|Roxie Sophronia Stockton (Hughey)
10 September 1879 - 20 March 1962
Bunc Co NC Bunc Co NC
The store sat on Stockton family property, near the two-story, Victorian-style farm house where Sophronia had grown up.
(By this time, this Stockton family home was rented to the Lee and Pansy (Daniels) Sluder family.) Adjoining the store on
the back and north side was the apartment where she and husband Adolphus Hughey ("Dolph" to her and neighbors) lived.
The living room and bedrooms formed a wing running to the east at a right angle to the store. In the angle was the kitchen,
shedded off to the east, with windows looking onto the back yard and a door for convenient access into the store. A large
square porch, with several big rocking chairs, faced west to the side road and parking area and gave access both to the
living room of the residence and to the rear door of the store.
Mr. Hughey, who earlier had operated a dairy farm on the Stockton property, was unwell but was able to spend time on the
porch during the warm months, greeting passersby and the customers who, approaching from down Stockton Branch,
entered the store via the porch. Often he was joined by Mr. Jim Deaver who farmed the property for the Hugheys. After Mr.
Deaver completed his tasks for the day, he would often sit with Mr. Hughey for a while before walking south along the road
the half mile or so to his own home.
The store itself was a long rectangular room with double doors in the narrow end facing the Barnardsville road. An open
corridor ran the length of the room, with showcases and counters on either side. With only two windows (one on each side
of the front door) and old stained bead-board paneling all around, the room was rather dark. Toward the back, to the side
of the corridor, sat an oblong steel wood-burning stove, with a wood box and bench against the wall and a couple of
straight chairs nearby. In winter, these were often occupied by customers who came for a loaf of bread and stayed to warm
and chat, or occasionally for political talk with Sophronia, who was active in a local party precinct.
Across from the main counter, where Sophronia presided with the cash box on a shelf behind her, sat a chest-style cooler
for bottled soda (Nehi orange and grape and Dr. Pepper were big sellers), milk, butter, margarine, and packaged cheese; a
chest freezer for ice cream and a few packaged meats (mostly wieners); and the open vendor racks for packaged bread
and bagged snacks like potato chips. Both side walls had shelves for canned goods, bottled mayonnaise and mustard,
packaged crackers, cereals, cookies, etc. There also were the staple items like flour, corn meal, salt, soda, and sugar.
Beside Sophronia's station was a glass showcase atop the counter where she kept, near to hand, the candy bars, jaw
breakers, suckers, Mary Jane's, Nabs, etc. Children were frequent customers, with or without accompanying adults, and
many, if not most, transactions involved these small items. Further along in the case were the chewing tobacco, shoe
strings, the sewing notions, cigarette lighters, etc. Behind her, on a shelf near her cashbox, were the open cartons of
cigarettes, which she dispensed pack by pack.
Miss Fronie was an imposing figure, very dignified and proud of stature, with her hair cropped short and plain, in a practical
business-like style. She greeted customers and neighbors in a hearty manner that nevertheless bespoke a hint of hauteur,
inviting no nonsense. When she dressed up on Sunday mornings to attend services at Piney Mountain Baptist Church, of
which she had been a founding member, she would don a large wide-brimmed hat, a better dress, and good shoes, and
look the part of one who knew she was a person of substance.
I became, unexpectedly, more directly involved with the store the summer I was fifteen. A widow by this time, Sophronia had
gone to the hospital for scheduled abdominal surgery, leaving her ever-helpful neighbor Pansy Sluder in charge of the
store. Then, when Mrs. Sluder's brother Hardy Daniels suddenly fell ill and required hospitalization, she came to recruit me
as her substitute store-keeper while she attended her brother.
A bored fifteen-year-old watching too many daytime soap operas, I was delighted to take on such responsibility and quickly
studied what Mrs. Sluder told me about how to run the store. Truth be told, business was not very brisk. Soft drinks, milk,
bread, and cigarettes were typical sales. Cans of Vienna sausage and crackers were popular with workers who stopped by
in need of lunch. Sugar sales picked up a bit for canning season.
Between the occasional customers and three or four deliveries per week, there were long periods with nothing to do, except
to wonder if the profit would suffice to cover my very modest salary. Still, I proudly kept my place behind the counter. As I
recall, the main challenge was one or two neighborhood boys who could not resist the temptation to tease this quiet
studious lad -- new to storekeeping -- who surely lacked the daunting majesty of Miss Fronie. There seemed to be some
hope for free candy, but I remained at once timid and staunch.
After a few days, Sophronia returned from the hospital, much better, but still convalescing and needing help, and she
asked me to stay on for the remaining weeks of summer, until school opened. We became pals in a way, and several times,
apparently feeling in need of company, she asked me to stay overnight in the spare room. On these occasions, she would
rise early and prepare a full breakfast for us to eat in her kitchen. She made coffee, fried eggs and bacon, toasted bread,
and added a novel item - fresh tomato slices. I had never had such a combination before and immediately adopted the
delicious idea. To this day, if I prepare a traditional breakfast during tomato season, I always serve sliced tomato with the
bacon and eggs.
A few weeks later, there was a visit by her California nephew Bass Stockton and his wife Corinne, along with their young
adult son Jay. These visitors evinced a prosperous glow uncommon to our rural community. Bass was a tall, sturdy man
with a broad jolly face and a full head of silver hair. Corinne was tall, refined -- perfectly groomed and attired. Their
handsome son, athletic of build and charming in manner, seemed a fitting offspring, looking to me like Hollywood. When
there were long talks among the older ones in the back apartment, he would sometimes escape to the store and while away
the time with me, to my delight.
During these last years of Sophronia's life, as during the earlier long illness of her husband, her physician was Otis Duck of
Mars Hill, who was still making house calls for a few of his older patients, including Sophronia. The Hugheys had no
children, and it seemed that Dr. Duck had become a friend, or even something like a son to her, as well. Knowing of her
clear mind and confident opinions, one can imagine them engaged in spirited conversation, equally enjoyable to both.
After she died, in 1962, it was revealed that she had bequeathed her property to Dr. Duck, rather than to her relatives.
Thereupon ensued a brisk legal battle by prospective heirs who wished to break her will and gain the property. Local
people who knew both Sophronia and Dr. Duck were called to witness on their behalf, and the attempted interception failed.
- Dwight Childers
25 September 2010
By the 1950's, when I came to know her, "Miss Fronie" and her small grocery store had
long been fixtures in the Piney Mountain and Morgan Hill communities of northern
Buncombe County. The white clapboard building sat close beside the old Barnardsville
Road at a curve near where it intersected with Stockton Branch Road. (A few years later,
the new Barnardsville Highway was graded to cut through a hill and move eighty yards or
so away from the store to the south, no doubt taking some store business with it. A
portion of the old road was left to serve the store and a couple of houses also orphaned
by the change.) In current geography, the location is on Brown Drive, about forty yards
east of Stockton Branch Road.