Clear and cold. Snow blew hard.
(Almost every one of the 730 entries in this diary describes the day’s weather. This may seem boring and irrelevant, but to a farmer, the weather was of tremendous importance. For us, knowing what the weather will be merely is a convenience so we’ll know how to dress or whether we’ll have driving difficulties. To the farmer, weather controlled the kind of day-to-day work that could be performed and, in the long run, the amount of food the family would have and the amount of income; records of it were of great interest. Jared no doubt checked his notes from previous years to see what might be expected in the year to come. The snowfall must have been severe because usually at least one member of the Nash family went “to meeting” or church on Sunday.)
Clear, more moderate. Father cut and drawed 2 loads of wood.
(Father is Charles Nash, born Dec. 17, 1793, son of Jared and Rachel Olmstead Scribner Nash. Charles’ father was obviously the namesake for his son. Jared and Rachel were married July 17, 1793, suggesting that even in the 18th Century, couples could be in a hurry to be wed. Charles was a shoemaker by trade -- as was his son -- although it is clear from the diary that he was also a farmer of many talents. He was also active in the affairs of the Flat Rock -- or Ninth -- School District, serving on various committees that acted as a modern school board might. He was a town official, serving among other things as a selectman in the 1830s. Selectman was among the highest of town offices, and shows he was held in high respect. He survived his son, Jared, dying in 1878 at the age of 84. His father was also long-lived, having died in 1860 at the age of 92.
(The wood being cut probably wasn’t for immediate use in the fireplace. Wood must be dried or seasoned before it could be burned; otherwise resins would be given off as vapors and would collect on the throat of the chimney. If built up enough, the resins would ignite, causing a dangerous chimney fire. Fireplace wood was selected for the absence of resins and for its hardness – the harder the wood, the longer it would burn and the more energy it would produce. The likes of pines and hemlock were never used as fireplace fuel because they were too dirty when burned and could lead to chimney fires. Ash, oak, hickory, and maple were common fireplace woods.
(Wood was gathered in winter for several reasons. First and foremost, farmers had the time – there were no crops that needed tending. In winter, it was easier to pull large loads of wood on a sledge or “stoneboat” across the slick snow than across the earth because the winter woods lacked the thick underbrush that made movement among the trees difficult. Also, the wood was drier in winter, lacking the sap. Cutting in winter would give it time to season for the following winter’s fires. As we shall see soon, though, the Nashes cut wood for another purpose.)
Clear, quite pleasant for winter. Emily went to the funeral of Uncle Daniel Smith. Father cut some in the woods. He and Emily went down to Comstock’s store in the evening.
(Emily, Jared Nash’s wife, was the daughter of Gamaliel and Polly Northrop Smith of West Lane. She was born Emily A. Smith around 1832 and married Jared Nov. 12, 1856 when she was 24 and he 31. She died in 1901.
(Uncle Daniel Smith was probably a brother of Emily’s father, Gamaliel. He had died Dec. 30, 1864, at the age of 74, and had been a local merchant.
(Comstock’s Store was in Wilton on Ridgefield Road – Route 33 – at Nod Hill and Olmstead Hill Roads. It was operated by “James Comstock, grocer” and was the location of the North Wilton Post Office. This was a pretty long journey for a January evening, but the Nashes had many connections, both family and business, with the Bald Hill section of northwestern Wilton.)
Some snow through the night and this morning. Some sunshine, windy, and squally in the afternoon. Father got some wood.
Clear and cold. Father got some wood. He let Daniel Bennett cut a load.
(Daniel Bennett, a farmer who sometimes worked for the Nashes, lived up Silver Spring Road in a small house still standing opposite the entrance to Silver Spring Country Club; Bennetts lived in the house until the 1960s. The place was much renovated after a fire in the 1990s and a new house added to the property. At this time, Daniel was about 70 years old. Here, the Nashes are apparently allowing him to cut some of their own firewood, apparently because he had no woodland of his own or as payment for a service rendered. Despite his advanced age, Daniel helps with crops on the Nash farm during the warmer months. He died in 1877.)
More moderate, some rain in the afternoon and rain all night. Got some wood in morning and picked some chickens. Aunt Clara and Rebecca spent the day here and Jared the evening.
(By picking chickens, Jared may have meant plucking them or simply selecting certain ones for sale or slaughter. “Picking” was an old term for plucking. Note that the next day, the chickens are delivered to Russell Mead.
(Clara Olmstead was Jared’s father’s sister. Born Clara Nash in 1800, she married William Olmstead in 1818; he died in 1836 when he was drowned at the entrance of Norwalk Harbor. One of her children was Jared N. Olmstead, the “Jared” who’s there in the evening. Clara died in Port Chester, N.Y., on March 1, less than two months from this entry. She was 64 at this time.
(Jared Olmstead and his wife Rebecca show up frequently in this diary, and lived on nearby St. Johns Road.
(Jared Nash Olmstead, most often referred to in the diary as “Jared” [and sometimes as J. N. O. or J. Olmstead], was a cousin of diarist Jared Nash. Both Jareds were probably named for their common grandfather, Jared Nash [see under Jan. 2, 1865] who had owned Jared Olmstead’s house on St. Johns Road until his death in 1860. In 2001, the house belonged to the John Kukulka family, but it had remained in the Olmstead family until the 1970s when Robert M. Olmstead lived there. Born around 1819 in Ridgefield, Jared Olmstead was about 46 years old at this point. He was a farmer but was also one of the town’s leading citizens. He was active in school affairs as early as 1853; one of his tasks -- in 1857 -- was to collect contributions to build a new privy for the Flat Rock Schoolhouse, which stood nearby on Wilton Road West. He was also elected a town constable in 1863. He was a state representative in 1862 and 1863, and a selectman in 1867 and 1868. Jared died in 1904 at the age of 85.
(Rebecca was born Rebecca Ruscoe in Lewisboro, N.Y., and died in 1886 at the age of 56, making her about 35 years old at this time.)
Rain in morning. Made some ice, then snowed and blew verry hard. Grew cold very fast. Father went to Russel Mead in morning to carry chickens.
(Although Jared is a pretty good speller in his dairy, he usually writes "very" with two Rs. Occasional spelling errors in the diary have been corrected; consistently erroneous or variant spellings have been retained.
(Russell Mead was a farmer who lived on Wilton Road East in a house still standing almost opposite Silver Hill Road. A Ridgefield native, he was, like Charles and Jared Nash, active on the Ninth School District committee and was on the building committee -- with grandfather Jared Nash -- for the new Flat Rock Schoolhouse in 1846-47. He was about 59 years old at this time and died in 1877 at the age of 71. Mead probably bought the chickens, fowl that provided a small income for the Nash family. Or the Nashes may have been donating the chickens -- Mead was connected with the family, though not related; his wife was the sister of Richard Dunning, who married the daughter of father's sister, Clara Nash Olmstead.)
Clear and verry cold. Mercury 3 above.
(The standard thermometer, invented around 1650, was a commonplace weather instrument by this time. However, Jared records temperatures only when they are extreme cold in winter or heat in summer.)
Clear and more moderate. Father getting wood. I went over in the woods in the afternoon twice. Henry Ingersoll and George Smith’s wife here in afternoon.
(Henry Ingersoll is the son of Samuel and Millicent Smith Ingersoll. Millicent, who dies Dec. 25, 1865, is Jared's first cousin, once removed. Henry was born in Ridgefield in 1825 and died in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1903. His name appears once more in the diary on Feb. 24, 1866.
(George Smith’s connection with the family is unclear as is his identity. Emily Nash, of course, was a Smith, but Ridgefield was loaded with Smiths in the 19th Century. A George Smith, husband of Emma, died Dec. 8, 1884, aged 87, and his wife died in 1896, aged 87. Oddly, they had three children who died young -- Emma Jane, George Lewis and Martha Jane -- who are buried not with them, but actually relatively close to Jared and Rachel Nash, grandparents of our Jared Nash. This may be just a coincidence.)
Rain through the day. I do not feel verry well.
(Jared here notes for the first of many times that he is not feeling well. Such references are probably signs of the problem or problems that led to his early death from “consumption” or tuberculosis only five years later at the age of 45. Had he had the benefit of modern doctors and medicine, his illness might have been detected and he might have lived to the ripe old ages of his grandfather, father and his son.)
Clear, cold and windy in forenoon; more moderate in afternoon. Father helpt J. Olmstead saw trees. Don’t feel much better.
(Father’s helping Jared Olmstead is one of many examples of family and friends assisting each other with chores -- typical of the way people were in the 18th and 19th Centuries. In warmer weather, Jared helps frequently with such tasks as plowing.
(Cold days in winter were the best time for sawing wood; wood saws easier when it’s frozen, oldtimers believed.)
Clear and cold. Father helpt Jared saw in forenoon. Went to Taylor mill with feed in afternoon. Mother is sick.
(The Nashes, particularly father Charles, frequented a half dozen mills to get their grains like buckwheat and rye ground into flour or, as in this case, to grind corn or stalks into feed for the livestock. Taylor’s mill was situated on the Norwalk River just north of the Stonehenge Inn. It was one of more than a dozen mills along the Norwalk River between Ridgefield and Long Island Sound at Norwalk. Imagine the river as a fat power line, providing the energy for these small factories to turn their grindstones. Rivers were an essential “utility” in early American towns, and the fact that Ridgefield gave rise to the Norwalk, Titicus and Silvermine Rivers, and several smaller streams like the Comstock, Cooper, Mopus and Miry Brooks that could support mills was not lost on the people who settled Ridgefield in 1708.
(Here is the first mention of Jared’s mother, about whom Ridgefield records tell little and to whom Jared never refers by given name. She was Roxy Keeler Nash, Charles' second wife and a native of Wilton. Born in Wilton April 1, 1794, Roxy Keeler married Charles in 1822, shortly after the death of his first wife, Roxana Nickerson, in 1821. Roxy died here Aug. 21, 1876, at the age of 84.)
Warmer, some cloudy in afternoon. Emily and Emmie went up West Lane in afternoon. Father went to J.N. Olmstead in morning.
(Jared uses “some” in the colloquial sense of “somewhat.” Some natives of eastern Massachusetts, particularly Cape Cod, still use phrases like “it’s some cold out today.”
(Emmie, born Emily Louise on April 16, 1860, is Jared’s and Emily’s only daughter. At the age of 40, she married 60-year-old Daniel Smith Sholes, a banker and merchant [see Jan. 30, 1865 and Nov. 9, 1866]. Her death record in 1915 calls her Emma, a version of her name she probably preferred to Emily or Emmie.
(Throughout the diary are mentions of going “up West Lane.” Emily, Jared’s wife, was born on West Lane and, after Jared died in 1870, she moved back there. Her mother, a brother and sisters, and her friends all lived there. One of the places she was likely to have visited was the house, the second door down from Olmstead Lane, that is now the Red Petticoat antiques and that was probably then her family homestead.)
Snowed all day, but is damp and does not make verry fast.
(“The snow … does not make verry fast” means that it’s not accumulating very quickly because of warmth, or is not amounting to much. The amount of snow on the ground was very important to people a century ago, as we will see later.)
Clear and cold. Abram came here after supper. Mrs. Keeler and Rhoda in evening.
(Abram was probably Abram S. Nash [1822-1906], who was a cousin of Jared, and at this time may have been living in Lewisboro, N.Y. Abram, who appears a half dozen times in the diary, is married to Sarah Gray Nash, and they have a teenage daughter, Jane. Abram, incidentally, was elected a town hayward in 1860. A hayward was an ancient office, somewhat like a canine control officer of today, responsible for catch and impound stray livestock, particularly swine.
(Mrs. Keeler and Rhoda are probably Wilton Keelers who lived in a house that stood until about 1945 on Ridgefield Road [Route 33] near the intersection of DeForest Road. According to the late Karl S. Nash, Rhoda was one of seven Keeler sisters who lived in that house. Jared’s mother, of course, was a Keeler.)
Clear, cold, and windy. Father got some wood.
Cloudy, snowed through the day. Mother went to J. Olmstead.
Clear and cold. Father in woods in forenoon; in afternoon, he went to mill. Emily went to the store with him.
Clear and cold. Mercury 2 above. Cloudy towards night. Father getting wood. Emily & Emmie went to Mrs. Keeler’s in afternoon. Snowed in evening.
(The Old Farmer’s Almanac of 1865 predicted “very cold with high winds” at this time.)
Clear. Father went to H. Gilbert’s mill. Mother went to George Smith’s with him. Emily & Emmie went up in the afternoon after her, and Libby Grumman came home with them.
(The Gilbert family mills were on the Titicus River at Saw Mill Hill Road, and included saw, grist and cider mills. At the time of the diary, Harry Gilbert owned the mills. Father was may have been bringing logs he'd cut in his woods to sell to Gilbert, who would turn them into lumber at his saw mill. The Nashes used the Gilbert' mills frequently, but also used Taylor’s, Brown's and others, depending on the work needed to be done.
(Throughout the diary, Libby Grummun visits the Nashes. Elizabeth A. Grummun, or “Libby,” was born around 1844 and is Jared Nash’s niece. Her mother, Elizabeth R. Grummun (“E.R.G.”) was Jared’s sister. Libby was about 22 years old and was working as a schoolteacher during various periods of the diary. She went on to marry Alonzo Brown of Farmingville, lived here most of her life, and died in 1934 at the age of 90.)
Cloudy and looks like snow. Father carried load of wood up to Mother Smith in morning. In afternoon, he went up to Gilbert’s mill. Sanford came here in middle of the day.
(Mother Smith was Polly Northrop Smith, mother of Emily. She was the widow of Gamaliel Smith, who died in 1861. It was common for younger members of a family to supply wood for the winter fires of their elderly parents or grandparents. Polly Smith died in 1881 at the age of 87 and is buried in an old Smith cemetery on lower West Lane. Sanford is Charles Sanford Nash, Jared's half brother, who appears frequently in the diary.)
Cloudy with little sunshine. Emily went to church in afternoon.
(The church was probably the Methodist Episcopal Church, forerunner of the Jesse Lee Memorial United Methodist Church. It stood at this time at the northwest corner of Main and Governor Streets. The handsome building was torn down in the mid-1960s to make way for the Morganti commercial building housing A.J. Carnall insurance and stores. Services took place both in the morning and in the afternoon. Members of the family generally went to one service or the other, but not both (in earlier times, church-goers often spent most of the Sabbath in church.) In the winter the Nashes went to church less frequently than in warmer months; Jared does not go very often in any season. Sometimes Father goes to the Methodist Church at Bald Hill in Wilton. This is the fourth Sunday in January, but the first on which any of the clan is mentioned as going to church.)
Rain all day.
Clear and cold. Father in woods.
(He’s cutting trees.)
Clear and colder. Got load of wood in afternoon.
Clear. Emily and Emmie went to Jared’s in morning. I went in afternoon after them.
(That’s Jared N. Olmstead’s house on St. Johns Road.)
Clear, mercury 2 above. Father carried load of wood to Mother Smith, then cut some in woods. Cold all day.
Clear and cold, 2 above. Father in the woods. Jared come and got load of wood for Mrs. Booth.
(Mrs. Booth’s identity has not been discovered. A “C. Booth” is mentioned later.)
Clear, cold, some windy. Mercury 5.
30 January Monday
Clear, little more moderate. Father drawed some wood and ties. D. Sholes called here; wanted wood.
(The word tie can apply to several things made of wood, including rails for fences, sleepers for railroad tracks, structural pieces for houses and barns, and even some type of farming devices. However, they were almost certainly railroad ties -- the great expansion of the American railroads in the mid- to late-19th century required a tremendous number of ties and farmers who owned some woodland could earn a little extra income by cutting trees, especially chestnut, for the railroads. By 1890, railroad ties or sleepers were the largest single use of wood in America. In May, Father will deliver a half dozen loads of ties to the depot. For more about making railroad ties, see March 5, 1866.)
(Daniel Sholes’ visit is interesting, only for what will take place 35 years hence. Daniel, who came here from Vermont and was 65 years old at this time, was the father of D. Smith Sholes, who was 25 at this time. In 1900, D. Smith Sholes married Emmie Nash, who was only five years old at the time of this visit. D. Smith Sholes died in 1907, aged 67. Daniel Sholes, who died in 1889 at the age of 89, was a shoemaker, like Jared and his father. The fact that his son was named D. Smith Sholes indicates that perhaps Daniel Sholes was somehow connected with the Smith clan. His wife, Catherine, may have been born Catherine Smith.)
Some warmer, and cloudy toward night. Went with Emily & Emmie up West Lane and spent the day. Father cutting in the woods.
(Emily's sister in law, Elizabeth Olmstead Smith, wife of John Betts Smith, was about to give birth to Caroline Elizabeth Smith on Feb. 4. She may have been visiting to comfort Elizabeth.)
Cloudy through the day. Father sledded home wood. Cleared off in the evening and grew colder.
Clear, cold and windy. Father cut in the woods.
Clear and moderate, cloudy towards night. Drawed some wood and logs.
Snow a little before day; cloudy, raw, chilly wind in the afternoon. Father went to J. Comstock, got barrell flour and sugar, pail & broom.
(J. Comstock is James Comstock of the Wilton grocery store mentioned before. The flour was undoubtedly wheat. While local farmers grew such grains as buckwheat, rye, oats, and corn, few grew wheat. Wilton historian G. Evans Hubbard suggests that this was because “the Hessian fly, which damages wheat, was probably a pest in Wilton at this time.” Hessian fly, whose larvae sucked the juices from wheat, first appeared on Long Island in the late 18th Century; it was so called because people thought it had arrived with Hessian soldiers who had fought in the Revolution. Many farmers in the Northeast gave up the crop – despite the fact that no less personage than George Washington himself urged them not to do so. Washington recommended growing yellow-bearded wheat, which was more resistant to the larvae.)
Cloudy, squally and growing cold. Emily went to church in forenoon.
(Charles Howes of the Howes Private Weather Bureau in Georgetown maintains that early February is the most wintry part of the season. The period from Feb. 4 to 14 in 1865 would seem to bear that out. The Old Farmer’s Almanac predicted “Snow” and “Blustering” for the first 10 or so days of the month.)
Clear, cold and windy. Father got some wood.
Cloudy, wind east, commence to snow 3 o’clock and snowed till after bedtime; then rain until morning. Father cut some sticks for ties down in the west woods after dinner. I went and took the sled down to him. He went early in the morning to Jimmy and got Bill sharpened.
(While this reference to “ties” indicates that the items were not very big, Father was undoubtedly cutting wood for railroad ties – a subject discussed in more detail March 5, 1866.
