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The keeping of journals and diaries became an almost everyday pastime for many Americans in the nineteenth century. Adeline and Julia Graham, two young women from Berrien Springs, Michigan, were both drawn to this activity, writing about the daily events in their lives, as well as their 'grand adventures.' These are fascinating, deeply personal accounts that provide an insight into the thoughts and motivation of two sisters who lived more than a century ago. Adeline began keeping a diary when she was sixteen, ...
The keeping of journals and diaries became an almost everyday pastime for many Americans in the nineteenth century. Adeline and Julia Graham, two young women from Berrien Springs, Michigan, were both drawn to this activity, writing about the daily events in their lives, as well as their 'grand adventures.' These are fascinating, deeply personal accounts that provide an insight into the thoughts and motivation of two sisters who lived more than a century ago. Adeline began keeping a diary when she was sixteen, from mid-1880 through mid-1884; through it we see a young woman coming of age in this small community in western Michigan. Paired with Adeline's account is her sister Julia's diary, which begins in 1885 when she sets out with three other young women to homestead in Greeley County, Kansas, just east of the Colorado border. It is a vivid and colorful narrative of a young woman's journey into America's western landscape.
May 10, 1880 June 6, 1881
Evening. Mon. May 10th '80
I just spilt my ink to commence with. Well I've made up my mind to keep a journal at last. I've been making up my mind for about two years now; so to night I went down town and got this little book and commenced in dead earnest.
I just got back from Niles this evening and feel rather blue after bidding my dear cousin Martha a good bye. I will miss her so much after being with her all winter. I took her up to Niles Saturday with the carriage and Charlie and Pa took Daisy, Aunt Ella, and Ma up in the two seated buggy. Ma and Pa came back the same night but the rest of us stayed. Mr. Bates monopolized Martha almost all the time and I didn't see her half as much as I wanted to. I think it was horrid when he is going to have her all the time most in Cincinnati. I think it horrid to be engaged anyway and never intend to get into that fix my self. I like Mr. B. well enough and we are good friends but what does he want to carry Martha away with him for?
Martha wants me to come East this summer with Aunt E. and Daisy and meet her at the sea side but I don't think there is any hopes of it. I've been crying most all afternoon but I didn't cry near as much as I should have if I hadn't divided it up and did some yesterday.
It rained most all day yesterday and all last night and this morning so it was quite a suitable time to cry when the sky was crying to. I read the "Ancient Mariner" by [Samuel Taylor] Coleridge yesterday and there is a quotation I want to write down here. It is one that is heard quite often so I want to remember
"Water, Water everywhere nor yet one drop to drink."
Martha told me of a splendid way to do when ever I am reading and come across any thing that pleases me to write it down and remember it. And I intend to do it. She read me parts of her journal and she had lots of quotations, and I will copy some of them in here....
I must stop for to night and go to bed. I guess it must be after ten.
Tuesday 4 P.M. May 11th '80
Jude and Daisy have gone riding. I am blue clear through and lonesome without M. So I thought I would come up and write in my little journal and see if scribbling a little wouldn't cheer me up. It usually does.
Et was here this after noon. We went riding out to the cemetery (cheerful?) and I took Grandma Graham riding. On the whole I think I ought to have the "blues" but then it is [a] lovely day, just warm enough to be pleasant; trees are green and thick, and perhaps I oughtn't after all.
Aunt Ella got back from Niles to day. I'm going to write down some more of the quotations I got out of Martha's journal ...
Here is a parody on the "Sorrows of Werter" which I think real good.
"Sorrows of Werter"
"Werter had a love for
Such as words could never
Would you know how first
he met her?
She was cutting bread and
"Charlotte was a married
And a moral man was
And for all the wealth of India
Would do nothing for
to hurt her.
