Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick

Notes from an old store ledger

I ran across the credit accounts of a number of customers who traded at the store in Kilbourn during 1875-1876.  Customers mentioned are A. Gross; H. Anson; William Burron; Georg Grose; H. Monaghan; J. Stong; B. Short; Elmer (name?); and S. Howard.
On August 30, Jacob Stong purchased eggs for 33 cents; 6 1/4 pounds of fish at 10 cents/pound for a total of 62 cents; peaches for 50 cents; smoking tobacco for a dime.  His total on credit continued on the 31st.  On September 3rd, he paid $3 on his account, leaving a balance of 20 cents.  On the 6th of September, he added lard, 10 cents; sassafras, 10 cents; and pepper, at 10 cents.
In the midst of this credit account, the proprietor noted on September 9th that the river was very high and rising fast.  It appeared that the railroad bridge had suffered damages.
Jacob Stong's credit account kept building and at one time reached $6.22 but on December 3 he paid $5 on his account, leaving a debt of $1.22 unpaid. 
Prices are interesting although often we can only guess at the amount of something purchased.  Dried blackberries sold for 25 cents; sugar for 50 cents; rice for 50 cents; and tobacco for a quarter.  Beans were 15 cents per pound; tea was $1.20 per pound; a half gallon of syrup was 42 1/2 cents; and coffee was $1 per pound.  Cherries were 18 cents per pound; bacon was 15 cents per pound; and ham was being sold for 18 cents per pound.  Chickens were a quarter each.
Apples didn't always bring the same price.  For example, a bushel on March 9 was 80 cents but on March 23, was only 50 cents and on the 29th was 75 cents.  I'm sure it had to do with the type as well as the quality and since they likely survived the winter from fall harvest, many would have been spoiling.
Weather accounts also appear among the journal entries.  It snowed in November, but turned mild in December.  The logbook for December, 1875 shows for the 20th and 22nd, "pleasant with a south wind."  The entry on December 23 is "clear and pleasant, south wind."  On December 24, "warm with south wind and rain.  Iowa sundown turned cold."  December 25: "cold, northeast wind, gradually getting colder."  December 26, "snowed, with west wind quite cold," and on the 27th, "cold with an east wind."
The entry for December 30th is "warm and pleasant with a south wind.  This eight o'clock indications of rain with thunder, set in about ten o'clock."  On December 31, "warm and pleasant with rain, river rising, no ice in river."
Wages for some people are also noted in the ledger.  It appears that Samuel Taylor earned $1 when he worked a full day; 25 cents for 1/4 day and 50 cents for a half day.  His total wages for the week (4 1/2 days) was $4.50 but it isn't clear what he did to earn his pay.  Dr. Yost was paid $4 on the 19th of February.  One day in the shop (I think it was the mill) would earn $2 and James Gilbert was paid 50 cents for hauling a load of wood.
Written in pencil, many of the notations are not legible and some don't make a lot of sense, but I hope this bird's eye view gives you a little idea of what life along the Des Moines River was like in the 1870s.

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Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick