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 Beautiful Belmont, Part 10 -- The Wheeling Farm Market.

by John Salisbury Cochran.

See previous entry: Beautiful Belmont, Part 09 -- School Day Diversions.

Wheeling, Virginia [later West Virginia], furnished the market for the farmers round about on both sides of the Ohio River. In fact, it was a great local market, possibly due to its early and many manufacturing industries. The city and its immediate vicinity had quickly become a veritable hive of manufacturing and commercial activity.

Along with the other farmers, we attended the Wheeling market whenever we could. In the early days, when our father's presence was required on the farm and none of the limited number of horses on the farm could be spared from farmwork, we went to the market on foot. We would go past the McKim farm, up to the State Road by old General Brown's, then down this road south of the Gow graveyard to the old ferry in Martinsville. Once across the river, we'd go down Main Street to the North Wheeling markethouse. (Later, a South market was also established.)

Our mother, with whichever boy could be spared from the farm, usually did this marketing. She would rise early and start for the ferry about 1:00 a.m., arriving at the markethouse about two and one-half hours later. With large heavy baskets filled with butter, eggs, fruits and vegetables then in season, and occasionally a good quantity of cottage cheese (then also called smear-case), these trips were very laborious. When the baskets were well filled, we had to stop every few hundred paces to rest.

Prices for produce then were very low. I have seen my mother stand in that cold markethouse from 3:30 in the morning until high noon, in midwinter without fire, and sell eggs at three and four cents per dozen, and butter at ten cents per pound. On the other hand, most manufactured goods were very expensive. Before starting home, mother might purchase an inferior grade of calico at forty-two cents per yard, and other manufactured goods at corespondingly high prices. Such were the blessings of free trade to our farmers at that early day.

Although in many respects Wheeling was a progressive city, authorities in the city never provided stoves or other heating appliances whereby those attending these markets could warm themselves. I have often seen frail women, compelled through the necessities of life to vend their hard-earned productions at these markets, become so cold and chilled as to be scarcely able to tell purchasers the prices of their goods. On the other hand, at times during the summer, the markets would be equally hot.

Market day was a demanding and exhausting experience, especially when we had to carry the produce to market by hand. Life became a whole lot better when a horse could be spared from doing farmwork.

See next entry: Beautiful Belmont, Part 11 - The Wheeling Slave Auction: Selling Aunt Tilda Taylor.

For the table of contents and first entry in this series, see: Beautiful Belmont, Part 01 -- Table of Contents and Brief Introduction.

This entry is adapted from Bonnie Belmont: A Historical Romance of the Days of Slavery and the Civil War, by John Salisbury Cochran, which was published originally in 1907. The book has been reedited extensively for inclusion in the Pierian Press Fulltext eBooks database, and is included on the Stratton House Inn Web site by special permission. This special edition of Beautiful Belmont is licensed for use ONLY on this Web site. It may not be copied or downloaded, but may be used for educational purposes and personal pleasure under fair-use provisions via this Web site. Please note that this Stratton House Inn iteration of the book does NOT include the subject headings assigned each chapter for use in the Fulltext eBooks database.

CO-AUTHOR: Wall, C. Edward. (Editor)
CO-AUTHOR: Schultheiss, Tom. (Asst. Editor)

DATABASE: Fulltext eBooks: Copyright (c) 2000 The Pierian Press, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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