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Account Book of Elijah Williams, Ledger B, Vol. 3
(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.
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Tradesmen, craftsmen, doctors, and lawyers in the 18th and 19th centuries kept account books to record transactions with their customers. Between the 1740s and the time he died in 1771, Elijah Williams of Deerfield, Massachusetts, did business with most of the residents of that town and beyond. He sold cloth, foodstuffs, hardware, and spirits and accepted in exchange ("contra") cash, labor, livestock, and agricultural products. Under each customer's name was recorded what was purchased and its value. On the opposite page was written the method and amount of payment. Some accounts were reconciled monthly, some yearly, and some less often. Abijah Prince, whose account appears on the pages shown here, was a free African American who lived for a time in Deerfield. This sort of documentary evidence not only alerts us to the presence of African Americans in New England during the 18th century, but also provides some information about their contributions and experiences.
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