"So he sighed, and pined,
And his passion boiled and
Till he blew his silly
And no more was by it
"Charlotte having seen his
Borne before her on a shutter
Like a well conducted
Went on cutting bread and
Wm. M. Thackery
I guess I've got over my blueness slightly and will stop now. Martha promised to write to me as soon as she arrived at Cincinnati and I will look for a letter about Thursday.
Jude and Daisy have got back. I've been looking up about the "seven wonders of the world," "the seven sleepers," and "the seven wise men of Greece," and will write down what I have learned, as it may be useful sometime....
The seven sleepers, according to an old legend they were seven Christian young men of Ephesus who were persecuted because of their religion. They fled to a large cavern. Their persecutors followed and closed up the cavern so they could not escape. Tradition says that they were put to sleep and slept two centuries and so escaped being starved to death, I suppose.
* * *
May 13th 1880
Just got back from taking a walk. Went down to Et's and she went with me down to Cousin Ellen Kepharts after Martha's bird but did not get it as Cousin Ellen wishes to keep it longer.
Yesterday Daisy and I went horse back riding. She is very cowardly about horses so we didn't ride fast, but after we came back I had a jolly ride up to the farm and down to the woods. Charlie went beautifully and we tore along. The woods were so lovely and green and thick.
I wrote a long letter to Harry yesterday and Jude got one from him this morning. He said he thought Will would be home the first of June. I hope he will, for it is very lonesome to be without brothers.
I did not get the expected letter from Martha today, but Aunt Ella got a postal yesterday. She had got as far as Kalamazoo when she wrote and must have got into Cincinnati last night, so I guess I looked a day too soon for my letter. Daisy wrote to her this morning and I put in half a sheet.
I read old Macaulay yesterday after noon and found a splendid seet up in a little cherry tree, and the leaves are so thick no one can see me. I ought to read some more to day. Guess I will this evening. I haven't quite caught up to Martha yet and want to tonight. Ma has called and I must go down and practice.
Been cooking maple sugar; its prime. We had a serenade on the dishpan last night and yelled negro Melodies. Bony joined in the chorus. Guess the neighbors were edified. Went over to Ralph's and teetered with him. Went around to play croquet, but one of Kit's beaus came and I "glode" out. This morning Ralph and I went up to the farm and got some pieplant. Didn't read hardly any in Macaulay yesterday and haven't read any yet to day.
* * *
I just tore out to the barn and back. Heard the pups yelping and thought they must be half killed. Two were shut up in their box and the other got lonesome, so he amused himself by serenading the other two. That was all.
I will write down some quotations from the "Merchant of Venice." I think Portia is just splendid ....
I'm going to roost now.
* * *
I had just got roosted comfortably in the cherry tree and read about one paragraph of old Mac. when along came Et and wanted me to go down town with her. I went, and when I got back Daisy and I went horse back riding.
We started to go up to the farm and I was trying to open the gate with out getting off when suddenly the saddle turned. I had to lean over so far, and I would have fallen if the fence hadn't been there and kind of held me up. Got off and examined the saddle and found that the girth strap had broken. Went back and changed saddles and started forth again. Daisy says it was providential about my trying to open the gate and breaking the girth, for it might have broken when I was riding fast and I would have got a tumble.
Had a very nice ride, and when we got back Jude and Daisy went; Ralph got on behind me and we rode up and down the lane. He made Peg kick up almost every step. It was lots of fun and very exciting, for you would be away up in the air one minute and expecting to light on the horse's ears the next, so it was a continual surprise to find yourself sitting in the saddle.
Aunt Ella got a letter from Martha to day. She said in it that she would write to me soon.
Tuesday 18th May
Got a nice long letter from Martha yesterday. Saturday Mrs. Reiter died. And Mate didn't get here till two o'clock Sunday morning. I haven't seen Mate for a year.
Puss Hall came to see me Saturday after noon. Sunday I went to Sunday school. Mrs. Reiber explains the lessons so splendid we can't help understanding them. I wrote a long letter to Martha Sunday evening and Ma got one from Harry yesterday.