(Jimmy was probably a local blacksmith. Bill is Jared’s horse. In winter the shoes of horses had to be kept very sharp so that hooves could bite into the ice. A horse with dull shoes could slip and injure a leg. Later, horseshoes were equipped with pegs or “calks.” The dictionary says a calk is a tapered wedge or cone-shaped piece of iron or steel projecting downward on the shoe of a draft animal to prevent slipping. The late Francis D. Martin said a Ridgefield man invented calks and sought the aid of an attorney to get a patent. However, the attorney, the story goes, stole the patent from the poor Ridgefield man, whose name Mr. Martin couldn’t remember, and took it out in his own name. The Ridgefielder was so upset that he went out of his mind and wandered aimlessly around the village the rest of his days, Mr. Martin said.
(The Nashes did not seem to have a yoke of oxen, which were more common as farm work animals than horses, but were almost more expensive to own. Poor farmers relied on the horse, which could also serve as transportation. When heavy work, such as extensive plowing was needed, Jared N. Olmstead, the diarist’s cousin, would often show up with his span of oxen.)
Cloudy through day, verry sploshy going. S. Hurlbutt called to summons Father to go up to court tomorrow to take up J. Bennett for cutting hooppoles. Hurlbutt call after bedtime and told Father he need not go, for Jerry had settled it.
(When we use the word “called” today, it invariably means “telephoned.” Here, long before phones, it’s in person, and the second time, clearly at night.
(Sereno S. Hurlbutt [1825-1904] was a noted carpenter and one-time partner in the carriage factory that operated in the Big Shop, which then stood at Main Street and West Lane – site of the First Congregational Church today – and houses restaurants, shops and offices off Bailey Avenue. Hurlbutt was collector of town taxes at this time and also from 1885 to 1904. Here he was serving as a constable, elected by the town meeting. Charles Nash [Father] may also have been some sort of court official such as a deputy sheriff or constable, charged with escorting prisoners or defendants to the court in Danbury or Bridgeport. This case is intriguing. Apparently, Jeremiah "Jere" Bennett, who lived in the Silver Spring area, had been cutting hoop poles on someone else’s property, and had been arrested or civilly sued for it. And, as Jared notes, the case was settled out of court.)
(Hoop poles were cut in the woods from ash, hickory and white oak saplings, mostly in May, because the wood is then highly soaked with oil and because its bark is loosest then. The poles were used around the farm for many tasks such as rollers for carrying heavy loads and for temporary floors under haystacks. There were also split up to make barrel hoops and basket-weaving material; the poles were hammered to flatten them, soaked in water, and then split into the hoops that held the barrel staves together. A farmer could make some extra cash by selling hoop poles to the local cooper or barrel maker.)
Cold, froze up hard. Father drawed some wood; I, ties.
Clear in morning, some squally. Father went to sawmill in forenoon. Emily went uptown in afternoon.
Clear, cold and windy. We got 3 loads of wood from west woods.
(The west woods were near the New York State line, land now part of the Silver Spring Country Club. Much of the Nash farm is now golfed instead of plowed and picked.)
Cloudy, cold, east wind, little snow in morning. Verry cold.
Clear, cold and some windy. Mercury down to zero.
(Anna Marie Resseguie, who lived at the Keeler Tavern, reported in her diary entry for this day: “Cold severe, 6 degrees below zero.)
Clear and moderate, 5 above in morning. Rebecca and Libby Grumman came here in the evening. Father cut some wood at the door and I helpt C. Gallagher load some wood.
(Again, Rebecca is the wife of Jared Olmstead. The wood was cut “at the door” probably so that the cutters could be near the warmth of the house. C. Gallagher, perhaps Charles or Charley, was probably a laborer. See next entry.)
Clear in the morning, snow in afternoon, and rain in evening. Father helpt Charly load wood. Emily went in afternoon to her Uncle J. Northrop.
(Charly is probably C. Gallagher, a worker, mentioned Feb. 14. J. Northrop was probably Emily Nash’s mother’s brother -- possibly named Jared. Her mother was Polly Northrop before her marriage.)
Cloudy in forepart of the day; clear off towards night. Wet, sloppy going. Father had to go to court this afternoon.
(Again, we see Father apparently performing some sort of official function that is not explained. Although Charles Nash held a number of offices over the years, town records do not show him as an official of any sort in 1865.)
Clear and some warmer. Thawed some considerable. Father cut some at the door; went and cut tree for to make some bars.
(February was a traditional month around here for cutting wood that would be used for good building lumber or for fence bars and posts. Some, however, believed that wood would last longer if cut in August.)
Lowery, cold chilly wind. Father got one load of wood and done chores.
(Lowery is a variant spelling of the old word, “loury,” which means the sky is dull, or threatening.)
Clear and cold wind. Father went up to Mrs. Hoyt’s in the evening.
(Mrs. Anna Hoyt, widow of Isaac Hoyt who had died three years earlier, lived just up Silver Spring Road from the Nashes. Father was probably stopping by for a social visit or offering her some neighborly help. Mrs. Hoyt’s son, Munson, often visits the Nashes.)
Clear. Father in woods. Jared come and told us his mother is sick.
(Jared Olmstead’s mother is Aunt Clara – diarist Jared Nash’s aunt -- mentioned the next day. Rebecca, mentioned Feb. 21, is Jared Olmstead’s wife, who was probably arriving at Norwalk on a train from Port Chester where Aunt Clara lay dying -- see Feb. 24.)
Clear, Mother went up to Jared’s and staid for him to go to Norwalk after Rebecca. She has been down to see Aunt Clara. Father cut some in the woods.
(Mother was probably babysitting for Rebecca’s children. She was their aunt.)
Clear in forepart of the day and chilly wind. Got the oxen and drawed home some stick for bars, and ties. N.R. Smith wife and little girl here in the afternoon.
(The Nashes did not have their own oxen, and probably borrowed these from Jared Olmstead. “Stick” is Jared’s way of describing the wood that was to be used for fence bars and for the railroad ties that the Nashes produced. It’s not clear who N.R. Smith is, although it may have been Nathan R. Smith.)
Some rain in morning and it is thawing considerable, so it has spoiled the sledding. Clear off in the evening.
(Snow was appreciated by the farmer then, not cursed as it is by the commuter today. A horse could drag four times more weight on a sled across snow than could a wheeled cart across dirt. Sleds, sledges, and stoneboats made carrying heavy loads over snow easier than any other method of transportation. Thaws ruined the surface for sledding and for driving. Sleighs provided smooth, quick and easy transportation into town while carts and wagons would often become stuck in the mud caused by sudden thaws. In the 19th Century, roads were not plowed to remove snow, but many were rolled to pack and preserve the snow surface.)
Clear and cold. Father went to Port Chester to see Aunt Clara.
Clear in forenoon. Emily & Emmie went up West Lane. Father cut some wood. Rained all night.
Wet and foggy in forenoon. Clear off in evening.
(In her diary, Anna Marie Resseguie reports: “A stormy Sunday and such bad walking that very few females attend church. I do not.”)
Clear and chilly, Father cut some wood. Abram had horses & wagon to get to New Canaan.
(“Abram had horses” means Abram Nash, Jared’s half-brother, borrowed the horses and wagon.)
Cloudy, cold, east wind, little snow this morning. Father went to J. Comstock store in forenoon.
Clear through the day. Aunt Clara died this morning and brought up at night. Father went over to the depot to meet them. Emily went up to Jared’s in forenoon and staid untill they come. Mr. Fitch and Abram work here at ties.
(Clara’s body was “brought up at night” to the funeral, probably by train. Clara Nash Olmstead was the only major relative of the family to die during the period of the diary. See Jan. 6, 1865, for more information about her. Notice the visits made in connection with the sickness and the funeral. Emily went to Jared N. Olmstead’s house because Aunt Clara was Jared Olmstead’s mother. Jared Nash rarely tells of such socializing; funerals brought families together, something that was not as easy then as now because transportation was more difficult and longer journeys were usually made only for important affairs. Yet, the day-to-day work of the farming family continues. Mr. Fitch was probably Samuel B. Fitch, who occasionally helped out on the farm, usually working at ties. He probably lived on Wilton Road West, almost opposite Allen and Jamie Shafer’s house of 2001, and was clerk of the Ninth School District in 1866 where he ran into trouble – see under See under March 19, 1866.)
Cold, cloudy, east wind; snowed toward night and then rain and made ice. Our folks went to Jared’s awhile in forenoon. Linus Northrop and Benjamin Smith called here in afternoon.
(Uncle Linus O. Northrop lived on Wilton Road West opposite Creamery Lane. He was a harness maker and shoemaker. Three of his grandchildren were still living when this diary was first transcribed in 1978; Mrs. Thomas Scott of Soundview Road; Francis H. Northrop of Brookfield; and Robert Wright Northrop, a New York City dentist. One of his sons, Caro, was a builder and mover of buildings -- in 1887 or so, he moved the Big Shop from the Congregational Church site on West Lane to behind the parking lot on Bailey Avenue where today it holds two restaurants, shops, and offices; see Feb. 8, 1865. Caro served in the state legislature in the 1930s. A native of Ridgefield, Linus Northrop died here in 1914.
(Benjamin Smith’s identity is unknown. Several lived in Fairfield County. Both men probably called to pay their respects on the death of Aunt Clara.)
Rain in forepart of the day. Ira Olmstead, Geo. Hurlbutt & John Wells here in afternoon to tea.
(These men are all visiting in connection with the death of father’s sister, Clara, and all have family connections. Ira was Clara’s son. George Hurlburt was the husband of Clara Amanda Olmstead, a daughter of Aunt Clara. Jared may have meant James Wells instead of John. James was the husband of Kate Wells, another daughter of Clara. See entry for March 5.)
Rain very fast in forenoon. Father went up to Jared’s to the funeral. It broke away towards night.
Clear and cold, wind. Emily & Emmie went up West Lane. Jared, Rebecca, Sally Ketcham, Kate Wells and Clara Hurlbut here in evening.
(Jared Olmstead of Ridgefield, Sally [Sarah Maria Olmstead] Ketcham, Kate [Catherine Olmstead] Wells and Clara [Amanda Olmstead] Hurlburt of Wilton are all children of Aunt Clara Olmstead. They had all been in town for the funeral at Jared Olmstead’s house. Kate probably lived in Orange County, N.Y., where she married James Armstrong Wells in 1855.)
Clear, some warmer. We cut wood at the door.
Clear. Cut some wood. Our folks went up to Jared’s in afternoon. Bluebirds come today.
(Back then, the bluebirds heralded spring’s arrival, much more so than the robins seem to today. Their appearance on March 7 indicates the winter of 1865 may have been harsher on wildlife than 1866 when Jared notes the arrival of bluebirds on Feb. 22.
(Bluebirds were much more common in the 19th Century before the importation of European species of birds that chased these natives out of their nesting holes. The bluebirds also favor agricultural surroundings, such as open field and orchards, few of which are left now in southwestern Connecticut. Today, because of the generally warmer winters, some bluebirds stay here year round, gathering in flocks and spending the cold months in wetlands looking for berries. Up on Main Street at the Keeler Tavern, Anna Marie Resseguie notes in her diary on March 11: “I heard bluebirds for the first time Monday the 6th …”
(Wise farmers loved birds – and went out of their way to attract them. Many species of birds eat the larvae or adult forms of insects that attack many of the crops the farmers grew. Others feasted on the seeds of weeds that stole nutrients from their fields. Many farmers maintained flocks of pigeons to eat pest insects and weed seeds, and also encouraged wild birds by making birdhouses of dried, hollowed squashes and hanging scores of them from orchard trees. A old straw hat, nailed open-side out to the side of a barn, would usually attract nesting wrens.)
Cloudy. The sun come out warm; commence to rain in evening. Cut some wood. Jared & Rebecca here in evening and Sally Ketcham staid all night. Father went after Libby after school. Emmie went with him.
(Elizabeth A. “Libby” Grumman, Jared’s niece, taught at the Flat Rock School, which was situated on Wilton Road West a little below today’s Woodchuck Lane. She had worked there in 1863 for $2 a week. Men, doing the same job, were paid as much as seven times more than that at Flat Rock. At this time she was probably substituting for an ill teacher [see March 22, 1865.]
(At a meeting of the Fourth School District – the Titicus District -- on March 11, 1865, members cast 16 votes in favor of hiring “Miss E.A. Grummun” as teacher for the summer term, and 12 votes for Mrs. N.A. Stuart. Libby, experienced from having taught at least at Flat Rock, was salaried at $12 per month, with board five days a week, four weeks a month. Women were usually hired to teach the warm-weather classes, designed mainly for girls. Titicus’s summer term began April 1. Men usually taught the winter session for boys who had to work on the farm during the growing season. Male teachers were paid considerably more than females. B.R. Northrop, hired for the winter term of 1865-66 at Titicus, was paid $35 without board. Libby, rehired in the summer of 1866 was offered $24 a month without board, but apparently refused. The committee then offered her $25, which she accepted.
(The sight of Father, nearly 72, and his granddaughter, nearly 5, riding together in a horse-drawn wagon must have been quite charming.)
Rain all day. Father carried Libby up and Sally to Jared’s. Sam’l Hawley called here in afternoon. Very muddy.
(Samuel Hawley may have been either a cabinetmaker who had a shop on Main Street or a local butcher.)
Wind north, some damp & snowy. Cleared up at night and froze up. Father went up to post office.
(Mention of family visits to the post office were infrequent; perhaps trips were made only when a letter had to be sent or word was received that mail had arrived. Here, father may have been taking care of mail in connection with Clara’s death -- maybe notifying relatives. The post office at this time was on Main Street, about on the site of the Ridgefield Bank building today.)
Clear and cold. Father cut wood.
Clear and cold wind. Emily not verry well. Father went to the funeral of Mrs. Taylor down to Mr. Edmonds’.
(Urania Taylor, age 87, had died on March 9. A widow and native of the Greenfield section of Fairfield, she may have been related to Mr. Edmonds and to the Taylors who operated the mill -- see Jan. 12, 1865. Edmonds was probably R.C. Edmonds who lived on the south side of Silver Hill Road, a little west of Wilton Road West. He and Jared’s grandfather, Jared Nash, had served together on the committee that erected the new Flat Rock Schoolhouses in 1846-47.
(Note that one didn’t go to a funeral home to attend a funeral, and that these typically took place in the home of the dead person or a relative.)
Some warmer and quite spring like. We cut and piled wood.
Clear, wind east. Father was up to Jared’s in forenoon, around home in afternoon.
Cloudy, wind S S W; commence to rain just dark and rained through the night. Father work at wood.
Damp in forenoon. Father soled his boots. He went to C. Smith auction in afternoon. William Olmstead here in the evening. Verry hard wind and some rain from the south west through the night.
(Here is the first mention of the official vocation, as listed on his death record, of Charles Nash, who was a shoemaker. So was son Jared. Through the two years of the diary, there is no hint of whether either Charles or Jared were active at this trade, but they may have kept separate records, such as ledgers, of their professional work. At any rate they were probably not full-time shoemakers and they may have done piecework at home, instead of following the common practice of visiting the houses of their clients to fit shoes.
(Although auctions drew many people and were probably exciting events, they were often unhappy affairs for the person whose property was being sold. He was either in debt or, worse, dead. Auctions were fairly frequently held to pay the debts of an estate or to raise money to pay for the debts of someone who went over his head. Charles Nash had financial troubles in the 1840s and had much of his property auctioned off. Abram Nash, Charles’ nephew, had the same fate in the 1870s. No record of this auction, or the identity of C. Smith, could be found.
(William Oscar Olmstead, Jared's cousin, was a son of Aunt Clara; his twin sister was Clara Amanda Olmstead Hurlburt, who visited on March 5. He probably lived in Port Chester.)
Clear. Father went to George Keeler’s and PO in afternoon. Verry muddy going.
(Father may have been visiting George Keeler, the harness-maker, to have some work done on his rig. Mr. Keeler, who died in 1881 at the age of 76, had his home and shop for nearly a half century on Main Street. The house, more grand now than then, belongs in 2001 to Betty Lou Campbell.
(Spring mud was a dread to those travelers whose wagon wheels could easily get stuck.)
Clear, high wind. Work at wood.
Clear through the day. Father went to Bald Hill meeting in P.M.
(Bald Hill, a section of northern Wilton, was the site of the Bald Hill Methodist Church, whose building that no longer exists and whose last minister -- a woman -- preached there around 1937. The Nashes had many friends and some family in northern Wilton, and father was probably a member of the church there.)
Some cloudy in the morning. Then clear and warm. Work at wood. D.W. Olmsted came here in P.M.
(David Whitney Olmstead [1800-1877] was, like Charles and Jared, a shoemaker. He lived in a house on Olmstead Lane currently owned by Jack and Sally Sanders. His wife was Emily Grumman, possibly related to Elizabeth R. Grumman’s late husband, Charles.)
Clear and verry warm for the time of year. Father went to Norwalk to carry potatoes, and went a claming. Emily & Emmie walked up West Lane and staid all night. I went as far as Mrs. Hoyt’s with them. I piled up wood.
(Ridgefielders are often surprised when digging in the back yard or even out in the woods, to find heaps of clamshells. Many assume Indians, who did regularly made trips to Long Island Sound for shellfish and fish, discarded them. Some may even believe them relics of an ancient time when the sea was much higher than it is now. However, Ridgefielders like the Nashes frequently journeyed to the Sound -- less than 15 miles away -- to go “a claming” in the creeks along the shore, and most of the shells found here today are leftovers of the white man’s meals. Marge McKenna, who has owned the Nash homestead during much of the second half of the 20th Century, said she found old clam shells on the grounds. Clams were free, plentiful, and good eating -- well worth the trip made fairly often by the Nashes. This time, however, Father was also delivering potatoes to a market or perhaps to kinfolk.
(This may be the only reference to Nash family members walking up to the West Lane homes of relatives. It’s “very warm” on this day after the first day of spring and it had been a long, hard winter; Emily and Emmie must have been reveling in the springness of the day. Anna Hoyt lived up Silver Spring Road, in the house just north of the Silver Spring, so Jared himself walked only about a quarter mile while his wife and daughter covered nearly a mile. And poor Jared went back to pile wood.)
Some rain in morning, then wind and some squally towards night. I went up after Emily in afternoon, and Father went to the funeral of Sam’l Perry’s daughter.
(Isabella Perry, only 20 years old, had died March 20 of typhoid fever. A Fairfield native, she was an “instructor” at the Flat Rock Schoolhouse and died while in her first year on the job. Libby Grumman may have taken over her job when she fell sick -- see March 8, 1865. Samuel Perry lived somewhere to the north of the Nashes, for he was a highway surveyor for the town in the West Lane District in 1859. )
Some sunshine and very high March wind. Father sawed wood. I work some in woodhouse.
