IOUAug 1st, 2010 | By Rick@Leonard Family Legends & Legacies | Category: Featured Articles
Nothing says “trust” quite like an IOU. And trust me when I say nothing pleases me more than being able to find one involving one of my distant ancestors. An IOU says, “you are an honorable man and I know that you’ll pay me when you can.” Perhaps more importantly, it tells me what my ancestor needed so badly that he would ask for credit.
My latest example surfaced this week in The Indian Pioneer History Collection Papers at the University of Oklahoma and at the Oklahoma Historical Society’s Research Center. The collection came together as part of a Works Progress Administration project to interview Oklahoma’s earliest surviving pioneers and catalog early documentation. I was hoping to find an interview with Oklahoma pioneer Joseph Leonard. What I found may have been better.
The first item to show up on a search for “Leonard” is simply entitled “Account Book.” What it is, is a ledger of items sold at John Osbourne’s trading post in Anadarko, Oklahoma, near old Joe’s ranch. And among the names in the book is none other than “Joe Leonard.” I now know where he was and exactly what he was doing on five very specific days in 1872-3. And I know exactly what was on his shopping list.
On Sunday, April 21st, 1872, Joe charged $4.00 to his account for calico, telling me that his Indian wife Na-nia “Minnie” Leonard was probably fixin’ to make some clothes or a quilt. He charged $2.00 to his account for tobacco, now I know he smoked. He spent 35 cents on soda, 50 cents on figs and onions. I wonder where the figs originated?
On Saturday, April 27th, Joe charged $1.75 to his account for a coffee mill. I always found it fascinating that coffee was a staple all the way back to the 1700s and that it found its way to even the remotest western outposts. Of course, it would be best if you “ground your own.”
On Wednesday, May 1st, Joe Leonard paid off the balance of $8.60, proving that he was a man of his word. And he started a new tab. This time, he needed some soap, more soda, and some beads and ribbon, no doubt for the clothing Minnie was working on. Additionally, Joe bought a book, which confirms that he could read. Too bad the merchant didn’t tell us the title. And last, but not least, were some raisens and a pair of slippers. You can never get too comfortable on the frontier, after all.
On Sunday, June 16th (the trading post apparently open seven days a week), Joe charged more raisens, calico, and ribbon to his account. Now I’m beginning to wonder if Minnie might’ve been working as a seamstress. He picked up some candy, so he must’ve had a sweet tooth of sorts, and some lamp oil.
And finally, on Saturday, July 6th, Joe stopped by the trading post for more raisens and some cartridges. Makes me wonder if he might’ve fired off a few shots celebrating Independence Day.
So there you have it… just one example of an obscure document (the ledger) that unexpectedly turns into a gold mine of social history.