It is very warm to day. Aunt Julia is here. She came down in the stage yesterday and last night I took her and Grandma down to Mr. Dix', and while I waited for them Roscoe, Win, Frank Murdock, and Eddie Aymar all piled in and we rode all over town.
Mosquitoes are very bad this year. I've practised an hour this morning.
Wed. May 19th
Had quite a big thunder storm this morning, and it is pouring down now. Looks like an all day drizzle.
Mrs. Kephart brought back our bird last night. Daisy went down to Platt's last eve.
Aunt Ella is reading one of Miss Mulock's ... novels "The Head of the Family" aloud evenings for Grandma's benefit. I think it is kind of a love-sick book, but there are many good things in it which rather make up for that; I have written to Martha to have her tell me about it. Daisy says Miss Mulock never writes trash anyway. I think parts of this is trashy. Here is a quotation from it which is splendid: "When two paths of duty bewilder thee, and thou knowest not which it is right to follow, choose the one which to thyself is the fullest one therein."
* * *
I've just got back from taking Aunt Julia down town, and have just had a nice long talk with my dear old friend Mate Reiter. It is the first time I have seen her for a year. She goes back to Fulton tomorrow, says she had much rather stay here. She hasn't changed a bit. I guess Et, Jude, and I will go down to her Grandmother's and see her this evening and then our glorious old P. C. will be together once more. Mate is coming back "Young Settler's Day," which will be next August and will stay two or three weeks.
Today is the "Odd Fellows Picnic," but I guess there will not be much of a crowd as it is so wet. It has stopped raining but must be very wet down in the grove. Jude and Daisy have ridden down town to see the crowd. I don't think they'll see much, for when I was down town there were fewer people than ever.
* * *
It's night and I'm going to bed soon. Spent a very pleasant evening at Mate's: George, Et, Jude, and I. And Miss Eply and Ella Platt called in while we were there to say good bye.
This after noon didn't do much but ride around. I took Aunt Ella and Ma riding. Aunt E. was so afraid of the band that her ride was short. We were riding along quietly when suddenly she grew almost frantic, grabbed my arm, and begged me to turn around quick, the band was coming and Charlie would be frightened. I told her that Charlie was used to it, but she was so afraid that Charlie would be afraid that she begged me to drive fast, something she never did before, I guess. I pulled Charlie out of the road to pass a team. He started and went up the hill so fast it raised me up on my feet to hold him. Aunt E. didn't seem to mind that at all, she was so afraid he would see the band.
Fleas bite and I must go to bed.
Sun. May 23rd '80
I went to Sunday school. The lesson was glorious. Subject—"The Marriage Fruit—" and Mrs. Reiber is a jewel of a teacher.
It [is] pretty hot to day and I think we will have a thunder storm before long.
Got our hats and other things from Cincinnati yesterday. I like them very much.
Mr. Marquissee, our Sunday school superintendant, reminds me of "Mr. Pecksniff" in "Martin Chuzzlewit."
* * *
Mon. May 24th 80
It's very warm to day. Didn't have the storm expected last night.
Bob Dougherty came up in the after noon and stayed to tea. In the evening, Daisy, Jude, Bob, Ma, Aunt Ella, and Grandma Garrow went to church. Grandma Graham and I kept home. I read "The Head of the Family" aloud to her till Pa came home, then finished the book to myself.
We commenced cleaning house to day though we will not clean very extensively as we moved in so late in the fall. I took all the tacks out of the dining room carpet this morning and Ma and I washed the wood work this after noon.
I was scrubbing away at the folding doors when Daisy called me. I was getting interested in my work and said something cross under my breath at being interrupted, but when she told me there was a letter from "Sister," it more than made up for the interruption. She answered all my questions about "Miss Mulock." She says "Miss Mulock is very much admired and ranks high among the novelists of the day." I asked her how to tell a "trashy" novel. She says "If the characters are natural, the thoughts pure and ennobling, and the tone of the book good and healthy, you may always know that it is not trash, even if there is a good-deal of lovemaking in it." She has not got "Macaulay" yet, and I'm about eighty pages ahead.
