Small town characters and their stories, part two

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I am drawn to very old, hand-written journals for the jubilant, light-hearted tone they carry. Day-to-day life was surely much more difficult in those long ago years, but individual writings that I’ve enjoyed all convey a more joyful connection to the community and the folks with whom they shared friendships.

One of the most incredible finds of my lifetime is the collection of old diaries penned by Alexander Franklin Smalley. Smalley grew up in the brick home that has been my sister and brother-in-law’s for 50 years.

Smalley’s ability to capture life in this area of Ohio is uncanny for a man of this time and place. His first known journal was penned in 1866 when our country was still grappling with the losses and incredible changes brought by the Civil War.

Most old journals are merely notes of weather and plantings, items bought and sold, a milk cow bred, simply as a reference for farm and living needs throughout a year. I have long been filled with gratitude to have read Smalley’s memorable take on life.

The United States was still quite a youthful country, and it showed. Smalley was filled with pride in his country and often noted long horse and buggy trips to hear speeches about our democracy. Election Day was celebrated with a mixture of jubilance and reverence. “Never will I take for granted the ability to state my opinion at the ballot box,” he wrote in November 1868.

Neighbors gathered on various farms to help with harvests, canning, butchering and celebrated mightily weddings and newborn babies.

“Our neighborhood population is one number higher than it was last night when I took pen in hand, as we learned a new baby boy was delivered at the Boyd home. What happy news for all!” he writes the next year.

These very old writings paint a picture of a harder but happier time. The work was endless, but the camaraderie is so strong that it shines through in every season.

Patriotism, as a member of the United States of America, is new and shiny and crisp and immeasurable in the 1800s. Smalley considered himself a very lucky man to live in the land of the free. He bristled at any statement which criticized our Republic.

Serving your community also meant farmers setting aside days to work on the roads, digging necessary ditches or clearing and straightening a stream.

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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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