“Why cant I immortalize my name before morning?”: The Diaries of James Thomas Robinson

By Susan Martin, Processing Archivist & EAD Coordinator

On February 20 1933, the U.S. Congress proposed the 21st Amendment to repeal Prohibition. I’d like to take advantage of this auspicious day to introduce you to one of the most entertaining collections here at the MHS.

It’s not often that I laugh out loud at a collection, but I
found myself doing just that when I cataloged the diaries of James
Thomas Robinson
of North Adams, Mass. To give you a taste—and to commemorate
this 86th anniversary of the end of Prohibition—here’s what young Robinson
wrote on the night of 16 May 1844:

I am in the old store with Quin[1], drunk! He is drunk also and trying to scribble in his journal. The fact is “old Quin” has got a cask of damn good brandy here, and we have been drawing on it, sucking it from the bung, through a spike stem. This would look like having a strong desire for liquor, but the fact is I wanted to see how it would feel to be drunk. I never was really cocked before, since I can remember. How curious I feel! My head swims, my body feels warm, I am top heavy. Quin is dashing away like a steam boat, though he dont know what in hell he is writing. […] Drunk! Drunk! Why in hell cant I be a Byron, or more! Why cant I immortalize my name before morning? I dont think much of this heavy drunk after all that is said about it. I dont think tis very pleasant, this allmighty dizzyness. I cant seem to write. S**t.

handwritten page of diary showing entry for Thursday, May 16
James Thomas Robinson’s diary, 16 May 1844

His handwriting is almost illegible by the end of the entry.
I’m calling it “drunk-journaling.” The following morning, in neater
handwriting, Robinson wrote:

It seems that I was drunk last night, from the preceeding page. Well I suppose it must be so, though I have no very distinct recollection of it, and now, on reflection, I cant say I am very proud of it, either as an instance of romance, or a circumstance of pleasure. No, on the whole I think it was a foolish freak, extreemely foolish, in this day of light and truth, and I dont think I shall cut such a caper again. To-day, as was to be expected, I’ve feel dull and spiritless. Slept on the chairs, eyes heavy and red, appetite gone.

handwritten page of diary showing entry for Friday, May 17
James Thomas Robinson’s diary, 17 May 1844

I’ve been wanting to blog about this collection for some
time, but it’s hard to know where to start. Robinson was both a good writer and
an interesting guy, so his diaries are chock full of terrific content and cover
a wide range of subjects. When he had his “foolish freak” above, he was a
21-year-old student at Williams College and a great sower of wild oats. He
described a number of salacious peccadillos and sexual experiences, and some scenes
played out like slapstick comedy—in one close call, Robinson had to hide under a
woman’s bed to escape detection.

Robinson was sometimes infatuated, jealous, melodramatic, alternately
thoughtless and empathetic, manipulative and manipulated—in other words, fairly
typical! In fact, there’s something very modern and “unplugged” about his
diaries that makes them distinctive. Equally fascinating are later entries,
which contain some introspection and reflections on himself as a younger man.

What else is there, you ask? There’s family drama (he hated
his stepmother and resented his half-brother), local gossip (his cousin Harriet
was jilted by Henry L. Dawes, later a U.S. congressman), a political awakening
(Robinson became a member of the anti-slavery Free Soil Party), and eventual
maturity (he developed a close friendship and great admiration for his
sister-in-law, poet Caroline Atherton Mason).

In his diaries, Robinson is often likeable, or at least relatable,
and at other times irritating and hypocritical. For all his genuine pity for
Harriet’s heartbreak, his own treatment of women leaves a lot to be desired.
Case in point: poor Lucy, a young woman who apparently worked for the family
and with whom Robinson had a fling. The power dynamic worked in his favor, and while
for him the relationship was casual, she felt differently. He eventually
realized this and regretted his insensitivity.

One more thing makes discussing this collection a challenge:
it’s difficult to find a family-friendly passage to quote! Robinson liked his
language a little blue, and his free use of four-letter words is also unusual in
19th-century material. Personally I find his conversational style

The five diaries of James
Thomas Robinson
date from 1842 to 1853, with gaps. Robinson graduated from
Williams College in 1844 and worked as a lawyer in North Adams, like his
father. He served in several public positions, including Massachusetts state
senator and judge of probate and insolvency for Berkshire County, and co-owned
and wrote for the local paper. He and his wife Clara (Briggs) Robinson had
three sons. He died in 1894 at the age of 72.

[1]My best guess is that “Quin” was Josiah Quincy Robinson, Robinson’s first cousin once removed. He was a few months older than Robinson.

Brief Sketches from Danvers Alms House in the 1850s

By Brendan Kieran, Library Assistant

In The Poorhouse: America’s Forgotten Institution (Rowman and Littlefield Publishers,
2005), David Wagner writes that before the 20th century, when large-scale
federal programs such as Social Security and Medicare were introduced,
government social welfare efforts were largely local, and poorhouses, also
called almshouses, were institutions that served many people (3-7).

The MHS holds a register of
paupers at Danvers Alms House (Peabody, Mass.)
, which records
the people who were in the institution between 1841 and 1859. Adino Page, the
superintendent at the almshouse between 1850 and 1859, was mostly responsible
for the entries in the register. As noted in the catalog record, the entries in
the register list names, residences, entrance and departure dates, ages, and
other information about them and their stays in the almshouse. The volume
provides a glimpse into a 19th century Massachusetts almshouse, and documents
the diversity of people admitted to the institution, the varying reasons for
admission, and the experiences of those individuals.

One individual documented in the register is a 32 year-old man from Virginia named George Vannen. He entered the almshouse on March 11, 1858, and left two days later. Page lists Lowell as Vannen’s destination, and guesses that Vannen had escaped from slavery.

detail of register page with handwritten notes
Notes in entry for George Vannen

Luis Paul, age 20, and Mary Paul,
age 19, both of Maine, entered the almshouse on 6 June 1852 and left the
following day. Page notes that they are “Indians of the Penobscot Tribe.”

page from register showing columns of handwritten notes
Entries for Luis Paul and Mary Paul

Page’s opinions of the people
under his care come through in a number of entries. An example is the entry
noting the 2 July 1856 admittance of Mary Skinner of Lynnfield. Page notes that
Skinner was engaged in prostitution [one of multiple women in the register with
such a note], and follows this with “but good natured.” He does not extend
similar remarks to Elisabeth Fuller of Danvers, who was in the almshouse
between 1 January 1855 and 6 August 1855; he writes that she “is a bad

Page from register of paupers at Danvers Alms House listing people who were there as of 1 January 1854

Page includes comments on a
number of entries to note physical and intellectual disabilities as well as
mental illnesses, using the language of his time. Most of the people with
listed mental illnesses are women. 40 year-old Eben Smith and 36 year-old Marth
M. Grant are two individuals who were in the almshouse as of 1 January 1854 and
were noted as “Insane” by Page.

