Monday, October 24, 2011

You Bought What At The Auction?

October 1st found me at an auction over in Jay County at the Portland 4-H Fairgrounds.  The contents of the general store of Murl May in Salamonia, Indiana, which had been shut up as it was since 1952, were being auctioned off by an auctioneer out of Greenville, Ohio.  Because so many of my relatives had lived their lives in Salamonia and Madison Township, I was hoping there might be some items of interest of the LeMaster, Wehrly, Chew, etc. families.  Plus, I just love going to auctions.

I spent nearly 6 hours at the sale, watching the farm-fresh advertising, parts and other items of local interest go for extremely high prices.  Wandering around the sale items, I located a set of ledger books that appeared to be from the store.  

Flipping through the books, I searched the "L" section for entries regarding my LeMaster relatives, and hit the jackpot.  I found listing for my grandfather, my great-grandfather and my great-great-grandfather, as well as entries for great-uncles, etc.  The auctioneer was a long way away from getting to these tables, but I was definitely going to stick around and see whether or not I could get them.

I managed to obtain a few pieces of local memorabilia from the 4-H fair at a very reasonable price - the type of things that could end up on eBay or in a museum.

The Lon Wehrly listed as a President of the Fair was the son of John P. and Catherine E. (LeMASTERS) WEHRLY, making him a 1st cousin 3 times removed.

By the time the sale came around to the tables with all of the ephemera and the ledger books that I wanted, I had been there almost 6 hours.  I was fortunate enough to obtain a couple of sets of loose ledgers for $ 2, that appeared to be from the same store and mentioned my relatives.

I quickly snapped up several other ledgers at similar prices, but by the time it came around to the large ledgers, someone else had caught on and the bidding war began.  Not wanting to let a piece of family history to get away, I was willing to spend what it took, which in this case turned out to be $50 for the two large books.  Not much more than I might spend on a good genealogy book, I tried to explain to my wife and family who questioned my sanity.

When I finally had a chance to bring them home and take a look at what I had purchased, I realized that not only did I have more than one ledger that mentioned the financial transactions of my relatives from the mid-1920s through the early 1930s, but that the ledgers were not from the store, as I had first believed.  Instead, what I had was the ledger books of the Farmers  Bank of Salamonia.  Indeed, I had the records of deposits and withdrawals, including some copies of cancelled checks from the 1920s.  How cool is that!

What a thrill it was to find the record of my grandfather depositing $1 in a savings account for my uncle, when he was just a baby.  There is a lot of genealogy in these records, as the accounts often mention the names of the parents, etc. as well as showing who endorsed the checks and dates when accounts were closed, etc.  At least one administration of an estate in my LeMaster family has been discovered.

I have yet to begin the process of scanning the relevant pages and adding the information to my family history.  Eventually, these books will probably be donated to the Jay County Historical Society.  I've already contacted them to try and find out more about the history of the bank.  The ledger records go up until 1933, I'm wondering if the bank survived the Depression.
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