Bread, called the “staff of life,” was made locally by bakers and confectioners like German immigrant Frederick Roeder. Bread baking was well established in the town by 1809, when Harpers Ferry boating merchant John Wager Jr. began a flour shipping business from Harpers Ferry mills into the federal city 60 miles away. Harpers Ferry, in Jefferson County, Virginia, was part of the early republic breadbasket that fed the bigger cities with local grain and flour. Local flour production and bread on the table proved the town on two rivers was no longer the frontier, but civilized. The citizens no longer needed to hunt, kill or gather to achieve each meal. At its height, 20,000 barrels of flour were staged along the Shenandoah River for shipping down river.
By mid-century, in addition to a daily bread, most households consumed this array of baked goods, from hard and soft wheat, today’s equivalent of “all-purpose flour”: “34 loaves of bread, 17- 6 quart pans of doughnuts, 17 messes of biscuits, 94 pies, 7 loaf cakes, 1 ½ dozen tart crusts, 3 dozen gingersnaps, and one mess of pancakes.”
For additional information, contact Melinda Day at 304-535-6063.