One of the very early pioneer general stores of Lake County was opened by Dr. Calvin Lilley at the Lake of the Red Cedars. In May of 1837, the same year that Lake County had its beginnings, Dr. Lilley operated the store and an inn on the east side of the lake until the spring of 1839, when he sold it to Judge Benjamin McCarty.
Information in the "Pioneer History" story of May 1984 tells us that Benjamin McCarty pioneered in three counties in northwest Indiana: those being LaPorte, Porter, and Lake Counties. He purchased the claim of Dr. Lilley with the intention of securing land for the county seat. He laid out a small village, West Point, near the corner of 133rd and Morse St., called for many years "Coleman's Corner." But the people of the county chose the more centrally located Crown Point to be their county seat, and the little village lost out.
The judge's son, E. "Smiley" McCarty, became the manager of the general store, according to Rev. T.H. Ball. From Ball's history book, 1900 Northwest Indiana, we quote: "Some weeks ago I found in the possession of Mr. W. McCarty of Creston, a grandson of Judge McCarty, the old day book of E.S. McCarty of West Point. Its opening date is July 1 or 2, 1839. I think it is the oldest day book in the county."
The following are items of interest from that old day book of 1839: 1 pound saleratus (baking soda), 19¢; 1 pound tea, 50¢; 1 quart molasses, 25¢; 6 yards calico, at 24¢--$1.44; 1 spool thread, 13¢; half yard of muslin, 13¢; 1 ball wicking, 13¢; 2 pounds sugar, 34¢; 4 gallons gin at $1.50--$6.00; 1 gallon whiskey, 56¢; half dozen brooms, $1.50; 1 pound raisins, 25¢.
Many of the old pioneer names were shown in the day book proving that the store had customers from miles around: Robert Wilkinson (pioneer of West Creek), 6 yards of calico at 38¢, $2.28; Foley (lived east of Cedar Lake), 3 pints gin, 75¢; J.C. Batten, who purchased 8 yards of sheeting for $1.34, 2 pair socks for $1.25, 1 pair stockings at 75¢, and 2 yards of sheeting at 34¢; James Farwell, who lived toward Brunswick, bought 2 pounds of tobacco for 50¢; and Solomon Nordyke purchased 1 set of buttons for 38¢, while credited for six days of work for a total of $4.50, and 4 days work at 75¢ per day, for a total of $3.00.
Some more exotic and interesting items and prices: 1 bunch quills, 50¢; 1 oz. wafers, 13¢; 8 yards gingham, $3.00; 1 paper of needles, 13¢; 5 yards satinet, $1.25 yd.; 15 yards sheeting for $2.50; 2 dozen buttons, 25¢; 1 pair slippers, $1.50; 1 set of chairs, $3.75; 1 pound of shot, 16¢; 1 paper of pins, 13¢; 2 pounds nails, 30¢; William Rockwell charged 1 pint of molasses for 13¢; Sylvester Green, one quire of paper for 25¢ on the list; H. Wells, 1 quire paper; H.S. Pelton, 4 pounds shot at 16¢ pound.
There was a brick kiln at West Point, for a memorandum in the old day book says "Commenced molding on the 27th of May, 1840." Entries showed some sales: to John Foley, 1,000 hard brick at $4.00 and 1,000 soft brick at $2.00; and to Lewis Warriner, 1,500 hard brick at $6.00 and 500 soft brick at $1.
A Notation: paid Peter Bowen for threshing wheat, 13¼ cents a bushel, "E.F. Hackley, 75 cents per day, 6½ days, $4.88, and for nine days work on the mill $6.75. To Leonard Stilson, 2 days at 50¢ a day, $1.00; 10 days work, $5.00; 1,000 rails [making] $5.00; 3,460 rails made, $17.30. Paid Henry Dodge for 300 feet of flooring, 80¢ per hundred, $2.40. Paid for making coat, $3.00; Jabez Clark of Lowell charged nine pounds butter at $1.12, while chicken sold for 12¢."
The old book showed low prices, but also low wages. Rev. Ball maintained that the site of West Point was a competing area for the county seat, for it was, in those early years, a central location for the pioneers.
Lake County pioneers began recording the weather as early as 1835 and continued on into 1890, commenced by Solon Robinson of Crown Point, continued by members of the Ball family of Cedar Lake, and by Rev. H. Wason of the Lake Prairie community west of Lowell.
The weather in this area for the year 1890: The first part of January was mild and childern caught tadpoles and minnows; Jan. 21 came an intensely cold west wind; on Jan. 22, the mercury was down to 26 degrees below zero, and the icemen were hoping for their harvest; while on Jan. 24, ice was seven-and-one-half inches thick, but on Jan. 25, warm weather returned.
Feb. 10 included mud in abundance, while on Mar. 1, the mercury was near zero and some ice four to six inches was put up the first week of March. The strawberries were blossoming on Apr. 23, and dandelions on Apr. 24. The last two weeks of June were unusually hot; on June 13, 1890, there was a severe thunder storm in the evening, some houses were struck by lightning, and a hay barn in Shelby burned.
On Oct. 10, some katydids were still alive and chirping. November was an unusually delightful month, and December was also remarkable, with the roads during most of the month being smooth, hard and dry like summer roads without much dust. On Dec. 31 there was an April-like rain, warm and gentle.
The weather for 1891 began on Jan. 1 with warm temperatures, sunshine and a rainbow. The month continued unusually mild and the roads were fine most of the month. Feb. 1 was cloudy, damp and mild; March was a cold, wet month with the roads very muddy. For the first part of April, the roads were almost impassable, and there was little sunshine for three weeks in March and April.
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