Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Ralph Forrester Account Book, 1778-1795

Finding aid created by
Philip Heslip, June 2010

Summary Information
Title: Ralph Forrester account book
Creator: Forrester, Ralph, 1746-1796
Inclusive dates: 1778-1795
Extent: 62 pages
The Ralph Forrester account book (62 pages) contains the accounts of a Pennsylvania farmer who supplied food to the Continental army during the Revolutionary war. The accounts document agricultural and economic activity in rural Pennsylvania at the end of the 18th century.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1981. M-1955.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.

Preferred Citation:

Ralph Forrester Account Book, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Ralph Forrester (1746-1796) was born in Westchester, Pennsylvania, to schoolmaster Ralph Forrester, Sr., and Tamer Gregory. Ralph married Ann Catherine (Kitty) Elliott (1756-1842) in 1777. They had 4 children: Ralph E.;, Margaret; Ann M.; and George. Ralph and his family lived on a farm in Goshen, Pennsylvania.

On September 16, 1777, the British and American forces briefly met at Goshen, but heavy rain interrupted the attack. This skirmish is commonly known as the Battle of the Clouds, but is also called the Battle of Warren and the Battle of Whitehorse Tavern. Forrester's farm was located near the battle site. The Chester County Register of Revolutionary War Damages records that, after the war, Forrester applied for reparations for property taken or destroyed.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Ralph Forrester account book (62 pages) contains the accounts of a Pennsylvania farmer who supplied food to the Continental army during the Revolutionary war.

The entries document several types of transactions:

  • Sales of livestock (horses, pigs, and cows), meat (beef, bacon, mutton, and veal), and produce (cabbages, Indian corn, rye, flower, buckwheat, flax, potatoes, turnips, and hay).
  • Payments, both in cash and commodities, for labor (chopping wood, making shingles, splitting rails, fencing, harvesting, hulling grains, "ditching", and cider making).
  • Receipts for food, household equipment, textiles, and other supplies (shoes, whiskey, clothes, guns, linen, bonnets, tobacco, lime, bricks, and nails).

The book contains accounts for Forrester, many of his family members, and several local laborers, doctors, and farmers. The detailed and numerous accounts provide historical evidence for a late-18th century rural economy, where work was exchanged for cash and goods. Many entries document the role of women in the labor force. Forrester lists payments to women for doing house work; making clothes, handkerchiefs, and yarn; farming chores, such as planting seeds; and nursing the sick.

Notable entries include:

  • Documents for supplying livestock for General Nathanael Greene and Captain Josiah Hait of Colonel Spencer's Division, February 19, [1782?], (page 2).
  • Documents for grain sales to feed Lieutenant Colonel William Hull's horses, 1791, (page 17).
  • Documents for Forrester's partnership with Joseph Clark (page 16).
  • Accounts for Tamer Gregory, Forrester's mother (page 34).
  • A table for annual grain production for the Forrester farm from 1785-1788 (page 37).
Subject Terms

    • Agriculture--Pennsylvania.
    • East Goshen (Pa. : Township)
    • Greene, Nathanael, 1742-1786.
    • Roxborough (Philadelphia, Pa.)
    • United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783.
    • United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Equipment and supplies.
    • United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Food supply.
    • West Goshen (Pa. : Township)
    Genre Terms:
    • Account books.
    • Promissory notes.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Volume   1  
    Ralph Forrester account book,  1778-1795 [series]