Historical Treasure: Henry Patt’s grocery ledger

Old ledger: Records from Henry Patt’s grocery store and saloon, a late-19th century small business in Terre Haute’s Fourth Ward, are on display in the Vigo County Historical Museum.

Late-19th century records from Henry Patt’s grocery store and saloon are today’s historical treasures featured in the Vigo County Historical Museum.

An emigrant from Germany, Patt came to Terre Haute in 1875 and met Anna Marie Schopphaus. They were married in 1877 and had eight children. Patt worked at Fred Heinig Bakery in Terre Haute before opening his own grocery and saloon at 928 S. Second St in 1879. He and his family lived at the shop on South Second and possibly in another house on the street after that until 1896 when he built a house at 1125 S. Fifth St. There, the Patt family continued to live well into the 20th century. Henry died in 1894 and his shop was bought by Ernest Meissel.

Patt’s grocery and saloon were in the same building but separated from each other in such a way that one person could go back and forth between them to wait on people. The business was located in the heart of what was then Terre Haute’s Fourth Ward, on Second Street between Park and Farrington streets where Indiana State University’s Maehling Terrace is now. The neighborhood was home to a number of Patt’s fellow German emigrants, whose names filled his grocery accounts and bar tabs.

Families who frequented Patt’s grocery and saloon bought a wide range of goods – onions, vinegar, sugar, lemons, butter, eggs, bread, coffee, bacon, potatoes, lard, tea, cabbages, melons, corn, soap, mackerel, salt, pepper and tobacco. Coffee was 30 cents, tea was 20, while sugar was 25 and eggs, 30. Most people had balances of a dollar or two.

Patt’s accounts show where he bought his supplies – Bauermeister and Busch on Wabash for cured meats, Havens, Geddes Co. on Wabash for Dry Goods, Bement, Rea & Co. on Wabash for salt, coffee and rice. He bought his cigars locally, too, from F.C. Heckelsberg Cigars at 1119 Main St. as well as Fred J. Biel Cigars on Wabash, but he bought whiskey from a firm in Indianapolis, Koepper & Waterman.

Patt sold tobacco at the grocery but the cigars, whiskey and beer, crackers and “drinks” unspecified, made up the tabs of his bar patrons. There appears to have been no overlap between grocery patrons and bar patrons. Certainly the names on the grocery accounts and the names with bar tabs were different, but most of the people who came in to have a drink also lived or worked nearby.

Although he had spent less than 20 years in Terre Haute when he died, Patt had certainly established an important and thriving business in the city.

With appropriate sanitizing, social distancing and face masks visitors can learn about Vigo County history in a safe atmosphere in the Vigo County History Center at 929 Wabash Ave. Vigo County Historical Museum memberships are available at www.vchsmuseum.org.

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