A new year for Alexander Smalley


“Happy New Year to the owner of this little book. There has never in my recollection been a new years day as warm and pleasant as this has proved to be. Warm and pleasant as a midsummer’s day.”

— Jan. 1, 1872 entry in Alexander Smalley’s diary.

The new year and its sultry temperatures brought out the humorous side of the 26-year-old single man, Alexander Smalley. On Jan. 8 he writes, “Warm enough to make hay on this January day. Did not earn full wages today for two reasons: first, because I didn’t do anything and second, has no disposition to work even had there been anything to do. New Orleans battle fought 57 years ago today,” referring to the War of 1812, which elevated Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson to national fame.

The Ohio weather had changed by Jan. 19. “sleighing is par excellent, couldn’t be better. Snowed most of the day. Columbus Reade and his purty son delivered their books today. I wonder about that boy. Sister Kate made me a present of the Cottage Encyclopedia.”

The next day the family closed a “bargain” for an organ at the cost of $100. They were a happy family, parents and three young adult children, residing in the brick home which would later become my sister and brother-in-law’s residence. Notations about neighboring farms and local landmarks spark our interest, giving us a historical glimpse of our rural community while placing us in the midst of U.S. history, as well.

On Feb. 7, Alexander traveled with his horse Sherm to Ashland, about 15 miles, with a load of wheat, “about 23 bushels of exemplary wheat and received $1.40 per bushel. Brought some gray-haired depravity to Hayesville,” evidently a hitchhiker he had offered a ride back to the village nearest his farm.

On Feb. 18, Alexander celebrates his birthday. “A.F. Smalley has this day entered upon the 27th year of his illustrious career upon the great stage of action. Selah! A pleasant day,” he noted. “Three more years and I will be constrained to join the bachelor list.”

In March, Alexander and his sisters Kate and Jen attend a Campbellite meeting, a religious group which traveled through the area. “They have a cunning old sharper conducting the meeting. Orlando Bassford and Barny Seamens were dipped clear under. The sharper says that is the only way to get in to Heaven. What a wonder.”

Later that week, “Father and Kate went down to see about buying a sewing machine for Lydia,” Alexander’s older sister, married and living in Iowa.

In April, noting a newly hatched business, Smalley writes, “We got our house and barn insured in Farmer’s Home for $4,000. Premium is $32. This is a new way of doing business in the U.S. of A.”

The next day he notes, “Raised our barn five years ago today.” There were various notations about preserving the structures, taking pride in what the family had built and acquired. There was a conscious respect for what a spark from a fire could take from them, making one realize that the purchase of insurance, though a new and intangible commodity, was surely worth the dollars spent.


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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.



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