My very first assignment as a volunteer at the Erie County Historical Society was to transcribe the 1859-1862 Diary of Hosea Drown. It was love at first sight 🙂 Hosea was born in Greene Township around 1833 and lived his entire life in this county. He was many things: He farmed with his father and brothers; he taught school in the earliest schoolhouse in Belle Valley; and he served as constable, as well as several other offices as needs arose. In later life, having retired from farming, he moved his family to town and sold real estate. Although a simple man in many respects, one thing became clear to me as I read his diary. Hosea was an educated man. A man of deep thought and good conscience. A man with introspection enough to understand himself and those around him, an appreciation for an individual’s role in community, and the forethought to document what went on in his.
I had an opportunity, while working on another project this week, to revisit Hosea’s diary, and I was instantly reminded of the wealth of information to be gleaned in these sort of archival treasures.
Hosea Drown was born fifty-two years before the advent of vital registrations, but his observations on family and the society all around him paint a much richer picture of our ancestors’ nineteenth-century lives than any vital record I’ve ever seen.
A few entries from 1859 Spelling, punctuation, or lack there of, is Hosea’s own:
13 February: FRANK BECKAS died this morning at Eagle village after a long illness.
27 March: Went up to see JOSEPH HIRT who is sick with the measels.
7 April: Went up to see JOSEPH HIRT in the evening he is very sick & his recovery is rather doubtful.
8 April: Went up to set up at night with JOSEPH HIRT who is not expected to live he has the nervous fever.
12 April: Went to the funeral of JOSEPH HIRT who died yesterday aged 21 years he was a youth much respected by all who knew him. The good & noble are seldom left till the last they are taken seemingly to be drawn from the temptations of evil—we are rapt up in a misery which death alone can unfold.
3 April: Sunday, I felt slightly indisposed but I went over to see how LEROY PINNEY was he is getting better—sick with the typhoid fever.
16 April: LEROY PINNEY died of typhoid this morning, at the age of fourteen.
24 October: We went out to GEORGE OGER’s wedding we had an enviable time without a doubt any quantity to eat & cider to drink. There was a dance at night but it was considerably crowded.
-ALBERT was there although he wasn’t invited he was allowed a seat with those that were or at least he took it—towards the noon of night the unfortunates began to pipe up some unearthly music & sounds outside but as soon as they observed there was no one to step it off they began to consider it wouldn’t pay & decamped accordingly though not ‘till they had unloosed a horse & upset old HUMPETER’s wagon & rack in the middle of the road.’
-Taking everything else into consideration the generality of the crew & the temptations the wedding went off grand in the extreme & agreeable enough to make every old maid & bach’ envy the lot of the wedded pair—except the girls generally drank a fearful amount of cider.
Despite the fact that Hosea fails to name George’s wife, the value of this entry goes beyond that of a marriage license application, which, while typically brimming with its own genealogical gold, really provides little beyond the cold, dry facts of the matter. I’d take this kind of detail any day 🙂