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E. S. Taylor Store

If you have lived in the Prospect area for very long, you may have heard of the “Taylor money” that was used as barter at the E. S. Taylor & Co. store. In the 1800’s and early 1900’s merchants often used tokens as a form of “cash” to pay for items like live chickens, eggs,  milk, butter, etc. that they purchased from their local customers. The tokens could then be used to buy needed household items such as  coffee, sugar, salt, etc. which were not being produced on the farm. Most often the tokens were made of aluminum with a standard stock stamp of monetary value on the reverse of the coin and the store’s  name, location, and perhaps a slogan on the obverse. At one time, most every family had some of these tokens stashed away in old  cigar box or shoe box in the back of a drawer or cabinet. Over the years as estates were sold, the tokens became scattered and lost.  Many store tokens have become very rare and are worth a considerable amount of money to collectors. E. S. Taylor & Co. had its beginnings in the Elam area at Sulphur Springs following the Civil War. William Robert (Bob) Taylor operated a  farm and flour mill on Falling Creek at Sulphur Springs. His son Edward (Ed) Samuel Taylor  started a mercantile business in the mill  building about 1885. In the 1890’s Ed Taylor moved his store, The Taylor Company, to the village of Prospect and there expanded it into a lumber and timber  export business. His store occupied the large red brick building which had been a tobacco warehouse.  Located beside the Norfolk &  Western rail tracks, he was in a prime location for shipping and receiving. The long porch across the front of the store was on open  invitation to village folk to come in, shop, and visit awhile.  In 1905, Taylor issued his “trade money” in coinage denominations of 5, 10, 25, 50, and 100 cents and in paper denominations of 1, 5,  10, and 20 dollars. Considering the times, those paper denominations had considerable buying power. In 1938, the federal government  issued a recall of all trade tokens, considering them competition to the official currency of the country. Suffering from the effects of the Great Depression, The Taylor Company of Prospect reorganized in 1938 under the leadership of Ed  Taylor’s sons Bascom and Malcolm under the name of Taylor Bros.  After the death of both of the brothers, the business was dissolved in 1943. The $10 trade note in the photo with this article reads:  “E. S. Taylor & Co. will pay to bearer ten dollars in merchandise when presented  at our store at Prospect, VA. It is understood that this note is only redeemable in such articles as are for sale when presented.” To draw business, some stores in a community would honor competitors’ trade tokens, but at a lesser face value than presented. Dorothy Womack of the Five Forks community remembers that once her mother was getting ready for church and realized that she didn’t  have any real money for the collection plate.  She traded some of her “Taylor money” with a friend for the needed cash.