1878 Money

Money was an article little known and seldom seen among the earlier settlers. Indeed, they had but little use for it, as all business was transacted by trading one article for another. Great ingenuity was developed in the barter of their commodities, and when this failed long credits contributed to their convenience. But for taxes and postage neither the barter nor credit system would answer, and often letters were suffered to remain a considerable time in the postoffice for want of 25 cents, which was then the postage on all letters from any great distance; nor were they carried on the fast express or mail trains. It was only every week or so that a lone horseman, with mail bag thrown astride, would ride into a settlement or village. If, however, the village was on the line of a stage route, the old stage coach would make its appearance as often. It was not common then for persons to get many letters; indeed, one or two a month was considered a large mail. Nor did three cents pay the postage upon a letter at that day. It seldom took less than twenty-five cents, or two “bits,” as Kentuckians would say.
Mr. Giles Cook, of Victoria, doubtless very vividly remembers the old price of letter postage. He received notice that there was a letter for him at the postoffice, which at that time was located at the residence of Mr. Bradford, about seven miles east of Knoxville. Mr. Cook accordingly called for his letter, but as the postage was due, and the post-master would not permit him to open it until it was paid, which he could not do, he was unable to get it. He at once set about to earn the required amount; and after five or six weeks’ extra exertion, succeeded in raising enough to pay the postage on that one letter. When he opened the hard-earned epistle, he found therein a check for $50, which was abundant compensation for half a year’s labor.
While money was so exceedingly difficult to obtain that but little was ever accumulated, yet the pioneers really needed but little. They seldom received a letter, and their taxes were light. For instance, the first year after arrival, A. C. Higgins paid taxes to the amount of five cents. This was on a silver watch he carried, it being the only taxable property he then possessed. In 1836 Gaddial Scott paid his taxes, which amounted to $1.37 ½ , with a wolf scalp and 37 ½ cents in money, being three silver pieces of 12 ½ cents each, or three “bits,” as they were called in that early day. This was the full amount of taxes upon about $1,100 worth of property.

Contributed by Pat White and Charlotte Babicki, extracted from the 1878 History of Knox County, Illinois, published by Charles C. Chapman & Co., Chicago, pages 119-120

Templates in Time