In one entry, for 49 year-old Lydia Smith, Page describes at least a perception of gender nonconformity. He writes that Smith “is neither male nor female.”

detail of register page with handwritten notes
Entry for Lydia Smith

One particularly tragic entry describes the death of Dean Carty, a 28 year-old Irish immigrant (one of many Irish immigrants listed in the register) who entered the almshouse on April 6, 1850, and died three days later. Page writes that “he became delirious, leaped from the window, 2nd story, he lived about 20 [minutes] after being taken up.”

detail of register page with handwritten note about Dean Carty
Notes in entry for Dean Carty

An account that does document
longevity tells the story of Joshua Daniels. Page writes a lengthy entry about

            Joshua Daniels, Died [February] 19th, 1850–Mr. Daniels was a native of Great Britain, was a soldier in the British army, served under [General] Burgoyne–was taken prisoner,  by the Americans, in 1777, as he informed. He would not return to the English. [H]e lived  in the towns of Billerica, Beverly, Middleton, and other neighboring towns until about the  year 1807, when he came to Danvers and married a Widow, Putney, who had some  property. Mr. Daniels was first sentenced to the home for intemperance, in 1814, and continued to sentenced [sic] here accordingly, untill [sic] May 17th 1826, he was committed as a pauper, he remained untill Death, at the age of about 104 years.

lower half of register page showing handwritten notes
Description of the life of Joshua Daniels by Adino Page

Wagner writes that “[d]eeply
intertwined with the history of poorhouses . . . is not only the history of
poverty but of old age, sickness, physical and psychological disability,
alcoholism, child welfare, widowhood, single parenthood, treatment of deviance,
unemployment, and economic cycles” (3). This register provides ample
opportunities for investigation of these topics from the perspective of one
Massachusetts almshouse superintendent in the mid-19th century.

The MHS holds some
other records of almshouses that operated in Massachusetts in the 19th century,
including the Boston
Overseers of the Poor records
, the Charlestown
Overseers of the Poor records
, the Overseers
of the poor of Haverhill (Mass.) records
, the Newton
Overseers of the Poor account book
, and the Roxbury
almshouse records
. If you would like to view the Register of
paupers at Danvers Alms House or any of these other almshouse records, please
feel free to visit the MHS library and explore our holdings!

Boston to Bombay*: Historical Connections between Massachusetts and India

by Rakashi Chand, Senior Library Assistant

On Saturday, 2 February 2019, 45 people gathered at the MHS for Boston to Bombay: Historical Connections between Massachusetts and India. This special event focused on the historical connections between Boston and India as illustrated by manuscripts and artifacts in the collection of the MHS. After the Revolution, ships from Boston and Salem sailed for India on a regular basis bringing back not only goods but also ideas, fashion, religion and philosophy. These connections continued through the centuries and remain strong today.

Reception for Boston to Bombay program

Reception for Boston to Bombay program

and India: 18th Century Connections

items on display showcased the interactions between Boston and India in the 18th
century. A bottle of tea leaves collected after the Boston Tea Party
represented the North American role in being forced to fund the British East
Indian Company.

miniatures portraits were on display. One, from 1818, depicts Major General
David Ochterlony, who was born in Boston in 1758. Ochterlony went in India as a
cadet by 1777 and rose quickly in military ranks. He was called the “Conqueror
of Nepal” for his victorious campaigns and given the title “Defender of State”
by Shah Alam. Two others, done in watercolor on ivory, of Emperor Shah Jahan
and Mumtaz Mahal by an unidentified 18th century artist were also on

Joy of Newburyport, Mass. was appointed the first U. S. Counsel to India by
President George Washington. Although the British refused to acknowledge him as
Counsel he remained as an “agent” in India for three years. Visitors were able
to view Joy’s sea chest. It was made in India and accompanied him on his voyage
back to Boston.

Sea Chest belonging to Benjamin Joy

The Ice Trade

most lucrative trade with India was ice. Ships full of ice cut from the ponds
of Massachusetts would sail across the globe to ice houses in Bombay and
Calcutta. Frederic Tudor of Boston, known as “the Ice King,’ became very
wealthy due to the ice trade. Items on display to illustrate the ice trade
included a print of the ice being cut from Spy Pond; a print of the harbor at
Calcutta; a copy of Walden; and a letter from Calvin W. Smith, an agent of the
Tudor Ice House, to his mother in Boston from Bombay.

John Eliot Parkman in India

John Eliot Parkman, brother of historian Francis Parkman, went to India in 1855. He not only marked his travels on a wonderful 1855 map of India, he also wrote about his travels and excitement in letters home. He even painted some of the people he met along the way. Visitors were able to see a travel map and a watercolor painting by Parkman as well as a letter from Parkman to his mother:

Calcutta February 22nd 1855

“My dear Mother,

“…We have been living there now about a fortnight and like it better and better everyday. The house is about 3 minutes from town, almost on the banks of the river, and in the pleasantest place near Calcutta, we have a large garden and a tank in it almost as large as the Frog Pond, and beside these advantages two dogs and a billiard table. there is one drawback however to a new comes in the shape of jackals who drift about to the house every night and gangs above 50 and howl like so many rampant Devils- , it is unnecessary to add that I slept but little the first three nights but I have since got used to them.

Mr Bullard who has just come down from up country is living with us but goes to Paris by the steamer, he has told me such stories about Delhi, Agra and half a dozen other places that I am well-nigh crazed and probably shall remain in that condition till my turns come to travel. (!)

Mr. Lewis has given me $50 a month but you have no idea what an expensive place this is, I was insane enough to think when I was at home that living here was remarkably economical, but I have since learnt better (at my cost of course). I can live in Boston for half the money I am obliged to spend here. Clothes are very cheap but then you have to have so many, that it comes to about as much, if not more than it does in Boston…”

Bostonians Travel to India

Scollay kept a journal while travelling and studying in India from14 November
1811 to 28 October 1812. The journal includes descriptions of his stay in
Calcutta, impressions of the landscape, and most interestingly, Hindi classes
taken at the College of Fort William. Scollay fills the pages of the travel
journal with vocabulary lessons.

The Log of the Bark Hannah Sprague kept by Horatio Stockton Rotch in 1845 is one of the many ships logs in the collections of the MHS.  The log was kept on a trading voyage from Boston to Madras and Calcutta, India. Entries record longitude and latitude, course, winds, and distance traveled and narratives kept at Madras and Calcutta.

Letters from India

A selection of 19th-century letters focused on social justice and the link between Indian and Boston reformers were on display. Raja RomMohan Roy, known as the “Father of the Indian Renaissance,” wrote to William Ward, Jr. of Medford on 5 February 1824. Roy was a social reformer who criticized the Caste System, polygamy, and the treatment of widows. He also advocated for women’s right to inherit property.

In a 24 September 1887 letter to Mrs. Andrews, Pandita Ramabai
indicates that she will stop in Boston on route to Manchester NH, as part of a
national tour. A group of Bostonians formed the American Ramabai Association,
to support the work of Pundita Ramabai as she tried to create a home and school
for child widows in India.

In a letter by K. L. Nulkar to the American Ramabai Association in Boston, he advocates for the rights of the child widows in the care of the home to practice their own religion. He reminds the American benefactors that these schools are secular. Photographs of K. L. Nulkar and his wife and child were displayed alongside the letter.

Letter from K. L. Nulkar to the American Ramabai Association in Boston and photographs of Nulkar and his wife and child

It was a pleasure to welcome so many new visitors to the MHS! If interested in learning more about items related to India in the collection, please contact the Library.

*The use of the name Bombay in the title of the event was derived from historic texts and should be taken in the 19th-century context.

George Hyland’s Diary, February 1919

By Anna Clutterbuck-Cook, Reader Services

Today, we return to the diary of George Hyland. You can read more about this diary series in the January 1919 post. Today, we follow George through a February that was “very fine weather — (for winter),” punctuated by rain and snow that was quick to melt — not like our own February so far! George’s month is punctuated by running errands in North Scituate, regular visits to his uncle Samuel (with milk for Ellen and chocolate candies for “little Elizabeth”), and chopping wood. He also hitches a ride on the back of an “auto truck” and buys a new pair of rubber boots with felt leggings which he pronounces to be “good ones.”

