L. A. Grant and Standard Oil


L. A. Grant & Son, Sparta, Ky 1881 

L. A. Grant & Son started the store near here on this corner in 1881, as near as I can find out.  I have been told that the first building was just the small square where the meat department is now.  Then, later on, the building was enlarged, and in that part where we have the walk-in cooler now, were the living quarters.  Later, the shed part was added.  Mr. and Mrs. Grant separated in the later years of their marriage, after having 7 children: 3 boys (Fred, John and J.C.) and four girls (Bess, Hazel, Mary and Bess [!]).  All have passed to their reward. 

 Mrs. Grant, who built and lived in the house next to me (sometimes called the Mary Gant house), was the last person was the last person that I sat up with as a corpse.  Ruby Records was one and a third one I forgot.  L. a. Grant was some kind of doctor.  In his last years he had what he called a Sanitation in the house where Norman Brown Carver now lives.  He never had but one [blank]. He later married Tom Ballard’s girl Eathea.  They had one boy, then they separated and she married another man who had money, and he got killed on a railroad crossing in Chicago.  Then she married a banker from New York, who had more money.  He died and then it was not long before Eatha died.  She had a sister who lived in Carrollton, and also a brother.  The brother was T. J. Ballard, who died not too long ago.  One of Tom Ballard’s grandchildren was working for Dr. Roney, Carrollton. 

 So Dr. Grant, ad he was called, lost his mind, and finally died.  J. C. Grant took over the store, and he handled plows, wagons, buggies, coal, hay, corn, dry goods, grocers, and some meat. He was the first coal yard in Sparta.  His deliveryman was Jess Connell.  A one-horse wagon.  Now Jess Connell was Gayle Connell’s, at Warsaw, father.  Jess carried a Banjo with him all the time.  J. C. Grant died in 1928 and the store was run by different ones until January 10, 1933, when we took over, and on November 21, 1974, we are still here. Thanks to everyone.

Standard Oil Company   Sparta, 1921

 After 54 years of service in our community it looks very much like we re going to loose one of our main business places, The Standard Oil Company.  We almost lost it in 1954, but with the help of the town’s people, we saved it for another 21 years.  Why?  In the 58 years I have been in your town of Sparta, I will give you a little history of what happened in our town.

 First, look at our railroad depot.  In 1917, when I came to Sparta, there were 8 people working at the depot and the pump house; today we have one man who works on half day, five days a week.  On the track, we had about 10 men; today we don’t have a man.  We had two nurseries, which would employ about 10 to 20 the year around.  Every boy in this community worked in the nurseries at one time or another.  We had our stockyard, with from 3 to 5 people with regular jobs.  There was the lumberyard, with a payroll of from 6 to 15 men the year around.  We also had a bus line from Sparta to Owenton, and one to Warsaw, which carried mail, passengers and express; it employed 6 to 8 people, and then there was the freight line which had several trucks and men. Passenger traffic here on the railroad in the 1920’s could see 50 to 75 people board the trains each day; we had 6 passenger trains every 24 hours.  The depot never closed, it was open 24 hours seven days a week.  Now this is all gone.

 You can say that this is water over the dam, but even our dam across Eagle Creek is gone, and of course out water mill has vanished with the times.  We had in my early days a good blacksmith business in Sparta run by a man by the name of Minor, and then Robinson. We also had two of the best stock buyers in the state.  I have seen as many as 17 double deck rack cars on one train out of Sparta at one time.  They would send a special train from Louisville, just to pick up lambs.  They most all went up east.  At this time, Owen County was the largest sheep-producing county in the state.  They, like Sparta, have lost this business.

 Why all this?  Well, you see, we are going to loose one of our real good businesses, the Standard Oil Company.  The manager, Mr. Harry Carver “Buck” Kennedy has reached retirement age with the company.  He has worked for them for 35 years, but there comes a time when old age catches up with you.  So just what will the next 58 years bring our fair city you will have to wait and see.

