The accompanying photograph shows John "Swampy" Costin sitting in a chair in front of his store in Worth. The exact date of the picture isn't known but it was between the year 1899, when the store was built and the year 1913 when another building was built just to the right of the Costin store.
Although it was not the first store in the town of Worth I think it was the first store that was built in the town. It was a brick store with a supporting wall running down the middle of the store.
There are two stories concerning the brick used to build the store. Both stories support the fact that the clay for the bricks came from land owned by Mr. Costin. One story has it that the kiln was also on his farm and near the source of the clay. The other story contends that the kiln was set up in the main street of town. It would seem to be a little more logical that the kiln was on the farm because the wood to burn in the kiln would have been more readily available. It is one of those deals where you take your pick. I wouldn't know where to find anyone who had seen the bricks being produced.
Mr. Costin operated the store from 1899 until 1910 when he sold it to his son, Nicholas (Dick). Dick operated a store in the building until 1913 when he completed a new structure just to the east (right) and moved his business to the new building. The new building was a two-story building with the upper story becoming the town opera house.
Two brothers, Ephriam and Abraham Davis were the next to operate a store in the building. They in turn operated the business a few years and sold it to Ira and Louie Esterkyn. Ira and Louie were identical twins and never did I learn to tell them apart. Both the Davis' and the Esterkyn's were Jewish and as long as either family operated the store it was commonly referred to as the Jews store. There were no racial or religious overtones to the reference, and the four families were regarded as pillars in the community.
For sometime after moving to Grant City the Esterkyn Brothers continued to operate the store in worth. Later they moved all of their remaining goods in the Worth store to their store in Grant City.
From then until the store building was destroyed, along with every other business house in Worth by a tornado in 1947, there were several other people who operated a store in the building. Mabel Adams, nee Holmes, operated a store in the building. Later Findley Grace put a stock of goods in the store and hired Jake and Kate Dannar to run it for him. In 1942 Findley closed the store in Worth and I don't think there was anything there until after the war when Blanche Lathrum ran a store until the tornado struck.
John Costin was born in Jefferson County, Kentucky, in 1832. Some ten years later the family moved on to Indiana. In 1852 Costin married Louisa Asher and in the fall of 1854 they moved to Decatur County, Iowa. They lived there only one year before moving to the northern part of Gentry County, MO which was later to become Worth County.
Costin settled on land known as overflow or swamp land which was then thought to be almost worthless. His acquisition of this kind of land led to the nickname "Swampy".
An 1878 Atlas of Worth County shows Mr. Costin as owning about 920 acres of land and the 1902 Atlas shows his holding increased to about 1100 acres.
A sizeable portion of that land is still in the hands of Costin heirs.
Mr. Costin was Democrat in his political affiliations and was elected County Treasurer in 1864 and was elected sheriff and collector in 1868 and 1870.
While serving as treasurer Mr. Costin did, in 1866, present petitions to the county court asking that the county seat be moved back to Smithton. The county court denied these petitions and that was the last of that.
In all probability Mr. Costin was one of those who were influential in getting a post office reestablished in Smithton in 1875. Only this time the post office was officially known as Prohibition Post Office. Those who knew of Mr. Costin would see a lot of irony in that name.
When Mr. Costin established a store in Worth he was not new to the mercantile business. In 1860 he established a store in West Point (later known as Oxford). He operated this store about a year. There is also evidence that he operated a store in Smithton and later in Grant City.
I don't know when the old boy died but I am guessing it was between 1915 and 1920. All in all, he must have been one heck of a guy.