|Birthplace:||Exeter, Berks, Pennsylvania|
|Death:||Died in Exeter, Berks, Pennsylvania, United States|
|Managed by:||Robin Renae Stutzman|
About Moses Boone
Moses Boone was the son of James Boone and wife Mary Foulke, and the grandson of George Boone of Oley Township. He was born in Berks County, Pennyslvania on August 3, 1751 (July 13, 1751 OS), the tenth child and fifth son of this Quaker couple. He was a cousin of famed pioneer and frontier legend Daniel Boone.
His father was prominent in the Exeter MM. James was also a Justice of the Peace and served in the Provincial Assembly in 1758. James was one of the wealthiest men in Exeter, operating a prosperous tannery, sawmill and farm. Many sources show James' name as James Maugridge Boone, however the Boone Family Association has not adopted this middle name in any of their documentation.
In December, 1778, Moses married Sarah Griffith, daughter of Phinehas and Elizabeth Griffith. Elizabeth was born in Gwynedd Township, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania. She was a Welsh Baptist, an action that contributed to his dismissal from Exeter Monthly Meeting in 1780. This union produced four children over the next dozen years, and his eldest son John ultimately took over the family business shortly before Moses Boone’s death in 1823.
As the youngest surviving son, one would expect Moses Boone to venture out into the frontier to seek his fortune, but that was not the case. His eldest brother, James Boone, Jr., became a prominent and respected schoolmaster in Exeter Township. Elder brother John did follow in his father’s footsteps and also became a tanner, but he died before his thirtieth birthday and his widow sold off the tannery in Alsace Township before remarrying. Brother Judah operated a gristmill in Exeter Township, while Joshua Boone eventually took over his father’s sawmill in Brunswick Township north of the Blue Mountains. It would be left to Moses Boone, then, to continue the family tanning business in Exeter Township that his grandfather George Boone had begun after his arrival in Oley Township in 1720.
Moses Boone did not play a role in the larger scheme of American history, but he did leave a ledger that provides a peek into economic activity in the new nation. According to the entries in the ledger, Moses Boone assumed control of the tannery in October 1778, when Samuel Webb sold him a 27-pound hide at 4d. per pound and gave him a 1s. advance toward work that would be completed by December.
The vast majority of Moses Boone’s accounts reflected his business as a tanner, because the transactions described tanning and curing services performed on hides and skins. When dealing with family members, however, the transactions reflected other activity. One such account was that of Samuel Webb, an Exeter Township farmer who also was a Quaker and Moses Boone’s cousin. Webb purchased tobacco, flaxseed oil, wheat, oats, Indian corn, rye straw, and apple brandy from Boone between 1778 and 1783. In addition, Webb had hides tanned and skins cured by his cousin. Boone treated calfskins, hogskins and sheepskins and made reins for a bridle and a strap for Webb’s windmill. As part of the arrangement, Boone bought a knife, several hides, a sheepskin, bark and a large oval tub from Webb. In 1780 and 1781 Boone also served as a bank for Webb, for on three separate occasions he exchanged Continental dollars for Spanish dollars, and twice he loaned him cash for expenses and to pay his taxes.
One of Moses Boone’s most frequent customers was his brother Judah. Between 1779 and 1788, Judah Boone had fifty-six debits and twenty-five credits posted to his account, totaling £126.1.2 1/4. Only a few of these transactions involved tanning, curing, waxing, and or dressing calfskins and hogskins. Instead, just like Samuel Webb’s account, most of the ledger entries reflected Moses Boone’s activity as a farmer. The credit side of the ledger reflected that Judah paid his debt by providing Moses with calfskins and hides, wheat, beef, salt, and “3/4 days reaping by Dennis Brady.” The account was balanced after Judah’s death through notes to be paid by Moses to the estate for the balance of Judah’s inheritance.
Throughout the entire period of Moses Boone’s operation of the tannery, he conducted more transactions with his brother Joshua than anyone else. Joshua had been a storekeeper in Oley Township and by this time was operating the family sawmill in Brunswick Township north of the Blue Mountains. Unlike Judah’s account, however, Joshua’s did not balance; the total in the debit column after the last recorded transaction exceeded the credit amount by £75.19.3.
Over two-thirds of Moses Boone’s clients lived in three townships - Amity, Exeter, and Oley. The remainder of his business was scattered throughout eastern Berks County and northwestern Philadelphia (after 1784, Montgomery) County. These men and women were predominantly farmers (over sixty percent), but they also followed a wide variety of occupations. Six shoemakers dealt with Moses Boone as a tanner during this decade. Four of his clients were women, either widows or daughters of previous customers. Other craftsmen who considered Boone worthy of tanning hides for them included a cooper, a fuller, a papermaker, a sawyer, a collier, a hatter, a tailor, a stocking weaver, a storekeeper, a schoolmaster, two masons, two laborers, two saddlers, two tanners, four smiths, four carpenters, four millers, and four weavers.
As a craftsman and businessman in Exeter Township during the 1780s, Moses Boone dealt with a variety of clients, not just in occupation and wealth, but also in ethnic and religious background. Thirty-two of his 114 creditors (28%) were of British ancestry, almost three times the proportion of British settlers in the county. Most of the English or Welsh settlers for whom Boone tanned products were relatives (eight were brothers or cousins) or area Quakers who probably had done business with James Boone and continued patronizing the tannery after Moses assumed control, even if he no longer belonged to the monthly meeting. Because almost three-fourths of Moses Boone’s clients were of German ancestry, it is clear that he recognized the necessity of dealing with non-English residents in order to survive economically. By the 1780s, most of the German residents of the county were familiar enough with the English language to conduct business with Boone, but he evidently was not fluent in German, based upon the way he spelled the names of his German customers.
The 1780s indeed were a tumultuous decade for the new American nation. Colonial artisans who worked in a family setting, like Moses Boone, were better able to adapt to changing economic conditions than were merchants and craftsmen in cities like Philadelphia, where external trade could adversely affect a man’s income and economic status. For Moses Boone, the decade would also be a time of transition, from assuming control of his father’s prosperous tannery in 1778 to coping with postwar economic dislocations and the death of his father. By the end of the 1780s, his business was returning to prosperity, but to accomplish this he would have to broaden his clientele to include residents of different ethnic and religious backgrounds from his own. Local craftsmen like Moses Boone learned to adapt to the evolving market economy of the new nation, while at the same time perpetuating the colonial heritage of personal contact. Moses Boone’s success at maintaining the family business during this transitional era ultimately would permit the tannery to fall into his son’s hands, continuing the legacy of handing down skills through generations.
Children of Moses Boone and wife Sarah Griffith:
- John Boone, born March 16, 1780 in Exeter, Berks County, Pennsylvania and died September 22, 1858. Became a tanner and eventually took over the family business.
- Elizabeth Boone, born April 10, 1782
- Judah Boone, born January 16, 1788, in Exeter, Berks County
- Phinehas Boone, born June 22, 1790 and died February 28, 1831
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