College Hill Store was built in 1836 and is perhaps the oldest commercial establishment remaining in Lafayette County. The store was built the year Lafayette County was founded and the year of the Chickasaw Indian Cession.
“General Grant and General Sherman are said to have camped 30,000 Union troops at College Hill, and it seems logical that they probably visited the only store in the area,” said Connie Durham Rucker, proprietor of the historic store.
“Originally the store building was two stories, with a doctor’s office on the second floor. When the top floor burned, it became a single story building,” she said.
College Hill Was Early Community
The historical building is where citizens, Civil War soldiers and Indians all must have shopped, where farmers gathered during the great depression. Now, College Hill Store serves up bottled soda and candy to school children, and hosts receptions for weddings and dignitaries such as Senators Roger Wicker and Thad Cochran.
“College Hill Store was purchased by the late John White, who for many years was director of the Physical Plant at Ole Miss. When he died, he left the land to the local fire department and the building to Ole Miss. The plan was for Ole Miss to move the building, but it was determined that the building was in such bad shape it could not be moved,” said Rucker.
“Ole Miss gave the building to the The Oxford Lafayette County Heritage Foundation, and I leased it from the Society for as long as I maintain and keep up the store,” she said.
Restoration Saves Store
Rucker’s brothers, Sammie and Charles Durham, helped her restore the store to its original condition. Inside are a wide range of period antiques, including a 14-foot long seed counter, now used for buffets, antique tools and glass, and a wood-burning stove that has become the center where community members gather for conversation during cold winter days. The store is immediately across the street from College Hill Church on property owned by The College Hill Water Association.
“The thing that amazes me is to actually sit in the store and think of all the people who have come through its doors. Scenes from Faulkner’s ‘Intruder In The Dust’ were filmed here and Mr. Faulker’s nephew, Chooky Falkner, told me that the first commodities given out in the county were from this store. Mr. Faulkner came out to help, and he and his friends also met here to go fox hunting,” she said.
Located next door to the Regents School, the store caters to the nearly 180 kids who attend the school while hosting receptions and dinners throughout the year.
“Teachers bring students over as part of their history classes. And, during the 1890s and early 1900, court was held here and Ole Miss law students came out to observe,” Rucker said.
“We have groups from Kentucky and other states who come to the College Hill Store,” she said.
The store is open Tuesday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the school year, and is open the same hours, only on Thursday and Friday, in the summer.
“People love to be photographed on the front porch. It’s a special place to enjoy and recall our early history,” Rucker said.
College Hill Road, which runs in front of the store, is part of the trail native Americans traveled as they moved to reservations in Oklahoma. Chief Toby Tubby, one of the county’s largest land owners before the Chickasaw Cession, is sure to have frequented the store, residents say. He was killed in a knife fight and is believed to have been buried in the region.
Across the street, behind College Hill Church, are buried both Confederate and Union troops who may have also frequented the store. –– Jim Roberts, HottyToddy.com staff writer
Email Jim Roberts at firstname.lastname@example.org