As readers have probably already noticed,
George is a keen and regular observer of the weather. In February he notes the
appearance of northern lights and also identifies planets and constellations he
sees in the clear night skies. This habit, along with his mention both in
January and February of “boxing the compass” — a mariner’s exercise —
has made me wonder whether he had been at sea in his younger years, or if not
learned to record the weather from a relative who was a mariner.

Without further ado, join George on his daily
rounds during February 1919.

* * *

322 (cont’d)

Feb 1. Cut wood in swamp 5 1/2 hours. Cold and
very windy W.N.W. temp. 16-40. In eve went to N. Scituate — walked down and
back (5 miles). Bought some groceries at Mrs. Seavern’s store, also some choc.
candy for little Elizabeth. A little warmer in eve. tem. 26 bought some milk at
Mrs. Merritt’s.

2d. (Sun.) Clear; very windy; tem. 18-42;
W.N.W. Got some wood in swamp. Fine weather for season. Paul Briggs spent eve.

3d. Cut wood (in swamp) 5 1/4 hours. Cold.
Windy. Clear. tem. 17-42; W.N.W. Fine weather for season. Bought some milk at
Mrs. Merritt’s early in eve. Fine eve. Wind very light. Clear. Mrs. Cora Vinal
at Mrs. Merritt’s — will stay a week.

4th. Cut wood in Swamp 5 1/2 hours. Fair.
W.S.W.S.E. tem. 36-45. In eve went to N. Scituate, bought some groceries at
Mrs. Seavern’s store — also some choc. candy for Elizabeth – 3 cts. Light rain
in eve. Walked to N.S. and back. Boxed compass 4 times forwards and backwards
while going to N.S. — N. to right back to N. then to left back to N., then
same by E., S., and W.

5th. Cut wood in Swamp 5 hours. Fine weather,
cloudy, A.M. 10 A.M. clear; W.N.W. tem 20-42. Early in eve. Went to N.Scituate
bought some bread, also bought some choc. Candy for Elizabeth – 2 cts. Eve.
clear. Cold. — but fine for season. Bought some milk at Mrs. Merritt’s.

6th. Cut wood 5 1/2 hours. Very fine weather
— for winter. Clear; W.N.W. tem. 16-36. Eve. clear; tem. 24. Went to N.
Scituate early in eve. — walked down and back. Stores all closed when I
arrived there. Bought some milk at Mrs. Merritt’s, then went to Hwd.
Litchfield’s and bought some bread.

7th. Cut wood 5 1/2 hours. Fine weather,
clear; tem. 20-38; W.N.W. Called at S.E. Hyland in eve. Bought 2 loaves of
bread at H. Litchfield’s and some milk at Mrs. Merritt’s, called at Uncle
Samuel’s and got some milk for Ellen at Mrs. M’s. Fine eve. Planets and stars
bright. Venus in W., Jupiter, Sirius Canis Major and Proceon [sic] (Canis
Minor) make an obtuse triangle near Orion.


8th. Cut wood in Swamp 5 1/2 hours. Fine
weather, clear, tem. 25-39. W.W. and S.E. par. Clou. ate in aft. Early in eve.
Went to N. Scituate. Bought some groceries at Mrs. Seavern’s store, also at H.
Litchfield’s, also bought some choc. Candy for Elizabeth — 3cts. Eve. hazy.
W.S.E. 11:30 P.M. W.W.; clou. A large piece of heavy wood fell on my right foot
— hurt one of my toes badly this afternoon. Light S. storm late in the night.

9th. (Sun.) Clear to par. Clou. W.N.E. tem.
25-35. Got some wood out of the Swamp and put it in the cellar. A few flakes of
snow in aft. Bought some milk at Mrs. Merritt’s in eve. Spent eve at. S.E.
Hyland’s — S.E.H. gave ^me a fine Baldwin’s apple — grew on a very small
tree. I picked all of his apples last fall. Eve. clear, cold. Fine weather for
the season.

10th. Cut wood in Swamp — 4 hours. Snow storm
early A.M. W.N.E. — very windy. Fare [sic] par. clou. aft. clear. tem. About
25-32. W.N.E. cold and windy. Early in eve. bought some milk at Mrs. Merritt’s.
Fine eve. clear. wind mod. N.E.

11th. Cut wood 6 hours. Cold. clear. W.N.W.,
S.E. Bought some milk at Mrs. Merritt’s early in eve. tem. To-day 16-28. Eve.
clear. frosty. 7 P.M. tem. 12. Cold night.

12th. Cut wood 5 hours in Swamp. Fine weather
— clear; W.N.W. — S.E.; tem. 10-36. Early in eve went to N. Scituate —
bought some groceries at Mrs. Seavern’s store. Also some choc. candy for
Elizabeth — 3 cts. Walked down and back. Bought some milk at Mrs. Merritt’s.
Fine eve.

13th. Cut wood 6 hours. Very fine weather, clear,
tem. 18-40; W.N.W. early in eve went out to H. Brown’s Store then went to Mrs.
Merritt’s and bought some milk. Circle around the moon in eve. 11:30 P.M.,
clou. Will prob. Snow or rain soon.

14th. Rain all day, W.S.E. tem. 27. Early in
eve went to H. Brown’s Store. Bought 2 loaves of raisin bread. 30. Eve. colder,
W.N.W., fog and mist, rain.

15th. Snow storm at times. W.N.W. tem. About
33-36. Early in eve. Went to N. Scituate — bought some groceries at Mrs.
Seavern’s store — also some choc. candy for Elizabeth — 3cts. Bought some
milk at Mrs. Merritt’s. eve. clou. to partly clou. W.W.

16th. (Sun.) Par. clou. To clear, tem. About
32-40. W.N.W. Cold and very windy in eve. bought some milk at Mrs. Merritt’s in

17th. Cut wood in Swamp 6 3/4 hours. Clear;
W.N.W.; tem. 20-38; windy. Bought some milk at Mrs. Merritt’s in eve. — also
got some for Ellen. Fine eve.

18th. Cut wood in Swamp 6 3/4 hours. Cold and
windy. N.W. tem. 18-38. Bought some milk at Mrs. Merritt’s and some bread at H.
Litchfield’s in eve. eve. cold, very windy. clear. 11 P.M. par. clou.

19th. Cut wood 6 3/4 hours — in Swamp. Clear.
cold. windy — N.W. Eve. windy. cold. clear. tem. to-day — about 16-38. In
eve. bought some milk at Mrs. Merritt’s and some bread at H. Litchfield’s. Cold

20th. Cut wood in swamp 5 1/2 hours. Very fine
weather — (for winter) tem. 16-36; W.N.W. clear. Early in eve. before supper
went to N. Scituate bought some groceries at Mrs. Seavern’s Store — also at
Jos. H. Vinal’s store. Also bought some choc. candy for Elizabeth — 3cts.
Walked down and back. Bought some milk at Mrs. Merritt’s. Northern lights in

21st. Cut wood 5 hours in the Swamp. Cloudy,
very chilly, wind S.N.S.E. tem. 24-36. Began to snow about 3:50 P.M. W.S.E.
light snow storm all eve. Early in the eve went to N. Scituate — rode down
with Willard Litchfield — on the rear end of auto truck, walked back. Bought
some groceries at Jos. H. Vinal’s store, and a pair of rubber boots with felt
leggings at Mrs. Seavern’s store. 3.92 — also some choc. Candy for Elizabeth
— 3cts. Then went to H. Litchfield’s and bought 2 loaves of bread — 30. Very
light snow storm all eve.

