Friday, July 30, 2010

Who Was Buying What 178 years ago Today

As I noted in an earlier blog entry, it is likely that my blogging is going to suffer while I transition full time to Bovina. But I want to celebrate the fact that tonight I have Internet in my house in Bovina (as well as a new washing machine). So I looked through pages from a Bovina store ledger that the county historian allowed me to photograph earlier this month to see who bought what on July 30 in 1832 (the volume, unfortunately, has many missing pages while others were pasted over by news paper, so I was lucky to find July 30). The source of this ledger is not clear - we do not know who the store owner was or where in Bovina the store was located.

Here's what some folks bought 178 years ago today:

We'll start with my ancestor, Francis Coulter, who bought 5 quarts of Whiskey and a pound of tobacco for what looks like $1.72. He wasn't the only person buying liquor. Included on the list for July 30 as having bought whiskey were John Thomson (1/2 gallon), Walter Scott (2 gallons), John Winters (1 quart) and Alexander Brush (1 gallon). Another ancestor of mine, William Miller, was more abstentious, buying a pound each of tea and coffee, along with an item that I can't read, for $1.31. July 30 seemed to be a thirsty day. Most of the purchases were for coffee, tea and whiskey, though Isaac Atkins did buy a gallon of molasses for $1.50. On July 31, the purchases were very similar, including repeat purchases of whiskey from Francis Coulter (another 5 quarts) and Alexander Brush (another gallon). David Thomson bought 2 gallons, along with 2 darning needles for $1.77. John Secord bought a teapot and blue thread while Thomas Sloan bought 4 pounds of sugar and a pitchfork for a $1.81. Frederick Purdy spent $1.36 for 4 pounds of nails.

When I get more settled in Bovina in the fall, I want to do a more thorough review of this incomplete ledger book to look at the buying patterns. Going by just these last two days of July in 1832, one definitely gets the impression that there was a lot of drinking going on (over half the purchases were for whiskey). But did Francis Coulter really down 5 quarts in a day, necessitating the purchase of another five the next? He did get in trouble with the Bovina Associate Presbyterian Church session twice in the 1830s for intoxication, but it is possible that he had some help in consuming the whiskey. It was haying season, so there were hired hands to think about. In the 1830s, whiskey and other such beverages were the preferred choice to water.

So I'll make further reports as I analyze and hopefully transcribe this ledger and post it on the web.

So good night from Bovina!

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