 Has Sparta had an increase of any of its businesses in the last 75 years?  The answer is yes: our bank.  In the 1920’ we had just the bank here at Sparta, working two people.  Today we have a branch at Sanders, with a total of about 10 people.  The bank’s total assets: 

August 31, 1915


December 31, 1953


December 31, 1955


December 31, 1957


June 30, 1975


 It was in the early spring of 1921 that a young man from Carroll County, Mr. Martin Smith, came to Sparta for the purpose of putting in a Standard Oil Distribution Plant.  He looked the town over, and found only one place that was suitable for a plant.  It was the corner of a lot that was owned by the H. Winn Ayers.  I would say a lot about 150 feet by 250 feet close to the railroad, but it had a house on the lot, and a Mr. Hue Smith and his wife were living in it.  He bought the ground, house and all.  Now he had to sell the house or tear it down. He was staying at the hotel, so as word got around about the house, Lafe Foree, who lives where Buck Kennedy now lives, and who owned the lot above him.  This track of land came off the lot that went with the Donalson house and lot, where Mr. Donalson had his office.  So Lafe Foree offered Martin Smith $300 for the house and he would move it.  “Sold!” 

 So by mid-summer, we had the plant under way, with the railroad putting in a spur, to set the oil tanks on while they were being unloaded.  By late next fall, 1922, they sent Martin Smith to Frankfort for the same job, as at that time there was not a Standard Oil pump in Frankfort.  Now Mr. Henry Plum was driving coal oil, in a wagon tank, with two mules.  He closed the plant at Sanders and brought it to Sparta, to take over the plant there.  Henry stayed there until his death in January 1954.  They wanted to close the plant at this time but the people of Sparta got them to keep it open.  They gave it to Mr. Harry “Buck” Carver Kennedy.  He took charge, and as of today, 9/14/1974, he still takes care of it.  They have two trucks that they use to deliver oil, gas and heating fuel.

 Some of the boys who made this plant go are Mr. Martin Smith, his brother Abe Smith, Fred Grimes, Robert Landrum, Pack Coates, Harold Wilson, Henry Plum, Raymon Herndon, and B. F. Poteet.  These boys have all gone on to meet their God.  The ones left are Donal Dickerson, retired from Standard Oil Co.; Maril Kennedy, who is the cashier of the bank at Warsaw; Harry Carver Kennedy, now is plant manager, of the Standard Oil Co., Sparta, and has been since 1954; Milford Wheeler, who married Frances Harris, but they separated and he moved to Indiana and is now married to [blank]; Dick Ennis, who married Henry Plum’s only girl, they had four children and then separated; Hue Smith, I don’t know what happened to him; George Weldon McCarmack, who went into the army, spent 20 years there and is now living up east; Bill Lewis, who married Margie Lafferty and has one girl and live sin Cincinnati working for some manufacturing company; June Gullion, who had a hard way with his woman, married young, had one boy, separated after a few years, married Virgins Maddox of Glencoe and had 3 or 4 boys and they split up and sold their home in Sparta, and after while made up and are now living up stairs with Mr. and Mrs. Maddox at Glencoe; Robert Lafferty, married some girl but it did not go well, they split and after a few years, he married Joice Lafferty, I think they have two girls and one boy and live on Two-Mile Road, on a small farm; Charles Young, who married Louicel Proctor, who had been married and had 3 children, they live on his mother’s farm on Boone Road though Charles recently bought the Ward Dickerson farm for $28,000; Smith Thomas, who married Louicel Noel, had one boy, Smith has owned several farms, also houses and lots, but now lives in a new house he just built on the old Dave Calvert home place.  I forgot to tell you the most important thing, it happened on January 4, 1951.  Buck Kennedy fell off a tank car and broke his arm, and just 17 days later Jettie Arlis broke her arm.  She sold gas here in Sparta at the restaurant for several years.