Missouri News

New book shines light on history of old Hester General Store

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Aug. 25, 2018 12:01 am Updated: Aug. 25, 2018 11:45 pm

HESTER, Mo. -- James Royalty Jr. was rummaging through a cedar chest at his home in Versailles, Ky., when came upon a scrapbook created years ago by his parents.

The scrapbook focused on the period from 1946 to 1951 when his parents, James and Lena Mae Royalty, operated the old Hester General Store in the tiny community of Hester in northern Marion County.

Royalty started poring through the scrapbook's pages, which featured photos, news clippings and other mementoes from that five-year stretch.

Royalty was intrigued because he was born in 1950 while his family lived in a small house next to the Hester General Store. Royalty has no memory of the year he spent in Hester before the family moved back to his parents' native Kentucky, but his interest in his hometown was nevertheless aroused.

Royalty did some research about Hester and discovered that the general store -- now with a Taylor mailing address -- operated from 1876 until around 1961. The building, constructed in 1874, is now in a state of severe disrepair.

Royalty felt he should do something to preserve memories of the store and his parents' involvement in a small slice of Marion County's history.

So he wrote a book: "Hester General Store, Taylor, Missouri: A Family Scrapbook of Pictures, Memories, Pioneers, Sudduth School, Hester Children & Area Bridges."

The book was finished in June with help from a publishing company. Only one copy was produced using many of the original photos, news clippings and other documents Royalty managed to unearth -- along with his own writing.

The book cost around $400 to produce. "I couldn't afford any more," Royalty said.

To make sure the book remains available to future generations, Royalty donated the lone copy to the Marion County Library Subdistrict No. 1 in Palmyra.

Library Director Peggy Northcraft said the book will stay in the library for in-house research only and may not be checked out, but photocopies can be made upon request for $10.

"It's a one-of-a-kind resource," Northcraft said.

Royalty said he wanted to produce the book "just to preserve some of the artifacts and pictures from the scrapbook so they wouldn't get destroyed," he said.

He also wanted to honor his parents, who spent five years trying to eke out a living for themselves and their three children by operating a general store in the tiny Northeast Missouri town.

The store was a source of groceries for area residents, but it also served as a post office, polling place and gas station.

One of the store's biggest appeals was its front porch, which served as a gathering place where local residents shared stories, talked politics and compared notes on hunting and fishing exploits.

"My daddy was a hunter and fisherman up there," Royalty said.

The store, located on County Road 150 just east of Route A, was situated along the bank of Grassy Creek, which feeds into the nearby Fabius River. Flooding was an occasional issue.

One newspaper clipping in the book tells about the time in 1948 when floodwater surrounded the store. Loyal customers from Tick Ridge and Bel Echo would park their cars near the water's edge and blow their horns. James Royalty Sr. would then row his boat to pick them up, bring them to the store to shop, then row them back to their cars.

Royalty said his parents' store was unusual because it was housed in a two-story building. "Country stores were all one story back then," he said.

Royalty's book offers a compilation of all former owners of the property.

He also writes about the early history of Marion County and provides research about immigrants who moved to the area from Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee and other locations. In addition, he offers details about the former Sudduth country school, which operated east of Hester and was recently torn down.

Royalty also wrote about some of the children who grew up in that part of Marion County and some of the old bridges that once carried traffic through the area.

"All of the bridges are torn down now," he said.

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