Most historians would have little interest in those, but they provide a picture of what life was like.
"It's a local take on somebody earning a living at the time," he said.
While he handles the older volumes with care, McCabe makes the newer volumes his own, scrawling notes in the margins and underlining key passages.
"It becomes part of me. I want to be able to . . . very quickly go back and pull out what I need," he said.
It's an essential skill for McCabe, who now plans to contribute his own book to the West Virginia canon.
He plans to spend the next few years working on an economic history of Charleston as experienced by four of the capital city's prominent families.
The book will begin, McCabe said, with Dr. John P. Hale. Hale, one of the city's early mayors, was the great-grandson of Mary Ingles, an early settler who was famously abducted by Native Americans.
Another section will focus on Charleston's Smith family. Their patriarch, lawyer Benjamin Harrison Smith, greatly influenced the state's constitution, including the way land titles were settled in the newly formed Mountain State.
The book also will include the C.H James family - descendents of Charles H. James, a black man who founded the successful James Produce Co. in the late 1800s - and the Dickinsons, who owned salt mining operations before forming a bank that would one day become BB&T.
"They have a broad enough touch that, through them, I can write the history of Charleston," McCabe said.
Following those four families allows him to explore the changes in business, politics, transportation and law and follow all the economic depressions and recessions the city suffered over its history.
His underlying goal is to understand how Charleston's economy works.
"Things don't just happen. People make them happen. In a way, we're a product of the events we create," he said.
For proof, McCabe only has to visit his library.
He was diagnosed with dyslexia as a boy, and it took years for him to learn to read.
Now, he could be the most voracious reader in the Legislature.
"It took me so long to learn how to read, when I read a book, it's like a victory," he said.
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