Looking Back – Turnbo General store at Three Brothers

The Turnbo General Store played a big roll in the lives of many people in and around Three Brothers, AR. which is about 11 miles north of Mountain Home on Hwy 5. Formerly The Wallace (or Wallis) General Store, it was purchased sometime in the 1920’s by Sid Turnbo and his wife Zella Copelin Turnbo, when they and their children, Newt and Naomi, moved from Pontiac, Missouri to Three Brothers. The Turnbos ran it for over 50 years. At times it was the only store closer than Mountain Home, Arkansas, Gainesville, Missouri, or Oakland, Arkansas. The pictures and much of the information for this story was provided by Jim Turnbo and his wife Deborah Shelton Turnbo. Jim is the son of Newt Turnbo and his wife Maye Byrd Turnbo.

It has often been said of country stores, “If you can’t buy it there, you don’t need it.” Some of the items sold are shown in the picture above. These and others include: hardware, men’s overalls, jeans, coats, shirts, shoes, yard goods and notions, caps and gloves, etc. for the ladies and children. All kinds of groceries, livestock feed and supplies. Howard Reeves remembers that you had to cross the road (Hwy 5) to load your feed. The Turnbos also bought eggs, chickens, and cream. These were hauled to Springfield, Missouri or sometimes to Cotter and shipped by train. They even sold their own brand of coffee beans labeled, “THE TURNBO’S MOUNTAIN GROWN COFFEE,” sold exclusively by Sid Turnbo, General Merchandise, Three Bros. Ark.

The Three Brothers Post Office was located inside the store and Mrs. Zella Turnbo was the Postmistress until 1953 when the Post Office closed. Then the residents received their mail on Route 1, Mountain Home. The Post Office boxes and other memorabilia were donated to the Baxter County Historical & Genealogical Society.

When the Old Salt Trail was improved to make way for Highway 5 to Missouri, the Turnbos rose to the occasion. They moved their living quarters upstairs and made a temporary boarding house for the highway construction workers, furnishing beds and meals for 8 to 10 men. They even sold lunch to other workers besides the boarders. Sid hired someone to help in the store, and Mrs. Turnbo hired two ladies to help her.

Over the years the Turnbo Store has been robbed several times. Once the bandits cut a hole in the wall and took the safe outside, opened it, stole its contents and left the safe behind the store where it remains to this day. (2012)

Sid Turnbo died in 1963, Mrs. Turnbo in 1978. Their daughter-in-law, Maye Turnbo had kept the store open, but closed it shortly after. The Baxter County Archives has phone books from 1948 through 1979, in the
Mountain Home phone book, the store was on a party line (phone # 15F4) and shared the phone with four subscribers, when the operator said “number please.” In 1962 it changed to 425-3275, when we changed to dial phones. In 1971 the Midway exchange went in and their number changed again to 481-5160.

The old store is still standing but time and weather have taken a toll.

Photographs and information provided in this series was provided by the Baxter County Historical and Genealogical Society (BCHGS). If you have additional photos and information you would like to have properly preserved please contact the BCHGS by phone (870-425-2551), by email bcarchives@centurytel.net, or by mail to Baxter County Historical Society, P.O. Box 2125, Mountain Home, AR 72654. Additional information may be found at www.baxtercountyhistory.org.