1867-1871 Diary of a Young Yates County Farmer Who Describes His Daily Grind and Whose Eldest Child Adds Some Flair11150
On offer is the manuscript diary of James Herbert Valentine (1849-1928), wherein he records his life as a rural New York farmer both at age 18 and again one year after he marries Maryette Dickinson, at age 22. James and Maryette would go on to have three children [SEE BIO NOTES AT THE END OF THE LISTING] and a special feature of this diary is the charming addition of handwritten notes on some of the diary pages by Emily Valentine, James’ eldest daughter. Emily has also drawn a cute picture and tipped in an essay she wrote titled “Talent Plus Work”. Also tipped into the diary is a photograph of a farmstead and it is annotated on the reverse, reading “a view from near the stable showing about 1/3 of my poultry building and the house and hay stacker in front the poles”.
The journal covers three periods: Apr 24, 1867 to July 24, 1867, March, 1869, and Jan 22, 1871 to July 10, 1871. Entries are not necessarily made each day. His journal describes life on the family farm. In 1867, at age 18, he is still living with his parents:
“I dragged our corn around today. The girls went a fishing but did not get any fish” [June 5, 1867].
“I cultivated corn today. Aunt Amanda was sick yet she is some better. Theodore came up to spend the [ ]. We have got the corn cultivated over 3 times. It looks nice” [July 3, 1867].
“We began to cut hay today. I got part of a field cut” [June 8, 1867].
In 1869, James makes two entries, both poems he wrote. The first is titled Hunting and the second is titled Closing of School. Hunting is a six stanzas and one stanza follows:
“Looking toward the ledge/Mid bramble and the hedge/To spy out some shy bird/That we have chirping heard”.
James’ poem about school is faded and difficult to read but legible with a magnifying glass and good light source.
In 1870, James gets married, and he resumes his entries in 1871. Some excerpts follow:
“I went over to the railroad meeting. There were a great many people there. The hall was crowded full. [ ] spoke on the occasion he don very well. Dwight was down so I went home with him and staid all night. We got our [ ] wheat all cleaned up we had 40 bu of it” [Jan 28, 1871].
“Father and mother went down to Penn Yan with Aunt Amanda. They went to Canandaigua. Maryette and Frank went [ ] to town old Mr. Curtis funeral was today the stores were all closed got pay for our see” [Feb 21, 1871].
“Aunt Amanda went to Canandaigua. Maryette and I got our likeness taken. Alonzo got his Father took the wool down 246 pounds got 52 1/2 cts for it got 53 sheep I brought our scythe and some other tools” [June 27, 1871].
For a historian, this journal depicts in its simple eloquence, the daily life on a farm in upstate New York. It gives a picture of the daily and seasonal routines and the photograph brings home the hard work involved in building a successful life. The inclusion of his daughter’s essay adds a very human touch to this man’s experiences.
BIO NOTES: The author of this journal is James Herbert Valentine (1849-1928). Born in Himrod, Yates County, to parents Emily Carll and Alfred Valentine. James was the eighth child born to Emily and Alfred, yet he only grew up with one sibling, an older brother named Alonzo (1847-1900). Tragically, all of James’ other siblings died in childhood, before James was born. James married Maryette Louise Dickinson (1849-1918) in 1870. They had three children: Emily (1872-1922), Florence (1874-1938) and Herbert Linus (1878-1961). They were a farming family and raised their children on a farm in Jerusalem, Yates County. None of the Valentine children married or had children of their own.
Measuring 7x6 inches, it contains 38 pages and is 100% complete. Considering its age, it is in reasonable condition. It is a soft-covered notebook and there are wear marks on the corners. The pages have some wear marks and discolouration. There is evidence of some pages having been cut out, possibly by Emily, who seems to have taken the diary as her own in her childhood based on her many markings. The handwriting is a mix of ink and pencil. In a number of places the ink has faded making about 15 percent of the diary difficult to read and will require a strong light source and possibly a magnifying glass to make out the faded words. Overall Poor to Fair.
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