BUSINESS HOUSES OF WARRENTON - CONTINUED
From Mrs. Allen's across Front Street, on the corner, stood a two-story house, painted white, with green blinds, the residence of James Albert Egerton. In 1850 it was the residence of J. V. Cawthorne, who had not then removed his home to the north of the town limits. Adjoining the home on the east was Mr. Egerton's dry goods store, where he commenced to do business in about 1845. He remodeled and improved this building just before the war, making of it one of the most attractive stores in the town.
Mr. Egerton's personality was very marked. He was of English descent, one of four brothers living in Warren County, bearing a striking resemblance to each other. All were brunettes, very deliberate in manner and speech. James Albert was regarded by his friends as firm and decided in his views and opinions of men and things, by others as dogmatic and obstinate. Everybody regarded him as a man of good principles and entirely trustworthy. He was a good friend, a good neighbor, a useful citizen. He was a member of the Baptist Communion and consistent in his Christian life. He had not the least sense of humor, and seldom laughed. He took a most solemn view of life, and young people were awed in his presence.
This block, including the Egerton store, was entirely destroyed by fire in 1878, up to the Hyman brick store. This fire was thought to be the work of an incendiary, and a mulatto, by the name of Joe Christmas, was indicted for the burning. He was tried and acquitted. He went North to live after that time, to New Jersey I believe, where he was later indicted for murder, convicted and executed. The front room of this building was quite large. In the early fifties it was occupied by Mr. Vaughn, a tailor, who came to the town from the North. He used the back room for his cutting and work, the front for the display of his goods. Mr. Vaughn was a man of intelligence and some culture, public spirited, and a good citizen. He organized the Warrenton Thespian Company, and was a leading actor in the plays they aspired to put on the boards. He died from consumption, in Warrenton, during the war.
Mrs. Vaughn was a handsome, striking looking woman. She conducted a millinery establishment, at one time in a room in the upper story of T. A. Montgomery's store, later in the large front room of the old Jenkins home, before it was remodeled by Colonel Jenkins.
The next person to occupy this house, after Mr. Vaughn, was Mr. Ezell, who there had a printing office, he being the editor of the Warrenton News. Mr. Walsh of Petersburg succeeded Mr. Ezell as editor of this paper. He resided in the town for some years, during the war, before he returned to his former home, with his wife and his pretty daughter, Annie.
The first brick house ever built in Warrenton, and for many years 'the only brick store, was known and identified'. as the Brick Store, which in my childhood was called the Hyman ,Store. It was situated on the corner of Main Street and South Court Square. I have been told that it was built in the late thirties, and by a Mr. Osborne.- Robert Hyman, from Edgecombe County, was the occupant in my early memory.
Later he was joined in business by his brother, Frank Hyman, from the same, county. The elder brother never married. He moved to Chicago when that wonderful city begun to attract many enterprising men from the East. After years of very successful business there he died in that city. Frank Hyman married Miss Ella Jones, daughter of William Duke Jones of Warren .County. They had only one lovely little daughter, who died in childhood. For several years Mr. Hyman conducted a mercantile business in Norfolk; finally he moved back to Warren County, bought the old Drake place, on Louisburg road, and after several years residence died there.
After the retirement of Robert Hyman from the firm, Richard T. Arrington and Edward W. Best joined Frank Hyman in the business. This firm did business in that store until after the war, when Richand Arrington moved to Petersburg, and joined his father, Dr. John Arrington, and his brother, S. P. Arrington, in the cotton commission business. When quite an old man Mr. Best went to the Grove Hill section of the county, and joined William Morgan Powell in general merchandise business. He died there at a very advanced age. Mr. Best was a testy old bachelor, without teeth or hair, but not without a sense of humor. During the war some lady was joking him about never having married, when he re-plied, "I granny, before the war it was who would marry old Ned Best ? but since all the boys have gone off to fight it has come to this, who will old Ned Best marry ?"
A small narrow store stood between The Brick Store and the larger store on the south. The lower floor of this larger store was used by Captain P. J. Turnbull as a business place for general merchandise. Years after Major "Buck" Williams had a grocery store there, and after the fire of 1881 Dr. C. A. Thomas used it as a drug store until he rebuilt his store across the street. The upper story of this store-house was used as a picture gallery when I can first recall the business street. Mr. Copeland of Jack-son, N. C., an artist of some note, and an excellent portrait painter, occupied it for some years as his studio.
Later on David Parrish, familiarly called "Uncle Jesse," occupied the same room and did the same work. . Mr. Parrish came to Warrenton in the early forties, from Lynchburg, Va., He drove into the town with a nice Carriage and pair of fine horses, and stopped at the hotel with his wife and several small children. He was for some time without employment, then he took up the work of making daguerreotypes. He was Skipping the old Cheek Hotel, which adjoined the last described building, we come to the storehouse on the corner of Main and Franklin streets. In 1851 George R. Sledge and Mr. Perkinson conducted a mercantile business there. Mr. Perkinson died after a few years, and B. R. Browning became a partner of Mr. Sledge. After a few years Mr. Browning moved to Littleton to engage in business, and Mr. Sledge continued to engage in business in that store until his death.
To the south of the Sledge Store, across Franklin Street, was located a building which consisted of the. timbers of the old Bute Courthouse. It was very quaint in appearance—a modification of the Queen Ann style, with three rooms upstairs and three rooms down on the first floor. Early in the century it was used by Mr. and Mrs. Falkener as their school room. For probably forty years it was used by John R. Johnson as his place of business, where he conducted a boot and shoe manufactory. He employed many mechanics, and made boots and shoes, from the most fashionable and high priced, to brogans. He found sale for his high priced boots among the young men of fortune in the several southern states. The young men of Warren County, who were students at the State University, then called "Chapel Hill," introduced Mr. Johnson's products to the other students there.
Mr. Johnson was a native of Ireland, who came to Warren
County about 1835. Mr. Johnson was one of the best known and the best
liked people that ever lived in the county, and was entirely worthy of the
good-will and confidence he enjoyed. He was honest, truthful, religious,
devoted to his family, and a good citizen. He was a devoted member of the
Baptist Church. So robust was his health that he rarely, if ever, missed
attending a Church service or Sunday school from the time he became a
citizen of the town, until his death in February, 1890, a period of quite
forty-five years. Considering the prosaic calling that he followed, it is
interesting and curious too to relate, that he had a strong poetical vein
running through his mind. He was especially fond of Shakespeare and Tom
Moore, and could quote lines from either of his favorites as the humor
Montgomery, Lizzie Wilson; Sketches of old Warrenton, North Carolina; traditions and reminiscences of the town and people who made it, Raleigh, Edwards & Broughton printing company, 1924.