Hand Trading Company, 1916, Pelham

A retail establishment of this size would have been considered enormous in a larger city, but for one to have been located in the little farm town of Pelham was nothing short of amazing. Judson Larrabee Hand modeled his store on Marshall Field’s in Chicago and when it opened in 1916, dubbed it “The Largest Rural Department Store in the World”. Perhaps its most impressive architectural feature, besides its sheer size, is a central open rotunda highlighted by a dome (not visible from street level). Over the years the Hand Trading Company helped establish Pelham as both an agricultural and retail center for the region, but changing times led to its inevitable closure by 1984. A long-term renovation of the building into apartments  is nearly complete as of 2019.

An interesting side note: Hand’s daughter, Virginia, was the wife of Cason Callaway, famous for Callaway Gardens; his daughter Alice was married to Fuller Callaway, Jr.

Here’s a great memory of Pelham and the Hand Trading Company from C. T. Cain: From 1939 through 1945 my family share cropped a farm owned by Mr.Fred Hand. At least twice a month we would hitch up our mules and wagon for a trip to Pelham(est 4-5 miles). After parking our wagon behind Hand Trading Company,our parents would shop at HTC and I would take in a movie at the Pine Theater. Then I took what was left of the .25 cents and buy a comic book and cherry soda at Hand’s soda fountain. My fondest memories of HTC were the bathroom upstairs since it was indoors and very clean. Also the elevator (which was operated by a man with Dwarfism and always had a smile) to take us to the upper floors. I grew up all around Pelham: 1st in the Cotton/Harmony area, then west of Pelham close to the Hawthorne Trail. Worked in many areas to support my parents. Mostly hiring my labor out to farmers such as Jim Curles, Preacher Thomas, and Mr. Brim in the Cotton area. Even worked for Harris’s dairy for a spell. But each weekend led me back to Pelham and HTC.

hand trading company mosaic tile entrance photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2009

In 1951 I joined the US Army and enjoyed 22 years of serving my country. But during all those years, my thoughts were of Pelham and HTC. When I was asked where I was from I would always say “FROM A SMALL SOUTHWESTERN TOWN WHICH HAS A LARGE BUILDING COVERING A CITY BLOCK CALLED THE HAND TRADING COMPANY”. There’s not enough space here to list all the memories I have of Pelham and the Hand Trading Co building. I’ve travelled the world , but there’s no place like home. C.T.(Buddy) Cain US Army Logistical Officer(Retired) PS: I’ve worn many shirts to school with a big hand symbol on the back from a fertilizer sack. Oh those were the days.

hand trading company entrance photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2009

Pelham Commercial Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

29 Comments

Filed under --MITCHELL COUNTY GA--, Pelham GA

29 responses to “Hand Trading Company, 1916, Pelham

  1. Janice Williamson

    My husband and I (along with a lot of other people) attended open house and tour of the Hand Building Apts. tonight. It will have one, two and three bedrooms. It is beautiful!

  2. Joseph Munroe

    When I was a child the Hand Mansion still stood which had the far greater fascination for me. Daddy sold feed equipment & Pelham was one of his stops. Each time he took me, I’d stare at the house with all of its spires & the enormous iron fence that surrounded it & hear stories about the Hand zoo on its grounds….

  3. There are several good videos on Youtube!

  4. Florine Palmer Moye

    Loved working in The Drug Department of The Hand Trading Co. 1963-1973. Memories I will cherish forever.

  5. Kay Hunter

    Does anyone know about the mural that supposedly was painted by an older gentleman by the name of Taylor. I’ve never seen the HTC, but heard over the years that my great grandfather painted the mural. If anyone has any information, i would greatly appreciate it. Private msg. on FB, Kay M. Hunter.
    Thanks.

  6. Patrick D Walker

    My family moved to Pelham in 1950 when my father got out of the army. he was a doctor, one of two in town as i have been told. His family was from Bainbridge just down the way and we would go over on weekends and visit Granddaddy and Grandmother. My Grandfather was a pharmacist and owned the Walker Drug Store in Bainbridge. My mother was good friends with an older lady, Miss Ruth (no idea what her last name was, as a little boy,we knew her only as Miss Ruth) who drove a Cadillac. Mother would take us to visit her and we would sit politely around the fancy living room and listen while they talked. I remember the house we lived in had pecan trees in the back (didn’t everyone back then?) and i recall one time Mr. Charlie, the gardener had to kill a rattlesnake that he was alerted to by our dog Blackie. Miss Katherine would mind us in the day and help mother with me and my four brothers, what a handful.
    Daddy moved the family to South Bend, Indiana, much to the dismay of all of my Fathers family. He was able to move into full time anesthesia practice in this much bigger environment.
    we would come back to visit, but as life moved on, it happened less and less. i would love to be able to discover any records from the time like an old phone book that might list our address and now that i am older, i hope to visit.
    thank you for this wonderful web site,
    Patrick Walker

  7. I have a digital image of my great grandfahters mansion in Pelham circa 1918. Original built in 1876. Burned & rebuilt in 108

  8. Denise Rovig

    Does anyone have good photos of the inside of the Hand Trading Company? The dome, the stairs? One of the grandest buildings I’ve ever seen, and I spent my childhood roaming in it.

