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"by B. W. Harwell"

“by B. W. Harwell”

Bartering is not new.

The recent post “Four Oldest Events in Money” (HankeringForHistory.wordpress.com) reminds me of my grandfather. My family was always living in different places after the Civil War. By 1920 almost everyone had spread out North and West. Except my grandfather, my mother’s father.

William Henry Strickland, born in Mississippi in 1860, as the War was beginning. His parents had been slaves of Biddy Stricklin (husband?) and her son, H.M. I find them in Hardeman County, TN. They were allowed to marry. Kesiah may have been under a different master as she was on a different plantation. H.M. did place her with her children in Hermosa (DeSoto) MS when they moved from TN. The Stricklins and Cainon went to Red Bank (Marshall).

My grandfather wrote a brief account of his youth stating that his father would run away to see his wife, but always returned. H.M. decided to stop beating him, and brought the family together in Red Bank. He also freed Cainon (many spellings on the census records).

William was an early student. His father worked to bring teachers and schools to Red Bank. William was an early graduate from Rust College and married my grandmother, also a graduate. The family moved to AR while he attended Meharry Medical School. Once a doctor, he travelled between Little Rock and Oxford, MS on horseback.

My family found stability in the conclaves of women. My grandmother, a teacher and college professor, travelled to teaching jobs with her mother, her two daughters and baby son. When she had to leave the south due to a family urgency, she established the family, minus my mother, in Detroit. She bought two houses, a school supply store and vacation land in Idlewild, MI.

When my grandfather retired and came to Detroit to live with my aunt, my brothers and I were still living there. He brought with him the ledger books of his years as a doctor in and around Oxford, MS. He would sit at the dining room table after dinner and let my cousin and me read aloud the entries. He had the most beautiful handwriting!

Mr. So And So ……date…..rheumatis……..$1….date……1 chicken
Miss Mary So And So….date….dropse…..$.50…..date….1/4 bushel potatoes

We were 12 or so, and it did not take much to make us histerical. “Dropsy-dropsy” we sang out, squealing, dropping to the floor dramatically. So many illnesses with funny names, so many babies born, so long before payment, so little real money.

You might think these people were cheating my grandfather. They were very proud, hard working people. We knew this just by the fact that the bill was always paid. A chicken was shared from the best they had, at the expense of their family’s plates. They respected and loved him.

Who knew?
I learned far too long after his death that he had lived and practiced medicine in the undertaker’s establishment. His best friends were the undertaker and the preacher. The preacher’s widow told me they were the only ‘really educated men’ in the African American community most of those years.

Bartering is coming back better than ever because of hard times. Is the government taxing these transactions as earned income? What is your skill to barter?

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