Guide to the New Hampshire Diary Collection, 1856-1951

Collection number: MC 311
Size: (3 boxes) (1 cu.ft.)

About the Writers of the New Hampshire Diary Collection, 1856-1951

The writers represented in this collection are men and women who lived and worked in New Hampshire during the latter half of the 19th century. All except one diary dates from 1856-1911. The writers were men and women, aged early adulthood through later life, and mostly rural. 2-3 individuals were from larger towns such as Manchester or Salem, while the rest were from farms or rural communities. While most were farmers, a few other trades are represented, such as stone cutting, wagon repair, and teaching.

    Individuals and Towns Represented:

  • Anonymous Woman, near Bradford, 1871
  • Fred Henry James, Boscawen, 1890-1892
  • C.H.W. Carter, Bow Mills, 1898-1900
  • Byron Swett, Deerfield, 1905-1907
  • Tyrell Family, Derry, 1910-1911
  • Anonymous Male Stone Cutter, Franklin, 1883-1887
  • Joseph Brown Russel, Langdon, 1888
  • Mary H. Thayer, Manchester, 1856
  • John Edward Baker, Manchester, 1868-1898
  • Nettie Davis Holmes, New London, 1902
  • James Hersey Butler, Nottingham, 1856-1857
  • Nelly Stanley, probably Salem, 1868-1898
  • Ivory Stevens Loud, Sanbornville, 1900
  • Elizabeth M. "Lizzie" Angell Lear, Sunapee, 1882
  • Lear Family, Sunapee, 1864-1951
  • Addie A. Rand, Warner, 1872-1875
  • Lindley H. Osborne, North Weare, 1879-1890
  • Charles H. Osborne, North Weare, 1879-1899

About the New Hampshire Diaries Collection, 1856-1951

The diaries cover a broad cross section of the state, mostly focusing on farming, agricultural cycles, weather, family life, and social life and customs. Several individuals mention specific details of weather, crop varieties, lumbering and stone cutting trades, and trades of goods and services. Nearly every volume is rich with genealogical information of the family and surrounding townspeople. For more detail, see specific folders described below.

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 number], New Hampshire Diaries Collection, 1856-1951, MC 311, Milne Special Collections and Archives, University of New Hampshire Library, Durham, NH, USA.

Acquisitions Information

Series of Purchases from Carmen Valentino Rare Books, ca. 2000-2017.

Collection Arrangement

Arrangement is alphabetical by town where the writer lived or is presumed to have lived.

Collection Contents

Box 1
Folder 1Anonymous Woman's Diary, near Bradford, 1871

The woman appears young, and does not yet have children (or they are not mentioned as such). Frequent mentions are made of John, who appears to be a husband or brother. Two aunts are named – Sally, and Mary from Bradford. The author appears to live between Concord and Bradford and frequently travels to both. At least once she went as far as Newport, NH for a ball. Farm labor is mentioned little or not at all.

The dairy primarily mentions the comings and goings of its author and her friends, most of whom are named (e.g. John Mugridge, Frank Fuller, Mollie Whicher, Maggie Canelle (or possibly Carnell), Frank Saffon and his wife Ellen). Frequently the author accompanies John as they drive various friends back and forth from home or from the depot or post office. The back of the diary contains an itemized list of purchases and income/expenditures for the year, which suggest that the author was an accomplished seamstress.

Folder 2Fred Henry James Diaries, Boscawen, 1890-1892

Fred Henry James (7 March 1868-26 November 1939) was a prominent businessman and town politician in Boscawen, NH. Beginning in 1901 he was the postmaster, part owner of James and Wheeler’s General Store, and proprietor of a lumbering business, in addition to side work as a publisher and school superintendent. He was born in Lena Illinois and moved to Boscawen at the age of six, later marrying Sylvia Marsha Fairbanks (1899-1952) in 1927.

James’ diaries cover the years 1890, 1891, and 1892. Topics include: Dancing school, fishing, trapping, hunting, carting goods, lumber, names of townspeople, their activities and travels, weather and temperature, purchases, financial ledger listing names and goods, and numerous local events such as dramas, hangings, and ‘meeting’ (church services). Entries are daily or nearly so for a full three years, and are obviously only three years out of the many that James kept his diaries.

Folder 3C.H.W. Carter, Bow Mills, 1898-1900

The flyleaf of both diaries reads “C.H.W. Carter, Bow Mills, NH”. No information matching that description could be found in the census or town directories. Carter was evidently a man who lived in the current town of Bow. It is unclear if his family lives with him.

