Thursday, September 4, 2014

Woman's Work - January, 1859 Diary of Indiana farm mother Sarah Young Bovard

This diary follows a few years in the life of Sarah Bovard who lived on a farm in the countryside in Scott County, Indiana. Her life was fairly typical of the lives of most ordinary housewives in the middle of the 19C. But Sarah's diary also gives us a look at the specific and unpredictable nature of daily life. It allows us to abandon the fantasy for the immediate.

Life of a Typical Farm Wife

In general, the records of the 19th century tell us that whether a wife was of middling or more modest means, she spent her days managing the home and family. Her life was exhausting and not much different than her 18th century mothers.When her husband was at home, the wife was responsible for all household chores with or without help from others. She rose before sunrise and before most members of the family. If she had no help, she rekindled the fire, drew water, a put the kettle on to heat. She fed the chickens and milked the cow if the family had them. She kneaded dough for bread for breakfast and probably stirred a hominy pot that had slowly cooked overnight. She served breakfast to the family and then washed the pots and dishes. Then she began preparing the largest meal of the day, dinner which would be served about 1 or 2 pm.

When she was not cooking and serving meals, she made candles; did the laundry; mended, and sewed; made soap and starch. Most wives hatched, combed, and spun flax and cotton for thread. For woolen yarn, they separated, cleaned, oiled, carded, combed, and rolled the fleeces from usually filthy sheep in preparation for spinning with country-made or imported wheels. They bleached their yarns in the sun and dyed them by immersion in homemade broths, usually a concoction of herbs, local berries, or tree bark. The housewife knit her yarn into coarse stockings and warm mittens or more elaborate bonnets and hose. If she had a loom, she made her own fabrics for bedding and clothing and often made fabrics for neighbors.

She taught her daughters these skills, so that they could grow into acceptable wives. If a family could afford to buy yarn already carded, spun and dyed, the women of the house might spend their extra time sewing for themselves and perhaps others.

The wife tended the garden; dried apples and cherries; picked berries and beans; made sausage, preserves, and pies; pressed cider; buried fruits and vegetables to keep them over winter; drew water; and split kindling. She would need to carry about 30 pieces of wood each day to keep the fire going and haul countless buckets of water to the house. Wooden buckets weighed about 20 pounds when full. She also produced and tended the children and taught them as they grew. As the day came to an end, she prepared and served a light supper, cleaned up the tableware, mixed dough for the next day, and prepared a kettle for breakfast.

Throughout the night, she nursed hungry babies and banked the fading fire. When called, she also served as midwife and nurse for neighbors. She tended the elderly in her own extended family. She supervised household help, when the family could afford extra hands. Wives traded goods with other women. They might exchange excess produce, swap yarn for finished clothes, or butter for seeds. When husbands were away from home, wives oversaw any crop production or livestock and any family business obligations in addition to their regular chores.

About Sarah Waldsmith Young, Mrs. James W. Bovard

About the writer: Sarah Waldsmith Young was born on February 21, 1828 in Hamilton County, Ohio. She was the daughter of Abner Young, born 1799 in Maine, and Jane Waldsmith, born 1806 in Hamilton County, Ohio. Her husband James W. Bovard had been born in Steubenville, Ohio in 1828. They married February 29, 1844 in the small crossroads town of Alpha in Scott County, Indiana, which was nestled in southern Indiana.

By the time she began her diary in 1859 at age 31, she had eight children: Oliver William, February 9, 1845
Marion McKinley, January 11, 1847
Maria Jane, February 4, 1849
Freeman Daily, January 9, 1851
Melville Young; December 6, 1852
Abner Sinclair, October 13, 1854
George Finley, August 8, 1856
James Carvossa, July 20, 1858.

One of her children had died before she began writing her diary. Oliver William Bovard died Nov. 11, 1857 at 12 years, 8 months and 6 days old. By 1866, Sarah would have four more children, two would go on to become college presidents.

Diary of January, 1859

SATURDAY, JANUARY 1, 1859: John give me a turkey for dinner pap and Mother Catherine John George and K eat dinner with us a beautiful pleasant day received a letter from---Palmers

Sarah was having her family of 10 plus her relatives for New Year's Day dinner.

John Young, 21, was Sarah's brother. He was not yet married and working nearby as a farm hand on his Uncle Robert Foster's farm.

Sarah's father was Abner Young, born 1799, in Maine.

Sarah's mother was Jane Waldsmith Young, born 1806, in Hamilton County, Ohio.

Catherine Young Sampson was Sarah's sister. Catherine Young (born 1832) married Scott County farmer Isaac Sampson (born 1827) in 1851. By 1859, Catherine had 4 children: Martha Jane, age 6; Edward Mathias, age 4: John Luther, age 2, and Sarah, age 1. Catherine would have a son, Abner, in 1864.

