Olde Country Store Embraces 170 Year Legacy
By Jasmine Willis
NORTH COHOCTON — There is one store that rests on the corner of a tight-knit community, which has been the cornerstone of the town’s lifeblood for 170 years.
If walls could talk this wooden structure would have plenty of stories to tell of its humble beginnings in 1849, to its reinventions of the 1950s, and furthermore to the rebranding on the Green Heart of the Finger Lakes in more recent times.
Yes, it is safe to assume that this historic treasure nestled in the sleepy hills of North Cohocton has been a familiar place for weary travelers for nearly two centuries.
The Wells Family, Jeffery, Denise, and Jenny all co-own the Olde Country Store and More for the past four years.
On July 6 the Olde Country Store and More held a 170 Year Anniversary in honor of the store’s complete history. Perhaps, the most unique attraction of the day was the historical artifacts upstairs showcasing the legacy.
“The store is 170 years old this year. It had been built in 1847 and was opened for business in 1849. When they first opened this store, it was used for local needs. It had everything from boots, to grains, to food, and farm supplies. It had everything they needed to survive. I think of it as their Walmart of the day. They had to come from miles away in horse-drawn wagons to load up on supplies for the month,” Jeffery Wells said. “The upstairs part of the building has its own history. It was known as Wetmore Hall. Orlando Wetmore is the one who built this store. His brother, Nelson Ames Wetmore helped him run the business. They had an opera house upstairs in 1873 that they rented out. It was built with a floor on top of a floor to be used for roller skating. A.E. Davis and Co. rented it out for roller skating. They had dances and plays up here on the stage.”
Wells had found an original window frame in storage he used to display some old photos of the Wetmore and Wolfanger owners. He had refurbished it and laminated the photos and historical documents for viewing. Another piece of history found in the cellar of the store was a Wolfanger and Pierce sign that Wells had placed above the exhibit.
In 1898 this was known as the Wolfanger and Pierce era of the store. The Wetmore’s sold the building to Henry Wolfanger and Henry Pierce.
“We have a small ledger of the store that goes back to the start from the Cohocton Historical Society. We have a larger ledger that has Henry Wolfanger and The Briglin’s guestbook in the 1960s,” Wells said. “We wanted to show people what the store is all about. I found a brief history showing the timeline of the store. There are some people alive that know decades of history in this store, and others that don’t know any of it. It is just an interesting way to share the story with everyone.”
Kelly Briglin, a family member of Charles Briglin, who owned the store after Henry Wolfanger donated a lot of items.
“There were a lot of family members from past owners who donated items for this event. There were some people who had things in their attics that belonged in this store. They all wanted to bring these items back to the store,” Wells said. “I did a lot of research on the area in which the store was built as well. This was once known as Biven’s Corners after Joseph Biven in 1794. He built a tavern on what was known as the Conhocton River. It was then changed to Blood’s Corners after Fredrick Blood. North Cohocton is the oldest settlement of Cohocton.”
In the honor of paying tribute to the humble start of the area the Wells Family donated some of their own family history to the event. The Lumbering in Conhocton River exhibit showed some items from the Wells Family Naple Farm. Among these items are old farm tools, ice saws, and other historic treasures found in the farm attic.
Wells is most proud of his WWII Veteran Uncle Raymod Greiner Merrill whose war suitcases and uniform were also found on the farm. Wells’ grandpa, Raymond Briggs Merrill was a principal at North Cohocton Atlanta School. Wells’ grandma, Helma (Greiner) Merrill was a schoolteacher at the same school.
Wells said he would like to keep the museum atmosphere upstairs on the walls but would need to secure it to that area for when he has vendors up there in the various events.
“I remember Charles Briglin from my childhood. My grandparents used to take me here for candies all the time. I believe he was the one who started it as a candy tradition. I think before that is was just a general store. It had to change in order to survive. It was in that time all the big stores were coming along,” he said. “Charles had to think about how to make the store a destination spot again. I remember all of my life this place has been a candy store. When My family took over the store, we had to do the same thing in order to survive. We had to think about how to keep this place a destination. They come from all over for the atmosphere, the creaks in the floor, the smell of the wood, the sound of the bell when you walk in, and the traditions.”
Some other owners of The Olde Country Store include the Duserick Family in 1977, the Park Family in 1983, the Wissick Family in 1993, Judith Coats in 1996, and Jack Bolster and James Conrad in 2011.
Brenda Yeoman of We Wear History came to showcase old fashion spinning. She has been portraying the 1800s era for several years, but has recently taken up how to make her own wool, dye her own wool, and make her own flax.
“I am showing everyone how they used the great spinning wheel to make wool. It all started hundreds of years ago. I am also showing everyone the natural way to dye wool. I have used onions, black walnuts, blackberries, grape hyacinths, and much more. You also use a hetchel for flax to make it course, medium, or fine,” she said. “I have been spinning for about five years now, but I recently taught myself how to dye my own wool.”
Belinda Schuler, Brenda’s sister and We Wear History co-founder showed up in an elegant period dress with matching sun umbrella.
“It is amazing that in all this time the store had only been closed for seven years. I am so proud of my community for having this store here,” she said.
Judy Graham and Judi Hall were at the event to promote the Cohocton Historical Society. The ladies have a lot of new ideas for the area, and hope that many people will be interested in its rich history.
“We want to keep Cohocton revitalized. It is amazing how much history we have in this small community. The Larrowe House has been refurbished, but it still needs more work done to give it that family spirit,” Graham said. “There has been a change in leadership at the historical society, and we have a lot of new ideas. We want to promote new activities, promote community pride, and make people aware of the history.”
The Cohocton Historical Society is open every third Thursday of the month from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Crosby Building. The Larrowe House is open every third Saturday of the month from 1 to 3 p.m.
Graham gave an example of the rich history by mentioning she is the sixth generation of her family to live in her home. She said that her husband helped to refurbish an old American Revolutionary War Cemetery from which his ancestors were buried in town.
“Cohocton is a well-kept secret in the area. There is so much history there. There used to be buckets of sweet peas on the train tracks being brought to New York City,” she said. “Now that we are open new hours, and have more people interested in promoting the community we hope people will come. We always need more members and volunteers at the Cohocton Historical Society.”
Olde Country Store and More is at 2 University Avenue. It is open Tuesday to Sunday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. It is closed on Monday. They can be reached at 585-534-5747. For more information visit them at https://ocs1849.com