This personal diary covers (with gaps) Frank's life after he and Jennie were wed in April, 1869. I have tried to let his voice come through as much as possible, using his own spellings, punctuation, and abbreviations. If the individuals he mentions can be identified through records and newspapers I have tried to do so. Illegible sections in the original are indicated by dashes and notes in brackets. The strikethroughs and underlinings in the text are in the original.
Frank lived in Auburn, Kansas, a small town in Shawnee county, about 15 miles southwest of Topeka. The clickable map below from about 1870 highlights his property (lower left) and that of his mother (just to the right of top center). Names of several of the other neighboring property owners show up in the diary as well. Frank also owned land in Osage county, just across the county line to the south.
The diary largely centers on two families: the Stahls and the Dicksons.
Frank's father, Michael Stahl, died in 1862. His wife, Susan, remained on the farm on Six Mile Creek, mentioned often as the "Sixmile." In addition to Frank, their children were:
- Jerome (married to Laura Johnston);
- Lavinah (married to Joseph Youngs in 1865);
- Sarah (married to George A. List in 1870);
- Florence Jane (married to John Mongold in 1872); and
- Mary Bell ("Bell," married to Mack Fleck in 1876).
Frank married Jennie Dickson in April 1869. Seven of their eight children were born in the years covered by this diary:
- Alexander ("Leck," 1870);
- Effie May ("May," 1872);
- Edgar, (1874);
- Lloyd and Lewis (twins born in 1876); and
- Clare William (1878).
- Eva was born in 1881 but is not mentioned since that year is not included in the original diary.
- Their last child, Francis Leon, was not born until 1889.
Jennie Dickson's parents, Alexander and Isabel Dickson, were originally from Brechin, Scotland. Their children were:
- Jennie (who married Frank Stahl);
- Jim, who is mentioned frequently and who was a close friend of Frank's. They had served together during the Civil War. He owned a farm very close to Frank's and worked for him on a regular basis. Jim married Lizzie Cook in 1872;
- Alexander, jr. shows up often, usually referred to as "Alex." He married Nancy Hatcher Moran in 1869;
- Helen, who married John Thompson in 1872 and died in 1882.
The diary mostly documents the repetitive tasks associated with farm work, and following it day-by-day can definitely give the impression that tedium was the rule. Still, there was a seasonal rhythm to the chores. By grouping tasks based on the months in which Frank mentions them, one gets a larger view of the seasonal cycles, as noted below.
|Husking corn||Pulling, gathering corn||Hauling corn||Hauling corn stalks|
|Breaking down wheat stalks||Butchering||Making sausage|
|Plowing||Staking out orchards||Setting out peach trees||Setting out currants and gooseberries||Cleaning out around grapes, trimming||Setting out blackberries|
|Planting rhubarb||Trimming grape vines||Topping haystacks||Preparing ground for potatoes||Sowing wheat||Harrowing|
|Cutting corn stalks||Sowing wheat||Sowing and harrowing oats||Plowing||Harrowing|
|Castrating colts||Mulching potatoes||Marking out corn fields||Planting corn||Planting potatoes
|Setting out fruit trees: apple, cherry, peach||Setting out strawberries and grape cuttings||Planting apple trees||Planting peach seeds||Planting onions|
|Cutting rye out of the wheat||Turning manure piles||Planting corn||Castrating colts||Planting peaches|
|Plowing corn, harrowing||Planting sweet potatoes||Planting potatoes||Planting pumpkins||Picking strawberries|
|Sowing, harrowing millet||Trimming apple trees||Planting melons||Mulching blackberries||Sowing alfalfa|
|Castrating colts||Picking cherries||Plowing corn||Replanting corn||Cutting and stacking wheat|
|Planting potatoes||Plowing for beans||Pruning the orchard||Removing rye from wheat||Caring for the garden and orchard|
|Mulching raspberries||Mulching apple trees and grapes||Trimming apple trees|
|Raking wheat fields||Plowing potatoes||Cutting grass||Cutting and stacking oats||Cutting and stacking wheat|
|Hoeing sweet potatoes||Mulching berries||Hoeing potatoes||Planting cabbage||Planting cucumbers|
|Threshing oats||Weeding grapes||Pruning and mulching the orchard||Cutting and stacking rye||Plowing corn|
|Sowing turnips||Cutting millet||Raking and hauling hay||Cutting grass||Threshing oats||Cutting up corn|
|Topping and wiring haystacks||Cutting and hauling hay||Cutting, gathering up corn||Plowing, harrowing|
|Digging potatoes||Hauling pumpkins||Tying up corn shocks||Harrowing for wheat|
|Sowing wheat||Sowing oats||Threshing oats||Threshing wheat|
|Digging sweet potatoes||Sowing rye||Cutting grass and hauling hay||Drying hay||Picking corn|
|Threshing wheat||Picking and storing apples||Mowing oats||Hauling pumpkins||Butchering hogs|
|Digging potatoes||Threshing buckwheat||Husking corn|
|Butchering beef||Butchering hogs||Making sausage||Digging potatoes|
|Pulling, gathering corn||Husking corn||Gathering turnips|
The diary shows other things that occupied Frank's time as well. He was a devoted churchgoer and was also active in the Masons. Beginning in 1879 he also organized an annual temperance picnic which was held for more than 30 years, and he was an avid campaigner against alcohol. Sundays were spent in socializing after attending church and Sunday school.
The diary offers a window into one person's 19th-century farm experiences and shines a light on what life in the community of Auburn was like more than 140 years ago. I hope you find it enjoyable and interesting.
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