Names of the Customers – Prices Paid For Articles Would Be Exorbitant Now
– Liquors, Tobacco and Snuff Were Cheaper, Owing to the No-Existence of Duties
Benjamin Seymour, father of the late Hon. Benjamin Seymour, still so well remembered in this country, was one of the pioneer U.E. Loyalists on the shores of the Bay of Quinte. He owned a farm and kept a general store at No. 8 South Fredericksburgh, at what is now known as the Neilson farm, Conway P.O. It was, we believe, the first store established in these counties, being opened in 1793, and was continued for many years after that time. Singular to say the general account book of that store, extending from 1796 to 1798, is still in existence and in good state of preservation. The writing is very plain and bold and the ink is as sharp and bright as though written but yesterday. E.R. Sills, ex-township clerk of South Fredericksburgh, is the possessor of this rare old relic, which very naturally he prizes very highly. He has kindly allowed the Beaver to have access to it for a time. The curious in such things may see it by calling at this office.
As the date is but a few years after the first U.E.L. pioneers first reached this country, and there were no other stores west of Kingston, the names of those whose accounts are recorded include a large proportion of the heads of the well known U.E.L. families extending from Fairfield’s, east of Mill Haven, to the Congers and Dougalls, at Hallowell and all through Fredericksburgh, Adolphustown, some parts of Ernesttown and Richmond and on into the “Fifth town” and “Sixth town,” now Prince Edward county.
Among the names that are still familiar to all those acquainted with the early history of the country, are these: Major Vanalstine, the leader of the U.E.L. company that settled in Adolphustown. He lived and died in that township. Philip Dorland, who was elected for the district to the first parliament of Upper Canada in 1791. He was a Quaker and refused to take the oath as prescribed – as Quakers still do – and his seat was at once declared vacant. He lived at the point opposite Glenora, on the farm now owned by Dr. Young. He afterwards moved to near Wellington, in Prince Edward county, and the many prominent residents of that name now in that county are descendants of his. Thomas Dorland, a brother of his, who resided on the adjoining farm. At a later time he was elected to parliament and occupied a seat there for years. His descendants are largely the Dorlands now residing in this country. Willet Casey, the father of the late Capt. Samuel Casey, of Adolphustown, and of other well known residents about the bay half a century ago. He was also one of the early representatives of parliament for the county. He also owned the first foundry and manufactured the first iron mould-board plows used in this part of Canada. Nicholas Hagerman, the first practicing lawyer in Upper Canada, and father of the late chief justice Christopher Hagerman, for years a leading member of the Upper Canada government, and later on a leading judge. Mr. Hagerman lived and died on the farm now owned by David Allison, Esq., of Adolphustown, and was buried in the old U.E.L. burial ground on that farm, as were all the men whose names have already been given. John Trumpour, one of the well known pioneers, several of whose descendants still reside in Adolphustown. The late Simon Trumpour was a son of his. Joseph Clapp, also one of the well known early pioneers, grandfather of Elias Clapp, Esq., of Adolphustown, Jonathan Allen, father of Parker Allen, Esq., John Canniff, Philip Roblin, Owen Roblin, John Huyck and many others of “Fourth Town,” now Adolphustown.
Among the residents of “Third Town,” now Fredericksburgh, North and South, appear the names of Henry Loyst, Andrew Embury, William and Joshua Cadman, James Murdoff, Luke Carscallen, William Rombough, Marvil Garrison, Cyrenius Parks, Abraham Woodcock, John Dafoe, Michael Dafoe, Conrad Sills, John Sills, Alexander Clark, John Nugent, Frances Prime, John Diamond, Dr. Chamberlain, Craig Carscallen, John Anderson and a score of others, whose families are still well known citizens here.
The “Second Town,” now Ernesttown, was represented on the list by Archibald Fairfield, a leading man then living some miles east of Mill Haven, where some members of the third generation still reside. A well known tavern was kept there for many years. John Finkle’s name came in often, the grandfather of Rowland R. Finkle, now of Bath. Finkle’s was, for some time, the best known tavern west of Bath. It was there that the first two Canadian steamboats that sailed the waters of Quinte and Ontario were first built, and the first courts of the midland district were held. Isaac Asselstine, Asa Huff, the Sniders and others, all appear to have done business at Seymour’s at that time.
From Prince Edward county such names appear as Dr. Dougall, the first practicing doctor in that county. He became a prominent and wealthy citizen. A son of his, Benjamin Dougall, still resides at Belleville, now one of the oldest lawyers in Canada. Stephen Conger, the head of still numerous and influential families about Picton, was also a regular customer. So was Tobias Ryckman, of the “High Shore,” whose descendants still live in the same locality, the Wessles, of the same neighborhood, the Harrisons of Marysburgh, and many others.
