Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Long lost store ledger finds its way ‘home’

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Dale Potter-Clark (holding the ledger) with Bob Staples from “Mainely Memories” in North Jay. Submitted photo

READFIELD — A recent phone call from Bob Staples to Readfield Historical Society researcher, Dale Potter-Clark brought good news. Staples, a retired history teacher and owner of “Mainely Memories” in North Jay, had discovered an 1803 store ledger that he thought originated in Readfield, based on research he’d found posted online by Potter-Clark.

As Staples read names to Potter-Clark, she immediately recognized that most were residents of early East Readfield village and some from up to 10 miles distant, such as Winthrop and Mt. Vernon. According to Potter-Clark, Readfield Corner had not yet developed into a buzzing commerce center in 1803 therefore there were also customers from other parts of town, such as Dr. Samuel Currier and the miller James Craig of Readfield Corner.

“Shopping at that store must have been like us going to Augusta to shop instead of a local country store today,” Potter-Clark surmised. “Entries include dates, names, purchases and costs. Sales included everything you could think of, from clothing to china to seamstress materials to nails and lumber to lemons, oranges, vinegar and molasses. There was also a lot of rum and brandy sold in small quantities indicating it was also a tavern,” said Potter-Clark.

Staples shared that Potter-Clark’s website includes information about one Daniel Dudley, who was a “devotee of rum.” He checked the ledger and sure enough, he found that a Daniel Dudley had bought his share of rum at that store in East Readfield.

Potter-Clark explained, “Dudley had recently lost his wife leaving him with a newborn and three other children under ten years of age. Perhaps he was trying to drown his sorrows. He ended up leaving his children with families in this area and returned to New Hampshire where he died poverty stricken in 1813. A sad case, but from what the Dudley family history tells us all of his children did well in spite of their rocky beginnings. We believe that Dudley’s story is but one of many that will surface as the ledger is examined.”

RHS plans to transcribe the info so researchers can sort the information according to interests. “We expect to find patterns with some of the store customers, inventory and perhaps happenings in town at the time such as epidemics and building construction. We have already discovered one short-term resident named Jonathan Cammet who lived in Readfield for only three years before moving to Albion. There will be other customers no doubt, which are not traceable through deeds because they never owned property in Readfield and resided in town within the ten-year span between the 1800 and 1810 censuses,” said Potter-Clark.

Readfield Historical Society is a non-profit organization founded in 1985 to preserve the rich history of Readfield and its people. Their museum and archives at 759 Main Street is open by appointment and on Thursdays and Saturdays through the summer months. FMI contact Bob Harris, president at (207) 377-2299 or [email protected]

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