Mary Helson and Irvin Folsom Diaries, 1867-1914

Collection number: MC 346
Size: (1 box) (0.15 cu.ft.)

About Mary Helson and Irvin Folsom

Mary Elizabeth Helson (24 Sep. 1845-27 Nov. 1896) was the daughter of George Helson (1812, England – ca. 1881, Raymond NH) and Sarah N. Hoyt (1810-after March 1885). Irvin Folsom (1841-1917) was the son of Gilman Folsom (1805-1882) and Betsey Norris (1805-?). They were married in 1865 in Epping N.H.; their three children were Maud Eliza (1867-1942), Nellie Allen (1870-after 1910), and Frank (1876-1976). The family owned a small farm in Raymond, N.H. They made their living growing, saving, and selling seed as well as produce and some meat. Mary’s parents lived with them into the 1880s and appear frequently in her diaries, as do various neighbors.

About the Diaries

Mary’s diaries are dated 1876, 1877, 1881, 1882, and 1884-1885. Irvin’s are from 1867 and 1914. While Mary’s writing focuses mostly on the day to day family and household sphere, Irvin records planting records and weather in great detail. He also writes about a trip west as far as the Rio Grande taken in October 1867.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

This collection is open.

Copyright Notice

Contents of this collection are governed by U.S. copyright law. For questions about publication or reproduction rights, contact Special Collections staff.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], [Folder Number], Box 1, Mary Helson and Irvin Folsom Diaries, 1867-1914, MC 346, Milne Special Collections and Archives, University of New Hampshire Library, Durham, NH, USA.

Acquisitions Information

Purchase from Carmen Valentino, 2018 (#2018.08)

Separated Material

No materials were separated during processing, but the consistent writing style suggests that other diaries existed at one time.

Collection Arrangement

Arrangement is chronological by writer.

Collection Contents

Box 1
Box 1, Folder 1Mary (Helson) Folsom, 1876, 1877, 1881

Mary’s 1876 diary records the New Year’s Day high temperature as 88 degrees. She describes farm and home life in detail, including a great deal of sewing, washing, planting, harvesting, and quilting. Her parents live with the family, as does a helper named Harriet. She frequently writes to Irvin, who is away on business but visits for a day every couple of weeks. On one of these occasions, he “made out the family record to send to Kingston” and went to Exeter to testify in court in the “J.F. Gore Case” the next day. In March she notes that town meeting began one day and ended the next. The 1877 diary is much the same, with the exception of a lovely maple leaf drawn in the back flyleaf and two German stamps tucked into the pocket. Her son Frank is born on August 6 at 11:30 AM.

Her 1881 diary continues frequent mentions of trips to “the centre” (that is, Raymond town center). Peaches and strawberries are harvested and sold. In the back of the diary are pages with headings “Flour Account”, “K-Oil [probably kerosene] Account”, and “Sugar Account”. Her parents are starting to be sick more, and her father is not mentioned after this year.

Box 1, Folder 2Mary (Helson) Folsom, 1882, 1884-1885

In 1882, entries are much the same with the exception of her mother’s more frequent sick days. The first asparagus and rhubarb are harvested on May 14, and Irvin is living and working at home now. Recipes for candy and medicines are included in the back.

The 1884 diary spills over into April of 1885. Farm work, washing, visitors, quilting bees, picking and washing beet seed, and the like predominate.

Box 1, Folder 3Irvin Folsom, 1867, 1914

Irvin’s diaries are less consistent and more focused on the weather and planting records. The 1867 volume records in detail a trip he took west by train as far as the Rio Grande, though it is not clear why he made the trip other than to pack seed and hunt deer. His 1914 diary is mostly an exceedingly detailed account of the weather for the year in Raymond N.H. No mentions are made of his wife (Mary died in 1896) or children in either book.