Tag: general store

The 1890’s General Store

Photos by Jim Phillip

 

Before Rockford, Illinois became known as Rockford, it was called Midway Village. Travelers would stop here at the midpoint of their trip between Chicago and Galena, which is on the Mississippi River. The Rock River had a rocky bottom which made passage (fording) easier than at other areas. Hence the name that stuck for the growing town: Rockford.

Rockford’s living history museum, Midway Village, hosts many fascinating events – the nation’s largest WWII reenactment, a WWI reenactment, school programs, weddings, and garden tours. The small town is made up of several original buildings along with a few replicas that portray life in the 1890s. The docents are a wealth of information about life in earlier times. In a recent tour of the general store, I learned of a few sayings that have lasted until our time.

For instance, I thought the phrase “The whole nine yards” had something to do with football, although why ten yards wouldn’t be better, I’m not sure … sigh. (Laugh if you must.) What it means is that a woman wants to purchase the entire bolt of fabric for sewing.

What about “Get down to brass tacks?” The docent pointed out a row of brass tacks that were placed every six inches on the counter’s edge near the cash register. They were used to measure fabric, ribbons, and string before cutting. You can barely see them in the picture above.

“Cash on the barrel.” The pickle barrel that is. Nothing was ever stored on the pickle barrel because it was opened so often to buy pickles. See how the lid has a flat area with a slight edge? Because of that edge, coins wouldn’t roll off. You can see the large pickle barrel in this picture too.

 

1890 Post office

Most small town general stores doubled as the post office.
The docent is standing before the post office boxes.

Even though my series is set in Kansas (not Illinois), a small town general store
and its owners are featured in The Prairie Doctor’s Bride.

One other piece of information imparted was that when the first settlers arrived here from the east, they thought the land must not be any good for farming. They were used to forests that they had to cut down in order to farm the land. But here they saw grass, grass, and more grass which might be good for livestock…but not crops. Any trees they saw hugged the rivers. I guess that is a warning about first impressions! Now the Midwest is known as the world’s “bread basket” because its soil is the richest in the world and crops grow exceedingly well.

Prairie Grass

Here I am standing on a patch of natural prairie in northern Illinois! Look at the height of that grass! I cannot imagine walking beside a wagon and trying to get through it. I also cannot imagine coming upon a snake!

What is your state “famous” for?

The countdown has started for my next book ~ Wedding at Rocking S Ranch.
I will tell you all about it the next time I post.
Until then, have a safe, fun summer!

Available for pre-order HERE.

Release date is July 17th!