Thursday, May 21, 2015

1885 Diary of a Farmer from the Dunstable, Massachusetts, Area

1885 diary of a farmer, presumably male, from the Dunstable, Massachusetts, area, judging from clues in the diary.  Also mentioned are Nashua, New Hampshire, and Tyngsborough, Massachusetts.

At the end of this post you'll find an alphabetical list of people mentioned and images of all of the pages.

The diary measures approximately 4-3/4" x 3" and is filled with mentions of various farming activities at the farm and the "new farm", as well as Temperance meetings and a few personal observations.   He mentioned going to Church both morning and evening on many days, and he served at least for a time as a sexton.  He mentioned a horse named "Gil".   And he was apparently a bird lover, judging from the entry for April 1.

Among the noteworthy entries:
  • Rev. Coppin resigned his pastorate on January 18, 1885
  • Mr. Holden preached, March 15, 1885
  • George Wright's house was partially burned on April 2, 1885
  • Mr. Childs preached, April 5, 1885
  • Mrs. Searles was buried in the afternoon, April 12, 1885
  • Father traded horses, Saturday, April 18, 1885
  • Mr. Howland preached, April 26, 1885
  • Got my pay for sexton, May 2, 1885
  • Mr. Wood preached, May 3, 1885
  • The new horse died today, May 25, 1885
  • Mr. Harvey of Ohio spoke at the Temperance Meeting, May 27, 1885
  • Mrs. Tucker gave a discourse in the evening, Sunday, October 25, 1885
  • Went to town meeting, November 3, 1885
  • Christmas at D. Butterfield, presumably Dexter Butterfield
Several people are mentioned by first name only, which could possibly indicate a family relationship:  
  • Annie
  • Carrie
  • Fred
  • Charley
  • Aunt Sarah
  • Aunt Mary
Hopefully the clues above and below will help a reader identify the diarist.

List of People Mentioned in the Diary

  • Carrie  [multiple - possibly the diary owner's family member]
  • Anna  [multiple - possibly the owner's family member; entry of September 4, 1885 mentions that she went to Suffield]
  • Charley
  • Rupert, either a person's name or a place name
  • Father
  • Fred  [possibly the diary owner's family member]
  • Aunt Sarah
  • Aunt Mary
  • Alice B.; possibly Alice Butterfield
  • Jacob Barker of Nashua, New Hampshire; Pearl & Pine Sts
  • James Burrows
  • D. Butterfield  [multiple]
  • Jessie Butterfield
  • Mr. Childs [multiple - preached]
  • Mr. and Mrs. Coppin [multiple entries - Mr. Coppin resigned the pastorate on January 18, 1885] 
  • Mr. French  [multiple]
  • B. French  [multiple]
  • A. Gilson [multiple]
  • Mr. Hall
  • Mr. Harvey of Ohio spoke at a Temperance Meeting on May 27, 1885
  • Mr. Holden [preached]
  • Mr. Howland [preached]
  • A. Jewett  [multiple]
  • L. K.  [possibly L. Kendall]
  • L. Kendall
  • J. C. Kendall  [multiple]
  • Mr. Mann  [multiple]
  • Mr. Perkins  [multiple]
  • Mr. Pierce
  • Mr. Proctor
  • Mrs. Searles [was buried April 12, 1885]
  • Swallow's Mill, presumably at Dunstable, Massachusetts
  • A. Swallow
  • S. S. Taylor  [multiple]
  • Mrs. Taylor
  • H. Tolles
  • Mrs. Tucker  [gave a discourse at a church or, possibly Temperance, meeting on October 25, 1885]
  • Mrs. Washburn
  • Mr. Wood  [preached]
  • George Wright [multiple; one entry mentions that George's house was partly burned on April 2, 1885]


  1. I think he might be Jonas Chiles Kendall, or connected to him. 4 of the 6 possible family members you mentioned match. I didn't find Charley or Aunt Mary.

    You said there were multiple entries for J.C. Kendall. Would they fit being the diary's owner?

    There is a Jonas Kendall, age 47, farmer, on page one of the Dunstable 1880 Census. His family is:
    Marcia L, 47, wife
    Frederick L, 18, son
    Caroline C, 15, daughter
    Anna L, 12, daughter
    James E, 9, son
    Evangeline, 7, daughter

    on the line above him is Childs Kendall, 81, retired farmer, with a wife Susan T, 78. The man's name might have been Chiles Kendall, seen in other records.

    This page at rootsweb says that Chiles' parents were Jacob Kendall and Elizabeth Cutler. Their other children were Olive, Sarah, Elizabeth and Elmina.

    This page at rootsweb says that Chiles/Childs' wife was Susanna Taylor.

    If you had the 1887 diary, it would clinch it. Deacon Chiles Kendall died Nov 16 of that year.

    Jonas Chiles Kendall born May 1, 1833, d. Sep 1, 1920. His findagrave page says his wife's name was Marcia Laurette Pierce (1832 - 1908)

    1. I've sent you a link to the entire diary, There are some pages in the back that seem to imply that J.C.K. was paying him, but could be a Kendall relative, possibly son James - he would have been pretty young but kids were pretty advanced back then, responsibility-wise. Would he have referred to his father as JCK rather than Pa? I really appreciate your help here and look forward to your impressions after you've had time to digest the diary.

  2. Well now I don't know.

    The only other family with some of those names is that of George Farnham on page 5. He has a son Fred and daughter Carrie, but no Annie or Charlie. But he is the only Farnham in Dunstable, and the when the writer of the diary says he "went home" it sounds like he went to his parents. One time he added, 'Aunt Sarah and Aunt Mary were there'.

  3. Most of the times that he records receiving money of J.C.K. are in the fall, and the one in June was when he had been jobbing, if I remember right. But I don't know why someone would record it that way if he was talking about money he earned. Unless he was keeping track of money he put into a household fund, or saving up to pay off Mr. French.

    He never recorded money from sales of produce, but it sounds like he had cash crops.

    I don't know.

    An interesting diary, I wish I had one from my great grandfather or so, in the 1880's. I don't know why the family let it go.