(Farmers liked the blustery March wind because it dried the wood, which was traditionally cut and stacked in this month. The woodhouse was a building where firewood was stored to keep it dry.)
Cold. High squally wind. Father sawed some wood, then went to Gilbert’s mill with feed, to P.O. and to Geo Keeler’s with lard.
(Father had a busy day, despite the weather. He had worked at wood, had some corn ground into food for the cows, stopped by the post office, and perhaps gave George Keeler some lard in compensation for the work he had done back on March 18.)
Clear most of the day. Drove farrow cow to G. Seymour’s and split and piled up wood.
(Farrow means “not pregnant.” Jared was driving the cow to Seymour’s bull to remedy that situation. G. Seymour may have been George W. Seymour, who was living here in 1860. Seymour was an active official in the Ninth School District at this time.)
Clear and cool. I carried Emily up in the morning to go to church. She walked home at night, and Emmie.
(Emily and five-year-old Emmie probably visited family on West Lane after church, and their trek was from West Lane, not from the center of town – which would have been 2 ½ to three miles. They probably got a ride from church to West Lane. Still, people walked much more then than now and, besides, Emily was probably enjoying the passing of winter and the arrival of spring. And they did not have to fear being run over by speeding cars as one, hiking the same route today, would.)
Clear through the day. Work at wood and piled up ties.
(These were the railroad ties that the Nashes had cut in the winter and which would be delivered to the railroad depot in May.)
Some cloudy in morning, then clear. Father went to Bridgeport to court. I work some at wood. Emily and Emmie went to Mrs. Keeler’s in the afternoon.
(Bridgeport was the county seat and headquarters of the county court system. Though it is the largest city in the county, it was also one of the newest, having been created by dividing off a section of Stratford in 1821. Unfortunately, Father’s business in court is not explained, but see entry under Feb. 8, 1865.)
Work some at wood and other notions. Clear, cloudy toward night. Mother and Emily went up West Lane and spent the day.
(Jared uses “notions” in the sense of “odds and ends.”)
Rain through the day. Father went to Jared’s in forenoon. Wind S.W.
Rain some, wind N.E.; snow some at night. Soled my boots.
(This is Jared’s first mention of his craft. He probably waited until the snow season had passed to put on new soles.)
Clear most of the day, windy and some squally clouds. Father went to Taylor’s mill. I work on meadow.
(It seems fitting that on the first of April, Jared begins planting chores. It is the beginning of the growing season, and Jared is probably beginning to clear up last year’s dead plants and the rocks that were heaved up the by the frozen ground over winter.)
Clear, but cool wind. Went to church with Emily in afternoon. Father went to Bald Hill.
(This is the first time Jared mentions that he has gone to church. Why he goes so infrequently must be left to conjecture. One possibility is that he avoids church in cold weather because his health would suffer in a church building that was not heated. In Father's case, the reference to Bald Hill is probably to the old Methodist Church there. From the wording here, it seems Jared and his dad go to different houses of worship.)
Clear and pleasant. Father went to mill in morning, then fixt potatoes to carry away. I don’t feel verry well; got cold.
(Like many vegetables grown by the Nashes, potatoes store well over winter. Such vegetables were kept in the cellar of the house or in a separate cold cellar which, in winter, kept foods at a temperature above freezing and which in summer kept them cool enough not to spoil. This reference may have been to seed potatoes [see April 8 entry and note]. The next day, the potatoes were driven to Norwalk, probably to a market or a farmers’ supply store.
(Potatoes were one of the most important foods produced on the farm. “Potatoes were served three times a day on farm tables, supplemented with peas and parsnips, beets and beans, cabbage and cucumbers from the kitchen garden,” wrote W. Storrs Lee in The Yankees of Connecticut. However, by the 1860s, they were also a bit of a gamble. The 1862 Old Farmers Almanac observed that “about 20 years ago, this valuable root began to be attacked by disease well known to be fatal in all parts of the world where it was cultivated. Since that time, it has been regarded as a precarious crop. Though no less important than ever before, it costs more to cultivate it, while the yield is almost invariably less.” The disease is the same that caused the great famine in Ireland [see Oct. 31, 1865]. The almanac recommend avoiding manures that contained dung and instead, to use “ashes, plaster of Paris, pond mud, ditch scrapings, with a mixture of salt.” See also notes under Sept. 22, 1865.)
Cloudy most of the day. Wind east. Father went to Norwalk with potatoes. Feel about the same as yesterday.
Cloudy through the day. Father went to saw mill twice in forenoon. In afternoon, split up hills.
(In the fields, the hills of soil around last season’s plants had hardened over the winter, and had to be broken up to facilitate plowing.)
Cloudy, some rain in afternoon. Father finished one piece of hills in forenoon. I feel better today.
Cloudy, damp, some rain in afternoon. Done some chores around.
Clear, cool, north wind. Father went to Norwalk, carried some seed-potatoes to Randall. Come home around by Hoyt’s Nursery and got apple trees, set them out in afternoon.
(Seed potatoes are potatoes that are allowed to spout at the eyes to produce new plants. This will be discussed under the entry for May 19 when the Nashes plant their potatoes. Randall's identity is unknown – it may be a store in Norwalk.
(Virtually every farm had an apple orchard. Apples were, after all, long lasting and could be kept over the winter. The fruit could be eaten by man or beast, and was also turned into cider.
(However, apples were unlike the other crops farmers like the Nashes planted. Instead of bearing “fruit” within a single season like corn, oats, or garden vegetables, apples took years to be productive. An old Spanish proverb said, “He who plants trees loves others besides himself.” Planting trees in an orchard was a long-term investment in the future and often, the person doing the planting would not live to see the fruits of that labor.
(Hoyt’s Nursery in New Canaan was in business until the last half of the 20th Century.)
Clear in morning and froze hard. Cloudy in afternoon and chilly. Emily and Emmie went up West Lane.
(At Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia on this day, General Robert E. Lee signed the surrender document, officially ending the Civil War. Jared mentions nothing of this, just as he does not record the assassination of President Lincoln a few days later – see note under April 15.)
Rain through the day.
(Here and elsewhere, the diary notes an all-day rain, and then nothing else. Rain pretty much shut down outdoor farming activities, but the Nashes probably didn’t mind too much. The April showers were providing moist ground for the planting that was about to begin.)
Damp in morning. Some sunshine in middle of the day. Father plowed and sowed some. Emily and I went and got some cowslips. Sold a shoat to Alva Ruscoe.
(Father was probably sowing oats or buckwheat, both early crops. A shoat is a just-weaned pig.
(These are not the cowslips of the Old World, but what we today call Marsh Marigolds, the yellow spring flower of our wetlands -- no doubt, the Nashes' were picked from the fringes of nearby Silver Spring Swamp, where Marsh Marigolds are still found today. These wildflowers were popular for both a spinach-like food and decoration. W. Hamilton Gibson wrote in 1880: “The eager farmer’s wife fills her basket with the succulent leaves she has been waiting for so long; for what they’ll tell you in New England that ‘they ain’t noth’n’ like cowslips for a mess o’ greens’“ The flowers were picked to grace tables; in New York City they were often sold by boys at street corners. The flower’s name, incidentally, sounds romantically agrarian, but isn’t. Cowslip is from the Old English, meaning “cow slop.” That is to say, cow dung. Perhaps the name is more suited to the English cowslip, a barnyard plant which is a member of the primrose family.
(Alva Roscoe was a shoemaker/farmer who lived in Wilton. The census says he was born in New York State and may be related to Rebecca Roscoe Olmstead, wife of Jared’s cousin, Jared Olmstead, who was born in Lewisboro, N.Y.)
Wet and damp in forenoon. Cloudy all day. Made a draw in the woodhouse and done some other chores.
(Jared’s “draw” was a sled for hauling heavy items – probably including the stones mentioned April 19. A 19th Century farmer was a jack of all trades, and had to possess many skills, including being able to work with wood.)
Cloudy in forenoon. Cleared off in afternoon. Work some in garden. Father plowed for oats.
14 April Friday
Clear. Work some in garden. Planted onions and lettuce. Sowed one piece of oats and ridged some potatoes ground. Emily and Emmie walked up West Lane. Father plowed for oats.
(Modern gardeners might wish to take note of the planting dates mentioned in the diary, for they were time-proven safe dates for this area. A “piece” was a section of a field. “Ridging” is building up long mounds of soil on which to plant the potatoes.)
Some sunshine in forenoon, cloudy and rain towards night. Wind south west. Planted potatoes and some onions down the side of the old orchard lane. Father split up hills.
(April was the traditional month for potato planting, an important crop for the Nashes. However, the Nashes waited until May to plant at least some of their potatoes. Farmers usually planted the seedlings [see note, April 8] under the waning moon, believing that this would help their growth.
(This is the day many Ridgefielders learned that President Lincoln had been assassinated the night before but this event, like so many others of national import, is not acknowledged in Jared’s diary. His is not a record of thoughts and reactions, but a log of family and farming events – the latter useful for planning purposes in the years ahead.)
Clear in forenoon; some squally in afternoon and rain just at night. Went up after Emily and Emmie in afternoon.
Clear. Father went in morning and carried Libby to Titicus. In afternoon he went and carried Mother and E.R.G. to depot. I trimed apple trees.
(E.R.G was Elizabeth R. Grummun, Jared’s sister and mother of Libby Grummun, and she appears often in the diary. She was about 44 years old at this time, and was probably living in Brooklyn, N.Y. Mrs. Grummun had been through considerable trials before the diary opened. In 1841, she married Charles Grummun who died six years later, leaving her a young widow with three children. One of them, one-year-old Henry S. Grummun, died two weeks after his father. By 1850, she had to sell her house at Main and Market Streets.
(However, Mrs. Grummun was apparently a sharp and resourceful woman. Her name is found as a witness on various legal documents and by the 1870s, she is living in Brooklyn, N.Y., and loaning her father, Charles, more than $1,000, a very hefty sum in those days. She later lived in Stamford and perhaps that’s where she died in 1901. During the period of the diary, it’s not clear where she is living, but she shows up from time often at the Nash home – often in references to trips to the depot. Clearly, she takes the train from New York or Stamford to Ridgefield or Wilton to visit family, including her daughter, Libby. In the diary and in town hall records, her name is variously spelled Grumman, Grummon, and Gruman, but hardly ever Grummun, which is the way she signed it and the way her gravestone, and that of her husband and young Henry read at the Ridgefield Cemetery.)
(There are at least two schools of thought on pruning apple trees, a necessary project to remove “suckers” which drain the trees of their fruit-producing energy. One theory has it that if the trees are pruned around May or early June, wounds heal more rapidly than they do in early spring. Some apple growers, however, believed this weakens a tree. Those favoring early spring pruning -- in March or even December, for instance -- point out that there is more time available then for the task, assuming the orchard is on a farm. The Nashes seem to have compromised between the two theories and picked April for the work.
(The "depot" here was probably the Wilton railroad station, which was, for the Nashes, just as close as Ridgefield Station in Branchville. The station in Ridgefield village was not available until 1870, the year Jared died.)
Damp and some rain through the day. Clear off at night.
Clear, I picked up stone on planting ground. Father got some cold and lame.
(One would think that over the years of planting and plowing fields, the land would be clear of stones. However, each year the plowing of a field and the erosion that later came with rain would take a little of the topsoil away. Over the years the surface elevation of the field would lower, exposing stones that had once been deeply buried. In addition, each winter, stones that escaped plow and harrow in the field would be pushed up by the frost and eventually surface. The stones drawn from the fields were not wasted; they were used to build up walls, fill subsurface drains and patch potholes in roads, among other things.)
Cold, chilly east wind, not verry clear; rain just at night. Emily went to church in afternoon. Father much the same as yesterday. I picked up stone in forenoon, got some cowslips in afternoon.
(Jared doesn’t say why his wife went to church, but it seems likely that the service was for Abraham Lincoln. Churches in town were having memorial services all week to honor the dead President. One wonders why Emily is the only one who went.)
Rained all night, damp through the day; wind east. Rain again in the night.
Wet and foggy in the forenoon, some sunshine in afternoon. I drawed off stone from planting ground.
Cold wind, cloud flying all day. Some sunshine.
Clear and cold. Frost in morning. Went up to Bailey’s store and P.O., then drawed off stone.
(Bailey’s Store was located in the present Aldrich Museum building, then a one-story structure, on the east side of Main Street. Lt. James Dole and Lt. Joshua King, both Revolutionary War veterans, founded the store in 1783. At this time, Lewis H. Bailey, who also operated the large Bailey Inn, a hotel almost across the street [on land now vacant], owned the store. The business passed through several more hands, including those of D. Frank Bedient, whose name the store long bore at its location on Main Street at Bailey Avenue [named for and perhaps by Mr. Bailey], where it was operated by the Morelli family until 1998, when it closed. In the 1860s, it was probably the town’s largest store.
Clear and pleasant, some warmer. Draw off stone. Emily cleaned our bedroom.
(Spring-cleaning was a custom then, but meant the thorough cleansing of each room, not just the annual tossing out of unnecessary accumulations, one meaning it seems to have taken on in modern times.)
Clear and warm. Picked up stone. J. N. O. plowed for oats. Emily and Emmie went up West Lane in afternoon.
(JNO is Jared N. Olmstead of St. Johns Road, Jared Nash’s cousin. He frequently helps with the Nashes’ plowing, probably because he has a team of oxen; the Nashes seem to have only a horse, which can’t handle heavy-duty plowing of fields as oxen could. As we often see, family and friends frequently helped each other on these modest farms.)
Clear. Jared sowed the oats. I sowed grass seed. Drawed off stone in forenoon, drawed out manure in afternoon. Father got a mess of cowslips.
(The grass was probably for livestock and hay, not for lawn.
(Manure was not simply the dung of livestock. Manure could have been almost anything used to enrich the soil and feed the crops. Here’s a description from Facts for Farmers (1866): “Cattle droppings should be mixed with those of horses, to preserve and improve both… Pile it up, mixing muck, sods, weeds, waste straw, salt, and lime to help decomposition, and plaster or charcoal on the surface to absorb and retain the escaping gases, and use a pump to send back all the drainings and other rich liquid, including urine and soapsuds, and old brine, blood, and all sorts of dirty water.” Other popular ingredients included including hay, stalks, vines, bones, fish, ashes, and meat scraps—even old clamshells. It was much like today’s compost – except that it did usually include dung. Lime was often added not only as a nutrient, but also to reduce the often-overpowering stench of rot.
(Aside from the smell, manuring a field was no simple task. According to one vegetable-growing manual published in 1867, from 50 to 100 tons of stable or barnyard manure were needed per acre to produce heavy, market-type crops. Horse manure was the most valuable type of dung, containing a third more nutrient value than that of cows or hogs.
(The word “manure” is derived from old words meaning to cultivate by hand – manus is the Latin for hand.)
Clear, strong south wind. Drawed out manure in forenoon. In afternoon, Father went to post office. Work in garden.
Cloudy and south wind. Father went up and got Bill shod. Heavy shower at night with thunder. Work trees in turnip pen.
(Bill was Jared’s horse.)
Clear and cold. N.E. wind. Went up West Lane after supper with Emily and Emmie.
Wet, drizzling rain through the day. Jared commence to plow our planting ground.
(Jared probably used a cast-iron plow, which was a relatively new device but in widespread use by the 1860s. However, many farmers well into the 19th Century insisted on using old-fashioned wooden plows. The first American-made, cast-iron plow did not come on the scene until 1797 when Charles Newbold of New Jersey patented one. Solon Robinson’s Facts for Farmers (1866) said that “Great as these improvements were upon the old wooden plows, such was the prejudice against them – some even affirming that cast iron poisoned the ground and prevented the growth of crops – that after spending, as the inventor alleged, $30,000 in a vain effort to get his plows into general use, he gave up the business in despair, leaving American farmers wedded to their idols, the old wooden plows.”
Clear. We drawed out manure and Jared plowed.
Clear. Drawed out some manure and spread it. Laura spent the day here. Emily carried her home. Jared plowing.
(Laura A. Smith [1844-1910] was the daughter of John B. and Elizabeth Smith and 21 years old at this time. John was the brother of Emily Nash, and thus Laura is a cousin of Emily. Laura was undoubtedly one of the people Emily would visit on her frequent trips “up West Lane.” She probably lived with her father and mother in what is now the Red Petticoat Antiques place on West Lane, just west of Olmstead Lane.)
Some sunshine in forenoon. Jared finished plowing orchard in forenoon. Father harrowed in backlot. I worked in garden. Emily cleaned hall and went to PO in afternoon.
(Land on a farm was precious, and a good farmer wasted not a square foot if he could. An apple orchard could also be a planting ground. Here, Jared Olmstead is plowing in the orchard to loosen the ground to plant potatoes, a crop often mixed in with apple trees. Corn is also planted in the Nash orchard. Note that Jared Olmstead makes ridges or hills for potatoes on May 8, finishes it on the 13th, and then on May 15, Jared Nash plants the potatoes there.)
(A harrow was a wooden device with iron or steel teeth that was dragged by horse along plowed ground to break up clumps in the soil and even it out in preparation for planting. After seeds were cast, dragging a harrow turned the seeds under the soil. Commercial models were available in a variety of forms, but the Nashes probably made their own. Some farmers called them “drags” and some “clod crushers.”
Some cloudy in afternoon. Harrowed planting ground in forenoon, mark it in afternoon.
(Marking the ground probably meant laying out what varieties of plants would go where, or simply where the rows to be planted would be located.)
I commence to plant. It began to rain, 9 o’clock. Rained the rest of the day. Father went to depot after Mother and E. R. Grummon. Libby come down in the rain.
(Back on April 17, Mother and Elizabeth R. Grummun – diarist Jared Nash’s sister -- had gone off by train to some undisclosed destination. Here, they are just getting back, and Libby, Elizabeth’s daughter, comes to the Nashes to see her mother. They may have used the station at Wilton or Branchville -- the former was six miles away, the latter, five miles.)
Clear, cool and windy. Warmer toward night. Emily got cold.
Some sunshine in morning. South wind. Father and Emmie went to depot with E. R. Grummon in afternoon. Planted corn in afternoon. Jared ridged for potatoes. Turned young cattle out.
(Elizabeth Grummun is going back to her home.
(The corn planted by the Nashes probably was not the sweet corn we buy for boiling or broiling. It was either fed to the livestock or ground for flour used in breadmaking. Leaves and husks were also ground and mixed with a corn oil-cake to form a feed for fattening chickens, hogs, and cattle. Corn, incidentally, was considered “the most important and the most distinctive American crop,” according to L. H. Bailey, a 19th Century expert on agriculture. The Nashes planted corn in both field and orchard.
(In ridging, Jared Olmstead was hilling the ground where the potatoes were to be planted.)
Rain all day. Made crib for dolly.