George was Sarah's brother who was living with his parents. George Washington Young was born in 1847.

K was Sarah's brother Abner Knight Young, born 1844, who still lived at home with his parents.

SUNDAY, JANUARY 2, 1859: Quite pleasant. James (husband) went to see William Foster. Marion (son, 12) and Maria Jane (daughter, 10) went to meeting James went to meeting all this afternoon I am quite lonesome, getting tired staying home alone

William Foster was the oldest son of Robert C. Foster and Catherine Waldsmith. Catherine was Sarah's aunt. Sarah's cousin William Foster was born in 1834.

Marion was Sarah's son, Marion McKinley Bovard born in 1847.

Maria Jane Bovard was Sarah's daughter born in 1849.

MONDAY, JANUARY 3, 1859: Still pleasant, sun shines--beautiful day. I sit by the fire knitting and rocking the cradle, thinking of many things and wonder if I will be here this time next year or not.

Sarah's baby in the cradle was James Carvossa Bovard who was only 6 months old, born July 20, 1858.

TUESDAY, JANUARY 4, 1859: Another beautiful morning. Caravosso quit sick the rest are tolerby well. My teeth aching now and I wrote a letter to cousins Semantha and Milton Roseberry. James is building him a grainery the children is at school.

Milton Stap Roseberry (1822-1894) married Sementha (variously spelled Samantha and Cemantha) Buckingham in 1846, in Jefferson County, Indiana. Sarah's mother Jane Waldsmith's sister Julia Ann Waldsmith (b 1819) married Samuel Roseberry (b 1817) in 1841. Milton Roseberry and his brother Samuel Roseberry (1817-1891) were the children of Thomas Roseberry, born in Ireland in 1752, and Catherine Earhart.

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 5, 1859: Cold and cloudy, looks like for snow. The baby's throat is bad, swelled, and quite sick, James has gone to Mr. Hoards to stable raising. Catherine (sister, 27) comes in the evening. Mother comes out to see the baby and George (son 3), found them some better. At night, James went to a debate, come home with new ideas.

The stable was being raised nearby at Ambrose Hoard's farm.

Sarah's uncle Moses Jackson Young, b 1826, married Martha May Hoard born in 1828, in 1847, in Scott County, Indiana. Martha Hoard was the daughter of Ambrose Hoard, born in 1797, and Catherine Landon, born 1808, who married in 1823, in Boone County, Kentucky.

George Finley Bovard is Sarah's son who was born in 1856.

THURSDAY, JANUARY 6, 1859: Up late, the rain falling fast. The children off to school. I find myself still at the knitting and rocking and nursing. No time for play. James is cutting out his harness while it rains, George Finley (son 3) and James Carvossa (son under 1) is better. Here comes the children from school. Wesley Spear is with them. Supper over now, then they have fun. Now we have prayers and all to bed.

Wesley Spear was Charles Wesley Spear, born in 1844, son of widow Mary "Polly" Mathew Spear who lived nearby. Her husband Ephraim died of typhoid in 1857, leaving her to raise 10 children plus the neice of her sister. Charles Wesley served Company G of the 24th Regiment during Civil war. He fought in Kentucky, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama. He returned home in good health, but in a few weeks he became sick and died October 2 1865, at the age of 21.

FRIDAY, JANUARY 7, 1859: Turning quite cold, my tooth aches very bad, we are all tolerable well this morning. Trying to get some work done, but cannot. The children home allmost (sic) froze very cold and getting colder we suffer cold tonight don't sleep much my bones ache with cold. I wish I had a warm house and room to work in.

SATURDAY, JANUARY 8, 1859: Clear and cold. Not very well. We are trying to get warm. Marion (son 3) and K. goes to John Peacocks to stay all night. I do not get much work done--the baby cries so much. I finished my new stockings. Not quite so cold. Say our prayers and go to bed.

John Peacock was the husband of Sarah's sister Margaret "Margy," born in 1836. She married John Peacock, 21, on January 14, 1858, was just about to give birth to her first baby Rosetta J. Peacock. By 1870, Margaret was raising 6 children. Rosetta had been joined by Agnes, age 9; Joseph, age 8; Alice, age 5; Margaret, age 2; and Marion, 8 months old.

SUNDAY, JANUARY 9, 1859: Up late this morning, the old clock won't go. Some snow, looks like for more. James goes to meeting. I stay at home at my old post rocking the cradle. Mother has gone to see Ira Day’s wife who is very sick. Marion (son 3) has come home. James gone back to meeting. I am still at home, don’t got to meetings once in six months on an average.

