History of the Abernathy Furniture Store - ABERNATHY ~ ABERNETHY FAMILY GENEALOGY

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History of the Abernathy Furniture Store

     The 1900 District 8, Polk County, TN Census lists George W. Abernathy’s occupation as a machine agent. He was driving his wagon from farm to farm, selling Singer Sewing machines and other items that the community needed, which included rolled up cotton mattresses and springs,  tables, chairs, rocking chairs and other household goods. George cultivated multiple contacts
and outlets to provide the array of items that he sold. 
     On the 1910 Civil District 8, Polk County, TN Census his occupation was listed as a Furniture Merchant.  Sometime before
1910,  George W.  partnered with Carl Center opening the Abernathy and Center Mercantile Business.  They  moved into a two 
story frame building in downtown Ducktown, TN. (First set photos) Continuing to offer a  broad selection of commodities to Ducktown and the surrounding communities, the store offered furniture, coffins, caskets and a variety of hardware. George 
also became a licensed Mortician.  He then offer his services for embalming and funerals.
     The business thrived but its building and inventory were destroyed by a fire. The store relocated to a building on Main Street which was constructed in 1904 as the IOOF Hall -- Independent Order of Odd Fellows. The building still stands and today is the Ducktown City Hall.
Photo of the store on the top right, the caption reads,  Luther Abernathy with 'his Cherokee cousins'. 
(Photo & info provided by Gordon Abernathy)
When the first store in Ducktown was destroyed by fire, they relocated into the building at 327 Main St, Ducktown, TN
It stands today in 2015, and is the Ducktown City Hall.

George W. had three sons, Luther, Oscar and Carl.  His sons probably worked in the store after school and on the weekends as they got older.  Luther H. graduated in 1908, at the age of twenty-two, from the Cincinnati College of Embalming, located in Cincinnati, Ohio. Luther was the 24th person to become a licensed Embalmer in Tennessee.  After graduation,  Luther H. returned home and joined his father in the operation of the Abernathy Furniture Co., and The Abernathy Funeral Home. When George W. passed away on 04 Oct 1914, Luther H. Abernathy, took over his father’s portion of the partnership.

    Center & Abernathy moved their store to 113 Ocoee St, Copperhill, Polk County, Tennessee
 (on the corner of Ocoee and Grand)

     This store was once again destroyed by fire in 1925. The bank requested that the senior partner be listed first 
on the loan to rebuild. The store name was also changed to Center & Abernathy,  They continued in business, rebuilding 
on the same site.
     The building was specifically designed for the furniture business. 1st floor - Marcantile & furniture, 2nd floor - 
offices & warehouse, 3rd floor - Funeral Parlour.  A three story red brick building, it had a 3 bay façade and corbeled 
brick cornice with a corner entrance. The first story had a large central display area with platforms on each side of 
the cornered front door for room displays of furniture. There were ornate pressed metal ceilings and cornices, as 
well as oak flooring and wainscoting. A prominent feature were the plate glass display windows on the first and 
second stories. Those on the first story were framed with copper, while on the second they were framed with wood.
     The store signage was printed on the front plate glass windows and reads, "CENTER AND ABERNATHY, Sewing Machines Stoves & Ranges." One of their favorite slogans was printed on the glass over the doorway,  "You marry 
the girl, We'll furnish the home". The second floor windows were printed with springs, mattresses & pillows, third floor windows were printed with Center & Abernathy Funeral Directors.
     The Center & Abernathy Store building is one of the few 1920s buildings which have survived in Copperhill, and 
is the only one which retains integrity of both the exterior and the interior until today in 2015. 

 **The building is on the National Registry of Historic Places. The following information was taken from their 

     Center & Abernathy's was, throughout the history of Copperhill, one of the most important and successful businesses operating. From their founding until the mid 1910s it was the largest general merchandise store in 
Copperhill, then Center & Abernathy decided to specialize in furniture sales. Center & Abernathy's was the only 
store in the Basin to specialize in the sale of furniture and their prices and credit terms brought customers from Ducktown, Isabella and McCaysville, Georgia as well as from Copperhill.
     Center & Abernathy was the only store in the Basin to achieve that large a customer base. Their continued 
existence though two fires, the depression, and the boom and bust cycle of the copper industry established 
them as a leading business. Center & Abernathy's was one of the largest distribution points of furniture in the southeastern United States, and was one of the largest retail establishments between Knoxville, Tennessee 
and Atlanta, Georgia.
United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Continuation 
Sheet, Section number 8  Page 3 

   The Great Depression of the 30s took its toll on the entire area. Many businessmen were declaring bankruptcy to get out from under their debt and to survive. Luther personally paid off all of the store's debts. 

   In 1937, Luther decided to open his store on family property on Hwy. 5 in Epworth, Georgia and discontinued the mortuary business. Luther once again built up a thriving business with his sons working with him.  Luther's son Charles remembers his father as a man of his word and the most honorable man he has ever known.

   When Luther passed away on 29 April 1949,  his wife Elizabeth and sons Carl Edd and Charles continued operating 
the store.

Old Hwy. 5, Blue Ridge, Georgia, location of the family furniture store and gristmill, ca 1949. The sign on the left of the building
says ABERNATHY'S, the middle building sign reads, ABERNATHY FURNITURE STORE and on the right is the Grist Mill. To the right
side of doorway is written,  Corn & Feed Mill.  
This was a photo taken for a newspaper ad. 
A 1949 advertising photo inside the first store on Ga Hwy 5. 
L-R: Junior Beech, Charles C. Abernathy with his Mother Elizabeth Ann Hamlin Abernathy and older brother, Carl Edd Abernathy
and George Beech. George also ran the gristmill.
The copper mines on the left - a sign for our store on the right. 
The sign reads:
                              FURNITURE Co.
                          HOME SWEET HOME
Photo courtesy of the National Archives - www.loc.gov
Two signs on the road between Ducktown and Copperhill, TN.  
Brian Abernathy recall seeing remnants of these signs in 
early 1960. The sign on the left is the same as in the previous
photo. The sign on the right says:
                             MAYTAG WASHERS
                           ABERNATHY FURN Co.
Photo courtesy of the National Archives - www.loc.gov
Luther H Abernathy, in a group photo of the 'C.M. McClung' Atwater-Kent Dealers convention.    His son, Frank, pictured on the left, also attended the convention with his father.

I don't have the entire photo reproduced here; if anyone has the full photo, I would certainly like to have a copy.
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