Alexander Smalley journals about life in 1869


“It has been raining incessantly all night and is raining yet this morning. The rain of last night together with this melting snow caused larger floods than has been known for 33 years. Jerome Creek scarcely knew any bounds. The water was against the sides of the big covered bridge. George Palmer lost 60 head of sheep. It made a general sweep of fences, stock and everything that was in its way. J. Webster brought me across in his boat.”

— March 26, 1869 entry in Alexander Smalley’s journal

A sign of just what a different world Alexander Smalley occupied in the post-Civil War era can be seen in one particular entry, dated May 25, 1869. “Saw a velocipede for the first time,” he noted.

This was later known as a man-powered bicycle or tricycle. Two years later on May 24, he writes, “Allison Smith cut his knee badly while riding his velocipede.”

Nearly one month after the flood, the neighborly young man writes, “Proceeded to graveyard to assist in repairing fence. A few of our prominent neighbors did not deem it prudent to attend. I will not mention any name for their conduct is indelibly stamped in my memory for all time.”

On April 15, 1869, he writes, “A strange phenomenon tonight. A very bright light was visible in the south, extending from east to west. I hesitate to dwell on what this might mean for us.” Later that summer, in August, he notes, “The long-looked-for eclipse of the sun this evening. Very interesting. Was near total. Chickens sought roost for a while.”

Alexander’s older sister, Lydia, had married John B. Helman and moved to Iowa before the diaries began. Two other siblings, Sarah and John Cyrus, had died prior to 1868. Kate would have been the oldest child living at home, followed by Alexander who was eight years younger than Kate, then Jennie, several years younger than Alexander.

On Sept. 6, 1869, “A letter from sister Lydia stating that another boy has come, Ben.”

Alexander’s personal wit shines through with this Nov. 20 entry, “I cum hoam this mornin at a tyme when industrius pepel as likin to git up. I must konfess I felt a littel aloveish. (Late night!):

Diary entries leading up to this time include a relationship with a neighbor girl who had revealed mutual affection. His next entry, dated Dec. 7, “Tonight at Hayesville to society meeting. Had a pleasant interview with Miss Jennie G… a permanent compromise effected. Before parting, sealed it.”

Evidently the “seal” was not permanent, for this is the last we read of Miss Jennie Goudy.

An industrious young farmer, Alexander has entries pertaining to farm work that are scattered throughout these early diaries. “Planted our broom corn today, ” he writes on June 11.

“Recipe: to cure scratches on a horse. Wash the legs with warm soap suds and then with beef brine. Two applications will effect a cure,” he writes on Feb. 10, 1870, a day in which he kept busy hauling fodder.


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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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