Ira Day was Stephen Ira Day, born 1805 in New Jersey, who farmed nearby. His wife was Catherine LeFeber, born 1806 in Pennsylvania. They married in 1827 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her 81 year old mother was living with them in 1860.

TUESDAY JANUARY 11, 1859: Some clouds, looks like for snow. James goes to Mr. Morrisons for corn. I wash hard all day. Am quite tired in the evening. Carvossa (son under 1) is very sick with swelled throat, set up till bed time, and rocked the baby.

Farmer Andrew H. Morrison, age 38, born in Ohio, lived nearby with his wife Mary, age 35, and their 5 children.

THURSDAY, JANUARY 13, 1859: This morning is raining. Isaac comes for James to haul his corn from Mr. Jones--gets home at three oclock and still raining. I sew all day at James fine shirt, have the toothache, felt bad all day, quite ill natured.

Note: James Jones married Matilda Bovard, probably James's sister, in 1845 in Scott County, Indiana. They lived nearby with their 3 children: Thomas, Irvin, and Elizabeth. Matilda would soon have their 4th child, a boy named James.

FRIDAY, JANUARY 14, 1859: Very cloudy and still raining. James goes to mill, stays all day to get his grinding. Comes home late in the evening. William Foster is worse--not expected to live until morning. The wind commences to blow in the evening-getting quite cold. We are all tolerable well. I set up quite late to sew. James is in bed.

SATURDAY, JANUARY 15, 1859: Quite cool this morning. James goes to see William Foster. Finds him very sick, thinks he wont live long. Comes home--does up his work and goes back and stays all night with him. He does not talk much but says he is willing to die. He suffers a great deal. The ground freezing.

SUNDAY, JANUARY 16, 1859: A beautiful day and cold. James comes home--says William Foster is dying. I go to see him, find him dying. The house crowded. I stay till one o’clock and he died at two o’clock--after I left. Quite cloudy--looks like for snow. We are all well as usual.

MONDAY, JANUARY 17, 1859: Cold and cloudy. We go to the burying and leave the children at home. I did not go to the grave but hurried home, all most tired down and get supper aginst James and Marion (son, 12) gets home. Poor cousin William done with the troubles of this world.

TUESDAY, JANUARY 18, 1859: Not raining cold clear Sun Shine. James hauls foder I am sewing Maria Jane (daughter, 10) goes to William’s to stay all night, and gets dog bit. Catherine (sister, 27) goes by to mother’s to celebrate her birthday. Her and mother comes to stay till bed time with me. James has gone to the Chapel meeting. The moon shines bright. We smell coal burning.

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 19, 1859: Clear and not verry cold. Sunshine. James is gon[e] to work for Cris to day. I am busy sewing. Maria Jane (daughter, 10) comes home. Charls, Harriet [and] Eliza Rosebery comes to mothers to day. They bring the word that cousin Semantha is ded. She died cristmas [sic] day. I went to mothers to see them. They all go to meeting at night. They are coming to see me to morrow. James stays late to the debate tonight. We are all well.

Charles, 16; Harriet, 15; and Electra, 13 are the children of Sarah's aunt Julia and her husband, Samuel Roseberry who live in Graham Township, Jefferson County, Indiana.

Cousin Semantha Buckingham was the wife of Milton Stap Roseberry (1822-1894) who lived in Jefferson County, Indiana.

THURSDAY, JANUARY 20, 1859: Here they come and not all the morning work done. Looks quite much like for rain. Elizabeth Redman comes and Catherine, and mother, Harriet and Eliza Roseberry are here. Here comes Miller Morrison for a coat pattern. Now it rains some. Dinner over with, we had biled beef and turnips. The girls now goes to Aunt Caty Fosters. Maria Jane goes with them. James goes to Jonathan Everharts for my shoes, but does not get them.

Elizabeth Redman was the 25 year old daughter of Charles Tilden Redman, 65, and his wife Susan Hoover, 52, who also live in Jennings Township of Scott County. They were the parents of 13 children and married in 1828 in Jessamine County, Kentucky.

Miller Morrison appears to refer to Andrew Morrison. Catherine "Caty" Waldsmith Foster was the wife of Robert Foster and Sarah's aunt.

Jonathan Everhart, born in Ohio about 1830, was a shoemaker who lived in Johnson Township of Scott County, Indiana, with is wife Ellen and 2 children.

FRIDAY, JANUARY 21, 1859: Still cloudy, not very cold. Have a notion to wash, but didn’t. The baby is so cross and broke out with the chicken pox. Some cooler this evening. James is gone to the meeting to the Chapel. I sewed and knit some today--do not feel very well. I am writing by candle light tonight. Some of the children are in bed, but the baby is crying no more.

