REMINISCENCE: Chester names that ring a bell

“When I walked down the street it was like relatives were falling out of the trees,” said Mary Byrd Micou Martin of her childhood in Chester. Martin and her brother Chip Micou share a lineage that includes many Chester notables, including the founding members of the first Chester Library, public school, woman’s club, garden club and the Chester Baptist Church, among others.

The brother and sister are now involved in a bittersweet endeavor: getting the home they grew up in ready to sell after their mother, Rosa Williams McLaurin Micou, 95, recently moved to Lucy Corr. Micou and Martin are sad to have to sell the home at the corner of Werth and Shop streets in Chester, but digging through the memories has been a nostalgic undertaking. “It’s been an adventure,” Martin said last week.

Sorting through pictures and household items, Martin and Micou uncovered a treasure trove of Chester history that revolves around the four dynamic McLaurin sisters. Their mother, Rosa, was the daughter of Bernard McLaurin, the brother of Maud, Edna, Tare (Ella) and Mamie. The four sisters carried married names that are a who’s who of Chester.

Maud would marry Dr. Alvin Hurt, one of the first permanent doctors in Chester. Maud and Alvin lived at what is now the corner of Old Hundred and Harrowgate roads. The Hurt’s were movers and shakers in the community.  Dr. Hurt recruited a pharmacist, Maud recruited a school superintendent.  What was missing in the community, the Hurts actively recruited or were founding members: The American Red Cross, the first public education system in the community, the first library, the Woman’s Club, the Garden Club and the Chester Baptist Church.

“Maud had a very inquisitive mind,” said Martin. “She never stopped.”

Rosa Micou, Martin and Micou’s mother, spent a lot of time visiting her Aunt Tare who had married Phillip Tyler, Chesterfield County’s first school superintendent. Some are familiar with the large yellow house on Richmond Street in Chester that bears the Tyler moniker.

Edna married Tom Shepherd, a lumberman who built perhaps the “largest house of its period in Chester,” according to “Chesterfield County, Early Architecture and Historic Sites.” The house stood where the Chester Walgreens is today.

Mamie married a Saunders. Her son Milton eventually owned Saunder’s Variety. The building still stands, although remodeled and now occupied by Financial Dynamics near Duncin’ Donuts.

“Saunder’s had a soda fountain in the 50s and I worked there,” said Martin. “I also remember people buying bus tickets at Organ’s Drug Store [on the corner of Old Hundred and Harrowgate roads]. The bus from Petersburg to Richmond came right down Harrowgate Road.”

“I can still remember the remnants of the street car tracks on Old Hundred Road out in front of where Worrell’s Barber Shop is today,” added Micou. “And we had cotillion on the second floor of the firehouse [Station 1].

The Micou family home is now up for sale.  The colonial-revival style home, built about 1905, features almost 3,000 square feet with two summer porches, beamed ceilings, intricate woodwork, a built-in ice box, hardwood floors on the first floor and quarter-sawn pine on the second along with two staircases, one formal and another meant for the hired help in the early 1900s. Martin says their family managed without maids, although the house is equipped with a maid’s call box and buzzer system.

“If we had company, we kids were supposed to use the back stairway,” said Micou.

Both Martin and Micou remember when the Chester Presbyterian Church, now a chapel attached to the much larger church, was moved from the corner of Winfree and Gill streets.

“I remember when they moved it. We all walked behind it,” said Martin. “Did you?” she asked her brother.

“I sure did,” answered Micou. “I think everybody in Chester did.”

As a child, Martin and Micou’s mother, Rosa, was a regular visitor to Chester, staying with her aunts for weeks at a time.  When she married her husband, Paul Micou, from

Cumberland County, they found country living to be harsh during the depression.  Taking a job at the Dupont plant, they began calling Chester home in 1939.  They were going to build a new home, but when a home almost across the road from her great aunt and her favorite cousin was available, they would become the third family to call the house built by Tom Shepherd’s brother home.

The Micou home sits on about an acre and at least half it has been used over the years for a garden. Last year, Chip Micou was featured on the cover of the Village News plowing the garden spot with his 1957 International Cub Low Boy. Each year, Micou leads the Chesterfield Tractor Club on his Low Boy in the Kiwanis Christmas Parade. He’s currently looking for a new garden space.

Near the carport where Micou stores his prized tractor is the shed in which his father taught Masonic Catechism. Paul Micou prepared as many as 100 boys for the Masons. He also cooked for the Mason Lodge members. “Both our parents were great cooks,” Martin said.

Martin and Micou are organizing the contents of the house for an estate sale to be announced later, but in the meantime local real estate agent Jim Daniels, of Longest and

Daniels, is showing the house to potential buyers and, it seems, some tourists. “I’ll bet this house is being shown more than any house Chester right now,” Daniels said.

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