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  • Writer's pictureSheila Caldwell

Historical W.S. Stout store is getting much needed love!

Updated: May 8

Visitors and locals alike are often surprised to learn that one of the longest continually operated general stores in the state of Tennessee was located right here in Johnson County. From 1930, until his death at the age of 91 in 1995, William Stanley Stout served area families. Stout strategically built his store beside the tracks of the Southern Railway in Old Butler. However, that original location has rested beneath 100 feet of water in the center of Watauga Lake since December of 1948.

When the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) began its work to construct the Watauga Dam in the 1940s, business owners like Stout had to find a new location. Once again, he chose a strategic location in Pine Orchard on the new state Highway 67 and would operate there for almost 48 years. It would be another 16 years, after the store was donated to the Museum of Butler, that the W.S. Stout Store would find its permanent home on the grounds at Selma Babe Curtis Park.

It is only fitting, 75 years after the flooding of Old Butler, that the store is receiving much-needed restoration. Thanks to a $5,000 donation from the TVA, work has begun on repairs to the 94-year-old structure in time for tours when the Museum opens on May 18 for the 2024 season. Those visiting the store will notice that the products being exhibited cover many decades which, when one understands that the store was in operation for 65 years, explains the wide range of items displayed in this unique time capsule that gives us a glimpse into our treasured past. Anecdotal stories about trap doors for chickens or a fun game of checkers make the W.S. Stout Store a wonderful attraction for all ages.

Other improvements at the Museum will enhance visitor experience as additional grants from the State of Tennessee and the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) will help fund repairs to the Daniel Boone monument and memorial brick garden, improve ADA compliant access, and provide specially curated exhibits during the season. Museum volunteers are also planning special programming including historical lectures, storytelling events and musical performances to the season schedule. To make exhibits and experiences more interactive, the museum will feature digital resources to help preserve and tell the story of “the town that wouldn’t drown.”

While the 2024 season is scheduled to open in mid-May, special tours can be scheduled with our volunteer docents by calling 423-281-1113. To learn more about the Museum of Butler, how to volunteer or about becoming a member, visit or follow their Facebook page at @MuseumofButlerTN.

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