Ephraim Douglass ledger books, 1769-1790

The Ephraim Douglass Ledgers present a record of business and military activities undertaken by Ephraim Douglass in Western Pennsylvania. The information contained within dates primarily from the 1770s and illuminates aspects of life in Western Pennsylvania during the Revolutionary War era. The ledgers reveal the foods, household items, and services in demand by colonists on what was, at the time, the western frontier. Douglass and his associates have meticulously recorded details of the transactions.

  1. The “ledger” in folder 01 contains customer names, goods and services sold, prices and dates of transactions. The items sold include horseshoes, nails, staples, and lime. The page opposite this information lists expenses incurred by Douglass that offset the amounts due. Examples of these expenses are onions, milk, butter, whiskey, bear meat, and a “fish bought of an Indian.”
  2. The “Smith and Douglass ledger” documents the partnership between Douglass and Devereaux Smith, including the store they opened in Kittanning in 1776. The items listed are somewhat different from what is represented in the first ledger, with food and liquor appearing with much more frequency.
  3. The “Book of Ephraim Douglass, Quartermaster” provides a record of the Eighth Pennsylvania Regiment at Kittanning. Information recorded includes an account of tools used and by whom, a list of types and quantities of animal skins, records of employment, deliveries received, and purchases made by the soldiers of the regiment.
  4. Joseph Douglass’s Ledger” is a stock book from 1777, which lists quantities of various items, their date of sale, and price. A note written in pencil on the cover states the ledger was kept by Joseph Douglass in Pittsburgh after his brother, Ephraim, left Kittanning with the Eighth Pennsylvania Regiment.

Biography of Ephraim Douglass

Book of Ephraim Douglass, Quartermaster 1776
Book of Ephraim Douglass, Quartermaster 1776

Ephraim Douglass was a carpenter, trader and soldier in the Revolutionary War. By 1769, he was employed in a variety of occupations at Fort Pitt, including carpenter, blacksmith, and clerk. Douglass spoke several American Indian dialects and in 1771 began trading with local tribes. Later that year, he established a business with Devereaux Smith that included trading outposts in the Indian Territory surrounding Pittsburgh. The partners opened another store in Kittanning, Pennsylvania, in 1776, where a fort was under construction. Later that year, Douglass joined the Eighth Pennsylvania Regiment at Fort Kittanning and was appointed quartermaster. In January of 1777, he marched across Pennsylvania with the regiment to join the Continental Army in Amboy, New Jersey, leaving his business in the care of his brother, Joseph. Douglass became aide-de-camp to Major General Benjamin Lincoln, but was captured by British forces just four months after leaving Fort Kittanning. He spent three years as a prisoner of war, rejoining the Continental Army in 1780. In 1783, Douglass was called upon to act as a peace emissary on behalf of the United States government. He traveled to Forts Detroit and Niagara to meet with American Indian leaders, but failed to reach any formal agreements. After returning to civilian life, Douglass settled in Fayette, Pennsylvania, where he held several public offices. He was later appointed brigadier general of the Pennsylvania militia and fought in the Whiskey Rebellion. Ephraim Douglass died on July 17, 1833. One of Douglass’s associates, Richard Butler, briefly became a partner in the business at Kittanning. Butler, also a member of the Eighth Pennsylvania Regiment, fought in the battle of Saratoga and the battle of Monmouth. After the siege of Yorktown, George Washington chose Butler to receive the sword of the defeated British general, Charles Cornwallis. In 1791, Butler was killed by American Indians during the battle of Wabash in the Ohio Country.

Source: Ephraim Douglass ledger books, 1769-1790, DAR 1937:07, Darlington Memorial Library, University of Pittsburgh. Also available online through the World Wide Web., Gift, 1937.

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