Because You Asked . . . .    

Freem Hill, Harlem Huckster around 1904

Store on Wheels Made a Country Day

I would like to say I remember hucksters but my knowledge is second hand. My mother spent summer vacation on the farm with her aunt and remembers the peppermint candy sticks she got from the huckster.  When Dad visited his grandparents' farm near South Condit, he also got a stick of candy. I possess a coffee maker (metal drip kind) which the Willison's brought from a huckster.  Essa Willison told of waiting by the road all afternoon for sight of the wagon coming down the road.

In 1969, Bill Whitney ran a feature in The Sunbury News on W. F. "Freem" Hill, a huckster from Harlem Township. The picture and facts in the story came from Hill's daughter, Mrs. Paul Solms of Dayton. Rather than rewrite his article, I'll use excerpts from it.

Bill Whitney wrote:
What is a huckster wagon? This question has been asked of the News many times by younger people who never enjoyed a visit by this variety store on wheels. Storekeepers operating hucksters stocked them with nearly all the necessities of life and made regular trips to rural homes where the housewife would buy the staples that she needed to go with her home-made food to keep her pantry or buttery full until the huckster made his next trip. 

The huckster also bought eggs, butter, and poultry from the housewife. The News editor says that he spent many boyhood days with his grandparents near South Condit and the huckster’s visit was a big event as the man running the store on wheels always gave him a stick of candy.

Mr. Hill was a native of Harlem and operated a store in his house there before moving into a big building on the corner, now owned by Mrs. Frances Fravel, in 1904 which he and his wile operated. They also rented a house next to the store and rented both from Inman Budd who had a store in Galena. Mr. and Mrs. Hill ran the store until his death in 1918 and she kept it for a year. Their daughter and her husband, Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Kinsell, 
lived in the house next to the store and he came into the store business with Mr. Hill.

Took Four Horses in Mud
Mr. Hill operated his huckster routes on Thursday and Friday east of Harlem. The Friday route was toward Johnstown and went nearly to what is now State Route 62. When the weather and roads were bad Will Wise, who lived north of Harlem, would meet him out east with his team of horses as it was a mud road east and took two teams to pull the wagon. Mr. Kinsell's route was on Tuesday and went south toward the Albright Church.

On Monday, Mr. Hill took the products he had purchased on the routes to Columbus and ordered the groceries and dry goods for the store. He drove the huckster wagon to Westerville where he left the horses at Mann’s Livery Stable and sent his goods into Columbus on a traction car, called the hobo, and his order of things for his store were returned to Westerville on the traction car.

Mr. Hill bought chickens, eggs and homemade butter but no cream. About every woman in Harlem would be waiting for him to come in from his huckster route for their own special butter.

Six Loaves Bread for 25
Mrs. Solms does not have any of her father's store ledgers but remembers that he would bring in a big basket of bread from town Monday evening and sold six loaves for 25. The six loaves were baked individually in one long pan and you broke them apart; the bread was not wrapped.

Harlem Postoffice and General Store
Harlem had a postoffice in those days operated by Mrs. Bert Budd in her home. When Budds moved to Galena the postoffice was moved into Hill's store and Mrs. Kinsell operated it. John Ordorff brought the mail from Westerville.

Some of the customers of Hill’s General Store were these families: Scott Root, Glad Goldsberry, Dock Williams, Bert Cook, Frank Paul, A. D. "Kathy" Budd, Frank Fravel, Mathilda Williams, H. Mullen, Hattie Budd, Lee Searles, Milton Sines, Sherman Williams, whose son, John, came to the store as a salesman for a grocery company, Ed Buck, Otto Reeb, Glen Budd, Dick Fairchilds, D. Mann, "Tuck" Borden, Kelly Adams and the Tuller family.

Boys Met in Store
Lee Feazel of Johnstown was in the News office Saturday and the Editor showed him this picture of Mr. Hill and his huckster wagon. "Why, that’s "Feem" Hill. We lived near Adams corners in those days and all of us boys would meet in the store in the evening to tell our tall tales," he exclaimed. Lee is a native of Harlem Township and will be 90 Sept. 5.

Scott Root, 92, of Harlem said, "Sure 'I remember Hill's Store. I don't hear to good over the phone so I'll let my daughter talk with Scott told the News editor. Mrs. Scholl told she surely remembers the store. "Gilbert Fravel was always sitting on the porch of the store and plagued us children. We called him Uncle Gil and went to the end of the porch away from him when we went to the store. My husband helped tear the old store building down," Mrs. Scholl told the News.

Besides groceries Mr. Hill usually stocked two bolts of calico and maybe one or two of outing flannel, thread, pins, needles, socks, and work gloves. Mrs. Solms says, "I don't-remember of any hardware but probably chewing tobacco."

The News is grateful to Mrs. Solms for this picture and information and I am grateful for this opportunity to learn about a way of life I was not privy to experience.

Throughout this month, Community Library is featuring Harlem Township in the display cases which flank the Burrer Memorial Room. The Harlem Township Ohio Bicentennial Committee is publishing the history of the township which will be ready for the Pig Roast and Potluck in August 2003.


. . . .And Now You Know
by Polly Horn


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(04/01/2006 )

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