N.J. Caraway and Company, is the oldest hardware and department store in DeSoto Parish. It was established by N.J. Caraway and Elijah Price in 1897, on the banks of the Sabine River, very near the original site of the Logan’s Ferry crossing. N.J. Caraway was married to Tula Price, the daughter of Elijah Price and sister of Oscar Price. Oscar Price worked for a dry goods firm for about a year before joining the firm of N.J. Caraway. The original business began in a rented building. It was a frame structure, complete with a very large wooden gallery across the front of the store. It was set in from the corner where the present building is located. The business has remained on the same site for over 114 years of operation. Later, the building was purchased and in 1901 Caraway and Company built a brick building at its present location to reduce the threat of fire. J.E. Gibson was the builder and he also built the Center Texas Courthouse. They then purchased the building next to them and moved the men’s departments into the newly purchased adjoining building. The original brick building (northern side of the N.J. Caraway building) became the ladies department. Ollie Johnson from Timpson, Texas and Minnie Hewitt worked at N.J. Caraway’s around 1917.
The store was damaged by fire in 1918. It was remodeled using mahogany shelving and paneling. A handsome standing triple mirror encased in mahogany framing was installed in the ladies dressing room. A mahogany arcade along the back of the clothing department concealed storage shelves. These remained in use until 1972, when another remodel updated the storage shelves to more modern display units. The Mirror and the arcade remained as before.
Caraway and Company sold funeral supplies. The caskets were stored in a warehouse near the river, behind the site of the Alf Garrett house, once standing on 2nd Street. When the river would flood, everyone would rush down to the warehouse to move the caskets. The funeral home’s undertaking parlor and casket room was located in what is now the warehouse section of the N.J. Caraway building until the new funeral home was built sometime around 1931. Mike Price was sent to school to learn the undertaking business, and he became the funeral director. The original hearse was a horse drawn hearse and had glass sides where the casket and flowers could be viewed as it made its way to the City cemetery gravesite. The hearse was abandoned beside the railroad track when it was no longer used. The area was later filled in with dirt and the hearse remains in its graveyard by the tracks.
Early N.J. Caraway Store: Small Sign Visible Hanging on the Porch “N.J. Caraway & Co"
N.J. Caraway was president until his death in 1927. At that time the business was incorporated and Oscar Price was elected president. He remained president until his death in 1943. Upon Oscar’s death, Chesley Price became president and remained president until too ill to continue. His son, Harold C. “Mike” Price, took over the presidency in 1953. Mike had been involved within the company as the funeral home division director, beginning in 1937. He left the company in 1969. At that time Teague Price became president and continued to operate the store until it was sold to Janet Palmer and the late B.C. Palmer in 1980.
There was a wagon yard located near the spring and steam locomotive water tank. People from rural areas could get water for themselves and their stock. Then they would park their wagons there, while in Logansport. It was a common practice for them to sleep in the wagons before heading back home with supplies.
Pictured: Old Logansport Train Water Tower next to the railroad tracks in Logansport. The spring still runs down the hill – but the water tower is gone
In its years of operation as a mercantile and dry goods store, syrup pans, wash pots, wood cook stoves and irons for clothes were sold. It also sold wagons and buggies and all of the necessary leather goods to harness the horses. The store also bought and sold furs. Mink, skunk, otter, ring tailed cat, fox, coon, opossum and a few wolf hides were some of the furs traded at the store.
The store began when Logansport was experiencing “a time of change”. Through the end of the nineteenth century, the port of Logansport was the “head of navigation on the Sabine River”. Steamboats, such as the Maud Howell, traveled the Sabine River, stopping at landings named Paul’s Store, Myke’s Ferry, and East Hamilton, all on the Texas side of the river, and Logansport, on the Louisiana side, delivering goods and merchandise. Cotton was Logansport’s main export. Cotton came to Logansport from all over Shelby County and east Texas. The steamboats played a vital role in transporting the fluffy white gold down the river to the ports near Orange, Texas. Other items transported down the river were wooden staves and furs.
But as with all things, change marks the end of one era, and the beginning of another. The timbers and rails used to construct the railroad bridge were brought to Logansport, up the Sabine River on the very steamboats that would no longer be needed when the Steam engines would be able to cross the river. By 1900, the last steamboat churned into Logansport. Three steamboats remained at the port of Logansport, and all now rest on the muddy bottom of the river, very near the railroad bridge which signaled their end. The Neches Belle rests just north of the present day river bridge on the Logansport side of the river.
After the building of the railroad cotton was no longer shipped by steamboat to Orange, Texas from Logansport. The buyers would collect in front of the store with their wagons and bales of cotton. The cotton bales would be cut so that a sample could be taken to be checked. N. J. Caraway did the buying in the beginning. Later on John R. Nash, John Stubblefield Sr., and Albert Scherz did the buying. After the cotton was bought it was stored on the cotton platform by the railroad track and then shipped by railcar to New Orleans for storage there until sold. There were several cotton gins located in Logansport.
The N.J. Caraway Company building looks and feels likes a throwback to the 19th century, as much on the inside as on the outside. There are original small wooden signs, dating back to the early part of the 20th century indicating the men’s dry goods department, the ladies’ dry goods department, the hardware department and the building supplies department, hanging on the outside of the building.
Inside the hardware section of the store, the original wood floors and high ceilings that have always been a part of the building can be seen. Part of the existing building, once housed the U.S. Post Office, the Bank of Logansport, and the community newspaper, all very early in the 20th century, and is now used as a warehouse space for the existing store.
N.J. Caraway Co. sold the first automobile in Logansport, a Baby Overland to Bob Swindell. Dr. H.L. Garland bought the first Studebaker sold here. During the depression O.E. Price traveled as far as Beaumont, Texas to continue the fur trade. Mr. Teague Price, (deceased) said the fur business meant “the difference between a can of sardines and nothing” for many during the Depression.
Teague Price recalled that Bonnie and Clyde also shopped at N.J. Caraways. The famous couple came into the store to purchase some .38-caliber special cartridges. At that time, Caraways did not carry ammunition, and he said that it scared him to death to tell them they did not carry bullets. They left without an incident. Texas Ranger Hammer traced Bonnie and Clyde to Logansport where they bought a gallon on moonshine whiskey prior to their death.
This historical business has seen many changes in the over 114 years of existence. Surviving through many wars, the Great Depression and several recessions, it has managed to serve the community and surrounding areas with a complete selection of merchandise for the home and the farm, and many a young lady has purchased clothing for a special event here.
A trip along US Hwy 84 is not complete without a stop at the N.J. Caraway and Company store. Whether it’s a unique cookbook, that unusual black iron pot, some Red Wing shoes or those coveted “Red” long-handles, you will find them all within the store.
Inside of NJ Caraway Mercantile Store