The lifetime collection of the late Ken Wadginski – a decorated war veteran who retired to the forgotten rural town of Hollow Rock, Tenn., and ended up buying many of the stores and buildings there – will be sold on Saturday, Mar. 28, by Stevens Auction Company. The auction will start at 10 a.m., at Stevens Auction’s showroom, located at 609 North Meridian Street in Aberdeen.
Items to be offered include a monumental mahogany back bar, possibly the finest example to be brought to auction in the last decade; important antique firearms; vintage automobiles; an authentic vampire killing kit; a gambler’s box-kit; antique furniture; old hardware and drug store showcases; and other timeless items and near-forgotten relics from Southern general stores, hotels and train depots.
After serving for 35 years as a Marine officer – including stints in World War II and the Korean and Vietnam conflicts – Mr. Wadginski found his way to Hollow Rock, a once bustling and thriving town, located about 45 minutes northwest of Jackson and halfway between Jackson and Memphis, 22 miles from Interstate 40. When he arrived, in the 1960s, Hollow Rock had already seen its best days.
But that’s exactly what drew Mr. Wadginski to the place. He had a natural affection for the small and sleepy rural towns across the South, and Hollow Rock represented to him a piece of the backwoods American landscape that was fast disappearing. In its heyday, in the 1930s and ‘40s, Hollow Rock had as many as 5,000 residents working at the H.I. Siegel textiles mill, a successful clothing manufacturer.
But by the time Mr. Wadginski arrived – in the mid-1960s – that business had already shut down and there was little left, save for the buildings and history of the town. Hollow Rock was named, legend has it, after a meteor that crashed there hundreds of years ago. The space rock, which was in fact hollow, today still has inscriptions that were carved by the Native Americans who live in the region at the time.
When it was settled by Americans, in the mid-1850s, Hollow Rock was dependent on the railroad that ran through town, as were so many other small towns in the South at that time. Hoboes Many of the buildings that sprang up in Hollow Rock would later by acquired by Mr. Wadginski. He built a modest apartment for himself in the back of the barber shop, and just started amassing items.
The back bar is expected to be one of the centerpiece items of the sale. Mr. Wadginski acquired it out of a drug store in nearby Big Sandy, Tenn. (another town virtually lost to history), and had it brought back to Hollow Rock. “This is an exceptional back bar, beautifully crafted in the 1880’s or 1890s,” said Dwight Stevens of Stevens Auction Company. “I expect it will sell for $50,000-$75,000.”
The antique firearms include a Remington revolver used by a Union officer during the Civil War; a Colt revolver from the same period; rare Winchester rifles; and other weapons, some of them carrying Civil War connections and significance. The vintage cars include two Model A’s (a truck and roadster); a Model T (perfect for street rod conversion); and a 1971 Oldsmobile 98, with 45,000 miles.
The vampire killing kit was made around the early 1900s, Mr. Stevens estimates. It contains four stakes, crosses, mirrors, guns with silver bullets, potions, vials, herbs, medicines, holy water and garlic. In October, Stevens Auction sold another, earlier vampire kit (circa 1800) for $14,850. The gambler’s kit-box, hinged and made of oak, contains playing cards, poker chips, daggers and a silver boot-pistol.
Many of the 500-600 lots will be items drawn from the many buildings in Hollow Rock that Mr. Wadginski frequented and eventually bought. Included will be about 20 rare showcases from Buckley’s Drug Store; vintage advertising signs from a bygone time; old lamps; artwork; antique furniture; a full tester bed; and more. “This is quite simply an auction that should not be missed,” Mr. Stevens remarked.
Today, Hollow Rock is a ghost town, with almost no residents and no industry or commerce to support it. But on Mar. 28, the town will come to life again in Stevens Auction Company’s showroom. Reserved seating will be available, with advance arrangements (recommended, as a packed house is anticipated). There will be no online bidding component, but phone and absentee bids will be accepted.
A preview will be held the day before the sale, Friday, Mar. 27, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. For lodging accommodations in Aberdeen, the Best Western Aberdeen Inn is recommended (662-369-4343). For accommodations and restaurants in Columbus (23 miles away), call the Columbus Convention & Visitors Bureau, at (662) 329-1191. The auction is located five blocks north of downtown Aberdeen.
Terms of the sale are cash, all major credit cards and pre-approved checks. All sales are final, with no warranty expressed or implied. Announcements made on auction day precede all other previous written material. A 12 percent buyer’s premium will be charged on the total purchase price, with a 2 percent discount for cash, business and personal checks (with proper ID), and wire transfers.
Stevens Auction Company’s next big sale will be held sometime in May (date and time still to be determined). Already consigned are Belter furniture pieces and a large Victorian rococo bedroom suite. Stevens Auction Company is always accepting quality consignments for future auctions. To consign an item, estate or collection, call them at (662) 369-2200; or, e-mail them at [email protected].
To learn more about Stevens Auction Company, and the upcoming estate sale of Ken Wadginski (to include photos of many of the items to be sold), you may log on to www.stevensauction.com.