George E. Darsey Sr.
George E. Darsey Sr. came to Texas from Sunnyside, Georgia in the fall of 1873 with his aunt, Mrs. Harriet Cash, and worked on the Shivers farm on the Trinity River. When Mr. and Mrs. Cash returned to Georgia, George E. Darsey moved to Crockett where he clerked in a general store. He also carried the mail on horseback from Crockett to Centerville during this time. He was then a traveling salesman for a year or so, and after quitting the road in 1882 returned to his old home in Georgia for a visit. After returning to Texas, he went into business in Grapeland with John R. Foster. The business was originally a partnership between Downes and Foster before becoming John R. Foster and Co. An important element in the career of Geo. Darsey was the habit and rule he had always adhered to that he saved a part of his earnings regardless of the amount he was making. In this way, he saved the small capital necessary to go into business with Mr. John R. Foster.
According to Mr. Foster “George had $465, and I had $765… We had a pretty hard time getting started off, but we soon began to make money.” Mr. Darsey bought out Mr. Foster’s share in 1886 and continued the business under his own name, George E. Darsey. The original store was a frame building and housed a wide variety of merchandise. Mr. Darsey sold dry goods, furniture, groceries, and all types of farm equipment. As the business grew, he replaced the original building with a large brick building, 27’ by 125’ in 1898. According to the Crockett Courier, it was the first brick building in Grapeland. While visiting in Georgia, George encouraged his first cousin, William Grey Darsey, to move to Texas to help him in his business. William Grey Darsey moved to Grapeland in 1900. On his arrival in Grapeland, he went to work for George and slept in Darsey’s Store at night. In the early days, the town was wild and woolly, and it was a common occurrence for bullies to go up and down the street at night and shoot the lights out in the stars.
William Grey Darsey
Mr. W.G. Darsey was a skilled bookkeeper. He set up a double entry system of books like those commonly used in banks. The system of bookkeeping is still being used by Darsey’s Store now. The business grew from 1900 until by 1907 another brick building had been added on the adjoining lot north of the original building. At this time, the store was departmentalized with the dry goods department moved across the street into a building next door to the new Farmers and Merchants State Bank. The other two buildings housed the stocks of groceries, hardware, farm supplies, and furniture. The Darsey buildings were destroyed by the town fire of 1913. Mr. Darsey lost six buildings in the fire, but some of the merchandise from his store was saved and he was in business the next morning on the railroad siding in box cars rented from the railroad. Immediately after the fire, a corrugated iron warehouse building was erected on the block directly behind the store block. This structure then housed the business until the new store building was ready for occupancy. In 1907, George E. Darsey Sr. was one of the organizers of the first bank in Grapeland, the Farmers and Merchants State Bank.
Darsey’s Early days we sold everything from barrels of whiskey to dining room tables to ladies’ hats and shoes. The new Store building built in 1913 was 75’ by 125’ and occupied the two lots his main store building had occupied plus the adjoining lot. It had no interior walls but was divided into three main sections – hardware and groceries, furniture and housewares, and dry goods. This building opened onto Front Street and the alley behind the store through two doors and onto the side street through one door. The office was at the rear of the store on a platform surrounded by a railing. There were four sets of stairs leading up to the platform. The backstairs led into the office and the front stairs joined a walkway for the customers to use in front of the railing to come up to pay accounts or borrow money to lay in their crops. The office contained a large brick vault to keep records and deeds safe in case of fire. They also had a large safe of money. Many of the customers left their deeds and other valuable papers at Darsey’s for safekeeping. They also had used Darsey’s Store as a depository for their money before the bank was established. This large vault had been a part of the original brick building before the town burned and had many valuable papers of the people of the community in it. George Darsey did not allow the vault to be opened for a week after the town fire. He was afraid that the heat from the bricks of the vault might cause the papers inside to ignite when it was opened. After it cooled, the vault was opened and everything inside was found to be intact.
The business was operated as a proprietorship until 1917 when a family partnership was formed, including W.G. Darsey Sr. and S.N. Boykin Sr. as members of the firm. This partnership continued until 1930, when the death of George E. Darsey Sr brought his wife, Mrs. Lorena Murchison Darsey, and their children, George E. Darsey Jr., Mrs. Leon Anderson, M.E. Darsey Sr., and Mrs. Frank Grandberry into the partnership.
