By Judy Garrison
The Victorian storefront building that now houses Paisley’s Country Gallery was built, by accounts we’ve heard, in the early 1870’s, and was from its first years a pharmacy run by the Norton family. The family lived in the two levels above their business, as has been the custom of succeeding businesses, including ours. The building was very fortunate in escaping the Fire of 1878, which started in the structure just across High Street and demolished everything down to the corner of Delaware Avenue, leaving only stone foundations and a partial frame of the corner building (former post office). A photo showing the scene of property devastation immediately following the fire and the surely devastated owners and other townspeople taking it in, can be seen in the Tavern at the Andes Hotel.
John Gregg, current owner of 75 Main Street, says that the back room on the left on the main floor was the doctor’s examining room in the early days. The side door entrance is still intact. The room at the right rear is believed to have been the compounding pharmacy. The drawers behind the front counter in the store bear the original labels of their one-time contents, such as sassafras, valerian, myrrha, zingiber, anisum, and cimicfuga. The latter, according to Nickell’s Botanical Ready Reference, which we keep in the store to enable us to translate the Latin labels into plain English, is black cohosh, an herb which many women today use for hormonal balancing. Was it used in the same way then, we wonder? Was the zingiber (ginger) used then as it is today for settling the stomach and to prevent nausea? The two counters in the store, beautifully crafted with alternate inlays of wood, with scrollwork below, are likely the work of an itinerant artisan, as a similar counter can be seen in Russell’s Store in Bovina Center.
Gregg set aside on rear shelves the medically related books found in the shop when he assumed ownership in 1987, such as a very brittle Gunn’s Family Physician with extensive chapters on cholera and lock jaw. He also has a collection of odd items left over from some incarnation of the pharmacy (later owned by Leroy Miller for about 30 years until 1953, when Graham Frisbee took it over.) These include a little brown bottle of oil of cloves, and a box of 100 “Blosser’s cigarettes”, price: $1.75, active ingredients: stramonium, cubeb, yerba santa and eucalyptus, “for the relief of the paroxysms of bronchial asthma and to ease nasal and bronchial congestion due to colds” (!) Old store ledgers also found on the premises are from an Andes general store, but with no readable indication of which one. They cover the period 1873-1878 and enumerate in detail items purchased and by whom (Charles Carman and his daughter were patrons), items such as corn meal, coffee, codfish and kerosene; candles and ax handles. I noticed a few drug entries, such as a charge to Dr. Crawford for compound cathartic. While my first assumption was that these ledgers originated on our premises—since found here—I question that assumption after speaking with Jim Andrews: he said that while there were many general stores in Andes in the late 1800’s, he had never heard that use attributed to the current Paisley’s building.
So, while it is possible that provisions of various kinds were sold here in general store fashion in the 1870’s, side by side with the pharmacy, these ledgers may have been acquired by a previous occupant and left behind, and have no pertinence to this site. [Any reader privy to lore or knowledge on this issue, please share with me: firstname.lastname@example.org.]
Meanwhile, the early photographs of a man and woman, serious and a bit severe in the mode of those times, hang watchfully on the walls of the store, reminding us to keep piecing together the historical clues. We surmise that these two are the forbears of one of the Nortons, but that, also, is unconfirmed.~