22d. In forenoon hauled wood (over 1/2 cord)
out of the Swamp. 1 1/4 hours; in aft. cut wood in —


— the Swamp 3 1/2 hours. Snow storm early
A.M. — about 1 inch of snow — all melted in aft. Clou. to-day; tem. 34-40;
W.S.E. early in eve. Went to H. Litchfield’s and bought some bread, then went
to Mrs. Merritt’s and bought some milk. Eve. clou. W.S.E. to E. 10 P.M. light
rain. Called at Uncle Samuel’s on way back from Mrs. M’s. Wore my new boots in
aft. Good ones.

23d. (Sun.) rain until about 3:30 P.M. W.N.E.
then W.N.W. Colder. Bought some milk at Mrs. Merritt’s early in the eve. Very
wet all around here. Eve. par. clou. 11:30 P.M., clear. Windy. W.N.W.

24th. Clear; W.N.W.; tem. 34-45. Windy. In
aft. cut wood in Swamp 2 1/2 hours. Very wet in swamp. Early in eve. Bought
some milk at Mrs. Merritt’s. Also bought some for Ellen. Fine eve. Paul Briggs
spent eve. here.

25th. Cut wood in Swamp 6 1/2 hours. Fair to
cloudy; tem. 32-41; W; S.W., N.W., S.E. In eve (before supper) went to N.
Scituate bought some groceries at Mrs. Seavern’s store — also choc. candy for
Elizabeth – 2cts. Walked down and back. Bought some milk at Mrs. Merritt’s.
Eve. clou. 12:05 (mid.) began to rain. W.S.E. will prob. be a storm. Rain all

26th. Rain until about noon. W.N.S. and N.W.
Clear, very windy in aft. (max. wind about 36 n.) Called at Uncle Samuel’s in
eve. Eve. clear, windy, cold.

27th. Cut wood in Swamp 5 1/4 hours. Clear;
W.N.W. to S.W.; tem. 17-34. Eve clear.

28th. Cut wood in Swamp 4 hours — finished
cutting 7 1/2 cords of hardwood (maple and yellow birch — also a few sticks of
white birch) 225 per cord at $16.87 also have finished out 1/2 cord on a
sled — 25. Clear in forenoon. Warm. W.S.W. tem. 30-48. Frost this A.M.
Light rain 1 P.M. to 1:30 P.M., then clou. to par. clou. Eve. clear. to par.
clou. Bought some milk at Mrs. Merritt’s early in eve. Called at Uncle
Samuel’s. L. H. Hyland has paid me for cutting the wood. Began to rain about
11:40 P.M. Light rain.

* * *

If you are interested in viewing the diary in
person in our library or have other questions about the collection, please
visit the library or contact a member of the library staff for further assistance.

note that the diary transcription is a rough-and-ready version, not an
authoritative transcript. Researchers wishing to use the diary in the course of
their own work should verify the version found here with the manuscript
original. The catalog record for the George Hyland’s diary may be found
here. Hyland’s diary came to us as part of a
collection of records related to Hingham, Massachusetts, the catalog record for
this larger collection may be found

The Elm Hill Private School and Home in Barre, Mass.

By Susan Martin, Processing Archivist & EAD Coordinator

lithograph of campus
Institution for Feeble Minded Youth. Barre, Mass.

The Elm Hill Private School and Home for the Education of Feeble-Minded Youth in Barre, Mass. was the first school of its kind in the United States. It was founded in 1848 by Dr. Hervey B. Wilbur, and Dr. George Brown took over as superintendent three years later. The MHS holds a small collection of George Brown papers, including correspondence, financial documents, and printed items related to this ground-breaking school. Here’s a picture of Dr. Brown from the George Brown family photographs.

Photograph of George Brown

A promotional broadside from 1864 declared that the Elm Hill School “offers the best educational advantages for children and youth, whose different phases of mental infirmity unfit them for receiving instruction by the ordinary methods, and at the same time provides a permanent home for those who desire it, where every comfort which wealth can procure is furnished.” Of course, only families with means could afford to send their children to this exclusive and remote private institution, and some students came a long way to attend.

The collection includes a few folders of letters from students’ family members, and these can be mined for some tantalizing details. For example, one 1865 letter relates to Elm Hill student Gouverneur Heiskell. Gouvy, as his family called him, was born in 1847 or 1848, and his great-grandfather was none other than President James Monroe. After the Civil War, Gouvy’s family found itself in tough financial circumstances, so his mother wrote to Dr. Brown.

first page of handwritten letter
Letter to George Brown from mother of Elm Hill student Gouverneur Heiskell

In your recent letters to my Father you said that you did not think my poor afflicted child Gouvy was capable of deriving any benefit from further instruction, & that his mind was rapidly giving away, if this is the case it is hardly worth my while to keep him at school at heavy expense, which money might be expended upon my other children to greater advantage. I am therefore making every effort to find some respectable family living in the country who would be glad to take him for a moderate sum, & take care of him treating him kindly & giving him good food & lodging. I find myself in a fair way of doing this in some German families, but before they make any arrangements they require a statement of his case, that is if he is harmless easily managed &c &c […] I never shall forget yours & Mrs Browns kindness & shall always number you among my friends […] I should like very much to have a Photograph of Gouvy.

One particularly interesting story is that of the Kollock family. Charles Kollock was an Elm Hill student from a large Philadelphia family. His father, Rev. Shepard Kosciusko Kollock, died in 1865, leaving his children $14,000 in ready money. At that time, the reverend’s oldest son Matthew was serving with the army in California, so brother John agreed to act as estate administrator. However, by late 1867, the family’s account with Elm Hill was in serious arrears, and John wrote anxiously to Dr. Brown that he was having trouble coming up with the money.

I am aware, that your patience with me, is well nigh exhausted, and that you feel that you cannot keep my brother any longer unless your bills are paid. I have been trying very hard to get Charles’ money in such a shape, that there will be no further difficulty […] It is the desire of all my family, as well as myself, that Charles should remain with you, if you will keep him.

Eventually oldest brother Matthew, somewhat confused, contacted Dr. Brown directly.

I have heard nothing from my brother Charles for more than two years, and feel anxious to hear from you direct, how he is, and also whether his board and tuition is paid promptly, when it is due by my brother John. I do not like to ask him questions about it as he seems to dislike to answer them.

Dr. Brown replied immediately, and just five days later Matthew wrote again, “astonished” to hear about the unpaid debt amounting to hundreds of dollars. He explained that fully $4,000 of their father’s $14,000 had been designated for Charles’ support, and he suspected that John had lost the entire sum in “rash speculations.”

first page of handwritten letter
Matthew Kollock letter to George Brown

Matthew asked Dr. Brown to send him the outstanding bills and resolved to bring a case against his brother for “breach of trust.” He also called John out for lying about an army appointment. Eventually sister Mary reached out to other relatives, who helped with Charles’ expenses.

James Reynell, an India merchant, also lived in Philadelphia, and his sister attended the Elm Hill School. Here’s an excerpt of an 1877 letter to Dr. Brown.

first page of handwritten letter
James Reynell letter to George Brown

I wrote to you with a little present to my Sister last Christmas and have not heard whether the little Trunk arrived safely or how my Louisa is. Please write and let me know by return that she is well as something inclines me to fear she is poorly. […] My Little Loo must not think her brother has deserted her and you must kindly keep me in her memory even if I do not write so often as I ought. Please tell her I send kisses & love […]

The Elm Hill School was known by many names over time, reflecting the evolution of its mission and probably changing sensibilities. Some of Elm Hill’s previous (and very unfortunate) names included the Institution for the Education of Idiots, Imbeciles, and Children of Retarded Development of Mind (ca. 1851) and the Private Institution for the Education of Idiots, Imbeciles, and Backward and Eccentric Children (ca. 1853-1855). “Imbecile” was dropped sometime after 1858, and “Children” became “Youth” before 1870.