(This is one of the few “homey” touches to Jared’s diary. “Dolly” undoubtedly belonged to his daughter, Emmie, and had probably been made by Emily.)
Cloudy with little sunshine. Growed verry wet. Not fit to plant. Fixt bars and abutments south of the rye.
(Jared was repairing the fencing south of the rye field, a traditional spring task. The same work is done May 12. Notice that he did not waste a bad day; if he couldn’t plant, he did something else useful on the farm.
(For more about rye, see July 11, 1865, Aug. 25, 1865, and April 12, 1866)
Rain in the morning, damp & cloudy all day. Thunder shower at dark. Wind SW.
Wet in forenoon, cleared off in afternoon. Fixt bars and posts over in the lane and got peabrush, then went up to Bailey’s; got potatoes of Hiram.
(Peabrush was an old New England farming trick for dealing with pea vines. Instead of erecting fancy fences or lattices to support the pea plants, the farmers would take fallen tree branches with plenty of twigs attached to each, and stick them into the pea bed. The vines climbed up and had plenty of support. And it’s a suitable technique even for today’s home garden, said Jim Crocket, author of Crocket’s Victory Garden.
(Hiram may be Hiram Seymour, whose wife visits the family later -- see June 10, 1866.)
Clear and pleasant. Planted corn. Emily and Emmie went up West Lane all day. Jared finishes ridging potatoes.
Clear through the day. Father went to the funeral of Nathan Scott.
(Nathan Scott, who died May 12 at the age of 78, was a well-known farmer who lived at the corner of North Salem and Barlow Mountain Roads.)
Clear most of the day. Dug some in garden, harrowed and mark the orchard and planted some potatoes.
Clear. Planted corn in forenoon. Abram and Patrick began to plant potatoes.
(Patrick, whose name appears occasionally, is apparently a hired hand, quite possibly one of the Irish immigrants whose numbers in Ridgefield were beginning to grow at this time. The English were the first immigrants to this area, followed by the Irish, the Germans and the Italians, although the Germans did not come in the numbers of the Irish and Italians. Patrick helps hoe the potatoes June 29 and plasters on July 4. By helping, Patrick may have earned a share of the potato crop.)
Clear and hot. Mercury 85. Dug in garden and planted south of barn. They finished potatoes.
Cloudy, cold, east wind. Drove old cow to L. [?] Seymour’s, help Abram plant in A.M. finished digging garden. Rain at night.
(Jared’s handwriting of Seymour’s initial is unclear. It could be Lewis L. Seymour [1835-1901], a Ridgefield merchant.)
Wind east. Damp & foggy all day. Sprouted potatoes.
(Seed tubers, taken from the previous year’s crop, were kept in the cellar until about two weeks before planting time when they were spread out across a barn floor or some well-lighted place. This caused the tubers to sprout in preparation for planting. Among potatoes are varieties for early and late planting.)
Wind south. Wet in morning. Some broken in middle of the day. Wet at night. Father went to Brown’s mill to get corn samped.
(Brown's mill was in the Vista section of Lewisboro -- probably the closest of any mill to the Nashes. It was just off Silver Spring Road, which travels through southwestern Lewisboro after traversing a section of Wilton. The grist and saw mill, operated by Sylvenus L. Brown, stood where there is now a reservoir serving Norwalk -- appropriately called Brown's Reservoir.)
(Samp is an old word for coarsely ground Indian corn. Jared probably means his father had the corn coarsely ground, as food for livestock.)
Cloudy and wet all day. Father went to Mrs. Hoyt’s in evening.
Heavy rain in morning before day. verry wet, damp & foggy through day.
Some sunshine in afternoon. Father went to Norwalk. D. Patrick brought yearling here to pasture. Made flower bed.
(D. Patrick was probably Daniel Partrick -- Jared leaving out the “r,” a common mistake with this name. About 60 years old at this time, Mr. Partrick lived on Wilton Road West and was treasurer of the Ninth or Flat Rock School District. He probably contributed some labor to the farm to compensate for using the Nashes’ pasture – and perhaps services of the Nash bull -- for three months. The heifer goes home on Aug. 21.
(While the Nashes’ farm seemed all work and no play, clearly the family – or at least its women – wanted flowers. Bouquets not only brightened the inside of a farmhouse, but helped it smell better.)
Clear and cold. I carried Emily & Emmie up West Lane in morning, then went after them at night. Hoed some potatoes and planted garden.
(From here on through the growing season, we find references to hoeing, the process of churning up the soil around plants to kill the weeds.)
Clear. Planted a patch of beans in forenoon. In afternoon, Father went to depot twice with ties.
(Father, who is about 71 years old at this time, must have been a strong and healthy fellow to handle such chores as hauling loads of railroad ties. These were the ties that the Nashes had been cutting in the winter.)
Clear. Father went 3 times with ties.
Cloudy. Wind East. Father went with one load of ties and got some plaster. Libby Grummon come and staid all night. Lewis and Alanon Mead called here. Jared ashed corn. Rain through the night. We made soap.
(Such a busy day for the Nash family!
(“Plaster” is plaster of Paris or sulphate of lime, a common “dressing” for farmland of this period, used as we might use lime today. It was best applied to fields in the spring and, farmers believed, helped supply nutrients to the plants. The Farmer’s Almanac  said plaster “is on some soils an efficient and cheap manure while on other soils, it seems to be of little or no value, as no difference can be detected in the crops following its use.” Plaster was also used in the stable and on manure piles “to prevent the escape of ammonia, and thus keep the air sweet and healthy,” said Facts for Farmers .)
(Lewis and Alanson, not Alanon as Jared spells it, were from nearby South Salem. Colonel Alanson Mead married Mariah Olmstead of Ridgefield in 1834 and eventually lived in Colebrook, Conn., where he was a state representative. Lewis's connection with Alanson is unclear, but perhaps they were brothers.
(Ashes from household fireplaces or stoves or from outdoor burning were not waste material then, as they tend to be today. They were valued not only as a fertilizer, as here, but also for obtaining potash in soap making, which, coincidentally, took place later that same day. Little was wasted in those days. In fact, Norwalk once had a whole building for storing ashes -- a Norwalk Town Meeting on Jan. 22, 1669 “voted and granted that Thomas Oviet of Milford shall have liberty to set a house by the waterside before John Gregory’s senior to put ashes in.”
(The soap was not much like our modern cakes of scented bath soap. While farmers could -- and some did -- make hard soap, it took longer and used more resources, and most settled for a soft, liquidy soap. Beef fat and scraps from the eating table, old bones, and anything else containing fat were placed into a large pot and heated. The best grease was skimmed off the top. Meanwhile, water had been poured through wood ashes, over and over again, much in the way that water drips through coffee grounds in a percolator. This yielded lye water which, when added to the fat, created soap. It was a foul-smelling, generally dirty operation, but it could produce enough soap to last for many months.)
Wet and foggy all day.
Cloudy through the day. Father carried Libby to her school in morning. Done some chores around.
(Libby taught at Titicus Schoolhouse and during the week was getting board from someone who lived near the school. She seemed to spend weekends with family on West Lane or, in this case, at the Nashes’ house.)
Clear through the day. Work at stone fence and lower lot near street.
Clear and warm. Work on the road. Went up town towards night with Emily and Emmie.
(In the 18th and 19th Centuries, landowners were responsible for the upkeep of the highways bordering their property or in their neighborhood. Town officers, called surveyors, inspected the roads and could order residents into service fixing them. These conscripted workers received 10 cents an hour for their labors. Surveyors were elected by school district. Samuel B. Fitch and James R. St. John, elected at the Town Meeting, were the surveyors in this district at this point in 1865.)
Clear and warm. Work in garden and cleaned cellar in forenoon. Finished the fence in afternoon.
(Today and the next, we see more of that spring-cleaning that started back on April 25 with the bedroom.)
Some cloudy in forenoon. Emily cleaned kitchen; I, sink room. Father went a clamming.
(In the Nashes’ old farmhouse, the sink was not in the kitchen, but in a separate room. Sometimes these rooms were actually separate buildings, partly underground. Sources of household water in the 19th Century included outside wells, inside wells, or springs whose water was piped by gravity to the house or sink room. In the case of wells, water was obtained either by bucket or by hand-operated pump. The Nashes had the latter, as we shall see in a future reference.)
Clear and warm. Work on the road. Father bought a heifer off G. Seymour.
(G. Seymour, probably George W. Seymour, was apparently a farmer who raised livestock and who lived on Wilton Road West or South Olmstead Lane. The Nashes often drove farrow cows to the Seymour’s bull, as noted on March 25 and April 18.)
Clear and hot; 87 in shade. We went to go to church and there was not any.
(At 87 in the shade, one could understand why the minister might call off services.)
Shower in forenoon. Cloudy most of the day. Plowed for rutabagas and to sow corn.
(Rutabagas, a kind of turnip -- and often called then “ruta baga turnips” -- were a popular livestock feed on 19th Century farms because they kept very well over the winter and could be grown in a variety of soils. Early June was the best time to plant rutabaga seeds.)
Cloudy. Plowed, and hoed corn in orchard in. Set out [ahdig?]. Rebecca here in afternoon. Went up West Lane at night with Emily. She has some vest come.
(Jared’s writing was unclear on just what was planted.
(Emily does piecework sewing at home, apparently receiving boxes of cut-outs which she sewed into vests. She may have been working for the Ridgefield Shirt Factory, which could have been farming out work at this time. However, the occasional references to the vests’ arriving from somewhere indicate that she may have been working for an out-of-town company.)
Cloudy. Wind SW. Jared plowed corn and we hoed it. Curtis Betts come here and staid all night. Mother went to Mrs. Hoyt’s in afternoon to get Father’s pantaloons made. Jared commence to plow a piece for buckwheat.
(Curtis Betts, a Ridgefield shoemaker, was a native of Wilton. He died in 1868 at the age of 70. He was probably a friend of father.
(True pantaloons in the 19th Century were tight trousers, worn for formal occasions, which had straps passing under the instep to hold the legs down. These were probably just trousers.
(Once more popular than it is today, buckwheat reached its American high point in production in 1866, only a year after this entry was written, when 22 million bushels were grown in the United States. By 1905, only 14-million bushes were produced. A quick crop, it took only eight to 10 weeks to mature, faster than any other grain. Buckwheat was used for both animal feed and for household flour. Although buckwheat pancake mixes today are brown or gray in color, real buckwheat flour is actually whiter than wheat flour. Dairy farmers valued its byproducts because of the high protein content.
(Buckwheat had its advantages and disadvantages as a crop. It grew in poorer soils and, because it grew so densely, it smothered out all other plants. Thus buckwheat was good for “clearing” a field, as farmers used to put it, of weeds and other unwanted plants. However, buckwheat made its demands. “It is … a tremendous exhauster of the ground – seeming to take double the food from the soil that a crop of oats would do,” said The Farmers’ Almanac . The almanac recommended that a harvest buckwheat of buckwheat should be followed by “a liberal dressing of manure.”)
Clear and hot. Finished hoing in forenoon. Work in garden.
Clear and hot. Shower towards night. Emily, Emmie & I went to S. Norwalk. Rained most of the way home.
(The family was probably visiting the Walter Quintards; Mrs. Quintard was Emily’s sister, Sarah. The Quintards will visit Ridgefield later.)
Thunder shower in morning and showery through the day.
Clear. Emily & Emmie went up West Lane in afternoon. Not verry well.
Clear. Done chores and drawed some poles to fence turnip patch. Emily went to John Benedict toward night.
(Fence work was a common spring activity. Poles or rails for fencing were often made from American chestnut, a common, fast-growing, and very straight tree. They were easy to split, and most of the ties for the rapidly spreading American railway system of the mid-1800s came from chestnut. A blight early in this century killed most all of the large chestnuts. Young ones still grow in the forests today, but they are doomed by the ubiquitous blight, and die before they become very big.
(John Benedict, a farmer, lived near the corner of Silver Spring Road and West Lane.)
Clear and hot. Plowed and hoed potatoes & beans. Went down to Brown’s mill with salt.
(The Nashes probably weren’t dealing with table salt here, but went to the mill to have chunks of salt ground into a powder that was used as a fertilizer, especially for grain crops. Salt was also both a herbicide and an insecticide in the 19th Century. Putting it on roads or in ditches and gutters kept plant growth down. It was also used on certain maturing plants, whose leaves were dusted with the powder to keep off harmful insects. However, another use of salt was as a wood preservative – farmers would drill a hole into a fence post just above the ground, fill it with salt, and plug it up. The salt would eventually impregnate the wood, keeping out insects and rot. Since the Nashes are working at fences here, this may be why the salt is being prepared.)
Some cooler. Wind east. Father drawed some poles and fixt fence. I went to blacksmith. Bill shod.
Cloud and cool. East wind. Work at corn ground and went a strawberrying. Heard Stephen Olmstead died last night.
(Stephen Olmstead, another shoemaker, died June 14 at the age of 71. Born in 1794, he was a son of Matthew Olmstead and brother of David W. Olmstead, whose daughter married Emily Nash’s brother, John B. Smith. Stephen lived on Olmstead Lane in an 18th Century house owned for many years by Paul and Kathryn Rosa.)
Cloudy. Soled Emmie’s shoes and went to the funeral. Mother and Emmie went to Mrs. Hoyt’s.
(The funeral was for Stephen Olmstead.)
Clear and hot. Plowed and hoed corn in orchard. Went up to J. Benedict with Emily & Emma. Left there to her mother’s to stay all night. Mother went to see Aunt Anah.
(Anah Nash was born with the wonderful name, Gloriana St. John. It was an uncommon name, meaning “glory of God,” and apparently she did not like it much, for she was known most of her life as Anah – it was spelled that way on the census. Anah had just had her 80th birthday June 4th and was probably ill; she had only a few months to live. Anah, the widow of Samuel Olmstead Nash, was Jared’s father’s aunt and thus Jared’s great aunt. She was the mother of Abram Nash, who visits often.)
Clear and verry hot. Shower before noon, cloudy the rest of the day. Went up after supper after Emily and Emmie.
Damp & foggy. Made a pair of shoes for Emmie. Sowed corn.
Damp in morning, cloudy most of the day. Emily and I went to Norwalk.
Damp in morning. Sun come out, hot for rest of the day. We hoed corn.
Clear and hot. Finished hoeing in forenoon. Work some in garden. Shower in afternoon.
Clear and pleasant. Father went to mill in forenoon. Mother went to G. Smith’s with him in P.M. We fixt pump tube in the well. Emily and I went strawberrying and he went up after Mother, and Libby come home with them. We had peas for dinner today.
(The pump tube was a wooden tube through which round rubber disks on a continuous chain pulled water up from the well.
(Wild strawberries, common in parts of Ridgefield, are tasty. However, few people nowadays seem to take advantage of these free wild fruits.
(Peas were the first fruits of the season’s plantings. Although peas were an excellent feed for fattening cattle and hogs as well as an popular soil conditioner, it appears the Nashes grew them mainly for the table – using the leftover vines, of course, for the manure heap.
(Peas were frequently sown in fields and apple orchards to enrich the soil by taking nitrogen from the air and placing it in the ground. “Peas are an excellent crop to prepare land for wheat or any other grain, and may be profitably grown as a manure crop,” Facts for Farmers said in 1866. “They may be grown for seed after the 10th of June, free from the pea-bug; and a bushel is worth a bushel of corn for fattening purposes, and it does not cost half so much to produce it.”
(Today’s gardener might be surprised at how many varieties were available back in 1865. Facts for Farmers recommended more than a dozen including Daniel O’Rourke, Early Princess, Early Emperor, Prince Albert, Early Kent, Tom Thumb, Bishop’s Early Dwarf, Dwarf Blue Imperial, Champion of England, British Queen, and Missouri Marrowfat.)
Clear and warm. Hoed potatoes and beans in forenoon. Mowed dooryard and rake it up. Went towards night with Emily and Emmie to J. Benedict and left them up West Lane, to stay all night.
Clear. Father and mother went to meeting in afternoon. I went up after Emily & Emmie.
Father and Emmie went to mill in morning. Rain before noon and most of the afternoon, verry fast some of the time.
Clear. Commence to mow in the clover and mowed north of the house.
(“Make hay while the sun shines,” farmers used to say. In fact, hay was the single most important crop a farmer raised. What was collected during four weeks in early summer would be used for feed the cows and horses for six months in winter – from November through April. Starting here – or perhaps on June 24 with the mowing of the dooryard, the Nashes begin collecting clover for hay. Clover hay had to be cut, gathered in cocks, and housed away from the rain very quickly; wet clover spoiled rapidly. Here the Nashes had three fine days for haying.
(Clover had benefits aside from food for livestock. Clover enriched soil with nitrogen, thus rejuvenating it. It was planted as a rotation crop or with oats and barley. Its flowers provided honey for bees that many farmers kept.
(Red Clover was the most common clover crop -- and it still is the most common type of weed clover found here. There’s hardly a piece of open land that doesn’t have Red Clover growing on it, descendants of the Old World clovers farmers like the Nashes planted so many years ago. White Clover was also grown as a field conditioner and a source of bee nectar, but was rarely used as hay.)
Clear & comfortable. Work at hay. Mrs. St. John here in afternoon.
(Several St. Johns were friends of the family -- this one may have been Abigail St. John, the wife of Jared N. St. John, who died Oct. 28, 1876 at the age of 76. Or it may have been Mrs. Bela St. John, mentioned July 30, 1865. One of the founding families of Ridgefield, the St. John clan [called Saintjohn in early records and Sention even earlier] was farming in this part of southern Ridgefield at least since 1815 and probably much earlier. The Nashes lived on Silver Spring Road, and the next road east is today called St. Johns Road after the several St. Johns who lived there in the 19th Century. Among them was Jared and Abigail St. John, relatives and close friends of the Nashes.)
Clear and warmer. Work at hay. Jared plowed & Abram and Patrick hoed potatoes. Hatty Lobdell & Joshua & Libby G. come here at night after we was abed.
(Hatty Lobdell was either Harriet Eliza Lobdell, born in Ridgefield in 1845 and the daughter of Samuel and Harriet Nash Lobdell. Or she was Harriet Nash Lobdell herself. Joshua was the son of Samuel and Harriet. So Hattie and Joshua are either mother and son, or siblings. Samuel Lobdell, whose death is reported Sept. 23, 1865, was a tailor living in New Jersey.
(It’s hard to say when the family went to bed, but chances are that it was not too long after dark. On June 29, sunset was at 7:40. The fact that the three guests showed up so late suggests they had probably traveled some distance. If they had been carrying important family news, Jared probably would have noted it. Perhaps Hatty and Joshua had just gotten into town and were visiting old friends.)
