[Liberty, Fayette, Independence, Glasgow, Warsaw: 1838-52]. Small ledger book, 7 1/4 in., plain brown paper-backed marbled boards, approx. 124pp. of entries, each page with 7 or 8 two- or three- line entries per customer. Laid in loose is a signature of approx. 12pp., with additional work entries, plus 5pp. of ms. shape note music (with titles such as "Oft in the Stilly Night," "Copenhagen Waltz," "Tippecanoe & Tyler Too," etc.). Another smaller gathering of pages, also laid in loose, "Record Book for 1851," 5pp. has more watch repair entries for 1851-52. All of the entries (presumably also the music) are in Gill's neat, legible hand, most in pencil, a few records in ink. Occasionally some of the text is faded, but otherwise clear. Gill appears to have traveled amongst several of the small towns near Kansas City, Missouri, setting up shop and doing repair work, before finally settling in Warsaw, Benton County, Missouri in about 1842.
Gill begins his record keeping in Liberty, Missouri on June 1, 1838. From then until September 21, he repaired watches and clocks of all types, for a total of 269 customers in Liberty and the nearby town of Independence. By January 1839, he was in Fayette, Missouri plying his trade. In April 1840 he moved on to Independence, Missouri, back to Fayette from November 1840 to early May 1841, then to Glasgow from May to August 1841, and back to Fayette from September 1841 to March 1842. In April 1842 he set up shop in Warsaw, Benton County, Missouri. He rented a house "from Alexander & Penuel for $2 a month." Aside from a bit of work in Black Oak Grove, also in Benton County, he remained in Warsaw for the rest of his working life.
Gill kept very detailed records, mentioning his customer's name, the type of watch or clock, its specific model number if it had one, and the work performed. The watches he repaired were primarily English or European, and included: Brequet & fils (France), Duchene Peyrot & Co. (Geneva), Vale & Rotherhams (Coventry), John Morecock (London), Tobias & Co. (Liverpool), Benjamin Edwards (London), John Harrison (Liverpool), Quartier au Locle en Swisse, Berthoud Adams & Co. (Geneva), Jos’h. Molyneux, (Dublin), Robt. Stroud (London), Berthoud (France), Lepine a Paris, Helmstine (Stockholm), etc. A few American watchmakers are also represented including Thos. Parker (Philadelphia), A.J. Cunningham (Charleston, SC), DuBois a New York, Davis Watson & Co. (Boston), E. Profilet (Natchez, MS), Joel White (Tuscaloosa), J.B. McFadden (Pittsburgh), D. Ralpho (Philadelphia), and once a watch made by Gill himself. He replaced mainsprings, cleaned the glass, repaired detached levers, and teeth in the balance wheel, cleaned 8-day clocks, mantle clocks, and a watch "which lay in [a] creek all night." He fixed music boxes and jewelry.
His customers included doctors, military men, judges, strangers, the Western Post Rider, etc. Customer #606, in Glasgow, July 24, 1841: "Dr. Cockerill. Gold french watch no. 43335. to new regulator $1.00. To new hair spring $.50. 'scaping $2.00 two new screw pins $.25;" in Warsaw, April 2, 1844, customer #827: "Captain Francis. Benton & Smith, Liverpool no. 2860. To clean glass, etc.;" customer #931, Warsaw, January 1846: "Mr. Barclay. E. Profilet Natchez Miss. no. 7998. Silver lever. To new pinion in third wheel $3.00. rep. center wheel $1.00. Cleaning $1.00."
A handful of his customers over the years were African Americans: in Independence on August 7, 1840, for customer #522, Gill records: “George Prior (colored) Silver French small, no name or no. To soldering teeth in minute wheel $.50 shifting m. wheel $.25 Cleaning $.75”; March 29 , in Warsaw: “left with J. Atkisson a watch for Kidwell belongs to negro Stephen, Atkisson pays me two dollars in the store for same.” Gill also sometimes used the ledger to record the purchase of household goods, and on one occasion mentions a dispute with a Dr. Roberts whose medicine he had ceased to use on a sore which wasn't healing. Item #62228
Josephus Gill is listed in the 1850 Census as a watchmaker, born in South Carolina ca.1789, owner of some 2100 acres. In his will, recorded in Benton County, Missouri in 1855, he mentions his wife Martha to whom he leaves the bulk of his property, including a large music box, a son Edwin R. Gill (whose name occasionally appears in this ledger), and several other children. He also mentions two slaves in his possession who are to be hired out to a good master until such time as the hire amounts to $650, and then they are to be set free.
Liberty, Missouri was the scene of the incarceration of Joseph Smith and his Mormon followers in November 1838, following the "Mormon War" in the state. We have not been able to establish whether any of watchmaker Josephus Gill's clients were Mormons, however he does list, as customer #65 (June 6, 1838): "A.W. Donathan. Duchene Peyrot & Co. Geneve Duplex 'sca full jewelled gold, no. 60248. To clean hands, glass &c." This is presumably a misspelling of A.W. Doniphan's name. Doniphan was a lawyer and partner in the firm established by David Rice Atchison in Liberty, Missouri in 1830. These men defended the rights of Mormon settlers in Jackson County in the years preceding the Missouri Mormon War, earning Doniphan a reputation amongst the Mormons as "a friend for life...." When Joseph Smith and his followers were arrested in 1838, Doniphan successfully argued for a change of venue for the Mormons. While being transported to the new venue, Smith and his followers escaped and made their way to Nauvoo, Illinois. [see: the biographical sketch of ALexander W. Doniphan in "Five Stars: Missouri's Most Famous Generals," by James F. Muench (Univ. of Missouri Press: 2006), p.10].