Welcome to Woodfords Station 4.0

"I like to go for coffee with my grandpa," wrote Morgana - le- Fae in her first-grade journal.

"Do you go to Woodfords Station?" I asked.

"Yes," she replied, "it's my favorite place. I have hot chocolate."

In 1854, Willis P. Merrill opened the first Woodfords store in what is known today as the Wade House. The house still stands and is believed to be the oldest in this area. Wells Fargo Express used Merrill's trading post as an office and during the five weeks in 1860 that the Pony Express was routed through Woodfords mail was picked up and delivered there. Merrill did business at this location for eight years then took a lease on another place in the upper part of the town. In 1881, this store burned down. Later that year another store was built on the site where the next two stores were constructed.

Stewart Merrill recalls that the store built in 1881 had shelves all the way up to the ceiling. Goods were retrieved from the top shelves with the help of ladders on rails. The local kids loved to roll back and forth on those ladders. Etched in his memory is that day in 1926 when the Woodfords Store burned down.

He was 3 or 4 years old. His parents parked the car on the other side of the street and told him to stay inside. Then they ran to help put out the fire. The fire fighters had a trailer with a pump and a hose. There were three men on each side of the pump pushing up and down on levers which drew up water from a ditch. Stewart's father, Grant Merrill, said that the Washoe Tribe stored ceremonial robes upstairs in the store. Sadly the gowns were lost in the fire. A new store was built later in the year.

Gary Coyan remembers his mother, Elizabeth Ellis Coyan, talking about dancing all night at the Woodfords Store. In the winter she and her husband used to heat rocks to keep their feet warm in the buggy. The children were put down to sleep in the kitchen.

In 1978, Dean McKinley and Judy Farnsworth became caretakers for the store for owner Stewart Merrill. The same year Dean started the Alpine Food Co-op, still going strong. He and Judy used to sell fresh fruits and vegetables, purchased in the San Francisco produce market, on the porch of Woodfords Station. They stored the co-op food in the old stone cellar, left over from the previous store. The blue grass group, High in the Saddle, were neighbors and played at the street dance organized by Dean to help launch the co-op.

Locals reminisce about the excellent water that used to pour out of the spring in the hillside behind Woodfords Station and was purified in a series of settling tanks before spilling from a pipe into a hollowed-out log trough. People would fill their pitchers at the spring which ran constantly, year-round. Gary Coyan remembers that all the boys and girls coming home on Saturday nights from parties and dances and ball games used to stop at the spring for a drink. This water system was destroyed in the Acorn Fire of 1987.

In 1978, Stewart Merrill sold Woodfords Station to two Tahoe lawyers. On July 16, 1979, Woodfords Station burned yet again. No. 4 was built.

In June 1983 Dave Kirby leased Woodfords Station. He was semi-retired and was looking for something to do in a rural area. He was dating Lynda who worked at Caesar's Tahoe. Later that year they were married next door in the backyard of the Merrill House which they had rented.

Lynda says the key to good business is consistency. Dave and Lynda epitomize this quality. The store is open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week every day of the year except Thanksgiving and Christmas. They feel blessed to have such good helpers in Terrie Hannafin and Megan O'Neal. Woodfords Station attracts locals and tourists alike with lottery ticket buyers adding a new dimension to their clientele. The old timers (Bad Boys) meet in the mornings and roll the dice to decide who pays the bill. Dave joins in and sometimes has to stand the group coffee and bear claws. Around the walls is a remarkable collection of baseball hats. Lynda started the famous chili cook-off later adopted by the Alpine Kids who added the Country Fair. They ran the event for eleven years.

Dave and Lynda are known for their cheerful generosity and many contributions to the community (and for sour cream apple pies and hamburger soup).

Thanks to: Dave and Lynda Kirby, Stewart and Eileen Merrill, Wanda and Gary Coyan, Judy Farnsworth, Dean McKinley, Edie Veatch, Nancy Thornburg and The Alpine Heritage.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment