Page 40 in “Day Book 1774 No. F.,” in the Cameron Family Papers #133, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

     William Johnston’s and Richard Bennehan’s Day Book 1774 No. F contains a list of transactions from their store at Snowhill, a plantation in Orange County. Specifically, the day book’s business transactions, which were written down here before being transferred to an official ledger, reveal that the store sold a lot of rum and sugar. Together, these food items reveal an interconnected relationship between the Chapel Hill area and the wider world during the 18th century.

     The day book’s repetitive mention of rum and sugar reflects the times before, during, and after the colonial period. Baz Dreisinger, a New York Times journalist, describes rum as a 17th century invention, resulting from “when industrial waste–molasses residue from slave-era sugar production–was transformed via yeast into drinkable stuff” (“On a tropical rum trail”). Considering the day book’s time period, the importation of rum and sugar from the Caribbean to inland North Carolina represents a relatively recent development in triangular trade; this global trade network experiences worldwide significance during the 18th century. Rum develops into a well-known alcoholic beverage. Modern-day Americans, and adults in Chapel Hill, still consume this drink today.

     The day book’s transactions of rum and sugar help us understand the Chapel Hill area within the context of the larger colonial society. During colonial times, the Caribbean production of rum, as a byproduct of slavery and sugar plantations, makes its way into the mainland colonies as an important drink. Thus, while the area that will become Chapel Hill starts to grow and develop an identity, its broader connections to the Caribbean and the colonies as a whole highlights the interconnected identities of the area during the 18th century.


Dreisinger, B. (2014, Feb 23). On a tropical rum trail. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from

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