By Jeffrey H. Wells ~ The Olde Country Store and More - 1849
NORTH COHOCTON — Bundled thick to withstand the bitter New York winter of January 2015, I walked through the door again for the first time in almost a decade.
My eyes mesmerized by the familiar stains on the floor where once stood the old checkout counter, rows of shelves and the column of coolers and freezers where I once pulled my soda-pop for the long bicycle ride through Atlanta and up the Atlanta Back Road to the park where we took a refreshing swim on our hot and humid summer days.
The candy bins, built from rugged barn wood, where still there, hugging the right wall, and stretching from the front of the building all the way to the rear. The creaking floor beneath my feet and the pent-up, musty scent of history, jolted some of my sweetest memories of visiting this old gem back in the 70’s during the reign of two Briglin Family generations.
Until my final return home in the late fall of 2014 I never would have dreamed that one day the historic “Olde Country Store” in North Cohocton would belong to me and my daughters, let alone that we would be lucky enough to celebrate our fourth year of business here!
And now, this year’s celebration is different... historically different in so many ways. This year we will celebrate not only our fourth anniversary in business but also the year 1849which has been used by everyone who had owned this store since Henry (Hank) Wolfanger. “Est. 1849” has been a part of their signage but there has never been a real clarity as to when the building was built or if this was the date associated with the retail business presumed to be run from a log cabin style structure that burned down on this exact same site.
As we near our historical 170 year celebration (1849-2019) on Saturday, July 6th from 10 am till 4 pm, I have been consuming one historical book / article / pamphlet after another, during which one thing has become very clear to me. A retail business, in our present building, truly was established in 1849, even though we were in the belief that our building was not built until 1873.
Below I’ve laid out my chronological findings, compiled from several trustworthy historical sources which explains many things like, why we have a stage in the upstairs of our building and why we were told that there is another floor beneath our second story flooring.
HISTORY MATTERS ~ Prior to 1844 (date unknown) - Jesse McQuigg, built a store on the corner of Wayland and Depot (University Avenue) Streets in North Cohocton. He later built a saw mill on the Kirkwood stream which he managed until he sold both his sawmill and store before moving to Missouri. Jesse McQuigg was also documented as the Justice of the Peace in the same year he moved. From that time forward, 1844 to 1846, I’ve found no further information associated with this site until Jesse McQuigg’s store burned down in 1847. Then came the Wetmore family…
1847 - Orlando Wetmore Jr.bought the site and built an “imposing” building in the same year
1849 - The store opened for business in the springtime, hence Est.1849
1873 - WetmoreHall(Wetmore Opera House) North Cohocton was “built”, hence the belief that the store was actually built (re-built) in 1873… This is actually the upstairs of our building which was turned into a multi-use entertainment hall for events such as: church gatherings, political meetings, plays, concerts, roller-skating, lectures, dances, ice cream socials, dinners, holiday celebrations and meetings for civil war veterans. A floor was built over the original floor to accommodate the use as a skating rink in the later 1800’s.
Jane Ellen Oakes listed the Wetmore Hallin her 2003 History Master’s Thesis. The below snip-it from her Thesis captures some wonderful insight into the reasoning for the widespread use of Hall’s (Opera Houses) in the 19thcentury:
“During the half-century following the end of the Civil War, over fifty opera houses were built across the Genesee Country of New York State- a region extending from the western edge of the Finger Lakes to the eastern border of the Niagara region. Although little different from their earlier counterparts, called 'halls', the conscious choice to call a newly built or acquired entertainment hall an opera house reflected a desire on the part of both town and builder to be thought of as appreciative of higher culture and the arts, and of having the financial stability to create and support such a venue. These opera houses were what I believe to be perceived indicators of a town's cultural and economic progress: that is, they were understood on the part of the financier and community at large to be visible evidence to outsiders of the town's cultural sensitivity and financial security.”
Opera Houses of the Genesee Country Perceived Indicators of Cultural and Economic Success By Jane Ellen Oakes May 17, 2003
Our historical celebration will be a community event including a neighborhood yard-sale, Authentic German Food, Live Music on the front porch, Arbor Hill sampling, Chocolate and Fudge sampling, FREE Face Painting for the kids. On Display: Antique and Modern Firefighting and Rescue Equipment from the Atlanta Hatch Hose Fire Departmentand the Cohocton Volunteer Fire Department.
The upstairs of our store, also historically known as “Wetmore Hall”, will be open and full of historical (store related) displays along with folks from the Cohocton Historical Society and the Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance, who are celebrating their 100thanniversary this year. “We Wear History” will honor our event by wearing their traditional dress of the period.
For our history buffs, we are extending an open invitation, get 10% off your entire in store purchase by dressing in the periods of our earliest settlers of the late 1700’s into the early 1900’s.
We look forward to seeing lots of happy faces at our all-round fun event Saturday,July 6 from 10 a.m. till 4 p.m.
Jeff, Jenny and Denise ~ The Olde Country Store and More – 1849 ~ 2 University Ave. North Cohocton, NY