George Brown superintended the school for 40 years, until his death in 1892. At that time, though other schools for the “feeble-minded” had since been established, Elm Hill was the largest private institution of its kind in the country. Dr. Brown’s son George Artemas Brown succeeded him as superintendent, followed by his son George Percy Brown. The institution closed in 1946, 98 years after its founding.

The George Brown papers fill only one document box, and these letters represent just a fraction of Dr. Brown’s overall correspondence. They give us a fascinating glimpse into his work in Barre, but tell us very little about the students themselves or their education. Interested researchers will find additional material in a collection of Elm Hill School records at the Historical Medical Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. That library also holds some Brown family papers, primarily those of later generations.

Founder to Founder

By Sara Georgini, The Adams Papers

Like so many good stories here at the Historical Society, it began with a reference question. Jeremy Belknap, hunting through his sources, asked Vice President John Adams for some help. Belknap, the Congregationalist pastor of Boston’s Federal Street Church, had spent the past few years amassing manuscripts for several major research projects. By the summer of 1789, he was deep into writing the second volume of his History of New Hampshire, a sprawling trilogy that he built, slowly, with meticulous footnotes. The clergyman, who honed his narrative skill as a Revolutionary War chaplain and biographer, felt thwarted by a lack of access to key documents.

John Adams, 1735-1826.


Jeremy Belknap, 1744-1798.


After poring over George Chalmers’ Political Annals of the Present United Colonies from their Settlement to the Peace in 1763 (London, 1763), Belknap wrote to Vice President John Adams to see if he knew more about the Scottish antiquarian’s research methods. Mainly, Belknap wanted to see how Chalmers pieced together his saga of America as a “desert planted by English subjects” and made fruitful by the flourishing of English liberties. On 18 July, Belknap wrote: “When I observe his having had access to the papers in the plantation Office, I feel a regret that an Ocean seperates me from such a grand repository. how necessary to form a just judgment of the secret springs of many American transactions!” Jeremy Belknap’s query – and Adams’ detailed reply – form one of the most significant exchanges that we will feature in Volume 20 of The Adams Papers’s The Papers of John Adams (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2020).

Though the nation was new, Americans like Belknap hungered to capture their history in print. While British scholars flocked to the Society of Antiquaries of London and dug through government office records, early American scholars lacked similar institutions and resources to conduct historical research. Across Massachusetts, precious family manuscripts and rare artifacts piled up in private homes and flammable steeples. When Belknap looked around Boston in 1789, he lamented how fire and plunder had ravaged materials held in the city’s courthouse (1747), the Harvard College Library (1764), Lt. Gov. Thomas Hutchinson’s home (1765), the Court of Common Pleas (1776), and Thomas Prince’s cache at the Old South Church (1776). Belknap began sketching out what became the Massachusetts Historical Society: a scholarly membership organization (of no more than seven!) that collected materials and published research. He found a fellow visionary in John Pintard, who led efforts to found the New-York Historical Society.


Jeremy Belknap to John Adams, 18 July 1789, Adams Family Papers.


Adams and Belknap had traded letters before, and they would continue to do so until the pastor’s death in 1798. This one touches directly on his plans to create the Society. Founder to founder, Belknap put the problem plainly:

The want of public repositories for historical materials as well as the destruction of many valuable ones by fires, by war & by the lapse of time has long been a subject of regret in my mind. Many papers which are daily thrown away may in future be much wanted, but except here & there a person who has a curiosity of his own to gratify no one cares to undertake the Collection & of this class of Collectors there are scarcely any who take Care for securing what they have got together after they have quitted the Stage. The only sure way of preserving such things is by printing them in some voluminous work as the Remembrancer—but the attempt to carry on such a work would probably not meet with encouragement—


John Adams to Jeremy Belknap, 24 July 1789, Belknap Papers.


In Adams, Belknap found a high-profile ally. A longtime supporter of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the statesman had championed the new nation’s intellectuals abroad. He approved wholly of Belknap’s instinct. Despite his duties presiding over the Senate in the first session of the federal Congress, John Adams prioritized Belknap’s query, firing off a reply on 24 July. He shared a few thoughts on Chalmers’ work and filled in details of Revolutionary War history. Then John Adams lingered happily on Belknap’s dream of a historical society. He had a very personal stake in how the national story was told, after all, and he was eager to impart advice. Adams wrote:

Private Letters however, are often wanted as Commentaries on publick ones.— and many I fear will be lost, which would be necessary to shew the Secret Springs… some of these ought not to be public, but they ought not to be lost.— My Experience, has very much diminished my Faith in the Veracity of History.— it has convinced me, that many of the most important facts are concealed.— some of the most important Characters, but imperfectly known—many false facts imposed on Historians and the World—and many empty Characters displayed in great Pomp.— All this I am Sure will happen in our American History.


Encouragement from John Adams and others led Belknap to dedicate the following months to drafting a concrete plan for the organization’s future. On 24 January 1791, Belknap invited nine colleagues to join him in creating the Massachusetts Historical Society, following up with a detailed circular letter ten months later. John Adams and his family, all ardent advocates of Belknap’s mission to preserve history, have supported the Society ever since, in word and deed.

“Great sights upon the water…”: unexplained phenomena in early Boston

By Daniel Tobias Hinchen, Reader Services

I hear you haue great sights upon the water seene betweene the Castle and the Towne: men walking on the water in the night euer since the shippe was blowen vp or fire in the shape of men. There are verie few do beleeue it yet here is a greate report of it, brought from thence the last day of the weeke.*


The above excerpt is from the letter shown, dated 29 January 1643/4, written from John Endecott in Salem to Governor John Winthrop in Boston. In the weeks preceding this letter, a series of strange occurrences took place in Boston, and Winthrop recorded the events in his journal. It seems that the entries were written after the fact since Winthrop relates a couple of happenings in the same entry. The first event, though, was said to have taken place on January 18th of that year.

About midnight, three men, coming in a boat to Boston, saw two lights arise out of the water near the north point of the town cove, in form like a man, and went at a small distance to the town, and so to the south point, and there vanished away. They saw them about a quarter of an hour, being between the town and governour’s garden. The like was seen by many, a week after, arising about Castle Island and in one fifth of an hour came to John Gallop’s point.


Winthrop continues his entry recording matters pertaining to maintenance of Castle Island and defense of the town of Boston. But after just a paragraph, he returns to the topic of strange sights in the sky.

The 18th of this month two lights were seen near Boston, (as is before mentioned,) and a week after the like was seen again. A light like the moon arose about the N.E. point in Boston, and met the former at Nottles Island, and there they closed in one, and the parted, and closed and parted divers times, and so went over the hill in the island and vanished. Sometimes they shot out flames and sometimes sparkles. This was about eight of the clock in the evening, and was seen by many. About the same time a voice was heard upon the water between Boston and Dorchester, calling out in a most dreadful manner, boy, boy, come away, come away: and it suddenly shifted from one place to another a great distance, about twenty times. It was heard by divers godly persons. About 14 days after, the same voice in the same dreadful manner was heard by others on the other side of the town towards Nottles Island.


Writing after the facts, Winthrop made very little attempt at providing explanations for these occurrences. In the immediate journal entries there was only one bit that gave anything in the way of reasoning for what people saw:

These prodigies having some reference to the place where Captain Chaddock’s pinnace was blown up a little before, gave occasion of speech of that man who was the cause of it, who professed himself to have skill in necromancy, and to hav done some strange things in his way from Virginia hither, and was suspected to have murdered his master there; but the magistrates here had no notice of him till after he was blown up. This is to be observed that his fellows were all found, and others who were blown up in the former ship were also found, and others also who have miscarried by drowning, etc., have usually been found, but this man was never found.