  9. C.T. CAIN

    From 1939 through 1945 my family share cropped a farm owned by Mr.Fred Hand. At least twice a month we would hitch up our mules and wagon for a trip to Pelham(est 4-5 miles). After parking our wagon behind Hand Trading
    Company,our parents would shop at HTC and I would take in a movie at
    the Pine Theater. Then I took what was left of the .25 cents and buy a
    comic book and cherry soda at Hands soda fountain. My fondest memories
    of HTC were the bathroom upstairs since it was indoors and very clean. Also
    the elevator (which was operated by a man with Dwarfism and always had a
    smile) to take us to the upper floors. I grew up all around Pelham: 1st in the
    Cotton/Harmony area, then west of Pelham close to the Hawthorne Trail.
    Worked in many areas to support my parents. Mostly hiring my labor out to
    farmers such as Jim Curles,Preacher Thomas, and Mr. Brim in the Cotton
    area. Even worked for Harris’s dairy for a spell. But each weekend led me
    back to Pelham and HTC. In 1951 I joined the US Army and enjoyed 22
    years of serving my country. But during all those years, my thoughts
    were of Pelham and HTC. When I was asked where I was from I would
    always say “FROM A SMALL SOUTHWESTERN TOWN WHICH HAS
    A LARGE BUILDING COVERING A CITY BLOCK CALLED THE
    HAND TRADING COMPANY”.
    There’s not enough space here to list all the memories I have of Pelham and
    the Hand Trading Co building. I’ve travelled the world , but there’s no
    place like home.

    Sincerely,

    C.T.(Buddy) Cain
    US Army Logistical Officer(Retired)

    PS: I’ve worn many shirts to school with a big hand symbol on the back
    from a fertilizer sack. Oh those were the days.

  10. Pat Anderson

    Brian, if ever in Pelham again check out the mule barns or what is left of them. There are only 4 left, all on the same block (Burum St.) One is storage for cabinet shop, one hardware store, one a flee market and then there is mine. You can’t miss mine, restored, big red barn. We have many great old builds in Pelham, the post office, old bank building, Pollock feed and seed, etc. Come visit, would love to have you.

  11. as children, the big store was a hangout for us boys. my grandfather, Jess Tennyson worked at the store until he died. He would take us to the rooftop where we could see the entire city of Pelham. Hands, a truly wonderful memory

  12. laura akridge-nager

    Brian, if you get back down to Pelham, there’s a registered home from the 1800s on Railroad St. My grandmother lived next door and the sisters who lived there baked for the community.

  13. Christa green

    GL I am a hand descendant, Fred sr was my granddaddy and I grew up running up and down those stairs..friend me on FB and well try to fill in the links you are missing. Christa Mikkleson green

  14. I am in the midst of researching my Hand relatives, and all the related architecture, or places of interest surrounding them. My mother was born a Hand, and is the last surviving one from her line. Her memories are sketchy, but have me fascinated and hungry to know more. Would love to know how much is available, and find it all. Such intriguing stories from days long gone.

  15. TINA HAYWOOD BATTLE

    I grew up outsisde of Pelham, in the Harmony and Cotton communities. I remember going to the HTC and getting cherry sodas at the counter. Ahhh the memories in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Would love to move back to Pelham area but my husband, who grew up as a city boy in Florida, won’t dream of it.

  16. Wayne Poitevint

    I remember my daddy talking about going to town after the crops were in. The first thing they would do was put on thier shoes and walk around the wagon to see if they still fit. If they didnt they would go to HTC and grandaddy would buy them a new pair. One pair a year. lot of differance between then and now.

  17. Bobby Cone

    I remember when I was little going into this store and looking up at the stained glass in the ceiling I do believe. There is supposedly a tunnel that goes from The Hand trading Co to one of the buildings across the street or that is what we always heard.

  18. Freddy Hooks

    Thanks so much for posting this photo of Hand Trading Co. It has been recently partially remodeled and is currently being leased out for events on the ground level. My mom worked at HTC for years and i have a lot of memories from there. Do you have any images of the Hand Mansion, Hghland Villa that was torn down ?

    • Charles and Irene Stone - 38 S. Jackson St., Hawkinsville Ga

      Freddy,
      We DO have a photograph (a copy of an original photo!) of the Hand Home. Absolutely spectacular! I treasure our copy given to us by a Hand descendant. fieldstone1959@comsouth.net
      Charles Stone

      • Dot Butler

        Does your picture have a wagon in front with children in it? My brother-in-law, Gene Kolbie, Jr lives in Camilla. He is one of those children. Mr Hand was his great grandfather. He has told me many things about his family.

  19. Gail Willis

    I grew up in Pelham, when it was a thriving small town. I also lived in Meigs after I married a Meigs boy. I love Hand Trading Company. It is such a shame about all the small south Ga. towns. I still have relatives in Pelham. Wish we could preserve the history better. The Carnagie Library was also a great place. The old Hand house which the city tore down was an absolutely great house. You need to research that house.

  20. Anne Bolton Thatcher

    How wonderful that you are preserving and sharing these photos — thank you! The Hand Trading Company is across the street from the railroad depot where my grandparents, Charlie Winzor & Annie Kelley Bolton, had an upstairs apartment in the 1950s. The HTC was a childhood memory I cherish, the huge general store full of its expanse of intriguing sections or departments, and the beautiful balcony level. Better than any mall’s anchor store, I’ve often dreamed of this space, its beautiful wood and tile floors. Would love to convert it to condominiums, or learn of a way to get some woodwork, windows or other architectural pieces from the building if it is ever remodeled!

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