1882-1885 Diary of a Rural New Hampshire Matriarch Richly Detailing Daily Life in Belknap County
Meredith, Belknap County, New Hampshire, United States, 1882-1885. Softcover. On offer is a fascinating, hand-made diary that was written in 1882 in rural New Hampshire by a middle-aged woman from a well-known New Hampshire family, who marries a prominent New Hampshire Colonel, businessman and politician. Substantial internal context clues clearly indicate that this journal was written by Cassandra Swasey Stevens (1818-1901). Cassandra was the descendant of two important early New Hampshire families. On her father’s side, Cassandra was a descendent of Ebenezer Swasey, and on her mother’s side she was a descendant of Daniel Ladd. In 1846, Cassandra became the second wife of Ebenezer Stevens, a prosperous local blacksmith and businessman. Mr. Stevens was a Colonel in the New Hampshire militia and also served as a Justice of the Peace. He was one of New Hampshire’s electors for “Honest Abe” Lincoln in the 1860 election. [SEE BIO NOTES BELOW FOR MORE ON EBENEZER’S BUSINESS, MILITARY AND POLITICAL CAREER]. The Stevens family lived in the village of Meredith in Belknap County, New Hampshire. Cassandra S. Stevens and Ebenezer Stevens were parents to Alice S. Stevens (1849-1935). Ebenezer also had three children from his marriage to his first wife, Therina Stevens (nee Osgood) , who died in 1845. At least one of his children from that marriage, Celestia, lived with Cassandra and Ebenezer. Cassandra kept this diary from 1882 to 1885, when she was 64 to 67 years old. Entries are not made for every day but there is a flow to Cassandra’s writing and the effect is to give a very good, overall sense of life in this northern corner of rural New England. In the opening pages, she describes how this little book was made by her uncle. After her uncle passed away, she took it and, excising several of her uncle’s pages, used it for herself: “I have just taken this little blank book made and once used by my dead uncle Tim Ladd as a diary. I had cut out what he had written fearing it would some time meet the eye of those that do not love his memory as I do” [Mar 14, 1882]. The opening entries describe her intense worry for her adult daughter, Alice, who is in the late stages of pregnancy, and references Alice’s husband, Henry William Lincoln, about whom she only refers to as “Mr. Lincoln”: “Pleasant sunny day though cold and sleighing bad as usual at this season. Mr. Lincoln just called. Says all well at home. I shall feel so relieved when Alice gets through her confinement…” [Mar 14, 1882]. She recounts an accident with her horse when returning from a visit to Alice: “We have just returned from Alice’s. Went up after meeting. Very bad sleighing, half bare ground and Billy fell down and broke the shafts and frightened me very much…” [Mar 19, 1882]. Alice gives birth to a daughter named Mary Alice on March 23, 1882, and Cassandra goes on to enjoy watching Mary Alice and her siblings grow up: “Mr. Lincoln brought by Alice, Eben [her grandson]…and dear baby [Mary Alice] down this afternoon. The first time the dear little one had been down. Cassandra [her granddaughter, one of Alice’s older children] stayed down last night. It was the annual Rail Road meeting today…” [May 29, 1882]. She recounts the deaths of many member of family and of the community and it is clear she is affected by these: “Received a letter from Mary this morn saying that Mr. Stowell is very sick and the Dr. Feared the worst. Had advised sending for Alice. Oh dear! God help poor Celestia and the girls…His brother Charles is with them which will be a good help and comfort to Celestia, I think…” [Feb 10, 1883] [BIO NOTE: Mr. Stowell refers to Edward Stowell, who was the husband of Cassandra’s step-daughter, Celestia]. “A day to remember. Mr. Stevens went to Laconia. Came home on the noon train about two o'clock. Mrs. Wiggin called, and brought a Telegraph dispatch to him saying "Your brother hung himself today about noon." …Fanny was the first to find him hanging in the barn, and took him down herself. It had been barely 1/2 an hour since he was out of her sight. It must have been a sudden impulse for him as he ate his dinner and then just went down to the barn and done the awful deed…So much sickness all around us, and so much death." [Mar 15, 1883]. [BIO NOTE: Paul Stevens was Ebenezer’s baby brother, born in 1818. Fanny was one of his sisters]. Cassandra is a staunch Republican, which makes sense given her husband’s political involvement (see BIO NOTE below). She writes of her disappointment when Democrat Grover Cleveland gets elected President. Cassandra’s last entry recounts a visit from her daughter and grandchildren and also references her husband, Col. Ebenezer Stevens: “Mr. L, Alice, [ ] and the children and Stella [ ] all came down to church today and stopped to supper. Cass was here – came down yesterday. It was her grandfather’s birthday – 75 years old. She brought him a lamp shade and the other children sent him a cake. Celestia and Mary both sent him handkerchiefs and collars…” [May 10, 1885]. This is an outstanding piece of local history. For a historian, it is rich in detail of life in this small rural New Hampshire community in the late 1800’s. It is also a superb resource for genealogists who are researching New England families. Her warmth shines through and her journal is easy, pleasant reading. It is no surprise, then, that the University of New Hampshire has a substantial collection of Ebenezer and Cassandra’s diaries, which cover years not covered by this diary. EBENEZER STEVENS (1810-1901) BIO NOTES: Ebenezer Stevens was an active Republican, interested in militia matters. He became a colonel and a brigade and division inspector. He served three years as an elected selectman and held the commission of justice of the peace. He was a Presedential elector for Honest Abe Lincoln in 1860 and a selectman of Meredith, New Hampshire during the Rebellion. A devout Baptist, he was connected with the Free-Will Baptist Church as a trustee of the New Hampton seminary. He was one of the incorporators and served as president and treasurer of the Meredith Mechanic Association; one of the incorporators and trustees of the Meredith Village Savings-Bank; one of the directors of the Belknap County Bank, Laconia, and also a trustee of Laconia Savings-Bank. This journal is handmade, using trimmed pages and having a cover made out of a larger sheet of heavier paper folded to form a cover. The pages were then stitched through the cover. It measures about 6.25 inches by 4 inches. The diary is in very good condition, It contains 88 pages and is 100% complete. The handwriting is quite legible.; Manuscripts; 16mo 6" - 7" tall; 88 pages. Good with no dust jacket .
Katz Fine ManuscriptsProfessional seller
Book number: 0011152
USD 1289.99 [Appr.: EURO 1189 | £UK 1017.5 | JP¥ 194150]
Keywords: 19th Abraham