Interested in finding out more? Consider visiting the MHS Library to work with the sources cited, or see the suggestions below for further reading. 


*The transcriptions of the documents in this post appear as they do in the published volumes cited below, typically with original spelling and punctuation intact.




Endicott family papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.

Winthrop, John, The journal of John Winthrop, 1630-1649, Cambridge, Mass.: the Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1996.

Winthrop papers, vol. IV, Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1944.


Further Reading

Hall, David D., “A World of Wonders: The Mentality of the Supernatural in Seventeenth-Century New England,” Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, Vol. 63 (1984), pp.239-274.

McKeown, Adam N., “Light Apparitions and the Shaping of Community in Winthrop’s ‘History of New England’,” Early American Literature, Vol. 47, No. 2, BETWEEN LITERATURE AND HISTORY (2012), pp.293-319.


Images of the 1925 bombing of Damascus

By Adam Mestyan, Duke University and 2018-2019 MHS Andrew W. Mellon Fellow

These images are part of a series of 24 photographs of the October 1925 bombing of Damascus found at the MHS in the papers of Sheldon Leavitt Crosby,* a professional American diplomat in the interwar period. He was chargé d’affaires at the U.S. embassy in Istanbul from 1924-1930 and Acting American High Commissioner in Turkey in 1925. It is very possible that he acquired this series of astonishing photos from Damascus while acting in this capacity.

Damaged building in Damascus
Photograph by Luigi Stironi, circa 1925

Smoke rises over Damascus
Photograph by Luigi Stironi, circa 1925

Historians have recently begun to discuss the “greater war,” positing that the period of the First World War extended beyond 1914-1918. Indeed, after the Ottoman armistice, conflict and occupation continued in the Ottoman provinces well into the 1920s. In Damascus, the famous Emir Faisal (in fact, a general military governor appointed by the British) could not stop local notables and his own soldiers from proclaiming an independent kingdom with Faisal as king in March 1920. This desperate move was a pre-emptive strike against the implementation of the League of Nations mandates handed down at the San Remo conference in April of 1920, which gave France the mandate over Syria. It also came just a few weeks after the still-existing Ottoman assembly proclaimed their National Pact in Istanbul. Despite negotiations, the French government decided to put an end to the Syrian kingdom, and French soldiers occupied Damascus and other inland cities in July of 1920. Faisal was expelled from Syria and departed for the United Kingdom. But the Syrians stayed. From 1920 on, small groups engaged in guerilla actions and rebellions throughout the region.

In the summer of 1925, the series of events known as “The Great Revolt” in English scholarship and “The Great Syrian Revolution” in Arabic took place. In July, the mountain Druze population revolted against the French troops. Next, Damascus and Hama rose up against the French. There was also internal pillage and cross-ethnic-religious violence. On 18 October, the French army deployed tanks and airplanes around Damascus in retaliation. From six in the evening until noon the next day the French intermittently shelled the city. They did not warn the civilian population. The exact number of casualties is still debated but several hundreds died, including women and children. Although resistance continued in Ghouta (interestingly, also the last rebel-held location around Damascus in 2018) and the north, the massacre caused the recall of the French general in charge and a new Civil High Commissioner arrived to finally create a civil government.

Street scene in Damascus
Photograph by Luigi Stironi, circa 1925

Rubble in Damascus street
Photograph by Luigi Stironi, circa 1925

The photographs collected by Sheldon Crosby depict the destruction and casualties in Damascus and were taken by Luigi Stironi, an Italian in residence in Damascus active between 1921 and 1933. Some of these photos are clearly intended to evoke horror in the viewer and many were published in European newspapers and distributed as private propaganda. The American businessman Charles Richard Crane describes in his diary how a friend showed him very similar (if not the very same) images in Jerusalem in 1926. According to Daniel Neep’s Occupying Syria under the French Mandate, Stironi claimed in 1926 that his images were bought by an American diplomat. Although many of these photographs are well-known, it is rare to find such a comprehensive set among private papers. Is it possible that Crosby was the American diplomat to whom Stironi referred?  

Soldiers in front of the Pharmacy building
Photograph by Luigi Stironi, circa 1925

Soldiers in front of the French Bank of Syria
Photograph by Luigi Stironi, circa 1925

Selected literature:

Gelvin, James L. Divided Loyalties: Nationalism and Mass Politics in Syria at the Close of Empire. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.

Khoury, Philip S. Syria and the French Mandate: The Politics of Arab Nationalism, 1920-1945. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1987.

Neep, Daniel. Occupying Syria under the French Mandate: Insurgency, Space and State Formation.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

Provence, Michael. The Last Ottoman Generation and the Making of the Modern Middle East. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017.

The Routledge Handbook of the History of the Middle East Mandates. London: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group, 2015.


MHS catalog records:

*The photographs were removed from the Sheldon Leavitt Crosby papers, and are now shelved and cataloged as the Sheldon Leavitt Crosby photographs.

Sheldon Leavitt Crosby photographs

Sheldon Leavitt Crosby papers

“Light, airy, and genteel”: Abigail Adams on French Women

By Gwen Fries, Adams Papers

When Abigail Adams arrived in France in August 1784, she must have felt like she had just landed on the moon. In all 39 years of her life, Abigail had never been south of Plymouth, north of Haverhill, west of Worcester, or east of Massachusetts Bay.

Twelve years earlier, Abigail wrote a letter to her cousin Isaac Smith Jr., who was traveling in London. She wanted to ask him “ten thousand Questions” about Europe. “Had nature formed me of the other Sex, I should certainly have been a rover,” she told him. Abigail explained to Isaac that it was too dangerous for a woman to travel alone and that by the time a woman has a husband with whom to travel, she also has a house to maintain and children to raise, creating “obstacles sufficent to prevent their Roving.” Already a mother of a 5-year-old, 3-year-old, and an 11-month-old, Abigail believed she had missed her chance to travel. “Instead of visiting other Countries; [women] are obliged to content themselves with seeing but a very small part of their own.” For these reasons, she told Isaac, “to your Sex we are most of us indebted for all the knowledg we acquire of Distant lands.”

One can’t help but wonder if Abigail remembered writing those words as her carriage bounced through the French countryside en route to her new residence in Auteuil, just outside of Paris. Whether or not she remembered that specific letter, she remembered the feeling of being stuck at home while her male relations traveled. She determined to write long, detailed letters to her female acquaintances, especially her nieces Elizabeth and Lucy Cranch, in an attempt to expand their worldview and to provide them with a female’s perspective of Europe.

In her letters to Elizabeth and Lucy, Abigail described the architecture of theatres, the designs of French gardens, and holiday customs. But John or John Quincy could have done that. That’s one of the things that makes Abigail’s letters remarkable—that she bothered to write to her nieces at all—something their uncle and cousin had largely neglected to do.

Left: Anne-Catherine de Ligniville, Madame Helvétius; Right: Marie Adrienne Françoise de Noailles, Marquise de Lafayette

Travel books could describe architecture and provide maps, but there wasn’t one that provided a New England woman’s perception of French women. Though her correspondents entreated Abigail to divulge what French women were actually like, Abigail really only became acquainted with two women during her nine months in France—Dr. Franklin’s friend Madame Helvétius and the Marquise de Lafayette. The former “highly disgusted” her with her untidiness of dress and lewd manners; the latter charmed her immediately. When she arrived at the Lafayettes’ front door, “the Marquise. . .with the freedom of an old acquaintance and the Rapture peculiar to the Ladies of this Nation caught me by the hand and gave me a salute upon each cheek, most heartily rejoiced to see me. You would have supposed I had been some long absent Friend, whom she dearly loved.”

