Holland Store—Fort Ritner and Leesville
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Ledger reveals stories of Fort Ritner and Leesville’s past
By Becky Buher, September, 2013, published in the "Times Mail" newspaper, "Museum Corner" article
It was the best of times in the small community of Fort Ritner located near the banks of the east fork of White River in Guthrie Township about 13 miles southeast of Bedford. John and William A. Holland were among the early merchants doing a general merchandise trade there. The town’s first merchant had been Michael Ritner, who was foreman in the construction of the large railroad tunnel nearby and for whom the town was named. Fort Ritner is not on the main road today, but back in the day, it was a real hub of commerce, and when William A. Holland died in 1905, he was one of the wealthiest men in Lawrence County.
Holland ledger takes a glimpse into how products and services were brought to market in the 1800s
Measuring financial assets and liabilities was a simple process when items were recorded with an exquisite cursive script into the 1876-1880 leather-bound Holland store ledger, which is the first of today’s featured objects. Not merely selling products, the store was also buying from locals—great numbers of turkeys, chickens, thousands of eggs, squirrels, rabbits, coon hides, deer hides—all kinds of commodities. Half of the store’s upper floor was dedicated to harness and saddles.
Among the customers at the Holland store was Sally Ann White, better known locally as Granny White. Her log cabin can currently be seen in the village at Spring Mill State Park. It was moved from the Leesville area and preserved at the park many years ago. While living in Leesville, White traded at the Holland store, and on page 600 of the ledger, in 1878, she purchased wheat, calico, tin cans, black silk, white flannel, muslin, ruching, cotton hose, black gloves, silk thread, a pair of cloth shoes, white ribbons, lace and other items.
In May 1879, Robert Ingle was buying floor cloth for his home for 30 cents. Others customers were buying, sugar, tea, coffee, tobacco, salt, soda, turpentine, blueing, indigo, shirting fabric, silk and gingham fabric, pearl buttons, coal oil, nails, wire, brace bits.
Customers paid by cash or barter. Credit of $1.00 was given to Henry Walters for painting six chairs, and $4.60 was credited to him for working six days in the store.
Most of the accounts in the ledger are for individuals, but the De Boor and Von Bargen account record is much more expansive. On May 19, 1879, they purchased “one keylo of maple molasses, 4 1/2 gal. at 15 = $3.97.” On the same day, “4 cases of eggs—120 dozen at 6 cents = $7.20, and 3 tubs of butter, 191 lbs. at 9=$17.19.” Why did they need such large amounts? De Boor and Von Bargen were found listed in an 1888 book of leading manufacturers and merchants in Cincinnati as commission merchants and dealers in flour, grain and produce. They were buying large amounts of produce in Fort Ritner and shipping it to Cincinnati to be sold in the city.
A few decades later, coin tokens were given at the Holland store as change and used to acquire merchandise
Who would have thought that coins were minted for use just in Lawrence County? The coins were not minted by the federal government, but were metal tokens—store coins or tokens used as deposit checks from 1901 through 1904 by Franklin and Thomas A. Holland in the Holland General Store and Sand Mill in Leesville and Fort Ritner.
One round coin reads: “Will pay 500 LBS. of flour on account of wheat deposited.” “T.A. and F.W. Holland” circles the outside edge on the face of the token. The other side is imprinted “Owners risk by fire.”
An oval token reads: “T.A. & F. W. Holland FOR SAND, Fort Ritner, Ind.,” and the other side is imprinted in the amount of $1.00.
An octagonal coin is imprinted with” T.A. & F.W. Holland, Fort Ritner, Ind.” with ”Good for 50 cents in trade” on the reverse side. The “Good for 25 cents in trade” coin is a different shape and can easily be identified by touch.
The ledger, tokens and other items from the Holland store can be seen in the temporary Fort Ritner exhibit in the museum’s first-floor gallery.
During the month of July, 700 people from 13 states enjoyed the Lawrence County Museum. Becky Buher is a museum volunteer and contributor to this newspaper. Information for this article was obtained from museum records.