Alexander Smalley reflects on 1869 at its close

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“This evening after an unequaled large day’s work, we finished our well with a superabundance of water. Scouder’s began walling at 2 p.m. and by sundown he was done. The best time on record. Billy Martin was with him. Scouder’s charge was $3 and $1.50 for Martin.”

— November 8, 1869 entry, diary of Alexander Smalley

As autumn moves toward winter in November 1869, the Ashland County, Ohio bachelor farmer finds reason to celebrate on Nov. 25.

“This day has proved to be the long-looked-for day. One that has witnessed the crowning event of the season. Entitled the last load of poles, or in other words, the last load of corn. Our corn is all in the crib. Think of it! There’s nothing like it!”

With the work of a prosperous harvest completed, Alexander travels by train to Indianapolis. This was a two-day trip and required the difficult, long walk from Galion to Bellefontaine depot to catch the train. This would be quite a long hike for anyone, but we soon learn that this was even more challenging for this fellow.

The purpose of this trip is revealed Nov. 28.

“Came direct to Surgical Institute. Took breakfast and am now in Gent’s reception waiting for Dr. Allon. Interview with him at 11. He agreed to cure me for $100 in advance. A great deal of money, indeed. Concluded to go under treatment.”

The next day, “Left my shoe for a brace fit.” He then traveled to the “Deaf and Dumb Asylum which was decidedly the most interesting place I ever visited,” and then to the “Lunatic Asylum” one mile west of Indianapolis. That evening he attended the Metropolitan Theater.

In the next two days, the newly fitted foot brace causes Alexander problems, “rather severe. Have been trying most of the afternoon to get used to the brace, but failed.”

On Dec. 2 at 4 a.m. he leaves Galion and heads for home, arriving in Ashland at 5:40 on an express train. “Remained at depot till daylight and went down to load and wait for a chance to ride. Rode home with Mr. S. Kennedy and took our folks rather by surprise. They were all well and hearty.”

He closes out the year with great reflection, after an entry regarding heavy rain and thunderstorms on Dec. 31.

“Weather warm and sultry. This strange phenomenon closes out a year of wonders. More notable events have occurred this year than the record of any previous year since the beginning of the 19th century. I tried, in the most gentlemanly of ways, to close a contract with a pretty young woman, let go of $100 in hopes of a cure for my ailing walk. I failed in both ventures, am both richer and poorer from it. It has been quite a year.”

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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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