Unless she was with the Marquise, who spoke English well, Abigail felt isolated by her ignorance of the French language and took to observing rather than conversing. “It is from my observations of the French ladies at the theatres and public walks, that my chief knowledge of them is derived,” she explained to family friend Hannah Quincy Lincoln Storer. She accordingly described what French women communicated beyond words: “The dress of the French ladies is, like their manners, light, airy, and genteel. They are easy in their deportment, eloquent in their speech, their voices soft and musical, and their attitude pleasing.”

She observed to her sister Mary that “Fashion is the Deity every one worships in this country and from the highest to the lowest you must submit.” During her stay in Europe, Abigail mailed fashion magazines and patterns home so her friends could see what was a la mode and included silk or ribbons whenever possible so they could try the designs for themselves. She gave strict instructions, such as that “the stomacher must be of the petticoat color” and “gowns and petticoats are worn without any trimming of any kind.” Abigail added that Marie Antoinette had set the trend of “dressing very plain. . .but caps, hats, and handkerchiefs are as various as ladies’ and milliners’ fancies can devise.”

Marie Antoinette en chemise, 1783 portrait by Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun

Abigail never resigned herself to French attitudes towards sex and marriage, but she came to admire the easy elegance of French women and found herself missing them when she, John, and their daughter, Nabby, relocated to London in April 1785. She noticed that the English tried to copy French fashions but ended up “divest[ing] them both of taste and Elegance.” Abigail’s brush with European style convinced her that “our fair Country women would do well to establish fashions of their own; let Modesty be the first, ingredient, neatness the second and Economy the third. Then they cannot fail of being Lovely.”

George Hyland’s Diary, January 1919

By Anna Clutterbuck-Cook, Reader Services

A new year means a new serialized diary here at The Beehive, where for the past four years we have showcased a diary from the collections written one hundred years ago (you can read the 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 series in our archives!).

In October 1913 a fifty-nine year old man, George Hyland of Hingham, Mass., was given a hardbound standard diary by his representative to the Massachusetts state legislature, Rep. Charles H. Waterman. Rather than using the book as intended–filling one page per day for the year–Hyland instead began recording his life story in dense, script beginning with his childhood memories of the Civil War. Once he reached the present, Hyland continued to fill the diary until 1922, including the daily details of his life during the year 1919. 

The year of 1919 opened “Cloudy. Cold. W.N.W. tem. about 25-36.” As you will see, the weather is a continual refrain in George’s diary — as you might expect for someone who spends his days outside chopping and hauling wood, walking to buy groceries, and visiting family.  In order to make the most economical use of space in his diary, George abbreviates common words: “Staid [sic] all aft. ret. to N. S. on tr.” Stayed all afternoon, returned to North Scituate on train. We read about the price of milk (“now 12 cts per quart”) and the mundane tasks of life (“Mended some of my clothes in the eve.”) as well as entertainments (“Music by victrola in the sitting room.”) and tragedies: “A great mollasses [sic] tank exploded about 1 P.M. to-day on Commercial St., Boston.” We also get glimpses of the way in which the Great War continues to cast its long shadow even after the armistice. “Little Elizabeth,” George writes on January 21st, “came into the Swamp to tell me to come to the house and eat dinner. She is only 4 years old. She said her papa went to the war to fight the Germans and now he is dead.”

Join me in following George Hyland during one year of his life in the early 20th century. 

 * * *

PAGE 320


Jan 1. Cloudy. Cold. W.N.W. Tem. about 25-36. Misty rain at times, very heavy fog all day. Eve warm, tem. 55 W.S.W. mod. Gale and rain — max. wind about 34 m.

2d. Mod. rain all day and eve. W.N.W. tem. About 36. Called at uncle Samuel’s late in aft. Lt. Weyland and Nellie G. Sharpe there, Elizabeth Bahe there, is to stay with Ellen at present.

3d. Rain all day and eve. W.N.W. to N.E. tem. About 27-32. Late in aft. Went to Lt. Weyland’s and bought a bus. of potatoes. Also bought some bread at H. Litchfield’s, then went to Mrs. Merritt’s and bought some milk. 10 P.M. snowstorm. W.N.E. Sawed some cedar logs in the cellar (some […] outlast winter) and put the wood in the back chamber — also put some planks and timbers there. Snowstorm all night

4th. Forenoon cloudy, aft. Clear. Tem. about 28-25, W.N.W. early in eve. Went to N. Scituate. Walked down and back. Stopped at Mrs. Merritt’s and bought some milk. Eve. clear. Cold. 3 inches of snow on the ground.

5th (Sun.) Clear. Cold. W.N.W. tem. 12-26 early in eve. Bought some milk at Mrs. Merritt’s. Staid [sic] there 1/2 hour. Music by victrola in the sitting room. Elizabeth sent me a cornball this aft. Eve. clear. cold; tem. 12. Got 2 sledloads of wood in Swamp this aft. Called at Uncle Samuel’s in eve.

6th. Light snowstorm early A.M. W.N.E. forenoon clou. aft. Par. clou. to clear. Tem, 26. Eve clear. W.N.W. tem. 7 P.M. 12. Got 2 sledloads of wood in Swamp. This aft. Called at Uncle Samuel’s early in eve.

7th. Light snowstorm early A.M. clear after 10 A.M. tem. About 18-38, W.N.W. in forenoon, S.E. in aft. N.W. in eve. Eve clear. Mended some of my clothes in eve. Called at Uncle Samuel’s later in aft. Elizabeth gave me a cornball.

8th. Clou. A.M. began to rain at 11 A.M. tem. 24-38. Bought some milk at Mrs. Merritt’s in eve. Clear in eve. W.W.N.W.

9th. Cloudy. Chilly. Damp. late in the forenoon walked to N. Scituate. Went to Hingham 12:17 tr. Went to Henrietta’s. Had dinner there. Carried a lot of toy furniture for her to sell for Henry. Staid [sic] all aft. ret. to N. S. on tr. at about 5:15 P.M. Walked home in eve. Brought my […] bag ([…]) full of clothes — coats, pants, etc. heavy to carry. Tem. to-day about 23-36. W. W. S. W. late eve. par cloudy. colder. very windy.

10th. Par. clou. to clear. W.N.W. and S.W. tem. 9-24. Called at Uncle Samuel’s in aft. Gave Elizabeth an orange and a bannana [sic] (Henrietta gave them to me yesterday). Got some wood in Swamp late in aft. Went to H. Litchfield’s and bought some bread early in eve. eve. clear. Cold.

11th. Split wood (very large pieces) 3 hours for Jane Litchfield. 75. Had dinner there. Early in eve. went back to N. Scituate. Walked down and back. Bought some groceries at Mr. Seavern’s store. Mrs. S. got […] for me also some chocolate candy (2 cts) for Elizabeth. Tem. 30-18. W.N.W. fair to par. clou. eve. cold. Tem. 9.

12th (Sun.) Clear. W.N.W. tem. 2-24. Eve. cold. clear. calm.

13th. Fine weather; clear; W.S.W. tem. 8-34. Fine eve. Got some dead wood in Swamp 1/2 mile from here to-day. Hard to get along there is so much dead wood piled up lying in all directions.

