A couple of weeks ago at Liberty Auction in Pembroke, I found a torn-up, musty, mildewed old ledger with the pages falling out.
The ledger was on a table with other old household items. I looked over the thousands of items for sale that night in the building for sale, and the ledger was the one thing I wanted. I knew the old book would not mean anything to anyone else present. While others were bidding on the other items, I looked through the ledger to see if I could figure out where it originated.
Two hours later, when it came time to bid on the row with the ledger, I had Adam hold it up for bid. I could not believe the bidders who were interested in it. I bid up to $35 and quit. It kept going until the bid reached $85. The winning bidder grabbed it and went out the door.
I really wanted the old book, but I could not spend a fortune on it. I didn’t know if the person who bought it cared diddly-squat about the historical value of it or if it was an item to sell on eBay. I truly wish that people who have something that is of a historical nature would donate it to an area museum so it could be kept and shared with others.
Another example: Last week, there was a Coca-Cola bottle that had been bottled in Hinesville, probably at the beginning of the Hinesville Bottling Company. I had never seen one like this, and of course, I wanted it. I failed to get it as well; a person who resells bought it for $45. I had bid up to $25, but would not go any higher. Another reseller! Here again, I wish the owner would have donated that one bottle for the Hinesville room in City Hall. There were crates of other old bottles, but only one like the one I described.
Maybe in the future, people reading this will think twice before giving valuable historical items to an auction for bid when they could give them to someplace local for preserving.
Back to the ledger ... I am glad that I took the time to read the ledger and could retain what I saw in it. A few years ago, Danny Norman was gracious enough to let me study his granddaddy’s old ledger; the ledger up for auction was similar to it. The man who originally owned the ledger had the last name of Warnell. It could have been either W. S. or either A. W. Warnell. It was written in ink, and the handwriting was beautiful.
I gathered enough information to realize it was someone in Liberty County who owned it and probably lived in the Willie Community or Taylors Creek. He was a store owner, and the first date was 1871. He kept a running list of the items people in the community bought on credit, when they paid and with what. Some of the names were Rev. Lewis Price, Ryan, Grice, Laing, Dawson, Miller, Henry A. Swindle, Hendry, Smith, Floyd, Darsey, Elarbee, Futch, Sikes, Durrence, Moody, Girardeau and Edwards.
Some of the items purchased were bacon at 10 cents per pound, a barrel of flour at $12.50, a 24-pound bag of flour at $.95, sugar at 5 pounds for 25 cents, syrup for $1 per gallon, tall can of salmon for 15 cents, 10 pounds of sweet potatoes for 15, three bars of soap for 8 cents, Swiss cheese for 35 cents per pound, and plugs of chewing tobacco for 10 cents each. The prices from then compare to prices on 1933 Macon-area grocery ads I have. Mr. Warnell noted who picked up the items, whether it was the wife or Lizzie the maid or whoever. Often, he gave 30 cents to someone and put that on the list. When the bill was paid, sometimes it was paid in cash, and sometimes it was in so many bushels of corn or sweet potatoes. It was fascinating to read the items purchased and the prices charged.
Years after the store closed, or at least after the ledger was no longer used in the store, the lady of the house, or perhaps a child, used it for other purposes. Obituaries clipped from a newspaper were glued to the page, as were recipes. There were many pictures of advertisements that had been cut from magazines and pasted on the pages. One man told me that he wanted the ledger just to take pictures of those ads.
There was an article about a young lady with the last name of Jones who died unexpectedly in 1871 in Dorchester. The article described what a fine and loving person she had been, and that everyone had loved her and was shocked at her death.
There was another article about a lady that had died. She had been sick for several weeks and had perked up a bit, but then recently became much sicker and, in the last two days, became critical. She had just passed away as the paper was going to press; details would be more in next week’s edition.
One page had a drawing of a train with the engine and cars hooked together. The engineer was hanging outside the door and waving. On the side of one of the cars was the number “176” in big numbers with a box drawn around it. I know this number must have some meaning for a train that went through Liberty County but I have not yet found it.
Rex Williams was printed in a child’s handwriting with a red crayon. The word of the little community “Strumbay” was spelled out by the same writer.
I hope that this ledger will one day find its way back home to Liberty County where it belongs, and someone can identify the origin of it. It has so much history in its worn-out pages that could be deciphered and saved for posterity.
So, please, if you have some old handwritten diaries or ledger books that belonged to your grandparents, look through them and see if there is history of Liberty County in it that can be saved. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org before you trash them!