On October 7, 1759, at about age 55, Henry Dayton’s health was failing as he wrote his will. Henry, we believe, was the youngest of the five known sons of Abraham and he was also grandson of Samuel who was the son of Ralph.
Considering that late 1759 was also the time of Henry’s death, there are two entries in Joseph Denton’s account book that have interested me since I saw them for the first time in 2010. The ledger entries below are from transactions at Denton’s shop and store in Setauket.
The first of the two entries was dated May 15, 1759, when Henry’s wife Abigail had a balance of debt 12 shilling and 2 pence. It is followed by a second entry, almost six years later, when Abigail “then promised to pay it by the fifth of June Next upon her own account,” witnessed by Sarah Hallock.
(Note that many transactions were not recorded in the account book, particularly when items traded were of equal value or when cash was used without accruing debt.)
These entries are interesting for many reasons.
First, note that the debt was recorded as Abigail’s and not Henry’s, yet Henry was still living. Does the fact that most transactions in the ledger are recorded with men, and not women, indicate that Henry was not physically able to trade with the local merchant in May?
Second, are the entries related? There was no monetary amount or barter mentioned in the promise to pay. Note that the debt has a large “X” through it, meaning that it was either paid or written off. What is most interesting is that the “X” appears to be intentionally so large that it passes over both entries which might indicate that the preceding debt was being addressed in the promise below it.
If that was truly the case, why did Abigail wait so long to settle the account? Henry and Abigail were comparatively well-off, so you would expect his estate to pay the debt in 1760, after his death.