Foggy in morning, then clear and hot. I went and carried the folks up town to go to Salem. Got a pr. of shoes for Emily to Linus Northrop. Got in some hay and plants & rutabagas. Thunder in evening and some rain.
(Salem is the old name for what is now Lewisboro and North Salem, N.Y. However, Jared was probably referring to the village of South Salem, where the friends lived, including his half brother, Charles Sanford Nash.
(Linus O. Northrop, a harnessmaker, probably also made shoes. But why did Jared, a shoemaker and son of a shoemaker, buy his wife’s shoes from someone else? Perhaps because his specialty was simpler men's shoes?)
Cloudy through the day. Went with Emily in morning to carry her vests, and then hilled corn.
(Jared was building up mounds around the young corn plants. Rain had probably eroded some of the hills or ridges into which the seed was placed earlier in the season. Corn that matures in September often must be supported by building hills around the stalks early in the year. Wind or even the plants’ own weight otherwise tends to fell the corn, which has a root system very close to the surface. The hills also protect the roots from the drying effects of the sun.)
Cloudy for part of the day, cleared off in afternoon.
Cleared. Mowed some, finished hilling corn in orchard, and plastered it. Rake up the hay, 29 heaps.
(Plastering was applying lime as a fertilizer that also discouraged some kinds of harmful insects.)
Clear. Carried Emily up West Lane in morning. Then work at hay. Helpt Patrick plaster potatoes.
(For Jared, at least, the Fourth of July was a time for work, not play. The holiday was popular then, but because of the war, celebrations here may have been limited or non-existent. In addition, Emily was six months pregnant. Perhaps a gathering was taking place at the Smith homestead on West Lane. Next year, after the war has ended, the Nashes did no more on the Fourth – though they did make a trip to see friends in Norwalk on July 3rd.
(This was also a busy time of the year for a farmer who probably didn’t want to lose the advantage of a clear and sunny day. Patrick, last name unknown but quite possibly a recent Irish immigrant, had helped Abram plant the potatoes back on May 16.)
Clear. Hilled corn in back lot. Went at night after Emily & Emmie.
Not very clear. Finished hilling. Work some at hay. Father went and got plaster. Mother went to Aunt Biar’s. Emily & Emmie went to J.N. Olmstead.
(Aunt Biar is probably Biah or Abiah Seymour, daughter of Abraham and Sarah Nash and Jared’s great aunt. She lived on upper Wilton Road West and was the widow of Thaddeus Seymour. She died of pneumonia in 1869 at the age of 86, and was probably somewhat infirm at this time. Thus, the visit was probably to an ailing aunt.)
Clear and hot. Work at hay. Mrs. Holmes and Emily Olmstead spent the day here. Emily carried them home at night. Jared sowed buckwheat. Willy plastered the corn.
(Clear, dry weather was ideal for cutting, collecting and storing hay, which could be ruined by too much moisture.
(Emily was probably the Emily Olmstead [1835-1899], a daughter of David W. and Emily Olmstead who lived in a house on Olmstead Lane, owned in the last quarter of the 20th Century by Jack and Sally Sanders. She was a dressmaker, and being about 30 years old at this time, probably grew up with Emily Nash, who was about 33 and who’d lived just around the corner from Emily Olmstead before marrying Jared Nash. The visitor could also have been this Emily Olmstead’s mother.
(Willie is not identified in the diary, but he may have been Willie E. Duncan, who in 1875 witnessed a family legal document. He was probably a hired hand, but could have been a friend.)
Clear and comfortable. Work hay in old barn lot and cut some of the clover next lot back.
(The old barn lot was probably a site of a barn that had fallen out of use or burned long before. This land had been farmed since, probably, the 1730s – more than a century and a third – and there were probably already remnants of old farm buildings.)
Clear. We went to church in forenoon. Mother rode to meeting with us, then I went up after her after meeting was out.
(Remember that when Jared is saying “meeting,” it is like our saying “church.”)
Not verry clear, but some sun in middle of day. Work at hay, got in 27. Mowed & rake 26 heaps. Abram cut rye. Went down to Comstock’s store at night with Abram.
(Twenty seven means heaps or bales or cocks of hay. Abram -- probably Abram S. Nash – is probably using a sickle, used in combination with a “grass crook” or “hay crook,” a device that held the top part of a bunch while the sickle cut through the bottom.)
Rain most of the forenoon. Fixt my boots. In afternoon Father went to mill with feed and to factory with wool. Abram finished cutting the rye.
(The factory here was probably Elias N. and John Glover’s woolen factory on the banks of the Norwalk River near the northern corner of Route 7 and Topstone Road. Founded around 1770 by Hugh Cain, after whom Cain’s Hill is named, the mill factory processed, wove, and dyed wool.
(This is the first indication that the Nashes may have had sheep on their farm. However, Jared never mentions sheep shearing as an activity, so Father may have been hauling wool for someone else. Rye was a favorite food for sheep, and especially in the fall, the animals were pastured in the rye field after the crop was cut, so they could graze on the stubble and get strong for the harsh winter ahead.)
Cloudy all day. I went a wortleberring in forenoon. Emily went up West Lane with C. Gregory. I went in afternoon with her to David Olmstead. Uncle Abram Nash and Daniel Canfield called here.
(By whortleberries, Jared meant blueberries, varieties of which were called whortleberries. For example, the Highbush or Tall Blueberry, found hereabouts, is also called the Great Whortleberry. These were undoubtedly wild blueberries – they were not commonly cultivated at this point – and were used to make jam, jelly and preserves. Those, wild strawberries, cowslips, some nuts, and clams from the shore seem to be the only wild foods the Nashes seem to have eaten.
(C. Gregory could have been Charles Gregory of Ridgefield or one of the many Wilton Gregorys.
(Uncle Abram Nash was not Jared’s cousin, Abram S. Nash, who often visits and helps on the farm [he is called simply “Abram” in the diary]. Uncle Abram was Jared’s father’s uncle, making him Jared’s granduncle. He would have been in his early 80s at this time. The entry under July 14 indicates Uncle Abram may have been living in Norwalk at this time.
(Daniel Canfield lived in Lewisboro.)
Some cloudy in forenoon. Clear in afternoon. Laid some stone fence. Got in 2 load of hay. Rake one piece of rye.
Clear and cool. Went to Norwalk to carry Uncle Abram Nash. Father and Jared got in the rye. We mowed some and killed calf.
The calf was probably killed to provide some income -- see next entry.
Clear. Work at hay. Got in 3 load. Father went to carry veal to send to Russel Mead. Emily & Emmie went up West Lane in forenoon. We went and got berrys just at night.
(Back in January, Mead, who lived nearby on Wilton Road West, got chickens from the Nashes.)
Cloudy with south wind, rain towards night. Went to church in forenoon. We staid up West Lane till after supper. John’s folks was down from Carmel. Mother went to meeting with us.
(John is John Betts Smith, Emily Nash’s brother. Part of the Smith clan lived in Carmel, N.Y., as did John for a while. In fact, Laura Smith, his daughter, had been born there in 1844.
Rain verry hard all night. Cloudy in forenoon, cleared off in afternoon. Fixt in waggonhouse to put hay. Went a whortleberring and mowed some. Picked our first cucumbers.
(The wagon house, an outbuilding like a garage for storing the wagon or wagons, was evidently used temporarily for holding hay during the haying season. The “fixing” may have been repairing leaks roof and openings in walls, for the hay had to be kept dry.)
Clear. Work at hay. Cleared old barn lot and one back of it. 4 load. Emily went and brought her Mother, D. Olmstead wife and John Smith’s wife down here and then carried them back at night.
(David Olmstead's wife, Emily Olmstead, was the mother of John Smith's wife, Elizabeth. John was a son of Mother -- Polly Northrop Smith -- and brother of Jared's wife Emily.)
Clear in forenoon, clouded up and began to rain about 7 o’clock and rained verry fast most of all night. Mowed and got in the old orchard 3 load.
Flying clouds in forenoon. Father went up to A. Scott’s with butter. Mowed in afternoon south of house. Emily went up town. Laura came here with her and staid all night.
(A. Scott is unknown, but it may have been Amelias Scott, whom the census says was living here in 1860. With a surname like Amelias, it would not be surprising that Jared would write simply “A. Scott,” since he probably didn’t have a clue about the spelling of Amelias. Another possibility is that it is Amelia Scott, who was a 43-year-old daughter of Nathan Scott, who had died in May.)
Clear. Good hay day, got 6 load of hay south of house. Abram helpt us. Laura, Emily & Emmie went a whortleberring. Went and carried Laura home at night.
(This Abram is Jared’s cousin, as opposed to Uncle Abram.)
Rain in morning. Cloudy and damp through the day. Cleared off at night. Went and got a shoe on Bill and thinned rutabagas.
Clear. Emily, Emmie and I went to church in afternoon. Heard John D. Edmond died this afternoon down to his father’s.
(Rockwell and other historians have maintained that until the 20th Century, Ridgefield had no lawyers. However, town hall records indicate two lawyers died here in the 1800s. One was John D. Edmonds whose death at the age of 33 occurred on July 23. He was the son of R.C. Edmonds, who lived near the Nashes on Silver Hill Road. He was a veteran of five months of service in the Civil War during 1861.)
Lowery in forenoon. Hoed rutabagas and mowed some. Clear in afternoon. Our folks went to the funeral. I rake up the hay and then we got in 2 load.
Cloudy through the day, thunder shower just at night. Finished mowing south of the house and went a whortleberrying with Father and Emily.
Clear. High west wind. Cleared lot south, 2 loads. Mowed some north of house. Emily and Emmie spent the day up West Lane.
Clear. Finished mowing. I got in 22 heeps. Rake up 18 more north of the house. Mother went up to Mr. Holmes. I went after her at night.
Clear and verry hot. Finished getting in hay. We all went up see Libby and she come home with us. Heavy thunder shower about 12 o’clock at night.
Clear and hot. Abram cut oats by old orchard lane. We went whortleberrying in forenoon. Done chores in afternoon. Cooked cucumbers for pickles.
(“Facts for Farmers” advised homemakers in 1866 on pickling cucumbers: “The great art in making good pickles is to have good vinegar. The best vinegar for pickling is made of sound cider. As good vinegar is not always at hand, the best way is to prepare a brine strong enough to bear an egg. When the tub is full of pickles, allow the brine to cover them; then cover them over with cabbage-leaves, and a board and weight to keep them in the brine. For use, freshen in warm water, and put them in a bright brass kettle, with vinegar enough to cover them, and scald them 15 or 20 minutes; put them in jars, and pour hot vinegar over them; flavor them with cloves, mace, black pepper, an onion or two, and a little horseradish and ginger.” Yummy!)
Clear and some cooler. Wind N East. Bela St. John brought Aunt Lucy here and left her. Emily, Libby & Emmie went after supper to J.N. Olmstead and Abram’s.
(Bela St. John was a farmer who lived in northern Wilton. He was married to Aunt Lucy’s sister, Esther Keeler, and was Jared’s uncle.
(As a given name in 19th Century New England, Bela was quite unusual. Bela was a Slavic or Hungarian name, used by several Hungarian kings; very few people from Eastern Europe were in these parts. However, Bela St. John’s family was using the name in the 1700s, so it seems unlikely that Bela St. John had Slavic roots.
(Aunt Lucy, who stayed with the Nashes until Aug. 6, was Lucy Keeler Dudley from Wilton. She is a sister of Roxy Keeler Nash, Jared Nash’s mother. Her death on May 28, 1866, reported in the diary, is not recorded in the town hall.
(Jared Nash Olmstead and Abram Nash lived close to each other on St. Johns Road.)
Clear. Got one piece of oats and dug bushel potatoes to carry away. Carried Libby to her school in morning; at night, carried Aunt Lucy to Holmes’. Mrs. Mary St. John called her in afternoon. William Osborn and his daughter come and staid all night.
(A “piece” is a parcel or lot of land -- one planted space. Mary St. John, a native of Wilton, was the widow of James St. John, also of Wilton. She died in Ridgefield in 1867 at the age of 90. Her connection with the Nashes is unclear but she may have been related to the family.
(Libby Grumman, as we have seen, is a schoolteacher at the Titicus Schoolhouse, still standing on the corner of North Salem Road and New Street. Female pupils were taught in the summer while males, needed to help on the farm, went to school in the colder months.
(Jared Nash and William Osborn are first cousins. William’s mother, Nancy Keeler Osborn, was a sister of Jared’s mother, Roxy Keeler Nash. Since they stayed overnight, Osborns probably lived in another town some distance away.)
Clear, Father and I went to Norwalk. Dug a mess of clams.
Cloudy in morning, then clear. Went to blacksmith’s with Bill in forenoon. Work in garden in afternoon. Emily went up West Lane with me. I went up after her at night. Father got blackberries.
(The entry does not make clear whether father was gathering wild or cultivated blackberries. However, since Jared seems to describe collecting wild whortleberries or blueberries as “a whortleberrying,” and here father “got blackberries,” father was perhaps harvesting a cultivated patch rather than picking in the wild.
(Blackberries were common in the wild, but many farmers grew them as a crop. They sold in New York for 25 cents a quart around this time, and thus a family with a couple acres of blackberries could fetch a nice piece of change for a few days of picking. In fact, when blackberries were ready for harvest in some areas of the Northeast, all other activity stopped – even schooling – and whole families would work all day and into the night at picking.
(By the 1860s, there was only one popular cultivated blackberry, and that, in fact came from this area. The New Rochelle or Lawton blackberry was first raised in New Rochelle, N.Y., either from an accidental seedling of a wild variety, or from a plant imported by French Huguenots, who had settled in New Rochelle. However, the chief developer and marketer of these Lawton blackberries was George Seymour & Company of Norwalk, which sold seedlings throughout the country. One farming manual of the era said as many as a thousand berries could grow on a single cane of Lawton blackberries, and an acre of plants could yield a hundred bushels.)
Clear and verry hot. Mercury 90. Hoed rutabagas in forenoon. Father mowed around oat stuble. Got the other piece of oats. Thunder shower between 5 & 6 o’clock.
(Stubble was the lower portion of the plants left after the hay or oats were cut and harvested.)
Clear and hot. Mr. Holmes brought Aunt Lucy here. Done some chores and went whortleberring. Father went to blacksmith’s with chains & pork.
(Jared’s handwriting of the last word is unclear; pork is a guess, but one which leads to a confusing sentence. Perhaps the pork was in payment for fixing the chains?)
Lowery most of the day, but hot. Made clam rake and done chores. Went to Bailey store at night with Emily.
(The Nashes made many of the tools they used. The clam rake may have been fashioned by inserting long pegs or even nail rods through a short wood bar, and attaching a handle. Because the rake was designed to drag through wet sand to scoop up buried clams, the tines had to be long, but the number of them couldn’t be too great or the drag would be too difficult.)
Cloudy, shower in middle of day. Carried Emily up to go to church and went up after her towards night. Father & Mother went and carried Aunt Lucy home. Rain just at night and some through the night.
Cloudy most of the day. Rain in afternoon little while. Went up to Jared’s and Mr. St. John in morning. Father dug to settle a rock in oat stuble.
(In summer at least, it was easier to dig next to and deeper than the boulder to shift it under the surface than it was to try to remove it altogether. In winter, huge stones were often pulled up and placed on a stone boat and pulled away over the slick, snow-covered surface. Burying a boulder deeper is not a lasting solution because the freezing and thawing of the earth, plus the gradual loss of topsoil, tends to expose the rock again in a few years. “Some farmers prefer to sink the bowlders rather than dig them out and haul them off,” The Old Farmer’s Almanac of 1865 observes in August. “Any way to get rid of them is better than none.”)
Clear and some cooler. We all but Father went over to Sanford’s. He mowed round by meadow fences.
(The family probably went to Sanford Nash’s farm while Jared helped with some field work. Sanford often helped at the Nashes’ farm.)
Clear and pleasant. Went a blackberring and done chores around.
(This seems to suggest wild blackberries were being picked.)
Clear in forenoon, some cloudy in P.M. Father & I went a claming.
(Charles and Jared get to try out Jared’s new rake, made on Aug. 5. The clamming probably took place in Norwalk.)
Clear. Sick with the toothache. Daniel come down to tell Emily that a trunk of vests had come and she went up to see about it. Emmie is quite sick towards night.
(Daniel may have been Daniel Smith, brother of Emily. The vests, in pieces, are for Emily to sew together at home, a source of family income. Jared's dental problems will last into September. There were no “dentists” in Ridgefield, and the local doctor typically handled serious toothaches.)
Clear and cool. Wind. Feel better than yesterday. Father work at stone fence down the old orchard lane. He had a sick turn at night.
Clear, cool nights and mornings. Went after supper up West Lane with Emily & Emmie.
Clear & hot. Father went to Wilton Depot to carry C. Booth and family and I went after blackberries. Then we dug our early potatoes.
(The C. Booth family must have been somehow related to the Nashes or maybe the Smiths and in a town far enough away to require train travel.)
Clear and hot. Had a hunt after 2 year old heifer. She was gone out of the lot last night. Father dug some stone on stuble.
(Father was clearing a field of its rocks.)
Clear and hot. Father went in morning after Aunt Biar and carried her home at night. Work some at fence down the old orchard lane.
Some cloudy. Wind east. Work at fence. E. Smith’s wife, Phebe Ann, and Laura here in afternoon. Mother went to J.N. Olmsted in afternoon.
(E. Smith was probably from Dutchess County, N.Y. He visits from time to time; on Sept. 29, he will buy a heifer. This is probably a different person from Egbert Smith of Wilton, a butcher whose services the Nashes use.)
Some cloudy. Work some at fence. Went to Wm. Seymour to get stone augers sharpened.
(William Welles Seymour [1816-1896] was a blacksmith. Stone augers were tools for cutting holes in stone. Sometimes they were used to split the rock (along the line of the auger holes) and sometimes to anchor something into the stone. Here, however, Jared was preparing the augers to drill holes into which blasting powder would be inserted. Note that on Sept. 1, the Nashes “blasted some rocks down the old orchard lane.” The Nashes were also working on “fence” at this time, and they may have been using stone for this project as well as for clearing a field – or perhaps the old orchard lane itself. Jared later refers to work on a “stone fence,” what we would call a stonewall.)
Clear and warm. Work at the fence.
Clear and hot. Father & Mother went to meeting in afternoon.
Clear, hot & dry. Finished the fence in forenoon. D. Patrick come and took his heifer away.
(The heifer of Daniel Partrick [the name is often misspelled Patrick] was probably visiting the Nash bull, perhaps the same bull that the family will sell on Aug. 30 to Jared N. Olmstead. The heifer had been dropped off May 23 [q.v.])
Shower after 12 o’clock this morning. Cloudy, wind NE, rain towards night. Father plowed stuble for rye.
