Fannin County Museum of History
One Main Street, Bonham, Texas
A Box of Shoes For $3.00
Bonham Daily Favorite, February 26, 1995
Last week we examined an old general merchandise ledger probably from the store operated by Daniel Montague and his partner Henderson at Fort Warren. This ledger, which was later used to record the minutes of the first commissioners court of Grayson County, may well be the oldest extant ledger from Fannin County during the days of the Republic of Texas.
In addition to the index which provides us something of a census of the settlers of northwest Fannin County, there remain some daily entries for items bought by the customers of Montague and Henderson. The listing of items provide a fairly accurate look at the goods which were available to these early settlers. The entries also give something of unusual look at what many of these settlers deemed as necessities.
One other interesting note is the numbers of entries where payments were made to persons and charged to the customer's account. What we find in these transactions is nothing more than a simple method of banking. When a particular customer was in debt to someone but did not have the wherewithal to make a payment he could request his friendly neighborhood storekeeper to settle the debt for him which was then entered on the customer's charge record.
Many store keepers ran these accounts for a year. The customer would then settle up after the seasonal harvest and could sell his agricultural produce. Considering the early date of 1838 for these ledger sheets, it seems somewhat unlikely that this is the case. Nothing exists to show us that these settlers were engaged in agricultural pursuits to the extent that they could expect to make a sizeable sum from the crop harvest. More likely these debtors expected to harvest animal pelts which would then be exchanged to the storekeeper for the debt. Most storekeepers and operators of trading posts were in business for the acquisition of these pelts which would fatten their purses better than through the sale of general merchandise.
The Montague and Henderson ledger contains only a few pages of customer transactions. These cover the period from May 29, 1838 to June 30th.
Awareness of the occupations or trades of some of the persons helps to understand the items that were actually bought. The first entry is to George Ivy. Dr. Daniel Rowlett in his 1842 account to President Mirabeau B. Lamar mentions that George Ivy and his brother Jefferson were already residents in the future Fannin County when the first Anglo families arrived. Rowlett referred to both men as hunters and trappers .
On May 29 and 30th George Ivy purchased 1 bottle of Brandy for $1.50, 2 pints of brandy at 75 cents each, and 5 pounds of sugar for $1.25.
Holland Coffee who supposedly was operating his own trading post at Preston Bend (now under Lake Texoma) at this time has an account entry under H. Coffee & Co. One charge in the amount of $11 is for sundris (sundries), 1 "Indian Order" in the amount of $25, and a payment to S. Blag of $5.25. (Probably Samuel Blagg).
The first entry not generally involving liquor of some kind does not appear until June 3 when G.F. Lankford, in addition to 75 cents worth of whiskey, also purchased 2 pairs of pants and thread for $4.75, 3 vests and trimming for $13.75 and a pair of shoes for $3.00.
Throughout the month of June most of the purchases are for Brandy or whiskey and tobacco. Davidson Colville did buy on one day 3/4 pound of coffee for $1.09 and beeswax for 39 cents.
John Trimble, who traditionally operated the first school in Fannin County, at Warren, purchased on June 30th 1 1/2 pints of brandy for $1.12 1/2. Perhaps school had turned out for the summer!
The most extensive account found in the ledger pages was a charge on June 30. It is an interesting mixture of goods charged by John Yates. It does appear that Mr. Yates might have been going into business for himself. The charges were for 1 bottle at $1; 2 pints at $1; 1 pr shoes at $3; 24 pints at $1; 1 qt at $1, Tobacco and rum at 37 1/2 cents; 1 qt whiskey at $1; 2 tin cups for 50 cents; 1 vest at $10; 3 pts whiskey for $1.50; 1/2 pt at 25 cents, 1/2 pt at 25 cents; 1 pt at 50 cents; Cash 75 cents, 1/2 pt of whiskey at 25 cents, Sundries at $8.75 and 20 pounds of "flower" at $2.80. Comparing the other prices listed in the ledger it appears that those pints and quarts Yates was purchasing were not empty bottles but were filled with liquid spirits.
Interestingly, a number of looking glasses were also purchased at the store in this one month period. One curious entry is the charge to David Alberty for tobacco and "Domestick" at $1.50. Any ideas what a Domestick is? Perhaps the cotton piece goods we call domestic?
I suppose it is only right to consider that many of these purchases were made as trade goods for area hunters to have in bargaining with Indians for various pelts. Whiskey and Brandy were certainly not the only goods stocked at the Warren store. In a separate record found in the probate file of Preston Kitchings we find such a wide variety of items that resale must be considered.
At the top of this account for Kitchings, dated August 1837, was $10 worth of merchandise for John Yates. The extensive list has 3 1/2 yards of lawn for $2.62; 3 1/2 yards of calico at $2.75; a pairs of socks at 7 1/2 cents; 3 1/2 yards, Irish linen at $6.25.
Kitchens also purchased a pack of cards and a pocket knife for $2.25. Eight pairs of pantaloons for $10 and several cotton handkerchiefs totalling $1.75. Thread, buttons and "murchantsdise" purchases came to a total of $1,37 1/2.
Six yards of Cambrick for $5.00 was the most expensive single item. Kitchings also bought several quarts, pints, and half pints of whiskey. Two knives and a razor were added to the account along with $2 worth of Land or Hand ribbon.
Perhaps the most telling entry in this account for Preston Kitchings is the last item: "Burring and funeral expenses, $35.50."
A number of accounts such as these are among the records of Fannin County in the 19th century. It is interesting to see how the stock of merchandise at these stores changed over the years and how the prices changed along with the merchandise. From time to time we’ll do a similar presentation to this one as we track the taming of the frontier In Fannin County.