Living in Canada appears to have been pretty costly a hundred years ago, especially if much “store goods” were used. But living was much plainer then than now, and as a natural consequence, many of the prevalent complaints and diseases of today were scarcely known. Here are some of the charges as we find them in Mr. Seymour’s day book of 1796-97, with the prices appended:
Major Vanalstine was charged with eight and one half pounds of loaf sugar, a whole loaf at one time, at forty-five cents per pound. The usual rate charged for such sugar throughout the book was fifty cents a pound, and it was but seldom that any person was charged with more than one pound at a time. He was also charged with seven pounds of maple sugar at the same time at twenty cents a pound. Common brown muscavada sugar was twenty-seven cents. Of course a very few pounds of sugar went a long way in a family at that time.
Luke Carscallen got two yards of blue striped cotton at eighty cents per yard. That seems to have been the common rate then for what would now be considered dear at eight cents. He had also to pay eighty cents per pound for his fig blue, and seventy cents for a cotton handkerchief.
Philip Dorland was charged the same day at the rate of seventy-five cents per pound for nutmegs and seventy-five cents for Bohea tea. That seems the cheapest sold. Some other qualities were $1 per pound throughout. His pins bought were twenty-five cents, the paper and white pint bowls $2 per dozen.
Willet Casey was charged $8 for half a box of glass, 7 ½ x 8 in size, such as now would sell at $1.10 in most places. Putty, twenty-five cents.
Archibald Fairfield, three gallons of rum at $3.20 per gallon. Many of the old residents were charged with rum or whiskey, which seemed far more indispensable than tea at that time. These liquors, tobacco and snuff, all of which were in pretty general use, were cheaper than now, as large excise and customs duties were not charged then.
Nicholas Hagerman laid in the materials for a new coat; cloth $4.50 a yard, buttons, sixty cents a dozen, sewing silk, ten cents the skein, thread, twenty cents per pound, and other items in proportion. Throughout broadcloth is charged at from $3 to $5 per yard.
Cyrenius Parks was charged as follows in one item: One pound of allspice, eighty cents; one pound of pepper, eighty cents; on pound brimstone, fifty cents. These were the usual charges all through the book.
Dougall was a frequent customer and one of the most frequent items in his
Paul Trumpour paid twenty-five cents a pound for his shingle nails, twenty cents for “board” nails and eighteen cents for another quality. These were the regular prices. Nails were all made by hand at that time.
John Canniff, calico at sixty cents per yard, cambric at eighty cents, lath nails at twenty cents.
Capt. Carson, port wine, $2.80 per gallon; carrot tobacco, twenty-seven cents; snuff, thirty-two cents, colored thread, $1 per pound.
Reuben Bedell, who lived on what is now the Platt farm on Hay Bay, appears to have opened a small store there in November, 1796, and got his supplies of Mr. Seymour. On the 1st of November he is charged with $1,129 worth, of which he was to receive fifteen per cent discount, or to return any unsold goods in good order. He had frequent charges after that date. He was a son-in-law of Willet Casey and died quite young.
Ebenezer Washburn, quart of whiskey, forty-five cents; copper tea kettle, $5.50.
Andrew Loyst and Henry Hoover were the first two charged in 1798. Among the items to Loyst were pepper at eighty cents, calico at sixty cents, nails at twenty-five cents, and small plates $1 per dozen. Mr. Hoover got tea at $1, handkerchiefs at eighty cents, pins twenty-five cents per paper, soap, twenty-five cents per pound, yellow baize, seventy cents the yard.
A very large amount of all purchases was paid for in farm produce, and the items credited give an idea of what farm produce was then worth.
Cyrenius Parks was credited $1 a bushel for wheat and $3.50 per cwt. for flour. His credits often appear. Abraham Woodcock was allowed sixty cents a bushel for grey pease. Oats were credited at fifty cents.
George Murdoff is credited with a carcass of pork at seven cents per pound, beef at five cents and hay at $9 a ton.
It would seem from long lists of barrels of flour that there was not then any standard weight for a barrel, as now. Each was numbered and credited with its net weight, usually ranging from 192 to 212 pounds. George Murdoff paid in work at fifty cents a day, as did some others.
Whole columns of space could be filled with interesting items from this rare old account book, but want of space will not permit of any further extracts.
F.R. Sills informs us that his father, his grandfather and his great-grandfather all had accounts in the book.
The Hon. Benjamin Seymour sold his father’s Fredericksburgh farm when a young man and moved to Bath, where he was in business for many years and became one of the wealthiest men in this county. After representing Lennox and Addington in parliament for years, he was at last defeated by David Roblin and was then appointed to the old legislative council, of which he remained a member till his death. In his later years he moved to Port Hope, where he died. He was a life-long tory. That was before the days of the modern “liberal conservative” party. A stronger term was needed to properly define its principles in those good old days.