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PC Historical Association seeks photos of general stores

By its very definition, the general store carried an inventory of a little bit of every item useful in a home. If the customer needed it, the owners could make special orders to obtain goods, if requested.

The Pierce County Historical Association (PCHA) is fortunate to have received a donation of ledger books containing retail sales/customers bills, names and other ledgers listing the names of sources of businesses where goods for the store's inventory were purchased. Gunder and Gustav Thompson had one such store in Martell and, for a short time, owned the one in Lawton. It was located at the south end of Main Street in the village, across the river. And it remains about the last standing store building in the village in 2010.

Who knows how much longer this will be true. No longer in use, it's a mere shell--rickety in shape. Perhaps even being torn down at this point in time.

But these ledger pages give names presenting a reasonable image of the inventory sources used by probably every single "general store" existing in that era of American history, at least here in Pierce County and most other places.

In another ledger, the pages of an inventory taken of the store's shelf content was listed, giving the numbers of the item, what the item was, the cost per unit and total value of the item. Doing such a task took a number of days. Costs are fascinating. One question: Why did he have so many Kabo corsets on hand at 37¢ to $1 each? Answer: there must have been a good variety of sizes.

Name the item, they could probably get it.

Interior photos of these stores, found around the county, are quite scarce, although a few do exist within the PCHA collection. Some are reprinted in the various volumes of the PCHA Heritage series. They can also be found in the other books written by area authors.

However, more would obviously be welcomed.

The Thompson Store total inventory in February of 1913 was listed as being worth $2,133.96. That was quite a lot of money at that time.

The PCHA would enjoy having access to more of such ledgers, giving customers' names (they provide a listing of who lived in the area) and who shopped there, most particularly at the little crossroads stores--not from the big towns. Whatever era involved would be gladly received.

Photos, both exterior and interior, would be a fine addition to the photo files, as long as they come identified as to location. Please, search the attic or old family albums--copies or originals are welcome.

Bring to the PCHA office, lower level of the Ellsworth Village Hall. Winter hours of 1-4 p.m. are now in place, on Monday, Thursday and Friday. Or mail the photos/copies to PCHA, P.O. Box 148, Ellsworth, WI 54011.