Sunday, February 28, 2010

Scipio Surnames and the price of Beer in London

I spent some time looking through Scipio property assessment books recently. As I did, I realized that many of the names in our town today were here in our early years as well. Perhaps this phenomenon is common to small towns everywhere. Let’s see what names you recognize from earlier times.
In 1850, there were 2 landowners with more than 400 acres in Scipio. They were Joshua Cornwell with 456 acres in Lot 26 and Herman Macumber with 400 acres in Lot 9. Actually, Henry Snider topped them both with 3 different parcels in Lots 31 and 41 totaling 501 acres.
Landowners with property of 300 to 400 acres were Joseph Pettit with 335 acres in Lot 1; John Guildersleeve with 354 acres and Elisha Barnes with a total of 304 acres in Lots 31, 32 and 33.
Do you recognize the name Jacob Adriance? He owned 286 acres in the northeastern edge of Scipio. Perhaps you will know where the old hamlet of Merifield got its name when I tell you that Ozam Merryfield (sic) owned 270 acres of land in Lot 22.
Calvin Tracy, one of our earliest settlers, was owner of 225 acres in Lot 28. And Henry O’Hara whose surname is among those still well-known in Scipio owned 216 acres in Lot 4.
The other owners of property exceeding 200 acres were:
Abel Close, Alvin Freeman, Alfred Lyon, James Obrine (sic), John T. Rathbun and George Slocum.
According to the assessment book, there were 415,459 taxable acres in Scipio in 1850. The tax burden was $2,013.09 county taxes, $205.93 town taxes, $233.73 in school taxes and $50.00 for roads and bridges. That would be about $1.00 for every man, woman and child living in Scipio in 1850.
I visited the interesting website to learn that the $1.00 in 1850 would have the same purchasing power as $28.34 in 2009.
For more interesting comparisons of money and goods through the years at home and abroad, visit some rainy afternoon. I liked the cost of living in London in 1700 the best. Fourpence would get you a quart of beer, or a boat across the river. A common workman could earn 18 to 22 shillings a week. With 12 pence equaling one shilling, that’s 54 to 66 beers or rides a week!

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