Introductory notes

This personal diary covers (with gaps) Frank's daily activities starting in February, 1869. If the individuals he mentions can be identified through records and newspapers, that information has been added. Illegible sections in the original are indicated by dashes and notes in brackets. The strikethroughs and underlinings in the text are in the original.

The place

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 people

The diary largely centers on two families: the Stahls and the Dicksons. The following outline should help keep the people Frank mentions in order.

The Stahls - Michael and Susan and their children:

Michael Stahl (1813 - 1862) Susan Moore (1818 - 1901)
Frank (married Jennie Dickson) Jerome (married Laura Johnston) Sarah (married George List) Florence Jane (married John Mongold) Mary Bell (married Mack Fleck)

Frank married Jennie Dickson in April 1869. Seven of their eight children were born in the years covered by this diary:

Alexander "Leck" - born 1870 Effie May - born 1872 Edgar - born 1874 Lewis - twin, born 1876
Lloyd - twin, born 1876 Clare - born 1878 Eva - born 1881 Francis Leon - born 1889

The Dicksons

Jennie Dickson's parents, Alexander and Isabel, were originally from Brechin, Scotland. In addition to her, their children were:
- Jim, mentioned frequently and a close friend of Frank's. (They had served together during the Civil War.) He owned a nearby farm and worked often for Frank. He married Lizzie Cook in 1872;
- Alexander, jr., usually referred to as "Alex." He married Nancy Hatcher Moran in 1869;
- Helen, married John Thompson in 1872 and died in 1882.

The yearly round

The diary mostly documents the repetitive tasks associated with farm work, but 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:

January - February

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  

November - December

Butchering beef Butchering hogs Making sausage Digging potatoes
Pulling, gathering corn Husking corn Gathering turnips  


In addition to his farm work Frank was a devoted churchgoer and active in the Masons. Being an avid campaigner against alcohol, he also organized an annual temperance picnic which started in 1879 and was held for more than 30 years. Sundays were spent in socializing after attending church and Sunday school.

The diary offers a window into one person's 19th-century Kansas farm experiences and highlights what life in Auburn was like more than 140 years ago. I hope you find it enjoyable.

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