Cousin Bob has promised to come up and ride horse-back with me some day. I was so glad to get a letter from "Sister" that when I got to my work again I jumped upon the stand to wash the top of the door, caught my dress on the inkstand, pulled it down, and spilt the ink all over the floor, and then got meekly down on my knees and wiped it up. Luckily, there was no carpet down or there would have been a pretty mess. Ma's dreadfully good about such things and didn't scold.
Sun May 30th
As I am up here scribbling and got stuck, I thought I would write in my journal for a change. I wrote a letter to Martha Thursday and Daisy got one from her yesterday. She says she is getting aged and grey associating with old folks so much.
Friday had a school picnic down to the grove. It was a lovely day and we had a better time than I expected to. There was a splendid big swing down there. We girls—Allie, Fanny, Et, May, and I—ate our dinner on a seperate table from the little children and Q. M. came and ate with us. My cake was splendid.
It is rainy and disagreeable to day. Friday, Neppa [the cat] got into my room and ate my dear little canary. At least I suppose he ate it, for the cage was tipped over and the bird gone when I went into the room, though Neppa was no where to be seen. We hoped that the bird had escaped through the window and set the cage out on the roof in hopes that it would come back, but he hasn't yet.
Here is something good:
"We may glean knowledge by reading, but the chaff must be separated from the wheat by thinking. Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much—wisdom is humble that she knows no more."
Tues. June 1st 1880
This has been such a nice day, and I have enjoyed it so much. I don't know why I should have enjoyed today any more than other days but I have.
Pa and the hired man went to Niles today, and as I am generally "The Man of the Family" when they are both gone he left the horses and things in my care, and I always like that more than most anything. So I watered the horses first thing. Then Daisy gave me a music lesson. Then Et came up for a few minutes and I lent her "Martin Chuzzlewit" as she wanted something to read as she most always does, and I like to have her read Dickens.
Then Daisy and I played about two hours, reading new duets and such things. Then we all turned out and picked strawberries. They were immense. It was fun to pick them, for it didn't take many to make a quart.
Ralph went down in the country to pick berries this morning and got back this noon. I thought he wouldn't stay long—he hasn't much "stickto-it-iveness." I got a handful of big strawberries and went out to the barn and divied with him and we traded knives, marbles, and most everything under the sun. Then we fed and watered the horses and I bathed Peg's eyes and teased the Tudor children.
After dinner we (Jude, Daisy and I) hitched up and went to look at the sheep as Pa directed me to. Got there and couldn't find the sheep anywhere. So we all got out and hunted through the woods. I believe I enjoyed this more than anything, but the others didn't. Daisy was so afraid she'd see a snake that she couldn't enjoy herself a bit and would get on top of stumps and beg us to go back. Jude was afraid too, but did-n' t act like Daisy. I'm afraid of snakes when I see them, but I didn't see the use of being afraid when I don't see them.
Well, we hunted and hunted but couldn't find no sheep. There was fresh tracks everywhere but no animals, so we went back and I made up my mind to go home and get Ralph and come back horseback. So we drove towards home. When we got to the gate there were all the sheep. I was rather disappointed, for I wanted to hunt them some more and had been kind of looking forward to a horseback ride. So we came home.
I picked another quart of strawberries and took them over to Mrs. Ewalt, then I read awhile. Cut some clover for Peg. Pa brought an immense snapping turtle home. Went riding in the evening.
I nearly forgot the best thing of all. My little bird is not lost after all but is down to Aunt Hattie's. If the cat did tip the cage over, the bird must have got out of the window. He went down to Aunt Hattie's and flew on her bird cage and she caught it and I am so glad.
Excerpted from Adeline and Julia by Janet L. Coryell, Robert C. Myers. Copyright © 2000 Berrien County Historical Association. Excerpted by permission of Michigan State University Press.
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