Located inside the State Fairgrounds is a unique historical museum called Cracker Country.There you will find a charming variety of buildings that tell the story of Florida’s rural history, the Florida Crackers. The Terry Store was one of many general stores located in rural Florida of the late 19th century and lasted well into the 20th century. It was built in 1891 by the grandfather of Governor Lawton Chiles in Fort White, Fl. In 1920, Jack Roundtree Terry and his wife Maude Sparkman Terry purchased the store from Chiles. Jack was previously a farmer, however, Maude would not marry a farmer so he bought the general store and married his wife. Jack and Maude ran the store together until Jack died in 1956. The local residents knew the store as “Miss Maude’s Store” and she continued to run it until 1988.
The Terry Store was open for business six days a week. It opened at 7a.m. and closed when the last customer left the shop. It never had indoor plumbing or a phone, but electric lights were added in 1938. Jack and Maude sold everything from coffee to coffins in their general store. Anything the locals could not produce themselves they purchased here. Cloth, metals, products from a great distance, and books were sought after items. Shopping bags were not used in general stores, instead the shop keeper would wrap the item up in paper and tied it with string or the customer would bring in their own cloth sack, baskets, or wooden crate to carry their items home.
General stores were a focal point of their community and acted as a meeting place for locals.Store owners were often leaders and elected to the town council. They established relationships through money lending and bartering with the towns people. Store keepers were also always up to date on the latest local news since many people would come to the store and discuss what was happening in the community.
The director of Cracker Country, Ann Singletary, visited the shop in 1988 just before it closed for good. She recognized it as a model Florida general store that fit the turn of the century collection of buildings acquired at the State Fairgrounds in Tampa, Florida. The store was donated to Cracker Country Museum in 1992 by Maude’s sons, Jimmy and Bill Terry. It came with several original items still located in the store such as a wood burning stove, a large safe, a scale, a steel register and the bench out front. In 1994, the Terry store was open to the public as the gift shop of Cracker Country. The gift shop location was moved to another building in 2008 and the Terry Store is now used to interpret general store operations to guests. Many artifacts are found inside that would have been sold at the Terry Store including gardening supplies, toiletries, clothing and household items.