The photo shows the store in about 1908 when the owners were Smith Steere and Frederick Brown.

                                                 The Aldrich General Store: 1830 – 1890
The Aldrich General Store was Mendon’s center of business from 1830 – 1890.  It served the town in many capacities, and it was the most frequently utilized building in the village.  It offered meals, agricultural products, tools, household items, postal service and a transportation terminal.  It provided a stagecoach stop at the intersection of two well-traveled interstate roadways.  It was the hub of activity for Mendon residents and out of town travelers.

Three members of the Aldrich family served as storekeepers and postmasters for sixty years.  Jabez Aldrich opened the store in 1830 and was appointed postmaster in 1831.  He succeeded Attorney William Soden Hastings, who had operated the post office at his family’s brick law office nearby.  Jabez died in 1838.  His son, Henry, took over as postmaster and storekeeper until the early 1850’s.  Younger brother, William, took over until 1858, but chose to relinquish it back to Henry, who remained on the job until 1890.  Throughout this time, the Aldrich residence was at 15 Main Street, a short distance from the workplace.

The stagecoach routes going through town covered an extensive area.  Hartford Turnpike connected New York, Hartford, and Boston.  The north-south route connected Worcester and Providence.  Weary travelers stopped to rest, buy supplies, mail a letter, share news with townspeople, or engage in conversation while waiting for the next stagecoach.  The Aldrich General Store served as a place of social and business interaction for passengers in the Northeast.

In 1890, changes began to take place at the store.  William Aldrich died, and his brother, Henry, died the following year.  Charles and Daniel Barnes became proprietors and later postmasters.  Smith Steere and Frederick Brown succeeded them.  In 1901, the trolley essentially replaced stagecoach travel, and the automobile made it obsolete.  Supermarkets and shopping centers replaced local general stores.  Train depots and airports replaced stagecoach stops.  The Mendon Post Office moved across the street to its present location in 1951.  The days of hanging out at the Aldrich General Store, sitting around the woodstove, waiting for the stagecoach mail delivery, and  solving the issues of the
day, are in our past.  The store at 1 Maple Street served the town in many capacities, and it was the connection to the outside world.  It will always be a special place in our town’s history.

Richard Grady
December 2011

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