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.

Chattanooga Books Available By John Wilson

John Wilson, former Hamilton County Historian, has written two volumes on the early families of Hamilton County and also books on Chattanooga and on Lookout Mountain, as well as editing books on Chattanooga's railroads and the Stokes and Hiener photo collections. Railroads In And Around Chattanooga , featuring Chattanooga's intriguing railroad history, has 69 chapters and covers ... (click for more)

Chester Martin Remembers Students At St. Elmo School

Sorry for the poor quality of the above picture, folks, but old photos fade in strange ways. Thought some of you might be interested in seeing it, though, as it was made at the old North St. Elmo Grammar School, which stood just north of the train trestle on the edge of the community. My mother treasured this picture because it included her brother, Chester Dean Young ... (click for more)

Man, Child Killed In Crash On Highway 136 In Walker County; 2nd Child Seriously Injured

  A man and an unrestrained five-year-old child were killed when a vehicle went out of control on Highway 136 in Walker County on Saturday. A 10-year-old in the car was seriously injured. The driver was thrown from the van and was dead at the scene. The four-year-old was trapped in the vehicle and also died at the wreck site at Ponder Creek Road. The Georgia State ... (click for more)

2 People Shot After Domestic Dispute In Brainerd; Corey Moon Taken Into Custody On Saturday Night

Two people were shot during a domestic dispute in Brainerd late Friday night.   Chattanooga Police responded at 11:17 p.m. to the 4700 block of Rogers Road on a shooting. The following are the preliminary facts of that investigation.   Officers were able to locate two victims, Cortez Moon, 23, and Terri Dossett, 45, suffering from non-life threatening gunshot ... (click for more)

Rhonda Thurman: Speaking The Truth About CSLA - And Response

One parent called me a “Liar” during Thursday’s Facilities meeting. Others from CSLA have been a bit more creative saying that I spread “misinformation”, “falsehoods” and “spread inaccurate statements”. Then there were more descriptive terms- “arrogant”, “uninformed”, “unprofessional”- if these CSLA parents don’t stop, they are going to hurt my feelings. In this letter, I will attempt ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: It Ain’t Gonna Work

In the last seven days, there have been seven different people who have been shot in separate incidents in Chattanooga. On Tuesday, the City Council approved a total $223,656 in street cameras and accessories to take pictures of our gangstas when the cops already know them by first names. Late last month it was announced the Chattanooga Police Department would double our gang violence ... (click for more)