PA State Archives Hours, Directions, & Fees Research Topics Finding Aids for Collections Land Records




Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission
Bureau of Archives and History
Pennsylvania State Archives



Container Listings

{series #2m.138}

Business Records Collection
B. Accounts of Individuals and Companies

Miller, Peter S., Saddler
Churchtown, Cumberland County


LEDGER, 1840-1871 (1 volume)

box 17

Peter S. Miller lived on a farm bordering the northeast edge of the village of Churchtown, in Monroe Township, Cumberland County, from at least 1858 through 1872.  The current address of this farmland is 277 Old Stone House Rd., South.  It is uncertain whether Miller resided in the extant brick farm house or in a nearby house that is no longer standing.

A ledger is an account book wherein all the transactions of a particular customer are recorded together, in chronological order by date of transaction.  The order in which the various customers' accounts are presented is in accordance with the year and date of their earliest transaction, when the next available page in the ledger would have been ascribed to them.  Accounts that fill up their first designated page were carried over to one or more additional pages, again dictated by the location of the next available page.  An alphabetical index in the front of the ledger lists the names of the customers and the numbered sections where their running accounts can be found.

On the pages of Peter S. Miller’s ledger, the following information appears for each transaction: name and page/section number of customer, date of purchase, a description of the goods or services purchased (prefaced by the phrase “to” or “to a”, as in “to a bridle” or “to hauling wood”), the value of those goods or services in dollars and cents, and in the next column the dates and amounts of corresponding payments.  Sometimes purchases were paid off at a later date, either in part or in full, and payment in full is so declared in the ledger.  Occasionally a credit was given for payment in the form of goods or services instead of cash.  Also found between the pages of the ledger are a few loose notes, such as the following remedy recipe for colic in horses: “½ pint warm water, ½ pint good whiskey, 1 tea spoonful black pepper, 1 tea spoon baking soda, mix well and drinch [sic].”  In terms of pages taken up in the volume, about 80% of Miller’s transactions were conducted during the 1840s.  It is also worth noting that by the 1850s, most of the purchases recorded were no longer for tack or tack repair.  Instead, Peter S. Miller predominantly hauled goods, sold farm produce and loads of wood, rented out horses, and helped others to harvest their crops.  The reason for this change in business activity is unknown.  Perhaps an injury discouraged Miller from continuing the detailed handwork required to construct tack, or his saddlery business might have suffered from competition with a succession of other Churchtown saddlers who, according to deed, tax and census records, lived and worked from 1850 on at 1276 and 1278 Boiling Springs Rd. (then known as Church St.), just west of the village square.  These saddlers were: John Murphy, 1850-1854, Sam Smith, 1854-1859, and Levi Gates, 1859 through at least 1872 (when he advertised his business in the Beers County Atlas).

Following is a finding aid to the contents of the Ledger of Peter S. Miller, Saddler. 

The first portion of the finding aid is a simple list of the account-sections, showing where the year of the new accounts changes.  The actual sections are arranged in the ledger in chronological order by date assigned.  Sometimes each section occupies an entire  page of its own, but more often there are two distinctly numbered sections per page—one occupying the top half, and one on the bottom.  Perhaps this was done to save paper.  The dated section numbers, in conjunction with the alphabetical name list that follows (which is an annotated transcription of the alphabetical index in the ledger itself) will serve to indicate when each individual first did business with Peter S. Miller during the 1840-1871 timespan, as well as when some individuals’ accounts spilled over onto new pages with new numbers.

The second portion of the finding aid is an alphabetical list of names of the clients documented in the ledger.  These names were transcribed from the index in front of the ledger and then checked against the section/page numbers to verify that the handwriting had been translated correctly .

The third portion of the finding aid repeats the alphabetical listing of names, annotating each name with additional information—when known—about where the client lived.  The additional information was gleaned from two county atlas maps in the State Archives’ map collection (Manuscript Group 11, map #s 75 and 917), as well as from a community study based on the federal decennial census, military pension claims and various Cumberland County documents such as deeds, wills, tax assessments and court records (many of which are available on microfilm at the Pennsylvania State Archives).

I. Year and Account-Section Numbers

II. Name Index to the Ledger, with account numbers: III. Annotated Name Index: Who Were These People and Where Did They Live?

When known, cross references are provided from:

The following information shows how a routine financial ledger can corroborate and expand upon the community history data present in other historical records of a more official nature.  In this case, the combined data gives an idea of the geographical range of Peter S. Miller’s clientele and the distance that he and/or his customers were willing to traverse to do business.  It also illustrates the complexities of a close-knit, mid 19th century rural community of extended families, many of whom speculated in real estate and/or lost their homes and businesses to creditors on a regular basis.  The duplication of names and frequency of property transfers in the written records makes it difficult to determine for certain where some of Peter S. Miller’s clients actually resided.  Nonetheless, residence information (as detailed below) has been found for 141 of the 270-some names listed in the ledger.

A quick statistical analysis of this data suggests the following pattern: that at least 55% of Miller’s clients (78 of the 141 for whom location information was found) may have lived in the village of Churchtown itself during the time their transactions were conducted, while at least 30% (42 of the 141) seem to have resided in the surrounding farmland and hamlets in Monroe Township.  (The information found for the remaining 21 of the 141 was inconclusive).  This would support an assumption that businesses located in the agricultural crossroads village of Churchtown, in Monroe Township, Cumberland County, not only serviced the village residents during the mid 19th century, but also the local farmers and general surrounding community.

* The bullet items below that appear in regular font and begin with the word “Churchtown:” give evidence that the individual in question resided or owned property in the village itself.

* The italicized sub-bullets below relate to names associated with the farms and hamlets outside of Churchtown.

* Unless otherwise noted, all information below is from the research of Kevin Vanderlodge as presented in his book Churchtown: An Architectural and Historical Walking Tour.  

Sample entries: Adam Gensler, # 346 [Adam Gensler was a shoemaker whose shop was located at 1289 High St.]

Also found between pages are occasional loose notes, like this method for easing colic in horses:

[A remedy] for colic in horses:

PA State Archives Hours, Directions, & Fees Research Topics Finding Aids for Collections Land Records