Clear and cool forepart of the day, then flying clouds rest of the day. Father finished plowing stuble.
(In plowing stubble, Father was preparing the rye fields, just harvested or being harvested, for the fall planting of the same crop.)
Clear and cool. Father work around the rye ground.
Clear and a little warmer. Father threshed rye. Emily & Emmie went up West Lane in afternoon. Mother went over to Mrs. Keeler’s.
(It would be interesting to see – or know for certain – how Father did his threshing. He may have used the age-old method of beating the plants to separate the grain from the husks and straw. If his fields were big enough, he may have used one of the more than 700 different types of threshing machines that were being sold in this country by the 1830s. However, since the Nashes were poor farmers it’s quite likely that the rye was laid on the barn floor and flailed. The mess was what father “cleaned up” the next day. The straw and chaff from the rye was used as feed and barn bedding for livestock.)
Clear. Father threshed more and cleaned up in forenoon. Drawed some stone off rye ground in afternoon.
Clear. Emily & Emmie went to Church in forenoon.
Clear. Father work round the fences. Sanford come here before noon.
Clear and warmer. Father went to Norwalk, carried chickens. I pulled beans and did other chores.
Foggy in morning, then clear and hot. Work at rye ground. I went to mill in afternoon. Mother went to G. Smith’s with me. Father sold bull to J. N. Olmsted.
(The trip to the mill is not explained, but it may have been to have apples ground into pomace for later pressing into what would become cider. As we shall see, Father made cider on Sept. 2 [q.v.]. Grinding apples was difficult at home and was best done at a mill like Gilbert’s mill at Titicus. Pressing the pomace or cheese was then easily done on the farm with a home-made cider press. Remember that the cider here is probably not what we call cider, but “hard cider” – fermented a bit to give it some alcoholic content.
(Father could also have been bringing rye to the mill to be ground into flour, for he had been threshing it. At Gilbert’s mill, both jobs could have been done at once, since the place was equipped for both operations.
(George Smith was a carriage-maker and farmer whom Mother frequently visits. He lived very near the family of Jared's wife, Emily Smith Nash, and may be Emily's cousin. )
Clear and verry hot. Mercury 87. Blasted some rocks down the old orchard lane.
(Dynamite had not been invented until just about this time, so the Nashes probably used black powder for the blasting.)
Rain from 1 o'clock till most noon. Hot & muggy. Father made some cider in afternoon.
(Cider-making, a Connecticut and New England tradition in late summer and early autumn, was an important and not an easy task. It did not consist simply of squeezing apples. The fruit was crushed in a certain way so that the meat was deliberately bruised, usually at a cider mill -- such as Gilbert's Mill on Saw Mill Hill Road in Titicus. Bruising and then exposing the crushed apples to sunlight, or at least the air, for the proper amount of time turned the pomace -- or apple cheese -- a brown color, a change that added a great deal of sugar and richness to the juice. The cheese was then layered on rye straw or on cloth, and squeezed in a wooden press. True cider was then allowed to ferment in barrels; what we call cider today is actually just apple juice. Cider was an alcoholic beverage that was a staple in most households, much as beer and wine are today. Although cider making was carried on commercially to some degree, it was usually a small-scale operation, with neighborhood cider mills and presses serving a community rather than big factories mass producing for sale through stores. Ridgefield had at least a half dozen cider mills by the mid-1800s, enough to serve the town's needs.)
Clear and hot. Went up West Lane in afternoon with Emily and Emmie. Roxanna and Richard come over. She staid over. Damp nights and mornings. Hot and muggy. Real dogs days weather about these times.
(Roxana and Richard are Roxana Nash Walker and her husband, Richard Walker. Roxana was a daughter of Charles Sanford Nash – “Sanford” – who was a son of Jared’s father by his first marriage to Roxana Nickerson. She was obviously named for her grandmother. Richard Walker later acquired the Nash homestead and bequeathed it in 1897 to his daughter, Annie Mae Walker, who married Cyrus A. Cornen Jr. in 1900. Cornen later became town clerk, probate judge and treasurer of St. Stephen’s Church, and wound up embezzling tens of thousands of dollars from both the town and the church. He skipped town in 1916, but after his death some years later, Annie returned, living with her daughter on Wilton Road West. She died in 1958 at the age of 83.
(Jared's use of the plural of dog days is interesting. Dog days technically begin July 3 and were originally associated with the rising of the dog stars [Sirius, the greater, in late July around here, and Procyon, the lesser, in mid-August]. The term came to mean in ancient times a period of the year that was the hottest and most unpleasant.)
Cloudy and damp in morning. Some sunshine in afternoon. Hot. Work at stone fence. Father had a sick turn at night. Bought a pig of Mr. Keeler, $3.
(The Nashes purchase of a whole pig for $3 shows how much the economy has changed. Today you can't buy a pound of ham for $3. Jared must have thought the amount of the purchase interesting since he rarely mentions money in the more than 700 diary entries.
(Back in the 1860s, a typical hog could produce about 400 pounds of meat, plus 175 pounds of rough fat. If the farmer wanted to sell the hog, he could fetch between six and eight cents a pound for the dressed meat. Hog farming was not considered very profitable, and a New York state farmer of this era calculated that it cost him $322 to raise 10 hogs [till slaughter at 40 weeks]. If the meat sold at six cents a pound dressed, he would have made $13 profit. At 7.5 cents, he would have made $74. Many farmers calculated that they would make more money selling the grain used to feed the hogs than feeding it to the hogs and then selling them.)
Lowery & hot. Work some at wood. Picked hops. Father not able to do any thing. Rebecca come here in afternoon and was sent for. She had company.
(Hops, a vine-like herb that can grow as much as a foot a day, were generally used in flavoring beer. However, the Nashes may have grown the plant for another old-time use -- making yeast from a decoction of hops and flour. They could also have sold hops at market to a brewery.
(Hops, incidentally, must have both male and female plants growing in the same neighborhood to survive. They require poles to hold up the climbing plant [“hop” is from the Anglo-Saxon, hoppan, to climb], and an area set aside for growing hops was called a “hopyard.” The valued part of the plant was the flower, which was dried and used as a beer flavoring and which also produced a yellow powder called lupulin, a drug . Small farmers picked and baled the flowers to sell and ship to mills.
(Along Route 33 in Wilton, just south of the Ridgefield line and not far from the Nash farm, was a place called the Hop Meadow. The name was in use as early as 1710 for this large low tract of land, whose first owners included Keelers, Olmsteads and St. Johns. It probably reflected wild hops found growing there. The hop, by the way, is closely related to marijuana.)
Lowery and damp in forenoon. Father went and carried Roxanna home. Verry hot in midle of day. Some thunder. Mother went up to F. Meeker's. Emily & Emmie went up West Lane. Walter Quindard's folks was up from Norwalk. I am most sick with toothache. Dug potatoes.
(Francis Meeker [1818-1868], a Norwalk native, was a farmer who lived just north of the Nashes on Silver Spring Road. Walter Quintard [Jared's spelling is incorrect] lived in South Norwalk and was married to Sarah Smith, sister of Emily Nash, Jared's wife. Thus, he was Jared's brother-in-law. A well-known businessman in Norwalk, he was a partner in the carriage-making firm of Quintard and Smith -- the Smith was probably someone else in Emily's family. Quintard once worked in the carriage factory in the Big Shop where the First Congregational Church now is on West Lane -- which may be how he met his wife, who grew up a quarter mile west on West Lane. He started his own firm in Norwalk and became successful enough in life to have been selected mayor of South Norwalk.
(The Old Farmer’s Almanac of 1865 advised in early September: “Dig potatoes when the skin will not slide if pushed hard by the thumb.” See entry for Sept. 22, 1865 for more on potatoes.)
Clear. Father and Monson went to Isaiah Keeler's to see Sanders cattle. Then he got Jared's oxen and finished plowing for rye where beans & potatoes [were]. My face no better. Ache day & night.
(Monson is Munson Hoyt, who with his sisters operated a farm on northern Silver Spring Road. Jared's handwriting of the word that appears to be Sanders is unclear, as is the reference. Father may have been looking at livestock to purchase.)
Cloudy. Father got out manure & ashes in forenoon. Rain in afternoon and all night. My face is not any better and is swelling up.
(Manure and ashes were being spread to prepare the soil for the fall crop of rye, which was sown a few days later. See Sept. 8.)
Cloudy all day. Libby and Sarah Smith here in afternoon. Father went to David Hoyt's stone bee. Jared here in evening. I am about same.
(Sarah Smith was wife of Daniel Smith who died Dec. 30, 1864, just before the diary started. Daniel was a brother of Emily's father. Sarah died in 1880 at the age of 89.
(A stone bee was a gathering of friends, family and neighbors to clear a field of its stones. It seems odd that 150 years after Ridgefield's settlement, there was still land that needed such clearing. However, it may have been a pasture, woodland, or an old orchard that was being converted to a field.
(David K. Hoyt [1822-1884] had his farm on Silver Spring Road in Wilton, land that is about a half-mile south of the Nashes.)
Cloudy and damp all day.
Damp in morning. Hot and muggy with a little sunshine. Father sowed rye. I feel some better to day. Emily went up West Lane towards night with some vests.
(“Now is the time to sow winter grain,” advises The Old Farmer’s Almanac for early September 1865. “See that the ground is properly prepared by frequent ploughing [see Aug. 26 and Sept. 7], and working, and manuring [Sept. 8]. Wheat and rye ought to be in early enough to get a start and enable the roots to get a firm hold on the soil before the hard frosts come.” )
Lowery all day. Father done chores. Jared had horse and waggon to carry oats to Norwalk. I feel some better.
(Most of the farmers apparently took their crops to Norwalk, a port from which the grain and vegetables could be shipped to anywhere on the East Coast. And, of course, the main rail line was there, making shipment to New York or even Boston easy. Jared Olmstead may also have been going to Norwalk to visit his brother and sister-in-law, Charles and Mary Jane Olmstead; Mary Jane had just given birth to a son, William, on Sept. 10.)
Cloudy in forenoon. Sunshine in afternoon. Verry hot. Father threshed few oats in morning, then in afternoon we work at stone fence. Mother went to Abram.
Wet in forenoon, some sun in afternoon. Father and I went to Comstock's store. Got a bll flour & grocerys and broom.
Clear. Carried Emily up West Lane and went to the store. Went up after her at night. Cut stalks.
(The Nashes were probably cutting the stalks of corn which, when ground, made good feed for livestock.)
Clear and pleasant. Finished cutting stalks.
Clear. Father & Mother went to meeting in afternoon. Libby come home with them, then he carried her up again at night.
Cold, cloudy, damp. East wind. Rake buckwheat in forenoon. Some rain just at night.
Clear and cool. Father & I went to Norwalk to see about my getting a certificate.
(Jared's reference to certificate here and in subsequent entries is unclear. One possibility might be that he was seeking certification from a physician or an official source, stating that he was in poor health and could not perform some function he was being called upon to do. Or maybe he was being certified as healthy enough to perform some task. Perhaps, however, the word simply meant "prescription"; Jared is "feeling poorly" throughout this period and may be getting medicine. The certificate may also have something to do with Emily, who is about to give birth to their son.)
Clear and some warmer. Work at clearing of the garden. Rebecca spend the day here. I went up town towards night to see Doct. Perry about a certificate and to see if Libby had heard from Saml Lobdell. He sick.
(The Perry family administered to the health needs of Ridgefield for more than a century, starting with Dr. David Perry, who graduated from Yale in 1772 and died in 1822. He was also a minister at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church just after the Revolution. He was followed by his son, Dr. Nehemiah Perry [1790-1866], and his grandson, Dr. Nehemiah Perry Jr. [1827-1909]. Nehemiah Sr., who lived on Main Street, established the Glenburgh Mills and Chemical Works in Georgetown to produce medicines, spices, and chemicals, such as dyes. "Certainly many of the doctor's wares brought happiness to the housewife and efficacious remedy," wrote Historian George L. Rockwell. Bottles that held Dr. Perry's patent medicines are dug up from time to time from old dumps around town. One of the most famous of his medicines was "Demulcent Compound for Coughs and Colds." When Dr. Perry died Feb. 19, 1866, the Nashes attended his huge funeral. In 1865, Dr. Perry is quite ill and Jared is probably seeing his son, Dr. Nehemiah Jr., who took over his father's practice. Nehemiah Jr.’s office and home were two doors south of the Keeler Tavern.
(Samuel Lobdell, who lived in Newark, N.J., and will die on Sept. 25, had been a Ridgefield tailor and was married to a Nash.)
Clear. Picked up some apples and done chores. Got a few butrnuts.
(Butternut, also called white walnut, is a species of walnut much appreciated by earlier Americans. The wood was widely used for making furniture because it was fairly soft, easy to work, and dried to a rich brown color. The nuts were used as food and to manufacture various dies and stains. American Indians and early settlers ground butternuts and boiled the meal into water to obtain an oil, which floated to the top. This oil was used as butter, as a substitute for mother's milk, and for almost anything requiring fat.
(Note that Jared “picked up” the apples. These were probably windfalls, which were often used for cooking or cider. See April 8 for notes on apples.)
Clear and warm. Father made cider in forenoon. In afternoon, we dug potatoes.
(September and October have many entries about digging potatoes, which was an important crop on the Nash farm that not only provided the family with food, but also brought in a little extra income. Potatoes were an ideal vegetable, easy to keep in the cold cellar well into the winter, and easy to obtain seed plants from to use for the next season’s crop. G. Evans Hubbard, in a history of Wilton farms in the mid-19th Century, said that “potatoes were grown by almost everyone.” In 1860, about 50 bushels per farm were being raised in Wilton. Digging them was not easy work, notes the 1865 Old Farmer’s Almanac: “Digging potatoes is rather back-achy work to be sure, but it must be done. Some folks turn out by a plough, and save the hardest of it. The potato-digger is a useful tool, but ’tisn’t every body who can have it.” See also notes under April 3, 1865.)
Lowery; wind south east. Dug potatoes in forenoon. Went to Doct. Perry's in afternoon and got a certificate. Emily & Emmie went up West Lane with me. I have a bad cold. Got a letter from Newark, saying they don't think Samuel will get well.
Cloudy with a little sunshine in afternoon. I do not feel any better than yesterday. Amos Smith, his wife, and Libby called here in evening. I feel quite poorly to night.
(Amos Smith [1804-1872] was a farmer who in 1838 married Esther A. Lee [1814-1888] of Farmingville District. Their home was on Main Street at the north corner of Gilbert Street, but they also operated the Smith Tavern, situated on the site of the present Ridgefield Library. The tavern was not only a watering hole, but had an upstairs hall that was popular for assemblies and dances in the 19th Century. Amos is Jared's first cousin -- Jared's mother, Roxy Keeler Nash, was the sister of Amos's mother, Sarah Keeler Smith.. Libby – Elizabeth Grummun -- and Amos Smith were first cousins, once removed.)
Cloudy & damp in forenoon. Shower after dinner. Benjamin Brinkerhoff come here afternoon and told us Samuel Lobdell died yesterday morning 1/2 past four and was to be burried tomorrow at two o'clock. Father made preparations to go down. I am sick to day with a cold.
(Benjamin Brinkerhoff, who just two months earlier had been discharged as a sergeant with three years of service in the Civil War, was another shoemaker, one of nearly a dozen involved in the diary. He probably lived on lower West Lane near Cedar Lane. A native of Bedford, N.Y., he married Esther A. Smith of Ridgefield, quite possibly related to Jared's wife, Emily. He did not die here. Why he brought the news of Lobdell's death is unclear, but apparently Samuel -- who used to live in the village -- had moved to Newark, N.J.
(Samuel Lobdell, about 46 at the time of his death, was the husband of Harriet Nash, Father's daughter by his first marriage. Lobdell had been a Ridgefield tailor, according to the 1850 census. He married Harriet Nash in 1840, and they had by 1850 five children including Joshua, mentioned June 29, 1865. Headstone records do not show a Samuel Lobdell buried here; perhaps he was buried in Wilton or South Salem. It is also possible that Lobdell died of injuries sustained in the war; however, a check of Civil War databases uncovered no “Samuel Lobdell” among the more than one million people who served.)
Clear and pleasant. Father started for Newark. Willy Olmstead went to Wilton depot with him. I feel some better to day.
(Willy Olmstead is probably William Olmstead, son of Aunt Clara Nash Olmstead. He was Jared's first cousin.)
Clear and pleasant. I feel quite smart to day so that I done some chores and took care of things.
(Although a 40-year-old man, Jared was not the head of the household -- a common situation in the less mobile and more family-oriented days past. Here, Father was in New Jersey and Jared "took care of things.")
Clear and some warmer. Dug potatoes. Father got home from Newark about 5 o'clock.
(Today, we'd think nothing of driving to Newark, which, if it weren't for the traffic, would be about an hour and 20 minutes away. For Father, however, the trip could have taken most of the day, probably using various steam train connections and finally a horse and cart ride.)
Clear and warm. We dug potatoes. Went to post office. At night Emmie went with me to get a certificate from Dr. Lynes. Egbert Smith come and bought two-year-old heifer.
(It's not clear who Dr. Lynes is. While there was a Lynes family in Ridgebury, we have not seen any of its members referred to as doctors. He may have practiced in Norwalk, Wilton or South Salem. However, it is interesting that this is the third time that Jared has sought a "certificate" and apparently the third doctor he approached for it.
(Egbert Smith was a butcher in Wilton; the Nashes were probably selling the heifer to him.)
Clear and warm. Gathered apples, butrnuts and pumpkins. Laura spent the day here. Went at night and carried her home. Emmie went with her to stay all night.
(“Blue jays and squirrels know a little of getting in corn as well as you, and it’s best to fly round and look out for your own crib,” says The Old Farmers Almanac of 1865 at this time. “Winter apples ought to be picked now. Take care. Don’t shake so hard. Pick off all you can by hand. Get a bruised one into a barrel of apples and see if it don’t start fermentation and spoil the rest before you know it. I tell you it pays to pick ’em off one by one, and handle them gently too.”)
Clear and pleasant. Went up after Emmie at night.
Clear in forenoon; flying clouds in afternoon. Went up to town meeting in A.M., then dug potatoes. Growing cooler.
(The town meeting was the Annual Town Meeting for 1865 at which the usual business of electing town officials, hearing reports, and approving taxes was conducted. The meeting set a town tax rate of one cent on the dollar and a highway tax of 1 1/2 mills. Jared did not own much on the Grand List -- a horse ["Bill"], worth $75, and one cow, $20. Thus, his town tax was all of 95 cents and his highway tax, 14 cents. Jared's father, Charles, owned a house, valued at $600; 44 acres of land, $950: three cows, $100; and one watch, $1; for a total assessment of $1,651. His annual property tax was $16.51 and his highway tax, $2.47, for a grand total of $18.98. There was also a small school tax, levied by the Ninth School District. It may not seem much money, but $20 to small-scale farmers like the Nashes was a lot.)
