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McRae, Cantey & Company ledger

Manuscript volume, 1794-1799, ledger for the mercantile firm of McRae, Cantey & Company documents the partnership of Duncan McRae and Zachariah Cantey who operated one of Camden's best-known general stores and also the old Kershaw mill. The pagination of this ledger book runs from 515 to 1061 and thus the ledger appears to be the second volume of a set. The entries constitute a major archive of information about the social history and population of the Camden community.

In some cases, the ledger items yield interesting facts when compared with James Kershaw's diary entries, selections of which were printed in volume one of Kirkland and Kennedy's Historic Camden. For instance, the diary records that Kershaw County court convened on 7 August 1794 and adjourned on the fifteenth. The ledger reveals that Edward Rutledge, the prominent Charleston attorney and signer of the Declaration of Independence, came into the store on the tenth. Rutledge spent £5 17s 9d to purchase a man's saddle, one saddle cloth, four pounds of shot, three and a half yards of linen, some thread, one penknife, one pair of men's shoes, twelve and a half yards of white plains, two yards of Irish Droghedas, a half pound of threepenny nails, one pound of lead, and two quarts of whiskey (the second quart being an afterthought when time came to tally the bill).

Whiskey was a perennially popular item, especially just before Independence Day. The store charged 4s 8d per gallon—oddly the same price they charged for a Bible. On 3 July 1798 they sold approximately ten gallons of whiskey and three quarts of Jamaica rum. Laurence Manning, the state adjutant general, was in town for the 1798 festivities; the store sold him some thread that day.

Kershaw's entry for 26 January 1795 announced "First Camden Lottery drawn." During the early republic, this was a popular way for financially-strapped governments and organizations to raise money. Apparently, Camden found the practice beneficial and repeated it. On 23 August 1796 the storekeepers bought five lottery tickets at £2 1s 3d apiece—two for Zachariah Cantey, one for Duncan McRae, one for Ely Kershaw, and one for Alexander Matheson.

On 5 May 1795 Maj. Gen. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney arrived in town as representative of the state adjutant general and held a review and inspection of the local militia. On that day, Adam McWillie visited the store and spent £1 12s for "1 Cocket Hatt." McWillie later rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel and commanded the second regiment of South Carolina Volunteers at Haddrells Point during the War of 1812.

On 27 May 1796 Kershaw stated that he "made settlement with McRa & Cantey," presumably for the 3,203 acres of land they bought from Joseph Kershaw's estate around that time. The acreage included Kershaw's mill and a large pond on Big Pine Tree Creek. A ledger book entry for 23 May shows a payment of £152 13s 4d to James Kershaw for "New Account per bond of this date," perhaps the down payment.

McRae's interest in milling later surfaced during a business trip to Philadelphia, as indicated in a letter he wrote Cantey on 12 August 1801 (letter in the Cantey Family Papers, South Caroliniana Library): "I have been at the Brandywine Mills the mecanism of which is inferior to ours and the Wheat in general not much better notwithstanding their flour is better than ours, what it can be owing to I cannot conceive unless it be the weavil that is in our wheat."

The store catered to all tastes in reading material. On 2 July 1795 Isaac Gibson, Sr., bearer of a surname strongly identified with the Baptist church in South Carolina, purchased two Bibles at 4s 8d apiece. On 17 October 1796 the store sold five copies of Thomas Paine's The Age of Reason at 5s 10s per copy to John Dinkins, Reuben Arthur, James Ring, John Trent, and Josiah Scott. Two customers—Trent and Scott—also took copies of Gilbert Wakefield's An Examination of the Age of Reason, a 1794 reply to the first part of Paine's work.

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