Time Book from the E. W. Chapman Ranch, 1876-1878

This original ledger was used by the E. W. Chapman Ranch to keep track of their employees time spent working, starting in July of 1876 and running through June of 1878 . Generally the amount worked are either indicated by a check mark for a day of the month, or 1/2 to indicate they worked only half a day. What a day’s work was is never mentioned, but traditionally it could be as long as sunrise to sundown. The job employed for is also not mentioned. You would consider these employees as day laborers, and many of them may have also worked for other ranches and farms. The type of information provided in this document is the name of the employed, the days of the month they worked, the total days, wages per day, amount paid, amount due, and total amount.

Mixed in this ledger were some details about pay for 1875. For instance a unnamed “Dr.” was paid in 1875 for items such as a coat, hat, overalls, and 2 shirts.

At the height of threshing activity, in July of 1876, 53 people were employed on the ranch. By 1878 that had dropped to 3. Men received their board in addition to the wages.

Nathan C. Sweet wrote an article in Volume 1, Issue 2 of the Madera County Historian looking at the 1876 harvest and various facts he can elicit from it, such as the wages in 1876 for the farm hands, a description of grain raising at that time, and how straw was used for fuel. You should read this article in order to better understand the cycle of farming through the year, and what the wages infer as to the work being done by the laborers.

If anyone would like to create an index for this book, I’d be happy to post it or link to it if hosted elsewhere. Currently the only way to search is page by page and look through the name column. Names are not alphabetically listed.

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