What is now known as Marchant’s Cash Store was actually built by Oscar Wilkins.
Oscar Wilkins was born in Tetbury, Gloucestershire, England, in 1851, the youngest child of George and Hannah Stoneham Wilkins. His father died in 1860 and in 1864 his mother married Richard Russell, a Mormon presiding elder also from Tetbury, who emigrated with his daughters, new wife, and Oscar that same year. They crossed the plains in the Hyde company but Richard died en route and was buried in Nebraska.
Oscar, Hannah and the girls settled first in Wanship and then in Peoa, where Hannah married James Garner. His new stepfather charged him $25 per month for room, board and clothing until he got out on his own. Oscar served as a cavalryman in the Blackhawk War and then worked on the Union Pacific railroad, before returning to Peoa to farm. He was eventually able to buy his land and in time became a prosperous farmer, owning 135 acres of land and 60 head of stock. He helped to organize the South Bench Canal Company and served as its president, as well as managing the Peoa Co-operative Store before setting up his own store.
Oscar married Elizabeth Durrah in 1870. She was originally from Scotland and had emigrated with her aunt, Elizabeth Donely Maxwell, crossing the plains in the McArthur Handcart company at age four. The couple had twelve children and lived in Peoa for 44 years. He and Elizabeth moved to Mountain Home in 1908, where he died in 1930.
John Alma (Jack) Marchant took over the store before his death in 1908.
From “The Book of Dell”:
“In August, 1924, [my brother] Clyde and I bought the Peoa store from the Kamas Bank. Clyde took our farm over and I ran the store. Wren Bowers had been running it for about six months before.
“I remember how bashful I was and how hard it was for me to associate with people and sell them merchandise.
“There was a big wooden porch on the front of the store and all the men would come to the store and they’d sit down on the porch and talk awhile. There was a hitching post and they’d just tie the horses or the team to that. When noon came, I could be gone an hour and never lose any business. They would all just wait until I came back.
“When I bought the store, it had very little merchandise in it, just a little right in the front of the store. The shelves were quite dirty and there were lots of mouse tracks on the top shelves. The back part of the store didn’t have anything in it and there were holes in the floor and big holes in the outside walls. I kept trying to improve it each year. After I married, I took the wall out of the back room and fixed it up and stocked the whole store with merchandise as fast as I could get the money.
“Bishop Abraham Marchant was always trying to get me to take some job in the church so that I would go more often. But I ran the store seven days a week and almost every day, I was there for 15 hours a day.
“People were surely honest too. Once Niels Olsen came down to the store, and said to me, “I wonder if I could get a little credit. I will pay you on Thursday”. When Thursday came, I didn’t pay any attention, but he didn’t come in. That night about 11:00 at night, I was in bed and asleep, when somebody knocked on the door. I got up and there was Niels Olsen. I said, “What do you want”? “Oh” he said, “I want to pay my bill. It’s not twelve o’clock yet, and I promised to pay you on Thursday”. He surely was an honest man.
“I have had a lot of experiences in the store business. When I look back and think of the association and friendship I have had with so many people: their friendship, their integrity, their honesty and the many acts of love and kindness they have shown me, it gives me joy and happiness every day of my life.”
All photos and quotations from familysearch.org