Douglas Historical Society
Douglas Historical Society and The E. N. Jenckes Store Museum
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The E. N. Jenckes Store Museum

During the 1830s when the village of East Douglas was becoming the economic center of the town, Ebenezer Balcom opened a small store at the comer of Main and Pleasant (now Depot) streets.

Later, Gardner Chase bought the property and enlarged the building as his business expanded to meet the needs of the growing community.

Apparently, Mr. Chase's extraordinary efforts ruined his health. On his doctor's orders he retired and leased the business to a series of entrepreneurs until Edward N. Jenckes bought the business and the building from Mr. Chase's widow in 1884. Mr. Jenckes made several more additions. By 1895, the building looked like the Museum we know today.

The store of the 1890s was far different from a modem supermarket. The smell of a smoky woodstove, the kerosene lamps, the boxes of salt codfish, and the pickling brine mingled with the aroma of ground coffee, spices, and fancy soaps. The presence of horses, hitched to the posts in front, was also quite evident.

In addition to the sewing supplies and the food which could not be raised locally, the store carried a variety of housewares. Included were iron kettles, tin pans, enamelware coffee pots, glass canning jars, and ceramic items, generally referred to as 'crockery.' Mr. Jenckes also stocked inexpensive furniture and floor coverings.

In the horse and buggy era, the store was a busy place. Four men and a woman clerk were needed to carry on business. After Mr. Jenckes's two daughters- E. Mialma and Helen R.-graduated from Wellesley College, one of them was always in the store because no woman customer would ever consider mentioning her personal needs to a male clerk.
Two of the men spent much of their time going from house to house, taking orders from the customers one day and delivering their purchases the next. Goods from the wholesalers had to be moved from the freight house to the store, a job known as 'drawing freight.' One man was needed in the store because a customer might stop for a bag of grain or some other item too heavy for a woman to lift. After Mr. Jenckes's death in 1924, his daughters continued to run the store. During the Great Depression, the Jenckes sisters extended credit to many families because they could not live with the knowledge that people, especially children, were hungry.

The business was important during the gasoline rationing of World War II, when customers were allotted only three gallons a week, and could save fuel by having their groceries delivered.

After 1945, business declined rapidly but the sisters did not forget their long-time customers. Orders still were taken by telephone, and delivered. If anyone wanted meat, flashlight batteries, or anything the Jenckes Store no longer stocked, these items were purchased at a local market or the Goodness Store and delivered along with bread, soup, and other groceries still available at the Jenckes Store. Examples of this arrangement are found in store ledgers, the last of which was written in 1964, when the business closed its doors.

The store remained closed until 1972 when the Misses Jenckes gave the property to the Douglas Historical Society as a memorial to their father. Because the store was neither dismantled nor converted to another use, it remains-after careful restoration by the Douglas Historical Society-a fine example of the general store of a hundred years ago.

By Marieta Howard, reprinted from the Time & The Town 1996 commemorative book.