Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick


It is not uncommon to hear stories of people finding foreign objects in their food after they have consumed most of it. Nearly everyone has bitten into an apple only to discover that it is wormy. And people working in restaurants have been known to feed people meat that has dropped on the floor, particularly to customers who have given them a difficult time! 

A century ago, stores sold produce, meat, and dairy products that had never been inspected or sanitized. There were few or no health laws and very little protection. Customers bought items at face value never realizing where the items had been or what had been done to them in processing. 

Jake Stong, the grandfather of Keosauqua's well-known attorney Jo Stong and author Phil Stong, was the last postmaster of Pittsburg. In 1889, he built a grocery and general store, which he sold to Pete and Pearl Reed in 1903. 

"Grandma" Pearl Reed, proprietor of the Pittsburg General Store for more than 70 years, would often tell the story of how Jake Stong once wisely got the best of a customer in a well-deserving manner. 

It seems that years before when he operated a store in Kilbourne, a woman customer came in to sell him some butter she had churned earlier that day. After he agreed to buy the butter, she said that she had found a mouse in the cream jar before she had started the churning, but "after all, what people don't know won't hurt them." 

However, she added that she wanted to buy some "good butter." Mr. Stong took her butter to the back of the store and once he was out of sight, he used a butter mold to stencil her product. Then he returned to the front of the store and sold her the same butter she brought in. Once she had purchased it he remarked, "After all, what you don't know won't hurt you!" 

It took a few moments for it to sink in what he had done. She hesitated a moment, then grabbed up her butter and fled. In a fair and square way, she had been beaten at her own game. Let's hope she learned a good lesson from the "poetic justice" served to her that day.

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