The Wilmoth & Kerr Historic Store in Durbin

Wilmoth & Kerr Store

H. E. White (left) and J. D. Wilmoth, Owner (right) in front of the Wilmoth & Kerr Store. (Thanks to Preserving Pocahontas for the Photo.)

The Wilmoth & Kerr Historic Store in Durbin

With Durbin Days coming this weekend, we thought you would like to learn a little about the history of the Town. We talked with Jason Bauserman about Durbin’s Historic Wilmoth & Kerr Store. Although the store closed many years ago, the building still stands in Durbin as Jason explains.

“The Wilmoth Kerr Store is the yellow building right at the end of Main Street –it’s just right next to the Town Hall” Jason says. “I’ve always heard that that building is the oldest in Durbin.”

When the store closed they left 5 receipt books with the Town of Durbin which is where Jason found them. The oldest of these receipt books was dated in 1901.

“And that was before the Town was even incorporated, and that came in 1906” said Jason. “The railroad came in 1903, so they were probably one of the first places on Main Street doing business, before that it was the Stanton-Parkersburg Turnpike that came here through Durbin”


A modern view of the former Wilmoth & Kerr Store

Although Jason is not sure of the exact date when the Wilmoth & Kerr Store opened, it was probably around the time of that 1901 receipt book. He describes the type of merchandise sold as recorded in that first receipt book.

“In 1901, you mostly had just the regular type items, it was a general store” Jason explained. “As far as food, you had the apples and some peaches, an flour – not a whole lot of meat and I don’t know if they had refrigerators at that time. There were of course a lot of eggs and lard and butter and these type products.

One person whose purchases were documented in the early receipt books was Doctor Peter Dilley Arbogast who had 6 children. When the town of Durbin incorporated in 1906 -on West Virginia Day – Arbogast was elected as the first Mayor. Jason referred to a large list of purchases of basic products, including one purchase of 30 lbs of sugar for two dollars and five cents. This made Jason wonder if the good doctor might have been in the moonshine business, until he found correspondingly large purchases of food canning products, a more likely use of the sugar.

Jason noticed that after the railroad came through Durbin in 1903, the types of products being sold at Wilmoth and Kerr diversified to include items brought in from places like tidewater Virginia, Maryland and Roanoke and beyond. These items included things like cereals –Post Toasties-, coffee from New Orleans, coconuts, apricots, Vaseline, playing cards, and ketchup. Jason was surprised to see a 1909 purchase of a phone battery for 50 cents. Jason saw when the Store began receiving phone calls.

“When I look in the book, I see that they actually got a phone call at the Store in 1909 and I guess there was a message left” Jason says. “And they charged the client 15 cents to write down the phone call. I was amazed they had phone service that early.”

Jason suspects the phone service was local only- no long distance connections. For long distance communications there is evidence that telegraph was used, since telegraph lines usually were built along the railroad tracks.

Jason pointed out that Jeff Wilmoth was the primary owner of the store, as he was unable to learn anything about Kerr. Jason said Wilmoth was quite a character as evidenced by the ditties he printed on the store letterhead, as Jason points out.

“He had a couple little ditties underneath his letterhead” Jason said. “One says ‘credit used and not abused is capital that never melts away’ and the other little ditty up here is, ‘when you get this’ –referring to this bill- ‘comply with this request, as it means it.’ In some of his books, where if your bill was paid, he had this ink stamp with a smiley face – I thought that was just a recent thing.”

Jason believes that Wilmoth probably closed his store sometime in the 1920’s or possibly as a result of the Great Depression in the early 1930s.


Story By

Tim Walker

Tim is the WVMR News Reporter. Tim is a native of Maryland who started coming to Pocahontas County in the 1970’s as a caver. He bought land on Droop Mountain off Jacox Road in 1976 and built a small house there in the early 80’s. While still working in Maryland, Tim spent much time at his place which is located on the Friars Hole Cave Preserve. Retiring in 2011 as a Lieutenant with the Anne Arundel County Police Department in Maryland, Tim finally took the plunge and moved from Maryland to his real home on Droop Mountain. He began working as the Pocahontas County Reporter for Allegheny Mountain Radio in January of 2015.

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