Special to the Tribune-Courier
It can be said with confidence that church is the glue that has kept the Walnut Grove community firmly intact. While other establishments have come and gone, the Walnut Grove Church of Christ remains a vital part of a once-thriving community.
Walnut Grove Church of Christ began in the nearby community of Glade in 1888 and was known as the Glade Church of Christ.
Settled along the railroad tracks, Glade was a prosperous community in the 1880s which had several houses, a hotel, railroad stop, a blacksmith shop, planning mill, grist mill and a general store.
Jackson Cope is credited with starting the community of Glade when he moved to the area and began a sawmill. Cope was a charter member of the Glade church and later died in 1903 after being stabbed at the Glade store.
After years of continued growth, the decision was made in the early 1920s to move the Glade church to Walnut Grove, or Stringtown as it was known by the locals, and the church was renamed Walnut Grove Church of Christ. The old church building at Glade was torn down and the lumber was transported by wagons to the new location and was used to build the new building.
Beginning in the 1930s, the community added a general merchandise store located at the intersection of Walnut Grove Road and Dogtown Road which was known to everyone as the “Hop” Hiett Store.
“The store was located where the sign is now for the church,” said Sue Hiett Johnson, daughter of Elbert “Hop” and Mable Hiett who ran the store for many years.
“Dewey Jackson built the store and Carver Darnall ran it for awhile before Momma and Daddy bought it,” her older brother, Johnny Hiett, added. Both brother and sister live just across the road from the site of their parents’ old store.
“The store sold all kinds of items,” Johnson said. “Snuff, tobacco twists, canned goods, and we had a long table with 25-pound bags of flour in pillow case sacks,” Johnson continued.
“We also had a Gulf gas pump and sold coal oil, too,” Johnson added. “I remember Daddy would go to Benton every so often and buy produce from Ashby’s and we would sell produce at the store,” she continued.
“They always got bananas and they would buy them green so they would last longer,” recalled Hiett.
As in most other rural communities, the store was the meeting place at Walnut Grove and many of the older men would gather around the potbelly stove at Hiett’s to swap tales and the latest gossip.
“That is where you went if you wanted to know anything or to learn something,” recalled Johnny Hiett.
The Hiett Store closed in 1962 and the old building was torn down in 2010 in order to make way for a larger parking lot for the church.
Just up the road from the old Hiett Store is a section known as Dogtown, which is considered by some to be a sub-community of Walnut Grove. There was a second store located at Dogtown that was run by Clint and Bonnie Edwards and later by Leon Byers.
“I always heard that Dogtown received its name because when all of the men would gather up at the store their dogs would follow and before long the place was covered with dogs. The name ‘Dogtown’ soon stuck,” said Johnson.
“I remember the store up at Dogtown well,” recalled Ruby Travis, who has lived around the Walnut Grove community most of her life.
“We didn’t have money and I would go up to the Dogtown store with one egg and trade it for a bar of candy,” Travis said.
“They used to have a truck that went door to door selling medication,” she recalled.
“I remember one time when I was real little, they came with Quinine pills and it looked like candy and I cried and cried wanting some because it looked like candy.”
The an anti-inflammatory painkiller was known for its bitter taste.
“Finally, they got tired of me crying and gave me one of those Quinine pills to shut me up. After I ate it, I sure didn’t cry for any more of that ‘candy’!”
School was another focal point of the community. Pie suppers, movie showings and other community events were often held at the school throughout the years. Some of the teachers remembered at Walnut Grove were Wilma Vaughn, Guy Boggess, Blanche Trimble and Tessie Smith.
“The school had two rooms but only one of them was used regularly,” said Neil Rudd, who attended Walnut Grove School in the 1950s.
“The second room was closed off and was called the ‘courtroom’ by the students because it was where we went when we got in trouble,” Rudd added with a mischievous grin, as if he had sat in that ‘courtroom’ a few times himself.
“Every morning when the weather was pretty, Miss Tessie Smith would line us up outside and we would sing ‘Good Morning to You,’” Rudd remembered. “And when we got into the classroom we would start every morning by reading a Bible verse.”
All eight grades were taught at Walnut Grove and the only time school was ever dismissed was when the road below the hill from the school was washed out or when some of the kids “accidentally” tampered with the flue of the potbelly stove. The school shut down in the late 1950s following the consolodation of many of the rural schools throughout the county.
Whether known as Walnut Grove, Stringtown, or Dogtown, this small section of Marshall County is fondly remembered by those who grew up there.