14th. Got some of my wood out of the Swamp (wet in Swamp to-day). Also cut wood 2 1/4 hours in Swamp for Uncle Samuel. He was cutting wood there. Cloud. Wind. S. to S.W. tem. 34-44. Early in eve went to N. Scituate. Bought some groceries at Mrs. Seavern’s store. Also bought some cold tablets for Ellen and some quinine (for toothache) for myself (1 doz 2 gr. Sulph Quinia pills – 15 cts). Bought some milk at Mrs. Merritt’s — milk is now 12 cts per quart. Margaret Brown medicine for me at the Drug Store. Eve. clou.

15th. Cut wood 4 hours for Uncle Samuel. Cloudy A.M. 11 A.M. clear. W.N.W. tem. 32-42. Had supper at Uncle Samuel’s. Eve. clou. Fine weather

A great mollasses [sic] tank exploded about 1 P.M. to-day on Commercial St., Boston. 2,250,000 gallons ex. des. buildings, flooded street, k. 11 men, women, and children, and injured 60 others. Several horses k. 1 girl

PAGE 321

[cont’d] a. about 12 was drowned in the molasses.

16th. Cut wood 5 hours. Very fine weather. Clear. tem. 32-46 W.W.S.W. bought some milk at Mrs. Merritt’s early in eve. Fine eve. tem. 35. Weather is like early spring.

17th. Cut wood 6 hours. clou. A.M. Clear at 11 A.M. aft. par clou. to clou. a few drops of rain. 3 P.M. clear. eve. clear. temp. to-day – 30-48. W.S. to S.W.

18th. Cut wood 5 hours in Swamp. Cloud A.M. W.N.W. began to rain about 11 A.M. rain light for 1 1/2 hours. aft light misty rain, W.N.E. tem. To-day 30-36 early in eve. Walked to N. Scituate. rode back with Albert Litchfield. Stopped at Mrs. Merritt’s and bought some milk. Eve very foggy. L. E. Bates here while walking to N. Scituate. I boxed the compass four times each way – backwards and forwards – N. by way of E. back to N. – then by way of W. back to N. – then S. to E. both ways, then S. to S. both ways – then W. to W. both ways. I like to do it.

Bought 5 cents worth candy for Elizabeth.

19th. (Sun.) forenoon cloudy. aft. and eve. Clear. W.N.W. tem. About 33-40. Windy. Weather like March.

20th. Cut wood 6 hours. Bought some milk at Mrs. Merritt’s and some bread at H. Litchfield’s in eve. Elizabeth gave me some soure [sic] candy and an apple when I called there in eve. Fine weather to-day clear; tem. 30-46; W.N.W., S., S.W. fine eve.

21st. Cut wood in Swamp 6 hours. Had dinner at Uncle Samuel’s — little Elizabeth came into the Swamp to tell me to come to the house and eat dinner. She is only 4 years old. She said her papa went to the war to fight the Germans and how he is dead. (Was in the U.S. Navy). Elizabeth is Sarah’s third daughter. Cloudy. very damp to-day, W.N.E. and S.E. tem. 36-44. Very wet in the swamp. Eve. clou. W.S.E. will prob. Rain or snow to-night or to-morrow.

Last eve. (5-9 P.M.) I heard a great number of steamer whistles in Boston Harbor. [word] were saluting the Stm. “Canada” just arrived from France, with a load of soldiers. The whistling continued for 15 min.

22nd.Cut wood in the Swamp 6 hours. Finished cutting 2 1/2 cords of hardwood for Uncle Samuel. 625. Cloudy. Very damp. W.S. to S.W. tem. 34-46. Bought some choc. Candy for Elizabeth – 3cts. She came into the Swamp today. Eve. cloudy. 10:30 P.M., misty rain, W.W.

23rd. Cloudy. Foggy. W.S. tem 40-44. Got some wood in Swamp. In aft. Put rivet in a pair of scissors — also sharpened them — for Mrs. Merritt. 15. Late in aft. Went to N. Scituate. Bought some groceries at Mrs. Seavern’s Store. Also some choc. Candy for Elizabeth – 3cts. Walked down and back. Eve. clou. 9:30 P.M. began to rain. Rain all night.

24th. Cloudy to par. Cloudy. Very windy. tem. About 34-37 W. N.W. did some work at home. Early in eve. Went to H. Brown’s store. Wind blowing a gale – (40m.) Cold. Clear. Windy all eve. mod. At 11:50 P.M. much colder.

25th. Did some work at home. Very fine weather for […]. Clear; W.N.W; tem. 26-37. Paul Briggs […] home to-day – stopped here nearly 2 hours – had dinner here with me. He has been in the U.S. Army for one year and 4 months – has not had a furlough for a year – been on duty all the time — was in […]U.S. […] Guards — on duty at Jersey City, N.H. — pier 1 where the U.S. transports leave for […]. They had to guard the stores, supplies, and etc. He was discharged yesterday, and came from a Mil. Sta. in Pa. come on the 11:15 P.M. tr. from N.Y. last night had honorable discharge. The soldiers are coming home now as fast as they can get them here. Went to N. Scituate early in the eve. Bought some milk at Mrs. Merritt’s. Fine eve.

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[cont’d] Jan. 25. Paul brought home a box of fine cigars, which the capt. of his gave him. Paul gave me one of them (15 ct cigars). Paul was in the 16th Div. U.S. Army — Co. L. 302nd Inf. — but was transferred to Co. A. U.S. Guards.

Gave 25cts for [word] to soldier.

26th (Sun.) Clear; tem. about 26-40. W.N.W. eve. clear.

27th. Cut wood in Swamp 5 hours for Lt. Weyland. Fine weather. W. N.W., tem. about 28-40. Early in eve. Bought some milk at Mrs. Merritt’s. Eve. par. clou.

28th. Sold E. Jane Litchfield 1 1/2 ft. of cedar wood for kindling. 150. Split it into very small pieces, also split some large pieces of hardwood, and housed the whole. 5 hours in all. 125. Had dinner there. Fine weather, fair to par. clou. tem. 32-40; W.N.W., N.E, S.E., S.W. early in the eve. Went to N. Scituate – bought some groceries at Mrs. Seavern’s Store – also some choc. candy for Elizabeth – 3cts. Rode 1 1/4 miles with George Hardwick in auto. Alma Lincoln and Irene Dalby brought a […] of Mt. Blue Spring water to E. Jane Litchfield late this aft. eve. clear but hazy at times. Stars look very small — will snow or rain soon.

29th. Light snow storm all day. W.N.E.; tem. 37. Cut wood in Swamp 1 hour in aft. Early in eve. Went to H. Brown’s store — also went to Mrs. Merritt’s and bought some milk. Eve. clou. 10 P.M. clear; W.N.W.

30th. Cut wood in Swamp 5 hours. fine weather, clear; tem. about 30-40; W.S.W. Snow nearly all melted today. Bought some milk at Mrs. Merritt’s in eve. Fine eve. clear. warm for season. W.S.W., by W.

31st. Cut wood 5 1/2 hours in Swamp. Clear, windy. (M.W.) tem. 28-40. Cold late in aft. and in eve, windy early in eve. Bought some milk at Mrs. Merritt’s, also got some for Ellen, then went to H. Litchfield’s and bought some bread. Cold night.

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If you are interested in viewing the diary in person in our library or have other questions about the collection, please visit the library or contact a member of the library staff for further assistance.

*Please note that the diary transcription is a rough-and-ready version, not an authoritative transcript. Researchers wishing to use the diary in the course of their own work should verify the version found here with the manuscript original. The catalog record for the George Hyland’s diary may be found here. Hyland’s diary came to us as part of a collection of records related to Hingham, Massachusetts, the catalog record for this larger collection may be found here.