In the late 1800’s, more than half of Americans were living in small towns. In rural Appalachia, many families ordered items from the famous Sears Catalog called the “Big Book.” Items such as clothing, farming equipment, housewares, medicines and more could be ordered from this book. Copies of these books were said to have been sent to homesick American soldiers during both World Wars. Between 1908 and 1940, Sears even sold more than 100,000 home construction kits called “pattern houses.”
A relative, William Henry Fletcher, served as Postmaster of the Kyles Ford area in 1913, and he rode a horse and delivered the mail. When it came time for the Sears and Roebuck catalogs to be delivered, the mail carriers would have to cut the straps and allow the books to float in the Clinch River because they were too heavy for the horses to bear. Just outside of Kyles Ford and in neighboring Eidson (Hawkins County), Tennessee, one such Sears and Roebuck home was shipped in on a train. Realtor records online show it was built in 1926 and was a “Gingerbread Victorian style architecture home.” We would pass this house on our way to the tobacco market in Rogersville, Tennessee. I always thought it looked like a huge castle. Over the years, the color of the roof was changed due to the owners remodeling it. The last time I was able to see this house the roof was an orange color.
Sadly, this house caught on fire and burned down in 2018. I am not sure what caused the fire as I believe the house was vacant at the time. It certainly was an icon in the community and sadly missed. The photo shown was taken just a couple years before it burned.