Darsey’s Store employed not only family members but offered many young people their first job and furnished jobs for many families down through the years. During the depression years of 1930s as the young men who were sons of the employees and owners graduated from college, jobs were very short. They were given jobs by Darsey’s Store to drive cotton trucks to Galveston. Mr. Will Darsey jokingly stated that only boys with college degrees could drive trucks for Darsey’s. The early day business of Darsey’s Store included everything from selling mules to buying cotton; from selling whiskey by the barrel to yarn for knitting. They sold feed, crocks, churns, well dippers, horse collars, nails, furniture, vegetables, high button shoes, clothes, Madam Alexander dolls, sporting goods, lumber, steamer trunks, coffins, and Huff mobiles. They bought many products from the local farmer and paid him with Darsey tokens ranging from a 5.00 dollar to a 5-cent piece. In the Augusta news section of the Grapeland Messenger of 1907, their local reporter stated that ‘If you cannot find what you need in the Augusta stores then you should go to Grapeland because George Darsey sells everything from toothpicks to ocean liners.’ Darsey’s Store also served the function of an early day bank. Farmers would borrow money by the year to grow a crop and pay in the fall when the crop was gathered. Some people simply deposited their receipts with Mr. Darsey and wrote orders against his money.
George E. Darsey Jr.
Charley C. Darsey
In 1953, George E. Darsey Jr. and his son Charley C. Darsey bought out the interest of the other members of the family. An interior wall had been built to separate the dry goods section of the store from the rest and was rented to Wallace Pate. George E. Darsey and Charley continued to operate the grocery, appliance, and hardware sections. The partnership between George E. Jr. and Charley continued until the death of George E. Darsey Jr. Charley Darsey now owns and operates the business. This business was operated as a country store and was a family type business. Various members of the family worked in the many varied departments of the store. Joe Darsey and J.S. Darsey worked for hardware, W.G. Darsey and George E. Darsey Jr. were office managers and cotton and produce buyers. M.E. Darsey Sr. managed the dry goods section aided by Miss Loye Darsey, Miss Mable Boykin, Starley Boyin Sr., and Mrs. Maggie Darsey. As the children and grandchildren grew, they were taken into business as egg counters, sackers, and delivery boys until they were trained to handle more responsible positions.
Charley & Tonya Darsey
In 1988 Charley Hill Darsey graduated from college at Sam Houston State University and joined the business with his father Charley C. Darsey. Charley married Tonya K. Darsey in 1990, and they have 2 children, Haley Ann Darsey and Linda Brooke Darsey. In 1993 Charley & Tonya purchased George E. Darsey & Co. Inc. from Charley & Ann Darsey, that included Darsey’s Grocery, Darseys Appliance, and any other entity of the Corporations Assets. March 1999 Charley & Tonya closed the grocery division of George E. Darsey & Co. Inc. and sold the grocery inventory to Cathy & Billy Hobson of Grapeland and allowed them to use the name “Darsey’s Grocery”. Their business began in March of 1999.
After the death of his father, Charley & Tonya decided to move George E. Darsey & Co. Inc. to its new location on the loop of Grapeland and venture into the furniture and mattress business. Darsey’s Furniture moved 1999 to 2009 into a metal building on the North Bypass in Grapeland. Tornado damage in May 2009 ripped the roof off our warehouse built in 1913 by George E. Darsey Sr. following the fire that destroyed the town. Nearly 100 years later, in May of 2009, a tornado caused the destruction of the warehouse. Once again, George E. Darsey & Co. had to regroup and decide a course of action. The decision was made to build a new showroom on Highway 287 in Grapeland. The new facility opened in September 2009 featuring 25,000 square feet of quality home furnishings that is connected to our old showroom via a walkway. The old showroom is currently used as storage and warehousing space for Darsey’s Furniture and Mattress.
On August 13, 2022, Charley H. Darsey purchased two metal plates stating ‘George E. Darsey & Co. EST 1913’ from Darsey’s General Merchandise building on Main Street. On January 18, 2023, one was installed in the concrete by Roger Kellum with Double K Construction at the front door of the showroom for even more generations of Darseys, staff, and customers to walk across. Today, in 2023, Haley Ann Darsey has joined her father, Charley Hill Darsey in helping run Darsey’s Furniture.
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