Shaky handwriting, often hard to read. Nearly daily entries for three years detailing weather, goods purchased (e.g. milk and eggs), letters written, local travels and merchants/townspeople with whom Carter interacted, and noteworthy events in his immediate world.

Folder 4Byron Swett, Deerfield, 1905-1907

The diary is notated “B. Swett, Deerfield, NH 1905”. Byron Swett was born in New Hampshire in 1853-1854, and died in Deerfield (at that point Rockingham County) in 1926. He married Elizabeth Mary Whittier (1957-1929) in 1878, and the couple had at least three children (Nella, Mary, and Walter). The family ran a dairy farm in Deerfield around the turn of the 20th century.

Nearly daily entries for 1905 chronicle milking, selling dairy products and buying livestock, planting and harvesting, townspeople, the weather, and the frequent visits by Doctor Towle (evidently B. Swett was not in good health at the time). Frequently mentioned are his daughter Nella and the hired hand Edd Mack. Pages at the end of the diary list boarders taken in for 1905-1907, itemized cash income and expenditures, and miscellaneous other information.

Folder 5Tyrell Family Diaries, Derry, 1910-1911

Alfred H. Tyrrell was born December 5 1848 in Worchester MA and died March 10 1915 in Derry NH. He married Ella Frances Prouty (1853-1937) at Worchester, and was living and farming in Derry NH by the time their second daughter Mattie R. (August 1892-19XX). Mattie married Harold N. Griffin (1890-1965) in December of 1912 and moved to Hudson NH. where she lived at least until 1965. The Tyrrell family farm seems to have been typical family homestead with a few horses, cows, and a cash crop of several hundred chickens sold for the eggs and meat.

Alfred’s diary spans March 14 1910-December 31 1910. His entries document the weather, farm chores, local deaths and fires, goods bought and sold, and loan payments made on the purchase of the farm. Farm operations are described in detail: plantings, animal husbandry, struggles to procure equipment and fertilizer, and the school schedules of his daughters. Three entries in the (otherwise blank) month of February were written by Mattie and document the death and burials of sister Mabel (Tyrrell) Clark in 1965 and mother Ella Tyrrell in 1937.

Mattie’s diary spans January 1 1910 - December 31 1911, one volume for each year. Her daily entries chronicle the precise temperature at 7AM and 9 PM every day, as well as the weather, Halley's Comet (“got up in the night and saw the Comet” May 6 1910), what she did that day, where her family members went, and the turning of the seasons. She describes her handiwork in detail, doubtless being produced for her future wedding.

Folder 6Anonymous Stone Cutter, Franklin, 1883-1887

The author lived and worked in Franklin, NH. The identity of the diary’s author is not given in the remaining coverless book block, but from extensive research, one possibility is stone cutter John C. Simonds (born 1859 Boston, died 1927 Winchendon MA). The diary mentions brothers named Alfred and Newton, as well as documenting the courting of a woman named May (possible initials M.E.H.) who lives at ‘the Falls’, part of present-day Franklin. The author is not local to Franklin.

The diary covers January 1st 1883 through June 7 1887, during which the author worked for Peter Dana (stone cutter) at the Franklin NH quarries owned by Trussell and Quinby of Concord NH. The pay was $20 per month. Travels to Laconia and Concord are noted, as well as extensive daily courting of a woman named May. The author is a rising member of the Odd Fellows’ Merrimack Lodge at Franklin. There are brief named mentions of town residents and town functions such as dances and socials. The middle several leaves of the diary contain detailed plans for various carved granite building components.

Box 2
Folder 1Joseph Brown Russel, Langdon, 1888

Joseph Brown Russel (2 February 1822-16 February 1895) was a farmer from Langdon, Sullivan County, NH. He died of influenza at the age of 73 years 14 days. He was married at the time of his death, but information regarding his family is elusive. The names Dean and Ira are frequently mentioned; it’s possible these are sons. His wife may have been named Saphronia.

The diary covers the year 1888 with daily entries detailing the weather, work performed, travel, local events (“W. A. Birdwell barn fell” – 15 Jan. 1888), local funerals, and work around the farm. “Choreing”, “drawed logs”, and shoveling roads are common entries. In the spring of 1888 he had 90 sheep, 5 steers, pigs, chickens, and a team of oxen which generated income for the farm when they were loaned to neighbors. He also boarded farm laborers and their horses. Income and expenses are interspersed within the entries, especially trips to a blacksmith named Mr. Beckwith. Towards fall the farm’s major cash crop was apples, sold in neighboring towns in quantities of 70-80 bushels at a time.

