2008/12/23

Confession, Port Leon, Mysterious Coin

At confession on Saturday, the chapel is packed. I see Professor H., whose courses in Napoleonic history I took as an undergraduate 30 years ago, ahead of me in line. I wait 1 ½ hours for my turn. "His mercy endures forever..." This would normally be our last chance before Christmas, but on Sunday we see in the bulletin that an hour has been scheduled for confession on the afternoon of the 24th.

Tom E., husband of my colleague Susan, calls, wondering if we have a plat showing the layout of the town of Port Leon on the St. Marks River, which was destroyed by a hurricane in 1843. He is taking some folks on a hike there tomorrow. I find a vivid account of the hurricane in the Florida Historical Quarterly, which leads me to an 1838 announcement in The Floridian offering the land for sale, but no plat. Buyers were directed to the agent for a lithograph of the properties on offer. The State Library has only a couple of photographs of the remains of the docks. The party will at least enjoy the description of the hurricane. Tom promises to send me photographs of the outing.

Port Leon was one of several settlements at the mouth of the St.Marks River vying for the position of being the rail-to-ship depot for the burgeoning cotton trade in Leon, Jefferson and Gadsden counties. Planters from Virginia and the Carolinas were buying land and slaves to grow cotton here. Others, from Maine in the case of Port Leon, came down to profit from the shipping of it.

The town of St. Marks, 2½ miles upriver from Port Leon, was destroyed as well in that 1843 storm. St. Marks rebuilt, and the men of Port Leon erected a new port upriver, called, well, Newport. But St. Marks won out in the end.

A black woman calls from Quincy. She has found a coin while raking leaves in her yard. It is about the size of a 50 cent piece, and although it is very corroded, she can make out the words, Sullivan Manufacturing Company, payable, one dollar, and merchant. Has she tried a coin dealer? No, she is afraid that if it is valuable, a coin dealer will trick her out of of it. Her grandmother does not recall the company, and friends wonder if it is from the slavery days.

I take her name and number, and do some searching. She has found a "trade token". They were issued by companies in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as an advertising vehicle, and could be redeemed at a store for a discount, much like coupons are today. There was a Sullivan Manufacturing Company in Rome, Georgia, in the early 20th century, a purveyor of agricultural machinery. There are trade token collectors, and there is even a book of Georgia Trade Tokens. If she is curious enough, I may offer to ILL this book to see if her token is listed. I doubt if it is worth very much, but who knows?

2 comments:

Debra Sears said...

Can't resist butting in on a reference transaction!

Very recently a list of trade tokens for sale was posted at http://www.angelfire.com/sc2/otherstates/ . Might give the patron an idea of a value for her find. Also, seller appears interested in trading and/or selling tokens...

Brett said...

Thanks, Debra, great link. I think I will send the details of the token to him. Maybe he can identify it.