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Jacob Shaner's Book Entries

Pottstown Daily News, September 4, 1896

Book Entries of Old
The Records of a Mechanic Prove Interesting
Well-kept Accounts Between Jacob Shaner and his Fellowmen - Coffins, Chests, and Spit Boxes Made to Order - The Mystery of Hannah Shingle Murder Which Occurred in 1855

Harry H. Shaner, of Pottstown Landing, has in his possession the general account books of his late father, Jacob Shaner, now deceased. Jacob Shaner was a resident of Upper Warwick township, Chester county. He was a carpenter by trade and was also undertaker or funeral director, which business he conducted in connection with his trade.

The books in question, and which a News man was allowed to inspect, date from 1845 to 1860, and the accounts of dealings with many people in northern Chester county, show carefulness in detail as well as neatness and correctness in original entry.

In Mr. Shaner's day funerals were conducted with less expense, so far as coffins were concerned, than now.

When a death occurred some kind-hearted neighbor was called in who prepared he body for the cooling board; the material for the shroud or winding sheet was purchased at the nearest store and neighbor women done the sewing; the church sexton made the grave and this left the undertaker the coffin to make and to convey the corpse therein to the graveyard in a hearse on the day of the funeral.

In the books the prices for coffins vary from $1.50 to $12, depending upon the size and probably quality.

Among the names of the older families of that neighborhood which appear on the pages are the Amoles, Clemens, Houck, Squibb, Knauer, Kirby, Care, Miller, Swinehart, Wolf, High, Shick, Lloyd, and many others.

In almost every account appears "one chest for son John, $2.75," or some other name, showing that the now old-fashioned wooden chest was a univeral gift from the parents to the son when he was about to leave the home roof, and this in lieu of the modern trunk of the present day. Corner cupboards, doughtrays, tables, chairs and bedsteads are all charged items in the books; hoop nets was another commodity, and "spit box with saw dust 25 cents" appears; also winnowing mills, wash boards, and in fact many articles of woodenware now in stock in furniture or hardware stores.

On one page appears: "Agreement to do the carpenter work on stone house, 18 by 28, for Thomas Kerby for $75, 1852."

An interesting entry is "October 27, 1855, coffin for Hannah Shingle, $12, paid by T. Defrane." This woman was murdered at that date, one dark, rainy night in her little house, where she lived alone, immediately opposite the present Shenkels church edifice, in North Coventry, Chester county. She was known to have large sums of money in her possesion. The murderer entered her bed room from a rear window, evidently with the intention of robbing her, but the condition of her room next morning, when her body was found, showed that she had fought the burgular desperatley with an axe, which she kept near her and that he wrenched the weapon from her and slew her. It was generally believed that the old lady recognized the intruder and that he killed her to prevent his own identification.

The guilty party was never apprehended, and if he is living his secret is buried in his own heart yet.

The brutal murder caused intense excitement for miles around, as many of the older residents will testify.

Mr. Shaner was the father of Harry H. Shaner, Englebert Shaner and John Shaner, of North Coventry, and of George Shaner, of Birdsboro. George E. Shaner, grocer, of this place, is a grandson.

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