In southeastern Fannin County, between the cities of Ladonia and Honey Grove stand the remains of a little country general store. The business once had gas pumps and a blacksmith shop in addition to the main store. Today, all that is left is the main building, a small, A-frame, tin building and a sign proclaiming "Welcome to Bug Tussle."
The Bugtussle Store became a popular tourist spot in the 1940s and 1950s. The owner of the store was local Justice of the Peace James Bates Fink. Judge Fink would preform marriage ceremonies out of the store for the low price of a dollar. This price also got the newlyweds an RC Cola and a peanut rounder. But why would a little general store be such an interesting wedding venue?
The name of the community was a big part of the attraction to the site. Longtime local resident Harvey Lynn Milton shared his memories of the store and how the community got its name, “The story was that they had a community ice cream supper and the bugs was so bad somebody said well this is just a bug tussle. Two words and it stuck as one word.”
There isn't much consistency regarding the spelling of the name. Milton recalls Bugtussle as being a single word, although the two-word usage appears elsewhere, as on the sign that stands there today.
Milton remembers the Bugtussle store as a community gathering place where “You didn’t want to leave because you knew when you left, they would talk about you.” Milton remembers getting sodas at the store before going out into the fields and even remembers getting hamburgers at the store though he does note that the cooking accommodations were not known for cleanliness. The store served the community by providing a place to buy some supplies without having to make the five-mile drive to Ladonia or the 10-mile drive to Honey Grove.
Today the Bugtussle Store can be difficult to find, as there are no highway signs to mark where the building is, and honestly it can lead to a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment. Talking with Milton, he reveals that the odd name of the community is responsible for this lack of signage. “In the late 50s the highway department used to put signs up and they would steal them,” Harvey Lynn says. “I had a buddy who went to school at the University of Texas and he said he ran up on one in a kid’s room.”
The Bugtussle Store went out of business in the mid to late 1960s, though the site still attracts visitors in the form of an annual car show known as the Bug Tussle Trek. You may not be able to buy them at the store any more, but if you ever get the chance, enjoy a RC cola in Bugtussle.
This story is the first installment of the "Backroads of Northeast Texas" historical series by Texas A&M University-Commerce graduate student Zachary Adams. The series is a collaboration between the university's Department of History and KETR.
"My project is to document and tell some of the little-known history of Northeast Texas," Adams said. "There are so many interesting landmarks in this area that people may not know about and I want to show people what can be found in their own back yard. My hope is to give people a chance to explore places that they never knew existed and explore this diverse area we live in."