Folder 2Mary Hutchinson Thayer, Manchester, 1856

Mary Hutchinson was born in Francistown or Lyndeborough NH in 1822, and died in Manchester on May 20th 1900. She married George W. Thayer of Boston (1822-1882) on the 28th December 1843 at Francistown NH. Their children were Charles H., George W. A., Emma, and Mary Ella. The family was living in Manchester by 1856.

The flyleaf of the tiny diary reads “Mary H. Thayer, Manchester, NH”. Entries record purchases of household goods such as fabric, eggs, milk, and drygoods, as well as monies paid and earned for housekeeping. The comings and goings of family and friends are frequently mentioned, especially those of her husband George who makes frequent trips to Boston.

Folder 3John Edward Baker, Manchester, 1891-1894

John Edward Baker (18 February 1874-1933) was the son of carpenter George Washington Baker and Sarah M. Martin of Manchester, NH. At the time of the diary’s writing he was a high school student.

The diary covers the period of January 1st 1891 through January 1894. Baker discusses his father’s work as a carpenter, family life, local travel, politics, and his studies (e.g. lyceum, debating, and lectures). The diary ends partway through a description of a trip to the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. The writing is more detailed than many contemporary accounts, giving a greater glimpse into the thoughts and motivations of the author.

Folder 4Nettie Davis Holmes, New London, 1902

: Nettie Davis Holmes (July 1867-19 Aug. 1913) was born and lived in New London, NH. She married carpenter Arthur Walter Holmes (1864-1946) in 1894. They had four children, two of whom (Shirley b. 1898 and Marjorie b. 1900) are often mentioned in the diary as ‘the babies’.

The diary paints a rich picture of daily life in rural New Hampshire at the turn of the 20th century. Most entries consist of the details of farming, visiting, waiting for the mail, quilting, washing, and other domestic chores.

Folder 5James Hersey Butler, Nottingham, 1856-1857

James Hersey Butler (September 27 1811-1893) was born and lived in Nottingham, NH. At the time of this diary he was married to his second wife, Harriet A. Amsden (1926-1899). He made his living as a lumber inspector and salesman. He was also active in the NH Agricultural Society, the NH Democratic Party, local banks, and was appointed judge of the court of common pleas.

The diary covers the period between January 1 1856 and 11 January 1857. In addition to the weather, each day briefly records his travels and with whom he met or stayed. Common destinations include Concord, Portsmouth (taking orders for shipbuilding lumber), Exeter, ‘Contookokville’ or Contoocook, and occasionally Maine and Boston. Given that he traveled by train, horse, carriage, and by foot, the amount of miles he covered each day is impressive. He was also involved extensively in the NH Democratic Party, attending a Convention (Feb. 1856), Caucus (March 1856), a series of Town Meetings in March and April, and other prominent political events. He barely mentions his family, except to say that he and his wife attended a ball given at Exeter in January.

Folder 6Nellie Stanley, possibly Salem, 1868-1898

The flyleaf of the diary contains a very faint inscription which possibly reads “Nellie Stanley” and contains several other words too faint to read. The identity of the author is not certain.

This diary seems to have been kept only in summers between 1868 and 1898, when the young author traveled extensively throughout New England during the summer months. She describes taking trains, steamships, stagecoaches, and walking to reach such destinations as Franconia Notch NH (1868), Gorham ME (1882), Bar Harbor and Winter Harbor ME (1898), and Prospect Harbor ME (1898). The insides of the back and front covers of the diary contain names and towns of about 15 individuals named Stanley, and references to a historical land grant – these appear to have been genealogical notes.

Folder 7Ivory Stevens Loud, Sanbornville, 1900

Ivory Stevens Loud (7 February 1842 Newfield ME - 8 December 1900 Wakefield NH) was a lumber dealer, train station agent, postmaster, six time Wakefield-Sanbornville selectman, and businessman. He married Ella M Davis (1844-1885) in the mid 1860s, and after her death remarried Amanda L. Waldron (1853-1906) in 1887. Several children were born within each marriage.

The diary covers the final year of Loud’s life, January 1st to December 1st. It mainly concerns his lumber dealings, the weather, and local politics and deaths. It is likely that Loud worked as a foreman for the large Sanbornville lumber operation Sanborn and Willey, as he mentions upwards of 80 horses pulling lumber into the yard in one day. Different foreman and teamsters are mentioned almost daily: Morris, Fowler, Cotton, and others. He mentions travels to local towns such as Wolfboro, and notes that he was elected selectman for the sixth time in a row on March 13 1900. The diary is not signed.

