CHS has an extensive array of account books ranging in date from the early 18th century to the later 19th century and covering every part of the state. We decided a long time ago that we really had enough account books kept by shoemakers, farmers, merchants and blacksmiths but we would keep a look out for physicians and other occupations. When an farmer’s account book was offered for sale, I thought, oh no, not another one! But this one is special and now is part of our collection.
Nathaniel Warner (ca. 1721-1807) lived in Windham, Connecticut, where he was a teamster (he owned a team of oxen that people hired to haul goods), a lumberman, and, it seems, a bridge builder and surveyor. It is his activities for the town that make this account book unique. For example, in December 1771 he charged the town of Windham for “Geting the Boat out of the Rever” and for “vewing the Rhoad one day by Eliphalet Murdock.” In January of the next year he spent two days “Laing out the Hieway [highway] along by the Murdocks and Talor.” In February 1772 he charged the town of “Geting Bridge Timber out of the River”, for “work at the old Bridge”, and for two days “Geting the old Bridge out of the River.” In March of that year, he went to “the Comety [committee] to git them to Com and Lay out the Highway to the new bridge” and then working with the committee to lay out the road. In April he spent one day “perambellating [perambulating or walking] the line betwene Windham and Lebanon.” [I am always amused, and challenged, with phonetic spelling.]
It almost appears that Mr. Warner was a one person Department of Transportation for the town of Windham. Some additional research will have to be done to determine if there was flood that collapsed the “old bridge” that necessitated having to get it out of the river.
I have yet to see another account book in our collection document the upkeep of bridges and roads to quite this extent. In some of our town collections, there are mentions of perambulating the bounds of the town and laying out highways, but here Warner is billing the town for his services. That was news to me. No matter how long I am in this business, I keep learning new things. That is why I love this job!