Here’s a selection from Kentuckian Sarah Ann Jackson’s ‘My Journal for 1835.’ The diary was found between the walls of an old house in Laurel County, KY, but there is nothing that tells us if it was written in that place or how it came to be there. It was the only item found there. Jan Philpot, of the Laurel County Kentucky GenWeb site, transcribed the diary in 2001.
“The diary is written in a faded brown ink,” says Philpot, “with pages toward the back in faded pencil. At times it was difficult to make out, and at those points I place a question mark.”
In the following partial transcript we’ve tried to fill in one or two of those undecipherable points, seeking to remain true to the spirit of the original diary. Spelling and punctuation has been standardized on this excerpt as well for ease of reading. The original exact transcription, with additional notes from the transcriber, can be found at Diary of Sarah Ann Jackson.
May 1st—Children all very pleasant. Camelia is my bed fellow as yet.
A heavy thunder shower last evening. We children and myself very much terrified. As for myself this is generally the case; for what reason I cannot tell without it is.
I am not prepared for the great change I should have to make if struck by lightning. How strange that I should be so heedless when so many warnings occur daily.
Just returned from the hills. Had a very pleasant visit, fared sumptuously, very much pleasant with Miss Carl. Should be happy to become better acquainted.
Had an introduction to Mr. and Mrs. Carl Law—their children peeking out of the windows.
Arrived home rather sooner than we was expected by the family. Found Aunt N. as usual very busy serving. Since then have been engaged in needle work. Aunt very busy preparing for a carpet. Her girls and I left looking for another.
Prospect of a school rather dull. A gentleman called but did not exactly give me the refusal of it. My spirits are good, but if I should take all in consideration in respect to this world and my unconcern for the world to come, it all together would be sufficient to weight them down. My reading at present is ‘Pilgrims Progress.’
Feel very much discouraged in respect to a school.
Attended church at Babylon; heard Mr. Platt preach two sermons in the forenoon. His text was in 5th chapter 27th verse in Samuel. In the afternoon in Luke 22nd chapter 22nd verse. Went during intermission at Mr. Carl’s. Had cake and water for refreshment. Spoke with Mrs. Staples. Set with the singers in the afternoon. Had an excellent dinner when we returned home.
Awoke this morning just as the king of day shed forth a sufficient number of rays to gold the horizon.
Had an introduction to a Mr. Hunt.
May 6th—Spent the day very pleasantly. Miss Davis visited here this afternoon; a very pleasant young lady.
Multiplicity of business today. Have scarce taken a seat. Aunt moving, no help; find it quite necessary to assist her.
Contemplate spending a few days in Babylon in visiting some distant connection and acquaintances. Hopes are blasted in getting a school in this place. They have engaged a gentleman more competent, no doubt, than myself.
I yet retain a faint hope of getting a select school in Babylon. Oh, that I may prosper in that undertaking! If not I then must give up all idea of getting a school this summer, which will disappoint me much.
Thursday May 11th—Went to Mrs. Carl’s in company with Uncle’s family. Had a delightful visit. Called on Mrs. Staples several times; took tea with her, had an excellent repast.
Spent the evening pleasantly at cousin Julia’s. Rode home on Sabbath with Mr. Ireland. Had some very pleasant conversation with Mrs. Cornelius on our way home. They confirmed that a new teacher was to take the school. Received news on my arrival; I ascertained it to be me. If that be the case, to go I must. No backing out!
Went Monday morning according to agreement. Found Mr. B. waiting. Some ladies engaged in cleaning the schoolroom. About nine I entered, and established the school, succeeded very well.
As yet like my employment much. Had a very pleasant call from Mr. P before he left. Find my family differ much in disposition; he has left some very difficult circumstances. Oh, that I may succeed in my efforts to instill the principles of learning and teach the young idea how to succeed.
May 16th—One week flew away with all speed. It appears more like a recent dream than any thing I can compare it too. Have had very little difficulty as yet with the children. Have one that would wish to be obstinate. Tomorrow is the Lord’s Day. Oh, that it may be kept by me right.
May 25th—Since I have written, many incidents have elapsed worthy of a place in this cabinet of valuables. I write down such as occur to me.
When opened school on Monday I had several new names to remember. I find that a difficult part of my undertaking.
Spent last week at Mr. Jar’s home quite pleasantly. The first night took a delightful walk. It was confined to the banks of a small rivulet. This was lovely: the queen of night shed forth a sufficient number of rays to illumine the landscape. It was rather brilliant —or gloomy. All nature appeared to rest in the arms of Morpheus. All was still as at night the labourer had sought repose on his pillow. The weary traveller had taken up his abode for the night. It was thus we sauntered along undisturbed, admiring the serenity and silence of the water.
I contemplate spending the present week at C. Ketchum’s. I dread the first night! Oh, why do I indulge such reflections?? All is for the best.
May 21st—Never enjoy myself better than at Mr. C. Ketchum’s; all so familiar and pleasant. It really appeared like home. I took a walk with Miss K. It was mostly confined to an apple tree, viewing the many different lines exhibited in one tree.
Stay at M.’s? Yet enjoy myself very much, think of visiting at M. W. soon. Hope I shall be as acceptable there as here.
Think of commencing an epistle. Too busy; I will reward myself. Oh, that I may receive a letter! Nearly completed my letter to cousin Julia.
Have 31 different scholars; spending my time very pleasantly.
June 21st— Boarding at Mr. Ketchum’s, spent my time delightfully while there. Have an introduction to Mr. Usher while there. He said was from Kentucky; very tall, rather awkward, yet interesting. He had considerable of the curious; very pointed in conversation. Old Goshen was the theme for some considerable length of time after our introduction with the gentleman.
He was spending the examination in establishing Sabbath schools. He informed me that he belonged to the Princeton Theological Seminary. While at Mr. Ketchum’s his daughters and important self frequently took a walk to see on our neighbors. Would sometimes return without making a call but our walks failed to be pleasant.
We sometimes would go to meeting. There is scarcely an evening in the week but what there is an opportunity of attending some kind. There are three denominations prevailing in this place: Presbyterian, Baptist & Methodist.