Folder 8Elizabeth M. “Lizzie” (Angell) Lear, Sunapee, 1882

Elizabeth M “Lizzie” Angell was born near Sunapee in 1853 and died there March 29th 1895. She married George Edwin “Ed” Lear (1849-1933) on November 2 1881, about two months before the diary started. Her husband was also local to Sunapee and made his living in a home shop as a shingle maker.

Daily entries cover the entire year. The usual cycles are present – meeting on Sunday, washing on Monday – but there are also extensive records of visiting with family and friends. Activities include knitting, quilting, rug braiding, spinning, sewing, singing, dancing, and planting. A brief cash expenditure list in the back of the diary lists the price of her sewing machine as $28.00.

See also: MC 311, Box 3 Folders 1-2: Lear Family, Sunapee, 1864-1951

Box 2
Folder 1-2Lear Family, Sunapee, 1864-1951

George Edwin Lear was born in May 1849 in New Hampshire, and married Elizabeth M. Angell (1853-1895) in Sunapee in 1881. The date of his death is unknown. Their son Charles Edwin Lear was born in Sunapee on May 7 1894 and lived there until his death in 1971.

This collection consists of four diaries kept by George Edward Lear for the years 1864, 1865, 1868, and 1877, and two diaries written by Charles Edward Lear for the years 1928 and 1951.

The four diaries of George Edward Lear contain nearly daily brief entries (often 8 words or fewer) detailing the weather, work on his own farm, and work performed for others as a farm laborer. Detailed cash accounts are at the back of each volume. The two diaries of his son Charles are slightly more detailed but also focus on the farm life and visits with neighbors, livestock purchases, plantings and harvestings, and related activities.

See also: MC 311, Box 2 Folder 8, Elizabeth M. “Lizzie” (Angell) Lear, Sunapee, 1882

Folder 3Addie A. Rand, Warner, 1872-1875

Addie A. Rand (b. 6 August 1857, d. 18 April 1952) was born in Warner, NH. She married lumber dealer Austin Herbert Chaney (1855-1900) at Warner on November 24 1881.

The diaries cover two separate years, 1872 and 1895, during which time Addie lived at home with her parents in Warner. Her entries note weather in general terms, as well as housework, baking (often 15-25 pies in one day), sewing, quilting, letters, and school (“New teacher today. I don’t think I shall like her.”). She also noted dances, oyster dinners, and singing parties she attended with her friends. The second diary concludes with the death of her brother Freddie.

Folder 4Lindley H. Osborne, North Weare, 1879-1890

Lindley H. Osborne (December 22 1833-May 2 1920) was a farmer who was born and lived and North Weare, NH. He and his family were members of Weare Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). He married Lucy P. Thorndike of Weare (1835-1919) in 1863. Their sons were Charles H., Henry T., and Alfred. Osborne was an educated individual who served on the board of (and perhaps attended) the Hopkinton Academy.

The book is half commonplace book and half diary – extensive clippings and quotations are glued in and copied onto specific days. They are mostly to do with farming, building, weather, the price of goods, and moral tracts. Some quotations are from Scripture or from Quaker leader George Fox. There are also land surveys and descriptions of local features. Osborne evidentially traveled within New England, and mentions being at Amesbury MA and the 1882 New England Yearly Meeting (Rhode Island). His farming records are quite detailed, down to the specific varieties of pears grafted and apples harvested.

Folder 5-6Charles H. Osborne, North Weare, 1873-1899

Charles H. Osborne (September 29 1865 – 27 December 1923 Weare, NH) was the son of farmer Lindley H. Osborne, (1833-1920). The family were members of Weare Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). Charles attended Haverford College in Haverford, Pennsylvania, graduating as a teacher in 1893 at the beginning of the diaries. He eventually moved back to East Weare and lived the rest of his life there.

The diaries span the years 1893-1899 in six volumes, with 1896 missing. They chronicle Osborne’s graduation from Haverford College, subsequent teaching appointment at Wilmington College (Ohio) in 1894, and struggles to find a full time teaching job from 1895 through 1899. He was very educated, and regularly attended YMCA, Temperance League, and lectures in his spare time. Sports are frequently mentioned, but not music. Wilmington Yearly Meeting, Philidelphia Yearly Meeting, and New England Yearly Meeting are mentioned.

After finishing his teaching job at Wilmington College, Osborne moved home to the family farm in Weare NH. Diaries from this time depict visits to family and friends, funerals, farm life, and making a living producing maple syrup, surveying land, and fixing wagons and sleighs. By the end of the century he is teaching a small one room school with six students at Sugar Hill (part of Weare).