Remembering the Thomas Fritts and Cash-Melton Hardware Companies

Wednesday, February 13, 2013 - by Harmon Jolley
Cash-Melton Hardware was a successor to Thomas Fritts & Company.
Cash-Melton Hardware was a successor to Thomas Fritts & Company.

The Warehouse Row mixed-use complex at 1110 Market Street preserves historic buildings connected to Chattanooga’s railroad past.  When I was growing up, we shopped at the P&S Paper and School Supply which was one of the tenants.   As a downtown worker, I frequently ate lunch in the food court.  Anyone remember Larry’s Gourmet Burgers, and the employee who called out, “Burger, burger, burger”?

There was once a similar large building diagonally located across Market Street from Warehouse Row.

  The building housed a large hardware retail store that had different owners over time.

Thomas W. Fritts founded his eponymous hardware store in the late 1800’s.  Mr. Fritts had previously worked with his brothers, Benjamin and Jacob, in the steamboat business.  Jacob was killed in a steamboat explosion (a common occurrence) at Washington Landing in 1875.  Benjamin left his river-based career for a partnership in the Fritts and Wiehl wholesale drug company. 

Thomas W. Fritts and Company was located at 1017-1107 Market Street.  The firm sold farm implements, harnesses, buggies, wagons.  If it was a need for something that neighed, they sold it.   Mr. Fritts resided several blocks away up the hill at 550 Vine Street.

In 1913, James A. Cash, Charles L. Hall, and Thomas N. Melton became officers of the Cash-Melton Hardware Company, a successor to the company of Thomas W. Fritts.  According to the 1914 Chattanooga Commercial Review, the company was a wholesale and retail dealer in hardware, guns, cutlery, tools, queensware, and sporting goods.  They also continued the products that Tom Fritts had offered for the horse, of course.

James Albion Cash, president and treasurer of the store, was born in 1866 at Smith’s Crossroads (present Dayton, TN).  He moved to Chattanooga at age 18.  He served as Chattanooga alderman and commissioner, spanning a change in the form of the city’s government.   Mr. Cash led the development of Lovell Field and the Brainerd Fire Hall, and also advocated a river bridge at Main Street (which was never built, but might have changed our transportation history).

Thomas Norton Melton, secretary of the merchant, was born in 1869 at Collierville, TN, east of Memphis.  He came to Chattanooga at age 19 due to the business boom of East Chattanooga and Highland Park.   Mr. Melton worked for Carter-Magill Hardware before helping to found Cash-Melton Hardware. 

Cash-Melton Hardware failed in 1931 as a result of the Great Depression.  Thomas Melton continued working for Crisman Hardware until retirement in 1958.

I could not determine a date when the Fritts/Cash-Melton building was demolished.  The 1917 Sanborn Fire Insurance map clearly shows the building, with a large railroad yard with Y’s and switches in back of the building.   

In 1926, Chattanooga’s city leaders led a project to extend Broad Street south of Ninth, and connect on the other side to the existing Whiteside Street.   That involved removing rail lines and buildings, one of which could have been Cash-Melton.   According to the 1927 city directory, Cash-Melton had by then relocated to a smaller building at 135-137 Market Street, where they offered “everything in hardware.”  

If you have information on the Fritts/Cash-Melton hardware businesses, or know whatever happened to the folks connected with Larry’s Gourmet Burgers, please send me an e-mail at jolleyh@bellsouth.net.  I’ll update this article with your feedback.

Photograph from 1920 showing that railroads kept Broad and Whiteside streets from being connected.
Photograph from 1920 showing that railroads kept Broad and Whiteside streets from being connected.

Chester Martin Remembers UFOs

Yes, I've seen at least three or four UFO's, but they were totally un-dramatic and low-key. I was alive and in my early teens when, in 1947, the big (and now famed) “Roswell incident” occurred in New Mexico. Some kind of alien spacecraft had crashed there, and bodies had been removed; the U.S. Air Force knew all about it and refused to release details. Already an amateur astronomer ... (click for more)

Historic Boarding House Preserved At Portland, Tn.

The Tennessee Preservation Trust (TPT) celebrated the exceptional preservation efforts of the city of Portland, Tn.,  for the restoration of the historic Moye Green House as part of their Preservation50 in Tennessee campaign.   Preservation50 in Tennessee is part of a nationwide effort to commemorate the 50th  anniversary of the National Historic Preservation ... (click for more)

Darrel Eric Chapman, 49, Dies In Red Bank Home Destroyed By Fire; Case Ruled Arson/Suicide

Darrel Eric Chapman, 49,  died in a house fire in Red Bank early Friday morning after the homeowner said he was awakened by popping sounds. Red Bank Police Chief Tim Christol said the case is being considered an arson/suicide. He said, " At approximately 12:30 a.m., the Red Bank Fire and Police departments responded to a residential fire at 604 Bitsy Lane where they discovered ... (click for more)

Attorney Gets Misdemeanor Plea In 2nd Case Involving Sexually Harassing Waitress

A Chattanooga attorney who was charged for the second time with sexually harassing a waitress has pleaded guilty in General Sessions Court to a reduced charge. In the latest case, Charles D. Lawson had been charged with aggravated sexual battery after an incident at a local restaurant involving a waitress. Prosecutor Jason Demastus said Lawson pleaded guilty to the B misdemeanor ... (click for more)

Save Coolidge Park - And Response (2)

Last Monday morning while at work a good friend messaged me concerning a matter that I had not heard anything about dealing with Coolidge Park and its future. Apparently that night the City Council was to read an ordinance that would allow the mayor to start negotiations with the relocation of the Medal of Honor Museum. This ordinance would enable the city to lease approximately ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Tipping The Preacher

I got an unusual telephone call the other day from someone I love who asked my help in solving one of life’s delicate mysteries. It is a tough question: “How do you tip a preacher?” In the first place, you never tip a preacher. It’s the preacher who gives out the tips, helping to keep you on the straight-and-narrow in your quest to waltz through the Pearly Gates. But there are ... (click for more)