Two volumes, folio, 237 manuscript pages as follows: Volume 1, 129 page ledger, plus a separate laid in 4 page list of accounts and 1 page statement for an individual's account for wheat at the "new mill." Volume 2 has a 108 page ledger, along with a single scrap of paper with notes laid in. Bound in contemporary sheep shelf-back and marbled paper boards, now considerably worn, inner hinges cracked, text somewhat damp-stained and soiled, but legible, boards warped, else good. One volume has the printed label of "J. D. Bemis, Printer, Bookseller and Bookbinder, Canandaigua," from whom these volumes were apparently purchased by the McKay's. The ledgers are not indexed and contain approximately fifty different accounts.
Caledonia was originally formed as "Southampton" on March 30, 1802. The name changed to Caledonia on April 4th, 1806 after a number of Scottish immigrants relocated there. At the time McKay's business ledgers begin, in the year 1819, Caledonia was still considered to be located within Genesee County, New York. However, on February 23, 1821, Livingston County was formed out of Genesee and Ontario Counties and Caledonia then became part of Livingston County, under which jurisdiction it comes today. Robert McKay served as one of the first Supervisors after the new formation of the county.
John McKay purchased of Charles Williamson, agent for the Pulteney Estate, the saw and grist mills he had recently erected upon the outlet of the Big Spring. Three years later John was joined by his brother Robert and together they purchased of Williamson a tract of 200 acres of land, upon which the village of Mumford now stands, together with the water power of Spring Creek. The same year, 1806, the McKays erected upon their new land a saw mill and in 1808 a small grist mill. In 1809, Robert McKay sold his half interest in the Spring Creek property to Thomas Mumford and returned to Caledonia to engage in selling merchandise. A fellow millwright, Robert Whaley became associated with the McKays and their mill. Whaley eventually married the McKay's sister Janet.
Robert McKay is stated to have entered the employ of Miner & Hall in 1803, early merchants in Geneseo. On the death of both members of the firm, he closed up their business affairs and in 1808 moved to Caledonia where he began his own mercantile business. At the outbreak of the War of 1812, Robert McKay volunteered his services and helped to raise a company of men under his command. In 1813 he was promoted to the rank of Colonel. While serving at Black Rock under Blakeslee, Robert and several others were captured and taken prisoner, carried back to Montreal where they were later released as part of a prisoner exchange.
The two account books primarily concern the mills of John McKay, however his brother figures in the business as well. It is written that McKay's mills brought considerable business to Caledonia, with some customers coming from as far away as Buffalo. Robert McKay's store in Caledonia was also extensively patronized. By checking the names of the entries in the ledger against the 1820 U.S. Census, we find that the vast majority of the accounts can be matched with individuals living at Caledonia, Genesee County, New York. The ledgers present a view of the early economy of the area through the interaction of these two firms, leading merchants of the area.