James Franklin Babb (1851-1931) – Coal and Wood Merchant of Portland, Maine

Today’s post regards James Franklin Babb (1-5-3-2-7-2-7), who at the turn of the 20th century ran a Coal and Wood business. This receipt, which I purchased on eBay gives a small glimpse into his life.

A few items of note stick out to me as I examine it. The most obvious is something that we all struggle with at the turn of a new year as we try to use up old documents that are no longer dated properly. Mrs A. J. Rowell was given an account and this ledger kept track of her account balance.

The goods were “Egg Coal”, which is also known as “anthracite coal”, meaning that it is a coal of a hard variety that contains relatively pure carbon and burns with little flame and smoke. The word Egg refers to the size as being relatively large in nature. So, this was a premium coal and the price of $3.25 per half-ton reflects that. The amount is roughly $105 USD in 2022.

The first half-ton lasts a month and 5 days, but the next lasts only 19 days and the third a mere 15 days during the coldest parts of the winter. This is a hefty heating bill for many families, and it seemed doubtful that this was the coal of the huddled masses. So, I took a quick look to see who Mrs. A. J. Rowell was. I quickly found her in the 1900 Census, which was taken just months after this ledger account was created.

She is Annie J. Rowell, wife of James Rowell, who was a Dentist. She is also listed as a “Dealer in Dress ______” (the last word is illegible). Finally, they had 3 boarders living in the house. All of this combined apparently meant that they could afford the best coal on the market. I should also note that according to this ledger page she only paid half of her bill. As this has been separated from the source, we have no way of knowing for sure.

You can pick up Abbie on line 10 of the Census record below.

Getting back to James Franklin “Frank” Babb, he married Hannah C Linscott on 26 Feb 1880. She had a daughter (Alice) from a previous marriage that lived with them in the 1880 Census.

The 1900 Census records a second child that was born to Hannah but did not survive. As the 1880 Census didn’t record the same details we cannot be certain that the child was born to Hannah and James “Frank”, but it appears so.

They bore no heirs that survived into adulthood and thus their branch of the tree ends here. James’ ancestry reads as follows: James Franklin, James, John, Peter, James, Peter, Phillip Babb of the Isles of Shoals.

Leave a Reply

Blog at WordPress.com.