General store endured as cornerstore of Carlton for 140-plus years

Posted 24 March 2024 at 8:50 am

Judging by the price of gas, this photograph of Narby’s Superette was taken in 2001.

By Catherine Cooper, Orleans County Historian

“Illuminating Orleans” – Vol. 4, No.12

CARLTON – For over one hundred and forty years, a general store has operated from the location which until recently housed the now closed Narby’s Superette at The Bridges in Carlton.

Several photographs from the Orleans County Department of History collection document this history.

This photograph, dated 1887, shows two adjoining businesses – that of G.W. Root on the left and G.D. Fowler’s general store on the right. A hotel, later destroyed by fire, had originally been built on this location.

Two men are standing on the left of the building. Peering closely, we can see two young children wearing white shirts peeking out from either side of what appears to be a tub.

The man standing on the left on the front porch is identified as George Root, who was a Civil War veteran of 8th NY Heavy Artillery. To the right, the man leaning against the pillar is identified as Ed, but his last name in not readable, while the man to his right is identified as G. D. Fowler.

This photograph, dated 1888, shows G.D. Fowler’s’ General Merchandise delivery wagon. Canned goods and fabric may be seen on the back of the wagon. The body language captured in the interchange between the three people shown here is classic. The salesman, identified as A.J. Small, is obviously pitching a sale for his goods. The older lady in the middle appears skeptical, while the young lady on the left is almost convinced, but still a little uncertain.

Fowler’s store also housed the Post Office. Benjamin and Gifford Fowler alternated as Postmasters from 1877 -1915 with a brief interruption from 1894-1897 when the post was held by James J. Waldron. Postal service to The Bridges was discontinued in 1915, when the mail was sent to Kent. Benjamin Fowler was one of the directors of the Albion-Carlton Telephone Company formed in 1880 and his store was among the first to provide telephone service in the area.

Fowler’s store was later purchased by Benjamin Bamber. A listing in the 1903 Orleans County Directory noted that Bamber was a general merchant who sold dry goods, groceries, boots and shoes, hats and caps, drugs and medicines, hardware, crockery, paints, and oils. The store was also identified as a “Telephone Pay Station.”

Following Benjamin Bamber’s death in 1921, the store was run by his son Ward and was later acquired by Floyd Burns. The left half of the building was torn off many years ago.

Sharon and William Narburgh, Jr. acquired the business in the mid 1960s. Sharon continued the operation following the death of Mr. Narburgh in 1992. Upon her recent retirement, she calculated that she had worked at the store for a remarkable 58 years.