Introductory notes

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.

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 Stahls

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.

The Dicksons

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 yearly round

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.

January - February

Husking corn Pulling, gathering corn Hauling corn Hauling corn stalks
Breaking down wheat stalks Butchering Making sausage  

March

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

April

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

May

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

June

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  

July

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

August

Sowing turnips Cutting millet Raking and hauling hay Cutting grass Threshing oats Cutting up corn

September

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

October

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  

 

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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