Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst
William Putnam Papers
For several decades in the mid-nineteenth century, William Putnam (1792-1877) and his family operated a general store in Wendell Depot, situated strategically between the canal and the highway leading to Warwick. Born in nearby New Salem on July 7, 1792, the elder of two sons of Samuel and Hepsebah (Pierce) Putnam, Putnam married Julia Whiting Holden (1796-1881) in about 1814, raising a family of ten, including Danforth (1815-1900), William (b.1816), Frederick (1819-1894), Saul (b. 1820), Abraham Pierce (1822-1903), Stillman Holden (1825-1916), Nathan Bond (1827-1907), John William (1829-1881), Edwin (b.1831), and Mary (b. ca.1833).
Located in an area that remains rural to the present day, Putnam dealt in a range of essential merchandise, trading in lumber and shingles, palm leaf, molasses and sugar, tea, tobacco, quills, dishes, cloth and ribbon, dried fish, crackers, candy, and an array of dry goods. At various times, he was authorized by the town Selectmen to sell "intoxicating liquors" (brandy, whiskey, and rum) for "Medicinal, chemical and mechanical purposes only," and for a period, he served as the postmaster for Wendell Depot. Many local residents paid off their debts in barter, with many women trading palm leaf hats at ten cents each.
Ownership of the Putnam store eventually passed to William's sons (probably Danforth), and it appears to have been sold out of the family at some time before 1875.