The news that Palmer Mercantile Company in Dora would soon be closing was met with sadness in the last week of July 1961.The store, located on Dora's Main Street, was thought to be the oldest retail …
The news that Palmer Mercantile Company in Dora would soon be closing was met with sadness in the last week of July 1961.
The store, located on Dora's Main Street, was thought to be the oldest retail business in Dora as well as Walker County.
Founded in 1879 by R.H. Palmer, the business was operated by the Palmer family until the very end. Linn Palmer Sr., son of R.H. Palmer, was in charge at the time of its closing.
An article in the July 28, 1961, edition of the Daily Mountain Eagle pointed out that only one other business was older than Palmer Mercantile Company — the newspaper reporting on its demise.
Founded in 1872, the Eagle is the county's oldest continuous business.
"There was only seven years difference between the time that the Rev. John Anthony founded the Mountain Eagle and Robert H. Palmer founded Palmer Mercantile Company. And neither of the men at the time even thought that their business establishments would grow to be the oldest in Walker County," Eagle county editor Larry Corcoran wrote.
While one historic business was being lost, Walker County was doing very well in terms of industry in 1961. County leaders credited Gov. John Patterson, elected in 1959 and succeeded in 1963 by Gov. George Wallace.
The Jasper Chamber of Commerce sponsored an "appreciation tour" for Patterson on July 27, 1961. Officials described the purpose of the tour as an opportunity to "show the top political figure in the state how the county appreciates what he has done for the area since he has been in the governor's mansion."
Stops on the whirlwind visit included Gorgas steam plant, SEGCO's mine in Parrish, National Mattress Company, Pillsbury Plant in Jasper, Marshall Durbin, Studdard Brothers in Parrish, Murphy Manufacturing in Jasper, the town of Parrish and the city of Cordova, home to Indian Head Mills, Vulcan Asphalt Refining Company, the Alabama State Docks, NATCO, and Mutual Oil Storage facility at Lynn's Park Bridge.
The Eagle ran a front page editorial on July 28 titled "Thank You, Governor."
The Eagle claimed that the county had prospered more in Patterson's administration than in any similar period in its history.
The Eagle pointed to the largest state highway program in the history of the county, which included several miles of super highway, 12 new bridges and the county's first four-lane lighted highway.
The latter, being constructed at the Highway 78 bypass, was being named the John Patterson Whiteway.
The Eagle also applauded school building projects going on in Dora, Sumiton, Curry, Lupton, Parrish, Oakman, Eldridge, Carbon Hill and Jasper.
Other accomplishments included the largest amount of state aid ever given to Walker College, a 22,000-acre Wolf Creek game refuge getting established and construction of the docks in Cordova.
"For these and many other things which you have made possible for us during your administration, we say thank you, Gov. John Patterson," the Eagle editors wrote.
During a luncheon held at Gorgas, Patterson praised local leaders for working together for the betterment of their community.
Specifically, he mentioned the county's economic comeback following the closure of coal mines in 1954. Marshall Durbin, which processed an estimated 140,000 chickens a day, brought some jobs back to the area.
"Our economy is sound and we are growing. The next 10 years will see Alabama flourish as never before," Patterson predicted.
Jennifer Cohron is the Daily Mountain Eagle's features editor.