Clear and cool. White frost. Went down to Wm. Hoyt's before breakfast after some meal, and then gather's beans. Father threshed some oats, and went to the fair.
(See notes under Oct. 6 to learn about a William Hoyt.)
Wet in morning, cloudy, raw, cold wind. I done chores. Father threshed some, then he and mother and Emmie went to fair.
(The Ridgefield Fair and Cattle Show took place each year from 1858 to 1881 in late September or early October. By this time it had its own fairgrounds, complete with permanent buildings, on Wilton Road West, about opposite Olmstead Lane. It was a typical country fair, with exhibits of products, produce and livestock, and awards. In fact, an old awards list contains 31 categories for ribbons: field crops; grains; grass seed; vegetables; fruit; floriculture; bread; dairy; honey; preserved fruit; pickles; cakes; wines; ladies' industrials; fine arts; musical instruments; domestic products; farming utensils; poultry; sheep; swine; oxen; draught oxen; working oxen and steers; milch cows and heifers; thoroughbred stock; fatted cattle; stallions; colts; family horses; road horses; plus trotting races.
(While such fairs were fun, they also functioned as agricultural “conventions.” Farmers got to see some of the latest products – and mid-19th Century agricultural markets were booming with new machines, tools and seed varieties for the farm. They could hear lectures on improved farming techniques. They also got to chat with a wider group of farmers, and could discuss and critique some of the modern-day advances. At a fair, “they saw, gathered up in a small compass, what was going on in the farmer’s world, and this within a single day or two,” said an 1860s book on farming. “Thus, they accumulated a fund of knowledge which they could not have acquired had they remained at home.”
(Emily, being very close to giving birth, and Jared, probably wishing to be near her, stayed at home while their daughter went to the fair with her grandparents. However, Jared and Emily managed to go the next year -- see Sept. 19, 1866. Anna Marie Resseguie, in her diary entry for Oct. 6, 1865, observes: “The Fair closes, having been inferior to that of former years, though as many or more strangers were present. Horse racing seemed to form a great attraction. Mr. [Edward J.] Couch’s collection of [stuffed] birds was an object of special interest, and the chief one.”)
Cold windy and some cloudy. Carried some feed to Brown's mill and then carted stalks.
Clear, some warmer. Dug potatoes in orchard. Went to P.O. just at night. Chas. S. Nash born.
(This almost passing reference to the birth of Jared's first and only son seems strange, as does the routine buckwheat threshing the next day. In the diary, the birth announcement is inserted between the entries for Oct. 6 and 7, almost as if Jared forgot to write it down in all the confusion that no doubt reigned. Charles was probably born late in the evening of the 6th, after Jared had already made his entry for the day. Note, too, that the birth of their child is the first indication in the diary that Emily had been pregnant for most of the period of the diary.
(Charles Smith Nash was named after Jared's father and the family of Emily Smith Nash, his wife. This was a common practice then, and especially among Nashes – Abram St. John Nash and Samuel Olmstead Nash are examples of middle names representing the mother’s side of the family.
(Charles hardly knew his father, for Jared died five years after Charles' birth. After Jared's death, Emily apparently remained at the Nash homestead for a while, for she was taking care of her father-in-law until shortly before his death in 1878. She may also have been living off and on with the Smith family on West Lane.
(At age six, Charles started attending Flat Rock School and later went to West Lane Schoolhouse. His teacher in both schools was Miss Jeannie E. Holmes. As an older boy, he boarded at the home of William H. Gilbert, from whom he learned the carpenter's and building trades. Charles took over Gilbert's building business and later went into partnership with William F. Hoyt -- perhaps the same William Hoyt mentioned in the Oct. 3 entry. As "Nash and Hoyt," they erected many houses, including the mansion at Main Street and King Lane.
(Charles had a "judgment [that] was sound and practical, and his counsel could always be depended upon," The Press said at the time of his death on Aug. 9, 1929. He was the town's first fire chief, had a Boy Scout troop, was a member of the Pilgrim Lodge of Odd Fellows, served on the Board of Burgesses for the old village borough for many years, was a director and vice-president of the First National Bank and Trust Company of Ridgefield, a director of the Ridgefield Savings Bank, and a trustee of the Methodist church. He was a Democrat. In 1901, he married Mabel F. Bishop, daughter of Levi W. and Mary A. Bishop, at the home of the bride in Lewisboro. His children were Hilma Augusta Nash and Arnold Bishop Nash, both now dead.
(Charles Nash's death in 1929 was the lead story in The Press that week. The paper commented that Mr. Nash was a "highly respected and leading citizen." It added: "Mr. Nash was always regarded as an earnest student and was a discriminating reader of the best literature. He possessed a wonderful memory and nothing of any value was ever lost to him.")
Clear, white frost. Emily confined this morning. Threshed buckwheat. Emmie went up West Lane and staid all night.
Clear. Went up after Emmie and Laura come home with us. Went at night and carried her home. Rhoda is here to take care of Emily. She is quite smart.
(Rhoda may be Rhoda Keeler of Wilton. Except for the somewhat more frequent visits by friends and relatives, the birth of Charles does not seem to be occasioned by much change in Jared's day-to-day life, as subsequent entries will show.)
Clear and warm. Drove heifer to Egbert Smith's and had half quarter of her. Then cleaned up buckwheat. Went in evening up West Lane and stopped at Abram. His girl & mother is sick.
(Egbert Smith, a Wilton butcher, killed and cut up the heifer. While Jared apparently sold the heifer to him, he took a share of the meat for himself.)
Clear and warm. Finished gathering apples and done some chores.
(The apples were probably for cider, to be made Oct. 12.)
Clear and pleasant. Pick and shelled half bushel corn to grind. Fixt to make cider. Mother sick with cold. Father not verry smart.
Some cloudy, high wind and growing cold. Father made cider. Aunt Anah died this afternoon. Mother about the same.
(Anah St. John Nash, a Wilton native and a widow, was 80 years old at her death. She was the daughter of Samuel and Glorianna Gregory St. John. In 1804, she married Samuel Olmstead Nash. She was sister-in-law of Jared Nash, the father of Charles and grandfather of diarist Jared. Thus, Jared was her grandnephew. She probably lived with her son Abram S. Nash on upper St. Johns Road.)
Clear. We done some chores. I went up to Abram's after dinner. Mother a little better. Emily gaining some.
(Emily, of course, is recuperating from the difficult birth of Charles S. Nash. It will be more than a month before Emily can even go outside.)
Clear in morning, clouded up in afternoon, and looks like rain. Wind south. Father and I went to the funeral in P.M.
Rain most of the day. Wind North East, blew hard.
Flying clouds, cold wind, some sunshine. Father threshed rye. I cut some wood and done chores.
Clear and pleasant. Father went to Norwalk to carry pigs. He sold to Mr. Bissell for $20. Laura come here in afternoon. I carried her home at night.
(Mr. Bissell was probably a Norwalk merchant. Like others paying visits during this time, Laura Smith is probably helping with the housework while Emily is recuperating. She was Emily's cousin.)
Cloudy, rain at night. I picked corn in orchard. Father threshed.
Cloudy. Strong S.W. wind. Father threshed. J.B. Smith's wife here in afternoon. I carried her home at night. Rain in evening.
(John Betts Smith's wife is Elizabeth Olmstead, daughter of David W. Olmstead of Olmstead Lane, who lived just around the corner from the Smith homestead. John is the sister of Emily Smith Nash, Jared's wife. Perhaps it was a sort of male chauvinism -- or maybe dislike of Mrs. Smith -- that caused Jared to refer to her as the “wife” of someone. He surely knew her given name, for John Smith was his brother-in-law and was the father of Laura.)
Cold and windy. Picked corn.
(Jared was picking corn for storage in the corncrib as food for the livestock and as grain that could be ground into flour. But he was also looking for the best ears to use as seed corn for next year’s crop. These ears were stored in a cool, dry place till the spring. Few subsistence farmers would consider buying seed corn.)
Clear, more moderate.
Clear in afternoon. Picked corn. Emily not verry smart.
Clear and cold. Finished our corn. Went up to Doct. Perry's brought Mother Smith home and carried her back at night.
(The hazards of short diary entries are demonstrated here. This entry sounds as if Mother Polly Northrop Smith was at the office of Dr. Nehemiah Perry Jr. [see Sept. 20, 1865] for treatment, went home, then went back for more. But this was two events: Jared went to Dr. Perry's office on Main Street, probably to get medicine for his wife or to summon the doctor to visit his wife. Then he stopped by the Smith homestead to pick up Mother to bring her down to the Nash house. That night, he brought her back to her West Lane home.)
Clear and pleasant. Some warmer. Got wood in to woodhouse. Doct. Perry called to see Emily. Her breast broke this morning. Father took waggon wheels up to shop to have them fixt.
(It was not uncommon for a woman who had recently given birth to have an abscess that would break.)
Clear. Father got wheels. I went over to Sanford's, carried butter. Laura come down, carried her home.
(Laura, Emily Nash's sister, was helping with household tasks while Emily was recuperating. She comes again Oct 28.)
Cloudy, chilly east wind. Went up town and over to Salem. Stephen Smith & wife here in afternoon.
(Salem is South Salem, where Jared had friends and relatives, and sometimes visits a blacksmith. Stephen Smith was probably a relative. For instance, Jared had a first cousin named Stephen Smith; Roxy Keeler Nash, Jared's mother, had a sister, Sarah, who married Amos Smith, and their son, Stephen, lived in Ridgefield for several years in the 1850s, and then moved to Michigan. Perhaps this Stephen, with his wife Marcia, was visiting in the area and heard of Charles Nash's birth. Marcia's family was from New Milford; Stephen's, from Wilton.)
Rain through the night and in morning, cloudy most of the day. Went to Gilbert's mill in P.M. Laura come home with me and staid over Sunday.
(The visit to Gilbert's mill was probably to have corn ground into meal, or perhaps apples into pomace for cider.)
High winds & some flying clouds. Sanford, Jane & Charly come over. Jared & Rebecca, Munson, and girls here in evening. Baby weighed 11 pounds.
(Friends of Jared and Emily are calling on them to see the baby, now that Emily is apparently feeling a bit better. Here Jared starts recording the baby's weight, which he'll do about once a month and usually on a Sunday.
("Sanford" pops up at various times in this diary -- see Jan. 21, 1865, Oct. 29, 1865, and Nov. 10, 1866, for instance. He is Charles Sanford Nash, called Sanford to distinguish him from Charles Nash, his father – and Jared's father. Charles Sanford Nash was born in 1817, a son of Charles and Roxana Nash. Thus, he was a half brother of Jared Nash, born about 1825 to Charles and Roxy Nash. The 1850 census shows a Charles S. Nash living in Lewisboro. By the 1860 census, he is called simply "Sanford Nash." Jane is probably his wife, and Charly, his son. However, Charles S. Nash is buried alone at the Ridgefield Cemetery. The July 2, 1897 Press noted that "Sanford Nash of Flat Rock died at his home Wednesday" and said more information would appear the next week. But none did. Jared and Rebecca Olmstead, who lived on St. John’s Road, are also cousins of Jared Nash. Munson is Munson Hoyt, a farmer who lived a little north on Silver Spring Road.)
Cloudy most of the day. Father went in morning, carried Laura home and went to Bailey's store. Then drawed stone and finished fence south of potatoe ground.
Cloudy and damp. Commence to rain at 2 o'clock in afternoon. Rain untill evening. Thomas Fitzgerald come here and ditched north of the house. Father work with him. Heard there was a fire at Norwalk last night. Burrals block burnt.
(The Nashes lived in an area of much wetland; Silver Spring Swamp, then called New Pound Bogs, was right across the road from their house. The ditch was undoubtedly designed to help drain land, perhaps to help keep the cellar dry; the family had a lot of trouble with water in the cellar. On Nov. 16, Father had to fix the drain, but on Feb. 25, 1866, water came in the cellar and in April, the Nashes rebuilt the drain system.
(Thomas Fitzgerald, a native of Ireland, was a laborer who died in 1882 at the age of 69. He lived on West Lane, almost opposite Olmstead Lane, where Smiths and Grummuns lived. The Irish Potato Famine of 1845-47 sparked more than a million Irish to immigrate to these shores. The first Irish family in Ridgefield was probably the Brophys, but people named Casey, McGlynn, FitzSimmons, Quinn, Murphy, Kelly, and Cahill soon followed them. Many descendants of the early Irish immigrants still live in Ridgefield.
(It seems unusual that Jared should make mention of a fire in Norwalk when he rarely notes events in Ridgefield. However, Jared and his family had close ties with Norwalk where both friends and family lived, and he undoubtedly knew this block of stores.)
1 November Wednesday
Clear and quite warm and pleasant. We work at old apple tree wood at the door. James & Matilda here in evening. D. Smith here to.
(By "at the door," Jared means in the dooryard, the area just outside the back door. The Nashes frequently cut wood there during the winter because it was handy to the house -- and warmth. Apple is one of the sweetest smelling woods to burn in a fireplace, and was much prized.
(James and Matilda are the St. Johns who lived nearby on St. Johns Road. D. Smith may be Daniel Smith, Emily's brother.
Cloudy. Rain some in afternoon. Thomas come and they finish the ditch.
("They" probably refers to Thomas Fitzgerald and Father.)
Clear and some warmer. We drawed stone, filled in the ditch. Went towards night up town. Carried Emmie up West Lane and left her to stay all night.
(While it may seem silly to fill in a ditch that took a couple of people a few days to dig, the technique was employed widely and, to a degree, still is to drain fields and other land. A ditch, filled with rocks in effect becomes a pipe because the water flows around the passages created by the stones. The rocks and stones prevent the "ditch" from filling in and the whole thing can be covered with earth, although many stone drainage ditches were not covered. A similar technique is employed when septic systems are installed today. The pipes in the fields, where wastewater is returned to the earth, are surrounded with stone, enabling the fluid to flow smoothly into the soil over a wider area than possible with just perforated pipes. Sometimes when digging in the yard of an old house or in an old field that is now a subdivision, people will find long lines of buried rocks looking as if they were underground stone walls; these are old drainage ditches long ago forgotten.
(Keeping planting fields well-drained was important. “Have you drained any of you land?” asked The Old Farmer’s Almanac in April 1872. “You can plough drained land, you know, a week or two earlier than land that holds the water. There’s no mistake about it: it pays to drain, and then to plough deep and work the soil thoroughly.” )
Rain all day, quite fast in afternoon. Rhoda left after dinner. I went up to Mrs. Hoyt's in morning.
Cold, flying clouds, and verry high wind. Snowed in the evening, enough to whiten the ground. Natallia came with me to try to find a girl. After supper went up after Emmie. John come home with us.
(Natalia Hoyt was the sister of Munson Hoyt, the farmer who often helps the Nashes and whose own farm was north on Silver Spring Road. She was helping Jared find someone to do household work while Emily continued to recuperate from giving birth. Natalia, about 44 years old here and a native of Lewisboro, lived to be 88 and never married. Her simple but touching obituary in The Press in 1909 said that "Miss Hoyt had been a resident of Ridgefield for a long term of years, and resided with her brother, the late Munson Hoyt, Silver Spring Road. She was one of those who extended to all that old-fashioned hospitality which was once a part of all the early communities. She was the last survivor of a large family…”
(John is probably John B. Smith, Emily's brother.
(Anna Marie Resseguie at the Keeler Tavern confirms Jared’s weather report in her own diary entry for this day: “First snow falls at evening so that the ground looks white.”)
Clear. Ground white snow and froze hard. Father went to try to find a girl in forenoon. Drawed 4 load of stone for ditch.
Cold, windy, clouds. Got rutabagas and turnips. Had Mrs. Brigs here to wash to day. Mary Jane come down in morning with Jared. Father sent some buckwheat to mill.
(Both the rutabagas, a kind turnip, and the “turnips” themselves were root crops grown not for the table, but the barn. Because they kept for long periods and were highly nutritious, they made excellent winter feed for cows, sheep, pigs and other livestock. They were much more popular among English farmers than American, but the Nashes apparently liked them as a feed crop. An 1866 farmers manual said “turnips have some fattening qualities” and that cows fed turnips produce “really good beef.”
(Rany Briggs was apparently the "girl" hired to help with housekeeping. She lived here in the 1860s, but little else has been learned about her. Mary Jane is probably Mary Jane Batterson, daughter of Coleman Batterson, who lived just north of the Nashes on Silver Spring Road. Her mother will die soon.)
Clear and cold. Froze hard. Mercury down to 17. Work some at filling ditch in afternoon. Laura came down in morning and staid all night.
Clear and some warmer. Work at the ditch. Laura stay overnight.
Cold and windy. Went up town, carry Laura home and rutabagas to Sholes'. Then we finished ditch. Emily come down stairs.
(Charles Nash was born on Oct. 6 and this seems to be the first time Emily was strong enough to leave her bedroom. No wonder so many people were helping out.)
Clear and cold. Father went and got Bill shod in forenoon. Went to mill in afternoon. Got buckwheat flour. I went up town at night. Laura come home with me, staid all night. Rebecca and Mary Dunning come here in afternoon. Got apples in cellar.
(As noted earlier, Bill is a horse owned by Jared, one of only two pieces of taxable property he had. The other was a cow. Rebecca Olmstead and Mary Dunning are sisters in law. Mary was born Mary H. Olmstead in 1834, and was the wife of Richard Dunning, whose occupation at the time of his marriage in 1855 was listed as “musician,” a rather unusual profession for a Ridgefielder in those days. He played the bugle and instructed the Ridgefield Band, founded in 1838 and well known in the area. Mary, about 31 at this time, was Jared's first cousin. A daughter of William and "Aunt" Clara Nash Olmstead, she was a sister of Jared N. Olmstead, who appears often in the diary, and of Willy Olmstead, who appears occasionally. Rebecca Olmstead was the wife of Jared N. Olmstead. For more on buckwheat, see June 7, 1865 note. The apples were being stored in the cool of the cellar for winter use.)
Not much sunshine, but pleasant and cool. Went after supper and carried Laura home.
Clear and pleasant. Finished getting turnips and done some chores. Mrs. Briggs washed here.
Clear and warm. Done chores. Father down to Comstock store and exchanged turkey with Legrand Keeler. Emily Olmstead called here in afternoon.
(Legrand Keeler, about 41 years old, was a farmer who was probably living in northern Wilton’s Nod Hill section at this time. He died in Ridgefield in 1879. Legrand Keeler's son, Samuel [1845-1932], was a prominent Ridgefield attorney and one-time owner of The Ridgefield Press. It would be interesting to know what was exchanged for the turkey.)
