Money and Apples

I always liked the idea that earning money on the farm was a last resort – that a farm should be able to sustain itself without cash. But after reading my great-grandfather William E. Hall’s journals, I can see he thought often about making, having, and spending money.

He filled the back pages of his diaries with columns of figures and notes about what he spent and what he earned. The last page of his 1861 journal looks like a daydream about dollars.

Page from journal of William E. Hall, 1861

Page from journal of William E. Hall, 1861

His notes record that he sold a load of wood for $10 and spent $10 on his new teeth. His 1864 diary cost 25 cents, a postage stamp 6 cents, and a telegraph 30 cents. The sale of a cow earned $12.50 and a load of hay $28.75. There was the purchase of the mysterious “dog candy” for 45 cents. Some cotton cloth cost $16.20, and a new buggy relieved him of a whopping $45.00.

The record of farm goods and produce he sold for cash includes cows, oxen, hogs, horses, hay, buckwheat, wood, milk, butter, eggs, hard cider (my great-grandfather also had a still), peaches, and apples. The list of purchased items is much, much longer.

"Modern Apple," Carol Crump Bryner, ipad painting

“Modern Apple,” Carol Crump Bryner, ipad painting

For years apples were a major source of revenue because, unlike peaches, they could be stored in a root cellar and sold throughout the winter.

Monday, October 5, 1914 – “Men busy picking apples, selling them. The trees are many of them loaded. Not very large, but seem to be good and sound.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Wednesday, October 7, 1914 – “Ellsworth sold his apples for 35 cents a bushel, to be carried off by the seventh of December.” – Lydia Jane Hall

My great-grandfather William’s 1873 diary includes names of apples he may have grown or thought about growing. (There are about thirty varieties on his list, but I’ve had to leave out some and guess at others because his writing is hard to decipher.)

  • Pown Sweets
  • Peck’s Pleasants
  • Stripe Pippins
  • Gilliflower
  • Maiden Blush
  • Wine Apple
  • New Town Pippin
  • Bell Flower
  • Roxbury Russets
  • Fair Maine
  • English Sweets
  • Hall’s Seedlings
  • James Linds
  • Citron Apples
  • Lord Thorntons
  • Baxter Greenings
  • Rome Apple
  • Black Pearmain
  • Fall Pippins
  • Roderick Greening
  • Red Stripe
  • Balmunds
  • Ruck Apples

I have no idea what kind of apples my mother is eating in this photo, or whether they were grown on the farm. In 1943 when my dad took this portrait of my mom in the fields below the farmhouse, there were probably still apple trees around, but I have a feeling the apples in the photo came from Young’s Apple Orchard, which was at the top of Whirlwind Hill. The orchard was still in business when I started living in Alaska in 1969, and I remember going there to buy apples one fall when I was visiting my parents. Mr. Young packed them up for me and shipped them all the way to the 49th State. What would my great-grandfather have thought of that!

Janet Hall Crump, 1943

Janet Hall Crump, 1943

On Monday:  The Room with Nine Doors

4 thoughts on “Money and Apples

  1. Michael Foster

    Interesting facts and figures! I was struck by the fact that apples sold for 35 cents a bushel in 1914. In 1967, or thereabouts, that was the amount that a picker received for a bushel. A good picker could bring in 120 to 140 bushels a day, good money for very hard work. Most of the guys I remember were brought in each year from Jamaica. They used to fly up and down the ladders and the Youngs liked them because they had “soft hands” and didn’t bruise the fruit.

    We always had apple trees in our yard growing up: greenings for cooking in the back yard, yellow transparents and romes in front, and then, later, a macintosh on the side. My parents tell me that these trees were left over from the orchard that existed on the top of the hill before my great grandfather bought the property from the Bartholomews and built his cottage. Our little barn at the corner was used to sort apples before he stabled his horse there. We always looked forward to apple season and the first juicy fruits plucked from the branches.

    1. Carol Post author

      The orchard that used to be where your parents house was must have been so beautiful. I always thought the trees at Young’s orchards were lovely in their straight rows undulating up and down the hills.

  2. Katy Gilmore

    Such a beautiful photo of your mom – Charlie could really compose a scene. I wonder what she is reading, but wonder most about that root cellar. Did it smell good? Was much else stored there? It was under the farmhouse? The only apple storage I know about is the apple storage in Virginia Woolf’s writing hut, she always talks about the smell of apples coming through the floorboards (the storage was in an attic-like space). I think your great-grandfather would have made note of those shipping charges ( probably as much as a buggy). Great post – again.

    1. Carol Post author

      Thanks, Katy.
      She’s reading “The Seventh Cross,” which I looked up. It had been published in 1942 – a novel about Germans under Nazi rule. It was made into a movie starring Spencer Tracy.
      The apples may have been stored under the house in the part of the cellar that was the coolest and the darkest, at the northwest end of the building. I remember there being carrots and potatoes down there. Also spiders and other things I didn’t like to think about.


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