Alexander Smalley works through sweltering heat


“Performed the biggest day’s work today that there is on record. Reaped 7 acres of the tallest, heaviest, thickest rye that was ever known to grow. Owned by Mr. Eddy,”

— Alexander Smalley diary entry, July 5, 1871

In the summer of 1871, farmers in Ashland County, Ohio, found themselves battling one of the hottest stretches in memory.

On Aug. 15, Alexander Smalley complains of 100 degree heat. “Heat is so intense that it causes a person to be a little reluctant about working very hard.” There was no escaping the heat of the time, and manual labor was demanded of all who could work.

An evening of splashing and lazing about in the creek with neighbor kids was the entry which followed, the best way to end a hard day of work in the sweltering heat.

In October, “a spring wagon load” of three neighbor girls and three other young men “lit out for Wooster, the Fair. Put up at the American. Took dinner at a saloon. The fair was splendid in every respect. Saw a lot of friends. Left for home a little before sundown.”

Alexander’s opinion is stated Oct. 31, “Attended Widow Carr’s wood hauling this afternoon. Foolishness on her part. Too many boys and girls to make it profitable for her.”

And on a Sunday in November, his opinion shines through yet again with one of the most witty of all entries.

“Here today were Uncle Tom Smith and entire family including two of the worst children outside the house of correction. All well and hearty. They paint a glowing picture of Missouri. Say it is actually overflowing with milk and honey. I might add that Missouri is all the better for those terrible children out of that state for a time. Ohio shall not wish to keep them.”

This young bachelor was residing with his parents and two sisters during this time, leading one to wonder if the visitors left such a negative impression on all.


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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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