A short time ago I visited Fort Boonesborough in Kentuck and marveled at the reconstructed fort. The original fort, constructed in 1775, withstood an American Indian siege in 1778. I thought of what it must have been like to hack and burn a trail from Virginia and through the Cumberland Gap then build a huge fort in the middle of a wilderness.
The men and women had to be a tough lot to carry out such feats and bring along their families, and leave behind their homes. Not to mention the ever-present danger of attacks from Native Americans who used the Kentucky Forest as a hunting grounds.
It’s a wonder they made it at all and books can be written on the subject, but one thing you don’t hear much about is their coinage. Before 1793 there wasn’t a U.S. Mint so people used foreign coins they brought with them or were circulating at the time.
One of the most popular coins used was the large and silver 8 Reales and there where some privately minted Colonial, Post Colonial Coinage and tokens. So there where coins available. However, in the wilderness or small towns coins they were often hard to come by, and people lived of the land and considered poor by most standards.
Often privately minted coins remained in the area they were coined with no wide-spread circulation. Coinage Of The States is but one example because you wouldn’t see them being spent outside of their state of origin. But almost anything would be used as coins to spend.
Bust most either traded with crops or things you made at home or you cut coins into several pieces and spent them. It was often the case in early America to cut coins into halves and even fourths so they could buy necessities.
I also found a story from a journal, years ago, written by a Ohio River traveler (sorry I can’t recall the name). What struck me about his journal entry is he landed at Portsmouth, Ohio in the early 1800’s. Portsmouth, Ohio is my home town and where I live and his comment had to do with coins.
He stated that coins were hard to come by and were mostly cut into pieces. I have yet to find a piece of coin while metal detecting the Portsmouth area but it’s always in the back of my mind.
Some of the most valuable cut coins are counter stamped Saint Lucia, although there’s other examples, these coins hold premiums that can reach thousands of dollars if counter stamped. I know we think that times are hard now, but there was a time when they might have been just a little “harder”.
So if you ever find half or even a sliver of a coin remember that you’re holding an important part of history. A part of American History when we didn’t have coins as numerous or as easy to come by.
Here’s some other relevant links to Colonial and Post Colonial coins Coins Of Early America