W.H. Knode's Sons Southern States Farm Supply store auction brought bidders in droves

June 18, 2011|By RICHARD F. BELISLE |
  • Bidders watch the auctioneer at the W.H. Knodes Sons Southern States Farm Supply store auction in Shepherdstown W.Va. Saturday.
By Chris Tilley/Staff Photographer

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. — It was unscripted rural theater.

Saturday's auction of the inventory, local history and nostalgia of the five-generation W.H. Knode's Sons Southern States Farm Supply store brought bidders in droves.

Early on, the store's customers were farmers who brought their grain in for grinding into feed or to pick up machinery and supplies. More recently, it has been suburbanites who bought lawn and garden supplies as the store's inventory changed to serve more homeowners than farmers.

Saturday's auction also drew the usual flock of curiosity seekers.

"It's like a wake for all their friends and customers," said local blacksmith Dan Tokar. "They're here to send it off."

The store closed in October following the failing health of William E. "Bill" Knode Jr. He and his brother, Jim Knode, were the last of five generations to own the business.

According to a family history, the business was started by Urias Knode, Bill and Jim's great-great-grandfather, across the Potomac River in nearby Washington County. His son, William Henry Knode, moved the business to Shepherdstown, where it operated through subsequent generations.

A lot that drew much interest in Saturday's auction was the Soap Box Derby car that Bill Knode built and raced in 1950. It was bought for $600 by Eric Lewis, 38, an accountant who lives in Charles Town, W.Va.

"I've known Bill since I was a kid," Lewis said. "For years, he told me that I should buy the car, so I had to buy it today."

He plans to display the wooden red race car in his barn. It's emblazoned with advertising for the store.

Margaret Peterson of Shepherdstown was waiting for a stack of galvanized buckets that once held seed.

"I'm always looking for interesting things to plant flowers in," she said.

Charles "Bub" Russler, 80, of Berkeley County, often made the trip to Knode's to have his corn and barley ground into feed for his cows and hogs.

"It's sad to see this go," he said. "It was a ways to go to get here, but I liked the people, so I liked to visit with them."

Another area farmer, James Reinhart of Sharpsburg, started coming to Knode's in 1951 to have his grain ground and to buy seeds and fertilizer.

"I was coming here right up to the end," he said. "Now, I have to go to the Southern States in Charles Town or to Martin's Elevator."

A bit of Shepherdstown history was sold Saturday when Dennis Barron, treasurer of the Shepherdstown Fire Department, bid $650 for two huge arch-glassed doors that two centuries ago guarded the horse-drawn steam engine that the department housed in its old fire hall on New Street.

Barron said the doors will be refurbished or put on permanent display at the current firehouse on W.Va. 45.

Also sold Saturday, for $180, were the original wooden beams that held up the bell in the clock tower in McMurran Hall on East German Street. For a brief period following the Civil War, McMurran Hall served as the Jefferson County Courthouse.

Tokar, who knows the history of the tower, said it was built in 1866 and rebuilt in 1992 by local craftsman Jay Hurley.

The wood was bought by Vanessa Morris, owner of Blue Ridge Salvage in Kearneysville, W.Va. She'll make furniture and other useful or decorative items from it.

"I try to find wood with history and give it a new, useful life," she said.

Auctioneer Densil Nibert kept himself busy all morning and well into the afternoon selling hundreds of items. According to clerk Cindy Nibert, 329 bid numbers were sold Saturday.

"This is a really big auction," Cindy Nibert said.

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