches built on the Common up on the Hill and then two moved to South Acworth, but there were two stores on the Hill. The two stores were the Brick Store between what is now Guy and Aija Russell’s (and formerly John and Audrey Putnam house) and Daniel Robinson’s Store in what was recently Evelyn and John Clowe’s brick house across the street. In South Acworth there were also stores: Grammie Knight’s, Joseph Dempsey’s, and lastly, the Union Hall which is now called the Acworth Village Store.
During this early era, the following buildings were built as the Town grew and responded to change. Numerous mills harnessed water in the Cold River in South Acworth and population moved off the hill to follow the work:
The Congregational Church (“Church on the Hill”) was built in 1821 with the Town Hall to follow, using old timbers from the original rough Meeting House as it was torn down.
The Baptist Church was built on Lynn Hill on what is now the old Mitchell Cemetery. It was moved to the Common in 1844 and then down to its location in South Acworth in 1867. Some records say it was dismantled and some say it was pulled by teams of oxen front and back to keep it steady down the steep hill.
The Methodist Church was built on the Hill in 1844. Within 10 years, due to the success of mill operations along the Cold River in South Acworth, this church was also moved down the hill where it sits across the river to this day. Again, a large building was moved without mechanical means. The Methodists declined in numbers and finally closed their church in 1920. Within two years, their building became the home of the Cold River Grange after their own Grange Hall was lost to fire. After many years, the Grange declined and the Town approved funds to paint three sides of it, then to replace the roof shingles, then to remove the steeple in 1987. Then, in 2001, the Acworth Historical Society agreed to take ownership of the building to restore it and perhaps house historical artifacts and collections of the Town.
But in between the buildings and movings of churches and industry came the Civil War of 1861-1865. Acworth and the entire country lost many men and boys to battle and even more to disease. Historians now say that more than 700,000 people died in those few years. Women, children, and the elderly shouldered the work at home as well as sent bandages and food to the Union troops. With President Lincoln’s assassination on April 14, 1865, a mere two weeks after the Confederacy surrendered, it is impossible to imagine the despair of the entire country. Yet, during this despairing time, Acworth citizens built the Union Hall, what we now know as the Village Store. If ever there was a time for dark discouragement, those years following the Civil War and the country’s first assassination of a president must have been it. This building was named, perhaps, for the Town’s united efforts in its construction and the North’s determination that our country would remain a union: The Union Hall. The Union Hall, now known as The Village Store, was originally built as a community gathering place for public gatherings, church services and town fairs. It had a dance hall (the vaulted ceiling is still in place on the third floor). The building represents resilience at its deepest levels and this energy is still at work.
Whatever was needed to help the town heal and grow seemed to happen in this place. This building represents community. The Union Hall remained standing as the last store in town after the Brick Store on the hill burned in 1915 and Grammie Knight’s store closed in the 1950’s. Here we are, with all of the comforts afforded us that our predecessors never had. Here we are, with the same hopes and dreams of those former residents who wanted to keep a community gathering place in their midst. Here we are. This is cause for celebration! Acworth came together and build this Hall for the union of community in the uncertainty and sorrows of 1865 and beyond, and in that spirit we continue to this day.
- by Debby Hinman
An Historical Timeline
National & Local Events Surrounding the Village Store
1865 The Civil War Ends
1865 Union Hall Association signs contract to build South Acworth Village Store
1865 - 1879 New Owner - Aaron Sparling - Store opens for business
1867 Town of Acworth Centennial Celebrated
1879 1894 New Owner - Jacob Richardson
1887 Gawin Gilmore Dickey finished his bird collection, currently housed in the Silsby Library
1892 Dedication of Silsby Library
1894 - 1902 New Owner - Nathaniel Merrill (Merrill & Reed)
1902 - 1927 New Owner - George A Evans
1904 First Old Home Day Celebrated
1915 Fire burns Brick Store near the Common
1918 Armistice ends World War I
1923 Fire in South Acworth burns post office, store and first Grange Hall
1924 Fire destroys Faught's Lumber Mill, South Acworth
1927 - 1949 New Owner - Fay Evans
1929 Stock Market crash begins the Great Depression
1930 Construction begins on present Primary School
1936 Heavy flooding destroys mill stonework on the Cold River
1938 Great Hurricane
1944 - 1949 New Owner - Harold Austin - Owned jointly with Fay Evans
1944 D-Day - US Troops land on Normandy Beach
1949 - 1949 New Owner - Harry Mullineaux
1949 - 1967 New Owner - Roy & Katherine Burke
1949 Town Highway Garage Built
1967 - 1978 New Owner - Robert & Molly Boothby
1967 Town of Acworth Bicentennial Celebrated
1973 Highway Garage built in 1949 destroyed by fire
1978 - 1980 New Owner - Sam Gearhart
1980 - 1983 New Owner - Gail and Tom Duggan
1983 - 1986 New Owner - Richard Kangas
1986 - 2001 New Owners -Dick and Nancy Stewart
2001 New Owner - Acworth Historical Society with Acworth Community Project (Managing)
2005 Alstead Flood
2015 The Village Store's 150th Anniversary