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Adams and Childers Mercantile

There were dry goods stores, millinery stores, hardware stores, grocery stores, furniture stores, general stores— and then there were mercantile stores. In truth, this is like saying “store stores,” because “mercantile” means something like “retail sales.” But it was a popular business term in use around the turn of the twentieth century.

Santa Anna had its own mercantile stores. Several early-day Santa Anna business owners chose to use the term “mercantile.” M. Tyson and L. L. Shield had large mercantile stores, but probably the largest was a bit later in a partnership between Grady E. Adams and a Mr. Childers (first name unknown).

Adams and Childers Mercantile began in the middle of the block on the south side where part of the Feed Store Church is now. This is shown in the picture of the tractor and sacks of grain. I don’t know exactly when this picture was taken, but it is some time around 1900. I think that because the second, later picture, showing the crowd standing in the street, has been identified as the land auction the day the Mahoney Ranch was sold off. If that is true, we know that picture was taken in 1904, the year of the auction. An original poster advertising the land sale hangs in the Visitor’s Center beside a piece of Mahoney barbed wire.

From the time the first picture was taken to time of the second, Adams and Childers Mercantile expanded from the middle all the way to the east end of the block, where the Feed Store Church is now. This was likely the peak of Adams and Childers Mercantile success.

Just behind, to the south of the corner building that the second picture shows as a dry goods store, was a tin building housing Adams and Childers Mortuary and Casket store—truly a full service mercantile. Later, M. J. Hosch bought the mortuary part, including that tin building. When the telephone coop bought that area for their equipment yard in the early 1980s, I contracted to take the tin building down. I have a felt-covered casket still in the shipping box that was in the building when I took it down.

The third picture was taken later, probably in the 1915-to-1920-time frame, based on the automobiles in the street. It is taken from the front area of the Opera House, showing Adams and Childers to the left of the old State Bank/Hotel building. It seems by this time Adams and Childers had declined to just Childers and Co. and moved to a smaller store which years later was the National Guard Armory and then in the 1950s it was a burlap bag collection business. That entire section of the block is now the Housing Authority apartments.

In the archive of old Santa Anna newspapers, I found notice of Adams Mercantile selling off its entire stock in November 1927, to close down. In an advertisement dated November 19, W. J. Hosch (who bought out the bankrupt stock) notifies citizens that Mr. G. E. Adams will remain on staff as undertaker. The headline “BIG STOCK REDUCTION SALE” marks the end of an era in the history of our little town.

Well, maybe not altogether. In researching this business, I asked some of the “old timers” what they recalled—if anything—of Adams and Childers Mercantile. It seems that Grady Adams’ legacy lives on here, because in 1918, Clint Day’s grandfather bought a 1918 model Moline-Universal tractor, maybe the one in the picture, which Clint has restored and still owns.