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A Look Back: Eggs and butter

By Jolene Hawkins

Looking back to the time when our foremothers came into town and sold or traded the extra eggs and butter for money.

It wasn’t just Ma Ingalls that took her eggs to Oleson’s Mercantile to be sold and gathered money from Mrs. Oleson in “Little House on the Prairie.” Throughout the years, we had several stores in town that took them Prior Store and CJ Lowe even advertised to bring them in and get the best prices.

Spencer and Nash, a store that was present on Main Street in 1844, has an ad in the paper stating, “in exchange for goods, we want ashes, grain, flaxseed, feathers, beeswax, old cast iron, butter, eggs, etc.”

By 1845, prices were being listed. Butter was 10 cents and eggs were 7 to 8 cents. Now, of course, it does not give the quantity of them, but I think it was probably one pound of butter for 10 cents and a dozen eggs for 7 to 8 cents.

Even the newspaper we had in the 1840s, which was called the Springville Express, said they would accept butter and eggs on account for the subscription of the newspaper. The Barter system was going strong when cash was low.

At the clothing store of P Hein in 1874, it states in their ad that butter and eggs will be taken in exchange for the clothing. How cool is that?! One lady claims that she purchased a rug there with her butter and egg money. This was some of the money that the woman alone controlled.  What she did with it was her choice.

In 1880, L.B. Nichols had established a business in town and he promised to be a great benefit to producers. He proposed to pay cash for butter, cheese, eggs, apples and all other kinds of produce. This is just what the farmers had wanted.

They now have an ample opportunity to supply themselves with store goods with the products that are in their fields. The farmers needed cash to pay taxes and to lay by for a rainy day, and L.B. Nichols offered them a way.

By the 1900s, we had Spencer and Nash, O Butterworts, R.C. Eaton and S.S. Halladay, all local stores in Concord buying butter and eggs, along with maple sugar and wool. Even Winship’s department store advertises a good price for your butter and eggs.

In 1920, the Famers Bank here in Springville had a good twist for an ad. They recommended that a woman should have her own bankbook for the butter and egg money so it could grow quickly into a bigger sum. By then the prices paid was 44 cents a dozen eggs and 45 cents for a pound of butter.

Remember, at this time, you created everything in your kitchen, from cakes to cookies to bread and during cooking had butter added. Eggs for breakfast, hard-boiled for snacks and the wonderful devil eggs could be found in the homes. So there was a demand for eggs and butter on a daily basis.

John M. Benzing, who ran the Quality Market here in Springville was a butcher in 1925 and advertised that “our butter and eggs are up to the same high mark of excellence set for the quality meats that are finding favor in your homes.” Only the best for his customers.

How is butter made? Letting fresh milk set, the heavy cream will rise to the top. You can skim it off or run it through a cream separator. Now that you have the heavy cream at room temperature, place inside a churn or a jar one-third of the way. Churn away, or shake if you have it in a jar.

You will get whip cream first, but keep going. In the end, you will have butter and whey — a skim milk, since you have removed all the fat. Drain the buttermilk or whey off and enjoy. You can add seasons too.

Want to learn more about the food markets of yesteryear? Stop by the Lucy Bensley Center located at 23 North Buffalo St., Springville, on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Email us at lucybensleycenter@gmail.com or call 592-0094.  We are on the lookout for local yearbooks. Ask us if we have a copy of what you need.

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