Historic Country Store lost in Hurricane Michael

Porter-Durden-Walden Store | Jackson County, FL | c. 1890s

In the early days of Florida settlement, the western panhandle of Florida had been linked by primitive roads, but as time went on, the citizens of the area hoped for a better connection to the bigger markets of the region for access to sale and purchase of goods.

And the Reconstruction Era after the Civil War would finally bring that opportunity when intense lobbying from residents of this part brought pressure to the state legislature to approve the Pensacola & Atlantic Railroad (P&A).

In 1881, the line was authorized to lay tracks from Pensacola to the Apalachicola River and as a result, a boom of towns began to emerge along the line.

In a small community near Marianna, FL, the Porter Family had relocated from Grand Ridge, Illinois. They bought up land in the area and decided to name this new town along the tracks after their beloved home in Illinois. Around 1890 or 1891, the Porter Family built this structure as a store and post office to serve the local community, as well as travelers on the railroad.
 
It was next owned by the Durden Family and then finally, owned by Sue and John Walden, who gave it its most common name, Walden Store.
Walden Store c. 1976 Photo courtesy of John Fraser

Locals have fond memories of visiting the store and report that it was always well stocked with flour, sugar, and vegetables, as well as a wide array of hard candy. One local recalls his childhood days when a porch was attached where he would pass the afternoon with his girlfriend. He shared a memory with me of sitting there with her and carving their initials.

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Walden store c. 2015

John and his wife Sue would run the store until 1974 when health problems led to Sue and her daughter Velma taking over. In 1995, John passed away and the store closed for good. A new owner bought the property in hopes of restoring it and at that time, it was moved a few hundred yards back from the road where it had stood, shaded by oak trees.

Sadly, plans to fix the store didn’t pan out and so the store stood in a state of disrepair for many years, until 2018, when Hurricane Michael devastated this area, taking the old Walden store down too.

Courtesy of Rhonda Dykes
Walden Store as she looked along the railroad tracks

8 thoughts on “Historic Country Store lost in Hurricane Michael”

  1. I love the memories this site evokes with those glorious photos. I was born in 1951, and things have changed so much, and in my opinion, not necessarily for the better. People have lost touch with their roots, visiting in the cool of the evening, sipping ice cold tea on the front porch. So many wonderful things lost. So sad.

  2. Would be cool to salvage bit of the wood and do something crafty with it. Preserving a bit of a memory! Wish I was crafty. 😉

  3. My family moved back to Grand Ridge in 1959 when I was in the second grade. We rented one of Ms. Purcell’s houses in community. Walden’s store was one block away. Mr. and Mrs. Walden were good folks. Mrs. Walden was very kind hearted. One day Mr. Walden asked me if I wanted a bag of peaches that were very ripe. I didn’t have any money, so he told me to go ahead and take them and I could bring him $.40 later. Later did not happen. I still feel bad about that. Walden’s Store always seemed to have someone sitting on the front porch enjoying Dr. Pepper and some peanuts. I lived three houses from the rail road that passed right by the store. When we first moved there the train roaring by would wake me up. After two or three days, I never heard another train come by while I slept. Right across the tracks was a very old but grand house. Every Halloween, the community kids would go out trick or treating. One Halloween several of us were invited into the house to hear the owner share some scary stories. Growing up in Grand Ridge, I was able to experience the joys of small town America.

  4. Everyday look forward to your stories and pictures
    I’m a long ago retired RN
    Retiring at 72…now 80
    I have wonderful time to explore and learn
    Thank you ❤️

  5. My late grandfather was from a very small rural town nearby (Bascom).
    I am almost certain that he was aware of this old country store. I love everything about this site so much. Thank you!

  6. I’m a 6th generation Floridian. My mother’s people were from Sumter County and Pasco County . My father’s ancestor’slived in Key West. My husband is from Viginia. I love reading your stories and seeing old photos. It’s so important to keep a connecton with the past. Thank you.

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