Mr. George Elbert Arnsdorff was born in 1880, north of Springfield. In 1910, he married Lula Mell Freyermuth, born in 1886. They had nine children, rearing them in a large house on what is now called Elbert Arnsdorff Road at a curve in the road in the vicinity of the late Wilton Arnsdorff’s house, later the home of Edwin “Neb” and Dora Arnsdorff.
In the early 1930s, the state secured right of ways to build a paved highway to Augusta today known as Highway 21. My grandfather, Bruce Hinely, owned land along the roadway. His payment for the right of way was used to pay the doctor bill for the birth of my mother in 1932.
Grandaddy also leased property to the state for their use during the building of the road. The property leased is where my parents now live and have a “camp” building used for family and friends to gather. Their current driveway back then was an old road along the Hinely Branch that was the route to Guyton. The state used the leased the property for a mule lot for many mules used in the road construction.
According to C. Lester Bragg Jr., the store was built during the time that the road was being constructed. The bridges on the original Highway 21 were dated 1936, according to Lester “Buzzie” Morgan Jr. Those original bridges no longer exist since this highway was rebuilt as a four-lane road with a median in recent years.
When Mr. Elbert decided to build the store, he also built a home for his wife and a few of their children, who were still at home, under the same roof. (See accompanying photograph.) They left their older, very large home for the new residence with the old home eventually torn down as it became dilapidated. Daniel Arnsdorff recalls helping his father clear the land with mules and skidders and helping to build the new house and store combination in the 1930s and living there with a few of the younger siblings for a short while before they married and left home.
The store was on the front of the building, offering a covered carport with a gasoline pump. Kerosene was sold from a nearby drum-like tank that sat to the side of the store. Inside the store, in the middle of the wooden floor, there was a red galvanized interior Coca Cola cooler that was filled with ice and cold drinks. According to Gloria A. Howard, a granddaughter, there were two long wooden counters with glass display cases like those housing prize-winning baked goods at the Effingham County Fair.
General staple groceries, nails, bread and canned goods were available. Very little fresh meat was offered other than smoked bacon and bologna, which was cut to order and sold by the pound. Red rind hoop cheese also was cut and sold by order.
Lula A. Buckner, another granddaughter, recalls an altered metal coat hanger fashioned into a hook that held the tickets owed by customers. Credit was extended to regular customers and the store served as a commissary (company store) for son Wilton’s employees of his businesses.
This also served as the commissary for Wilton and Frank Arnsdorff’s sawmill workers.
I remember as a very young child, growing up within sight of the store, going there with my father and seeing the colorful candy in the display case and getting some kind of treat. For some unknown reason I called the store keeper, “Mr. Orange Elbert,” perhaps for an orange soda or special candy which I no longer recall.
Mr. Elbert kept the money in a wooden drawer but stored most of the paper money in his wallet. Gloria remembers one time while with her grandfather in the store, he felt uneasy with a customer and how he “somehow eased that wallet into a keg of nails under the counter hiding it” just in case the man tried to rob them, which did not occur. Gloria was actually born in her grandparents’ house in 1939, which was attached to the store with Dr. Collum attending her mother.
A tragedy occurred in 1947 in front of the store. The Southeastern Stages bus stopped to let off 16-year-old Jeanette Arnsdorff, daughter of Bertie and Mildred (Gnann) Arnsdorff, who was killed as she crossed both lanes of the road, accidentally walking in front of the bus into the path of a vehicle.
When Mr. Elbert became ill shortly before he died, family pitched in to run the store. Daughter Ollie Gowan and family relocated here as her husband retired from service and kept the store running for a short while after Mr. Elbert passed away in 1961and also taking care of Mrs. Mell until her death in 1962. The store closed by about the mid 1960s and the Gowan family continued to make their home there. The store was eventually torn down, although a large old oak tree on the property located behind where the building once existed stands on the old site as evidence to a once thriving business and residence just about five miles north of Springfield.
This was written by Susan Exley of Historic Effingham Society with photos provided by Marcia A. Williams and information from family and community members. If you have photos, comments or information to share, contact Susan Exley at 754-6681 or email her at: email@example.com