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Southern States auction marks end of an era

June 13, 2011|By RICHARD F. BELISLE | richardb@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. — The business closed in October, but an auction Saturday of the contents in W.H. Knode’s Sons Southern States farm and hardware store will mark the official end of a five-generation family business.

It will have the obvious inventory found in such businesses — fence supplies, tarps, lawn and garden supplies, galvanized pipe and nails, electrical and canning supplies, animal traps, farm hats and gloves, even tractor weights.

But this auction will also sell the owners’ personal history. Brothers William “Bill” Edgar Knode Jr. and Jim Knode are the last generation.

Buyers on Saturday will bid on the red soap box derby car that Bill Knode, 74, built and raced in the early 1950s. Local historians might find interest in pieces of wood from the McMurran Hall clock tower or doors and an arch from the old Shepherdstown Fire Hall. Collectors of memorabilia might bid on the 1940s-era Life magazines, old jars and cameras or the collection of retro Jim Beam liquor canisters of a Model T, police patrol car, baggage car, locomotive and caboose.

Gun enthusiasts might pick up and point the 1858 Remington revolver, a Kentucky long rifle, Colt Patent pocket pistol or the Remington 12-gauge, hammered double barrel.

There’s a 2005 GMC 4x4 pickup with 11,000 miles on the odometer, a 1959 Ferguson Tractor, a brush hog, hay fork and a Yale 7,000-pound forklift.

Bill Knode is recuperating from a long illness in a Chambersburg, Pa., facility. He said in an interview last week that he was born on Church Street in Shepherdstown in a house still owned by the family. The Knode family history is centered in the Sharpsburg area.

Bill Knode and his wife, Jo Ann, live in their home directly across the Potomac River from Shepherdstown in an old family enclave called Bridgeport.

Bridgeport, he said, is the couple’s main brick house and two small white cottages now owned by the National Park Service. The three houses line both sides of Canal Road that leads to a parking lot at the Chesapeake and Ohio National Historical Park towpath.

According to a family genealogy, Urias Knode, Bill Knode’s great-great-grandfather, started a store in Bridgeport in 1830 when construction of the C&O Canal reached there. It sold supplies to the workmen building the canal. When the waterway started to operate, the store sold feed, groceries and supplies to the canal-boat owners and their families.

Urias’ son, George William Knode, eventually took over the store at Bridgeport and ran it until his son, William Henry Knode, Bill Knode’s grandfather, got it in the 1890s. He ran it until Potomac River floods and competition from the railroads put the canal out of business.

William Henry Knode shifted his operations to Shepherdstown to sell coal and ice.

Several of the coal sheds he built behind the store stand today, Bill Knode said.

“There’s a photograph in the store of William Henry,” he said.

William Henry Knode and his son, William Edgar, Bill Knode’s father, became associated with Southern States in 1942. Five years later, William Edgar and his brother, George T. Knode, built the store at 202 E. Washington St.

Bill Knode began to take an active role in the business after graduating from Shepherd College in 1958. His younger brother, Jim, 63, worked in the store from 1974 to 1984. In 1992, Jim Knode was elected to the Jefferson County Commission and served for six years.

The store had 13 employees and nine vehicles, Bill Knode said.

Densil L. Nibert is the auctioneer. Bidding begins at 9 a.m.

The building on Princess Street is not being sold Saturday.

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