1939 Diary of the Elderly, Sick Wife of a rural North Carolina Magistrate and Farmer With Deep Ties to the Lenoir Community

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On offer is a diary that describes life in rural North Carolina in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the years immediately preceding WWII.

The diary was written by Mary Annie Elizabeth (Estes) Shearer (1862-1955). Shearer was born in Lenoir, Caldwell County, North Carolina to parents Rebecca Elmira Moore and David Jesse Estes. Mary would spend her entire life in Lenoir. In 1884, Mary married Milton Gordon Shearer (1855-1951) who worked as a Magistrate after a varied career as a merchant, farmer and textile plant official in Lenoir, NC. When Milton died, he was the oldest Master Mason in North Carolina. and she was also an amateur genealogist. They  had three children: David, Annie and Mary. Mary Shearer was 76 when she began this diary.

The diary consists of brief daily entries that describe her life in this small community of Lenoir. It is replete with references to friends and family members, including her adult children who visit frequently. Mary keeps her diary daily except during a few weeks over the summer and in early autumn, with only three entires between August 1 and Sept 22nd, when she is coping with a hospitalization and health issues. 

This selection of entries will give a flavour of her diary:

“Thursday – Cousin Lula Moore came & told me all about the last hours of Aunt Mary Moorse’s life and other things I was anxious to know  [Jan 26]. 

“Lou washed and I was invited to a War Mothers meeting and Birthday at Mrs. Green’s in the valley. Ellie took Flossie, Courtney, myself and Mrs. Gelson” [May 23].

“Milton not feeling so well. Rained all day. Sadie came home went over to speak to her. She brought me a lovely bag from Washington” [July 4]. 

“Went to see Dr. McCraing. M took me. She wanted me to go to hospital, so the Moores and Milton took me to Blackwelder Hospital” [Aug 1].

“Stayed in bed two weeks and 1 day, brought home in ambulance. Cousin  Lula Moore came to stay with me” [Aug 16]. 

“Our 55th anniversary. Mrs. McCall, Mrs. Criss and Mrs. McGowan of my circle came, each brought me a present. Then later Dinty and Marguerite came in, Julia left” [Sept 25]. 

“Friday – Lillian came for a very good visit. Dr. Caroline came and took blood pressure – 190. Had my bottle refilled” [Oct 13]. 

“Lots of presents, 8 lbs candy, pillow slips and lots of other things. Sorry to see them leave in the afternoon” [Dec 25]. 

For a social historian, this small diary paints a good picture of the quiet life an elderly, ill woman who was living in rural North Carolina pre-WWII. Of particular note is how the community comes together to care for Mrs. Shearer after her hospital discharge in late September.

This small diary measures 4.25 inches by 3.25 inches and is in very good condition. The diary is bound with a metal spine and the pages are in good condition as well. It contains approximately 61 pages and is 80% complete. The handwriting is legible. Overall G. 

Please don't hesitate to contact us for more information or to request photos. (Kindly include the SKU, listed on this page above the price, in your e-mail so we can more easily answer your questions.)

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