Dutch Mills Cel­e­brates Leach Gro­cery Store

Washington County Enterprise-Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By Lynn Kut­ter

DUTCH MILLS — More than 200 peo­ple at­tended fes­tiv­i­ties Satur­day to cel­e­brate the fact that R.L. Leach Store in Dutch Mills has been named to the Na­tional Regis­ter of His­toric Places.

But many of the me­mories shared by those who grew up in Dutch Mills fo­cused on the kind­ness and gen­eros­ity of Ruth Leach, who owned and op­er­ated the gro­cery store for many years un­til the late 1960s.

Bobby Braly, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of His­toric Cane Hill, opened the cel­e­bra­tion by giv­ing a his­tory of the gro­cery store and a his­tory of Dutch Mills. The rest of the time was spent lis­ten­ing to some live mu­sic in be­tween sto­ries about Ruth Leach, the store and grow­ing up in Dutch Mills.

Kenny Bailey said Mrs. Leach would open up the store early for chil­dren wait­ing on the school bus. In the win­ter, she had a fire go­ing so the chil­dren would be warm.

“She took care of the Bailey boys,” he said. “We mowed her yard and cut her brush. She would think of work we could do to earn some money. Times were pretty tough when we were grow­ing up.”

The R.L. Leach Store was a so­cial gath­er­ing place, Bailey said. Peo­ple would sit around and talk and chil­dren were al­ways around lis­ten­ing.

“It was a good time grow­ing up in Dutch Mills.”

Phyl­lis Reid worked in the store and she be­came emo­tional as she shared about Mrs. Leach.

Reid worked on Satur­days and when Mrs. Leach paid her, she al­ways in­cluded a bag of gro­ceries.

“She al­ways told ev­ery­one you have to eat ice cream and bologna sand­wiches,” Reid said. “At Christ­mas, she al­ways would have a lit­tle gift at the tree at the church for all the kids. Her whole fam­ily was so good to me.”

In honor of Mrs. Leach’s gen­eros­ity to pro­vide ice cream and bologna sand­wiches for the chil­dren, the cel­e­bra­tion in­cluded free ice cream and sand­wiches for ev­ery­one. Peo­ple were lined up through­out most of the event to get the food in mem­ory of Mrs. Leach.

Mrs. Leach was like a mother to many, said Hugh Bailey.

“If there was ever a saint, Ruth Leach was one,” Hugh Bailey said.

He re­mem­bers go­ing to her house ev­ery night to watch tele­vi­sion be­cause his fam­ily did not have one. His mother broke her leg, and Mrs. Leach cooked break­fast for the boys one morn­ing.

Braly told the crowd that when talk­ing to peo­ple about the store, the most com­mon theme was the kind­ness of Mrs. Leach.

“Based on many sto­ries, it’s a won­der the store didn’t go broke,” Braly said. “She gave out a whole lot more than she sold.”

Braly read a few notes he re­ceived from peo­ple who could not at­tend the cel­e­bra­tion. One mes­sage said that Mrs. Leach made “ev­ery kid of ev­ery age” feel spe­cial. An­other wrote that Mrs. Leach gave away count­less ice cream cones and many times would fill a nickle bag of candy with 10 cents’ worth of candy.

Braly said His­toric Cane Hill was thrilled to be able to get the build­ing on the Na­tional Regis­ter and promised to “take care of its legacy.”

The Leach Gro­cery Store is ac­tu­ally two build­ings put to­gether. The orig­i­nal store was built in 1925, and Ray­mond and Ruth Leach bought the store in 1931 from Johnny and Mary Jane Sparks. In 1939, the Leaches bought the Sy­camore Fill­ing Sta­tion across the road and moved the fill­ing sta­tion to join the two build­ings to­gether.

The gro­cery store also served as the post of­fice and Mrs. Leach was the post­mas­ter for 39 years. She re­tired in 1967 and the post of­fice closed one year later in 1968. The store closed a few years af­ter that.

The build­ing fell into dis­re­pair and peo­ple credit Dale McReynolds of Dutch Mills with sav­ing the build­ing. He pur­chased it and did just enough to keep it stand­ing.

His­toric Cane Hill ac­quired the build­ing in 2013 and re­stored the gro­cery store so that to­day it looks much like it would have dur­ing the time when it was the cen­ter of ac­tiv­ity for the com­mu­nity of Dutch Mills.

“If there was ever a saint, Ruth Leach was one.” Hugh Bailey

More than 200 peo­ple came to the R.L. Leach Store cel­e­bra­tion Satur­day to re­mem­ber Ruth Leach and hear sto­ries about Mrs. Leach, the gro­cery store and grow­ing up in Dutch Mills. His­toric Cane Hill Inc., hosted the event for the build­ing, which was named to the Na­tional Regis­ter of His­toric Places ear­lier this year.

PHO­TOS BY LYNN KUT­TER EN­TER­PRISE-LEADER

The R.L. Leach store, now on the Na­tional Regis­ter of His­toric Places, was open Satur­day for peo­ple to see the in­side of the re­stored build­ing.

A large tent was set up Satur­day for the R.L. Leach store cel­e­bra­tion in Dutch Mills. The event in­cluded live mu­sic, sto­ries about the store, free bologna sand­wiches and ice cream, and the op­por­tu­nity to go into the his­toric gro­cery store and post of­fice.

Jerry Leach, son of Ray­mond and Ruth Leach, shares me­mories of the R.L. Leach Store at Satur­day’s cel­e­bra­tion in Dutch Mills.

Ruth Leach, owner of R.L. Leach store and Dutch Mills post­mas­ter, was fondly re­mem­bered by many at the cel­e­bra­tion Satur­day.

Phyl­lis Reid shares sto­ries about Ruth Leach. She worked at the gro­cery store and said the Leach fam­ily was very good to her grow­ing up.

Orig­i­nal signs can still be seen on the R.L. Leach store. The gro­cery store also served as the Dutch Mills post of­fice.

These are the orig­i­nal post of­fice boxes at the R.L. Leach store in Dutch Mills.

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