SATURDAY, JANUARY 22, 1859: This morning clear and very cold. I am mending clothes and knitting and rocking and trying to keep warm. James is hauling wood. Marion (son, 12) has gone to the post office. We are all well as common and feel very thankful for the blessings we receive, and love God with all our hearts.

SUNDAY, JANUARY 23, 1859: Very cold--the sky looks like bright diamonds. I go to the Chapel to meetings. James goes with me to the foot log then I go alone the rest of the way. (Five or six miles) Get there In time for preaching, hear a good sermon from Bro. Miller. Felt paid for my walk. The text was "Whosoever cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out."

A "foot log" is usually a tree felled across a creek bank. In cold weather, the log likely would be covered with ice.

MONDAY, JANUARY 24, 1859: Not quit so cold looks some like for snow. I wash hard all day have beef and turnips for dinner. Mother goes by going to Catherines (sister, 27) with her butter in the evening. James and Marion (son, 12) goes to meeting to the Chapple. I sit up late and sew the rest in bed.

TUESDAY, JANUARY 25, 1859: Very cloudy--the ground froze hard. I start for Ira Day’s to see his sick wife. I undertake to walk but James feels sorry for me--comes after me with the wagon, then I take a rough ride over the frozen ground. We find Mr. Day washing and Mrs. Day very sick. She wont live long. I comforted her all that I could.

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 26, 1859: Beautiful day. Looks like summer. I go to see Sister Catherine Sampson. Have quite a pleasant visit. She baked black berry pies. We had a good dinner. The dog run the sheep. James come and helped me home. I gave him his supper and a KISS--then he went to meeting again to the chapel. I was quite lonesome at home.

THURSDAY, JANUARY 27, 1859: Very disagreeable, raining hard and quite muddy. I do not work much-it is so dark. James take the hide off the old cow. Isaac comes to grind the axe. I get dinner and bake some vinegar pies for variety. The children are gone to school. Mother has been gone a few days to see some of her girls. We are all well as common.

FRIDAY, JANUARY 28, 1859: This is a beautifull morning. The rain has ceased. Looks like making sugar. We are well the children at school. James hunts his sheep then goes to mothers for milk. I get dinner then sew and knit untill evening then we took a viset [sic] over to Dr. David Thompsons to stay till bed time found them well. Had a pleasant viset. The Thompsons come home just at supper time.

David Thompson, 41, and his wife Mary A., 38, lived nearby with their 5 children.

SATURDAY, JANUARY 29, 1859: Here is Saturday and we are here. Now we scrub and clean, bake loaves for the Sabbath. The Camelit meeting commences tonight. James and Marion (son, 12) have gone to meeting tonight. James went to Paris today, and bought him a coat. I received a letter from Nancy Petro. They are all well and I feel glad that we can say we are all well this evening. I have a tooth ache yet for company--sad company.

The Camilites were the Disciples of Christ. The founders were Thomas Campbell and his son Alexander Campbell, former Irish Presbyterian ministers. Their followers became known popularly as Campbellites, although the reformers preferred to be known as Disciples of Christ. In 1809, Thomas Campbell founded the Christian Association of Washington County, Pennsylvania, which he based on a return to early Christian ideals. In 1811, Alexander joined his father in forming a congregation at Brush Run, Pennsylvania, and from there the movement spread westward. The Methodists did not baptize by immersion, the Campbellites did.

Nancy Bovard, 21 (perhaps a sister of Sarah's husband) and Phillip Switzer Petro married July 23, 1857, in Bartholomew County and lived in Brown County, Indiana, in 1860. Apparently, when he married, Phillip Petro, 29, was a widower with children Susan, 7; Sabra, 6; Sandy M., a boy age 3. At age 19, Nancy Bovard stepped into an instant family.

SUNDAY, JANUARY 30, 1859: Another beautiful Sabbath. Clear and cool. James and the baby and me goes to the reformers meeting at the school house. The house was crowded with hearers. We had some good singing, a sermon preached, part of it I liked very well. When he spoke of the death of our Savior and his sufferings, then the meeting was dismissed. We started for home. Stopped at Catherines (sister, 27). Stayed for dinner. We started for home. Mother stopped a few minutes to read the paper, then went home. James and Maria Jane (daughter, 10) have gone to meeting to night.

MONDAY JANUARY 31, 1859: We are all well. I went to mother’s for a coat pattern, come home and cut Marion (son, 12) a coat and sewed some, then made preparations for going to meeting. I went and left the rest of my family at home. Heard a good sermon preached from "What shall we do to be saved." Part of which I liked and part I did not. The singing was very good, then I come home quite late. Found James nursing the baby by the fire.

You might enjoy reading Sarah Bovard's Diary from its beginning in January of 1859. Free websites containing all diary entries include:

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