The rural community of White Oak in Fairfield County was developed in the years following the Civil War by the Patrick family, who relocated to the area from York County. Prior to the war the area was known as Cockrell’s. Thomas G. Patrick built this store in 1876, which also served as the local post office. From the point of the Patricks’ arrival, the town became a rural trading community and prospered through the early twentieth century, eventually adding a cannery business to the hamlet as well as a school.
Stores such as Patrick’s typically operated on the credit system. Farmers, who might yield just one harvest a year, would purchase goods from the store on credit, and the store owner would be paid – with interest – once the crop was sold. Many farmers died in debt due to this system, as yields varied from year to year, and rarely could farmers keep up with the interest.
For example, S.R. Simonton, a farmer in Fairfield County, purchased $250 of goods from Patrick’s Store in 1879, though he could pay only $3.30 of what he owed. Many store owners used indebted farmers for labor or simply took their land as collateral.
Photographer Trace Walters found an interesting piece of history in the foundation of the store, a United States Geological Survey Marker.
Included in the same historic district as the T.G. Patrick Store is the large frame residence pictured below. The house was built in 1903 by Calvin Brice for T.G. Patrick and family. The house remains a private residence.
The T.G. Patrick Store is listed in the National Register as part of the White Oak Historic District:
White Oak Historic District is significant as a very intact example of a late nineteenth to early twentieth century rural community whose development centered around the Patrick family in the 1870s. It serves as an example of the importance of a trading community in rural areas after the Civil War through the early twentieth century. The district consists of nine properties constructed between ca. 1876 and ca. 1925, and includes three large frame residences (including a manse), a frame church with steeple, two frame store buildings, a cotton warehouse, and two vacant, wooded lots, some of which reflect Victorian stylistic influences. Prior to the 1870s the community was known as Cockrell’s or Cockrell’s Lane, named after a prominent family that resided there until immediately after the Civil War. The Patrick family moved to the area from York County around 1870 and was instrumental in developing the community by building houses, stores, and a church. The village was relatively prosperous around the turn of the century with a cannery, at least two stores, and a school. Thomas G. Patrick opened a general merchandise store around 1876 which served the surrounding rural area.