Clear, warm and smoky. Put bottom in pail. Got pignuts. Father and mother went to Mrs. Hoyt’s and he went over to Nyard’s to get Bill shoe fixt. Laura came down at night to stay all night. Emily went out doors to day.
(The pignut is the fruit of the pignut hickory [Carya glabra], a tree that grows 90 or so feet high. The egg-shaped nuts were sometimes sweet enough to eat, but most people ignored them, either because of the taste or the extremely hard shell. In fact, the name suggests the nut was suitable only for pigs. However, Thoreau once wrote of gathering pignuts in November: “I am partial to the peculiar & wholesome sweetness of a nut, & I think that some time is profitably spent every autumn in gathering even such as our pignuts,” he wrote in his diary. “Some of them are a very sizeable rich looking & palateable fruit. How can we expect to understand nature unless we accept like children these her smallest gifts, valuing them more as her gifts than for their intrinsic value. I love to get my basket full, however small & comparatively worthless the nut. It takes very severe frosts, & sun & wind thereafter, to kill & open the shells, so that the nuts will drop out. Many hold on all winter.”
(The word transcribed here as “Nyard” is unclear in the text; undoubtedly, father went to a blacksmith. On Feb. 7, Bill went to “Jimmy” to get his shoes sharpened.
(Emily’s walk outdoors was her first since Charles’ birth five weeks earlier. The smoke mentioned here might have come from burning off fields and from burning leaves and fall brush – see Dec. 3, 1865 note.)
Clear and warm. Got wood in to wood house. Father fixt mouth of cellar drain. Went at night and carried Laura home. Emmie went with me.
Damp & foggy. Helpt Jared move a roof. Then went to mill and carried rye. Left it.
(The reference to moving a roof is probably to a portable roof on posts, used to cover hay or wood to protect it from the rain. The mill was apparently busy, so Jared left the rye for milling when time was available.)
Clear and warm. Father made cider for Abram. I picked some baberries.
(Jared probably refers here to the Northern Bayberry [Myrica pensylvanica], which was popular from early colonial times for making candles that did not easily bend, did not melt in summer’s heat and did not cause smoke – but did give off a pleasant scent. The berries were boiled to produce a dirty green fat or wax that floated to the surface, was skimmed off, and was reheated several times to clarify it to a transparent green. The berries were so valuable that some communities fined people for picking them too early in the season. “The pungent and unique scent of the bayberry, equally strong in leaf and berry, is to me one of the elements of the purity and sweetness of the air of our New England coast fields in autumn,” wrote Alice Morse Earle. While Jared may have gone south a bit to pick the berries, since they are more common near the ocean, Ridgefield is well within the range of this species.)
Cloudy, wind east with little rain in middle of the day.
Cloudy. Wind east. Cold & chilly. Father bought a yearling heifer of F. Meeker for $27. Picked pr of chickens and turkeys.
(That's Francis Meeker, who has a farm a little north of the Nashes on Silver Spring Road. The chickens and turkeys were being picked to bring to Norwalk two days later, either for family there or to sell, along with some crop items. It is not clear whether the Nashes carried the fowl live or killed and dressed.)
Rain all day. Wind east. Made a stove brush. He fixt harness.
(A stove brush was used to clean the caked soot from the wood-burning stoves and their stovepipes, which by the 1860s had replaced fireplaces as the source of heat in most homes. Note the many little projects the family is undertaking in November in preparation for winter – making the brush, repairing a pail and a drain, the harness and the ladder, cutting wood, grinding axes and getting grain milled. With the harvest completed, there’s time for such jobs. “He” was father.)
Cloudy, wind S. west. Sprinkle some through the day. Father went to Norwalk, carried butter, potatoes, chickens and 2 turkeys.
Drizling snow in forenoon. Cloudy all day. Father and Mother went up to Jared’s in afternoon.
Some sunshine. Carried corn to mill to Gilbert’s. Went to Taylor’s and got rye flour in afternoon. We went to Harry Keeler’s ground axes.
(Taylor’s is probably Davis Taylor’s gristmill, which was on the Norwalk River along Stonehenge Road. Different mills specialized in grinding certain things; evidently, Taylor’s was known for rye while Gilbert’s handled corn.
(Harry Keeler, formally known as Henry D. Keeler, lived in Lewisboro. He was the town blacksmith and his home was what is now the Horse and Hound Restaurant on Spring Street in the village of South Salem. Apparently the axes needed more work than could be handled by the basic sharpening stones that the Nashes might have.
(As we shall see, the wood-cutting season was beginning and by January, the Nashes were cutting almost daily. Wood, of course, is what kept folks warm in winter. However, wood cut this season was allowed to age and dry out – to “season” – for use in the next.)
Cloudy in forenoon, some sunshine in afternoon. I went up town, got some leather. Father cut in woods in forenoon. Fixt ladder & done chores in P.M. Daniel Smith here in evening.
(As mentioned earlier, although he doesn’t seem to practice it as a business, Jared’s trade was shoemaking. Here, he acquired leather probably to make some boots for himself – mentioned Dec. 4 – and probably for the shoes for other members of the family. Shoemaking was a typical wintertime activity, something to do when the weather was bad and when the farm could not be worked. Daniel Smith is Jared's wife's brother.)
Clear through the day.
Clear. Father threshed oats. I cut some wood and picked baberrys. Mrs. Briggs come and washed.
(Monday was, indeed, wash day.)
Clear and cool. Drawed 2 load of wood and picked bayberry. He threshed.
Cloudy, cold; chilly east wind. We cleaned up oats in forenoon. Father threshed. I went up to Hurlbutt’s after some meat.
(Hurlbutt’s Market was established, probably in the 1840s, by David Hurlbutt and stood on the south side of Market Street near Main Street. David Hurlbutt died in 1858 of a head injury he received when a cow he was about to butcher attacked him. At this time the store was being operated by David’s son, Sereno S. Hurlbutt, who was mentioned earlier in the diary in his job as constable. The business closed in 1904 when Sereno died.)
Cleared off in forenoon. Warmer and pleasant. Done chores in forenoon. Picked some baberrys in afternoon. Father finished threshing oats.
Rain in morning before day, then broke away and blew and grew colder. We cleaned up the oats.
(Father has just been threshing the oats, probably in the barn, leaving a mess of leftover chaff.)
Cold in morning, then more moderate; some sunshine. We upact the colledge. I went after dinner and carried Emily up West Lane to stay a few days.
(“Upact the colledge” is an effort at transcribing Jared’s unclear handwriting here. Perhaps they unpacked something. Emily, still recuperating from the birth of Charlie, will spend some time with her folks on upper West Lane.)
Quite moderate. Thick smoky air. Went after supper up to George Smith’s with mother.
(The smokiness in the air could have resulted from farmers’ burning off their fields, a process that not only got rid of stubble but also added nutrients to the soil. In the village, where there were lawns and trees, leaves were probably also being burned. However, if the breeze was from the south – and Jared says the weather was “moderate,” typical of southerly winds -- the smoke may also have come from industrial pollution – factories burning coal – in the New York City area. The weather was apparently remarkably warm, for Anna Marie Resseguie says in her diary, “Father went to church without an overcoat yesterday. I wore a Neapolitan bonnet with comfort.”)
Damp & foggy. Work at my boots. In afternoon we picked some turkeys. Mrs. Briggs washed to day.
(Notice Jared’s rare mention of his shoemaking craft – “work at my boots.” With the crops in, he and his father, also a shoemaker by trade, had some time to do such work. When he finishes his boots, he will work on a pair of shoes for his daughter – see Dec. 7.)
Clear most of the day. Work some at my boots. Father went to Norwalk, carried turkeys.
(He was probably selling the turkeys to a local merchant for use in the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday – see Dec. 7. However, he might also have been delivering them to family members.)
Clear and cold. Froze quite hard. Finished my boots. Father went to Bailey’s store after copper nails. Dressed some chickens for Thanksgiving.
(The Nashes probably used the copper nails for fastening the sole to the body of the shoe. Although the Nashes raised turkeys, chickens were their meal for the holiday, then in December -- see below.)
Snow and some rain through the day. Work some at a pr. of shoes for Emmie, Father soled his shoes. Did not have any company to keep Thanksgiving.
(President Andrew Johnson had declared Dec. 7, 1865 “National Thanksgiving” to celebrate the Union victory in the Civil War. Thanksgiving as a holiday had been celebrated as early as 1777. At first the holiday was in December, and eventually at other times of the year. After 1815, the officially proclaimed holiday disappeared -- President Thomas Jefferson reportedly disliked the celebration. However, in 1863, when the nation was in the throes of war, President Lincoln declared the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving. There were a few deviations from the November date – such as the 1865 and 1869 celebrations – but it was not until 1941 that the last Thursday in November became federal law. Between the lines one can read Jared’s disappointment at having no guests for the traditional feast. Perhaps the bad weather kept some family or friends away.)
Clear and cold. Mercury down to 14. I work at fitting Emmie’s shoes. Father sledded home some old appletree.
(Again, apple was considered one of the finest firewoods – long-burning and nicely scented. The snow and rain of Dec. 7 and temperatures well below freezing made the surface of the ground ideal for hauling loads with a sled or sledge.)
Clear and some warmer, 23. Finished fitting Emmie shoes. In forenoon went up town after some stove rods and after Emily and Emmie. Cloudy towards night and snowed some in evening.
(“Stove rods” may have been the equivalent of grates, to hold up the wood or coal being burned in the stove. “Stove” was originally a Middle English word for a hot steam room, sort of like a sauna, and by the 1500s, the term got transferred to the device used to heat the room. Thus, “stove” in much of the 19th Century referred to devices to burn wood to heat the house, not cook food. An average farmhouse in this period may have had two or three wood-burning stoves used only for heating. It was not until late in the 19th Century that stove also began to apply to a cooking device. See also Dec. 11.)
Clear and moderate. Abram & Sarah were in evening. Babe weighed 13 ¾.
(That's Abram and Sarah Nash, who lived on St. John's Road. Abram is Jared's first cousin.)
Clear most of the day. Went up town and made stove rods. Then we got a load of wood. Rhoda and Hulda here in evening.
(As the weather gets colder, obtaining wood from the Nash stockpile and cutting logs for same becomes an almost daily task. The family probably used wood-burning stoves instead of fireplaces for most of their heat; by this time, woodstoves had supplemented the fireplace for home heating. Rhoda and Hulda may be cousins, perhaps Keelers, maybe from northern Wilton.)
Damp & foggy in forenoon. Rained some in afternoon and all night. Butchered hogs and Jared’s beef here. Abram, Munson and Meeker helpt us. Mrs. Brigs helpt in house.
(Late fall was one of the traditional times for butchering – the other time being early spring. December was particularly handy because the Nashes could keep the meat in the guaranteed cool of the cellar or barn all winter and well into the spring. Butchering was a big event that brought Nash family and friends together, almost as if it were a “bee.” Abram Nash, Munson Hoyt and probably Francis Meeker, all from the neighborhood, assisted with the work.)
Clear and some windy. Cut out meat and tried leaf fat. I went and carried some meat to Jared and up West Lane.
(The fat of a carcass was almost as valuable as the meat. Much of it was used, as we have already seen, in making soap and in producing tallow for candles, among other things. However, “leaf fat” was highest quality fat; most of it was found in the area of the kidneys. Used to make lard, the leaf fat was chopped up, placed in a kettle in small pieces, and boiled for hours over a low fire or until all the fat was “rendered” or extracted from the tissue. Lard was extensively used in cooking and baking.)
Clear and some colder. Took care of meat and made sausages.
(Sausages were more than simply a tasty way to serve pork. Leftover cuttings were combined with pork fat to use as much of the butchered pig as possible. Little was wasted in those days. Moreover, spices added to the meat tended to make it last longer. There is no indication whether the Nashes smoked their sausage, another method of extending the meat’s shelf life.)
Clear and cold. Mercury 14. Done chores around and shut up outside cellar doors.
(The 14-degree temperature definitely signaled the coming of winter, and the time to finish any last sealing of the house. One of the things Jared may have done that day is piled leaves around the house’s foundation, a technique for insulating against winter blasts that could otherwise leak in between the dry-laid stones.)
Clear and cold. Mercury 12. Went up town. Emily went with me. Father cut down oak tree down side of old orchard and lane.
Cloudy, raw, chilly. Mercury 16. Father & Mother went to Rufus Keeler’s. His little boy died ½ past 11.
(Winter was rough on the very young and Willie Keeler died of the croup, a malady common in children that affected their ability to breathe. He was only two years old. Rufus Keeler, his wife Ruth, and his family lived in the West Lane district. A farmer, he died in 1888 at the age of 64. Ruth lived to be 80 and died in 1910. The three are buried together in Ridgefield Cemetery. Strangely enough, it was a bad season for Willie Keelers. Less than three weeks earlier, Willie B. Keeler, aged three months, had died in Ridgebury. The two are the only Willie Keelers buried in Ridgefield.)
Cloudy, wind east. Father went to Gregory’s mill with feed. Mrs. Briggs washed here.
(Gregory’s mill was on the Norwalk River in Wilton, a little north of the village.)
Some snow and then rain and made ice. Foggy and damp. Went to the funeral. Nell Batterson wife died this afternoon.
(The funeral was for Willie Keeler, who died two days earlier. Mary J.E. Batterson, only 19 years old and a native of Bridgeport, died of “dropsey of the brain,” today known as encephalitis. Town records also report that on Dec. 8, a “Batterson child” had died. No given name of the child, nor names of the parents, were noted and the child, a male, was probably a newborn. It is possible that Mary Batterson died of complications from the birth of her child. Coleman Batterson, probably related to Nell, lived just north of the Nashes on Silver Spring Road.)
Cloudy all day. I worked at Emmie’s shoes. Laura come down and spent the day. Carried her home at night.
Snowed and rain in morning. Then clear off with high wind and grew cold. Finished Emmie’s shoes.
Clear and cold. Mercury 12. Fixt Emily’s shoes. Picked a turkey and carried it up to Jared for Mary Jane. Father went and carried Cole’s father to the funeral.
(Mary Jane is the sister in law of Jared N. Olmstead. She was married to Charles Nash, Jared Olmstead's brother, and they lived in Norwalk. Mary Jane may have been ill, for she dies in May 1866. It sounds as if the turkey that is going to Mary Jane is for Christmas meal. But, reading the diary, one might wonder whether Christmas even occurred that year – see Dec. 25. Cole is Coleman Batterson, who lived just north of the Nashes. They were going to the funeral of Mary Batterson, who had died Dec. 19.)
Clear. Mercury 6. Father went and got Bill sharpened in morning. Then we sawed logs down old orchard lane to make a stoneboat.
(A stoneboat was a sled, made of thick planks and used for hauling stones, boulders, wood, and other heavy loads. As mentioned before, winter was the ideal time for pulling big loads from fields because the snow reduced friction so much that boulders virtually unmovable in summer could be pulled with relative ease in winter. Bill, the family horse, was getting his shoes sharpened so they would cut into and grip the icy surface of the frozen ground. Bill probably would pull the stoneboat.)
Snow till 10, then rain fast all day and took snow most off.
Clear and quite warm. Went and carried Emily up West Lane and left her. Then went up to Bailey’s store, got gallon oil and chimneys for lamp. Heard Milly Ingersoll was dead.
(This is a surprising entry, by modern-day standards at least. Christmas was apparently not the holiday for the Nashes – and at least one merchant – that it is for most of us today. At least some of the Nashes were Methodists and a Methodist minister, who graduated from Yale Divinity School and who’s studied his faith extensively, was at a loss to explain why Jared would make no mention of the feast and why a general store would be open for business on the day.
(Bailey’s was a general store that was in the building now housing the Aldrich Museum on Main Street. Commercialism apparently existed then, but not in the gift-buying sense that it does today.
(Millicent Smith Ingersoll, 68, the widow of Samuel Ingersoll, was daughter of Amos and Sarah Keeler Smith of Ridgefield. She was born on Nov. 13, 1797, and was married Feb. 1, 1824. Jared’s mother was Millicent’s mother’s sister; thus, Jared and Millicent were first cousins. Samuel was a grandson of the Rev. Jonathan Ingersoll, who served at minister of the First Congregational Church here from 1740 to 1778.)
Clear in morning, then fogged up and damp the rest of the day. Father & Mother went to the funeral. Not verry cold.
Rain until afternoon, then it partly broke away.
Cloudy, cold, raw, east wind. Went up after Emily in forenoon. Father helpt Jared, butchered hogs. Rain some in afternoon.
Clear and pleasant. Cut some wood. Father & Mother went to Mr. Holmes in afternoon, & father went to post office and Bailey’s and got a new Almanack for 1866.
(For most 19th Century farmers, the two most important printed documents were the Bible and the current almanac. The former gave spiritual advice while the later helped with the more mundane aspects of everyday life. The almanac told the basics, such as the risings and settings of the sun and moon and the phases of the latter -- important when a farmer was planning a harvest and needed to work at night under a full moon. Agricultural almanacs, such as the still-published Old Farmers Almanac, advised on the best times to plant, reported new farming techniques, and offered tips for homemakers. Many contained humorous anecdotes and bits of history. By the 1860s, there were at least a half dozen almanacs in circulation in the Northeast. The Old Farmers Almanac was the most famous and perhaps the most widespread. The New England Almanac and Farmer’s Friend was printed by a number of companies – author David Daboll produced the main body of data and text, selling it to local printers who in turn sold ads around it and put their own names and addresses on the cover. Various manufacturers also offered almanacs to help sell their products. Among them was A.L. Scovill & Company’s Almanac, which provided basic almanac data, but whose text was largely devoted to describing illnesses and how they could be treated with such Scovill products as Dr. Wm. Hall’s Balsam for the Lungs, Dr. Mott’s Vegetable Liver Pills, or Dr. Baker’s Pain Panacea. Dr. J.C. Ayer and Company produced Ayer’s American Almanac, offering descriptions of and testimonials for Ayer patent medicines. The Lodi Manufacturing Company in New York published The Farmers and Planters Almanac, which helped it peddle its fertilizer products. Even religions had almanacs; for instance, The Methodist Almanac published in New York City contained both practical and spiritual advice, and plenty of ads for organs, prayer books and life insurance. In the process of doing research for this diary, the editor has acquired more than two-dozen, 19th Century almanacs from as early as 1835. All provide interesting insights into life in the 1800s.)
Snowed all day. Wind N.E. Harry Nash called here, wants to buy a cow. Stopped snowing in the evening.
(Harry Nash may have been Henry W. Nash, a tanner who lived in the southeastern part of Wilton. Or he may have been Harry Nash, born 1819 in Ridgefield, who married Jane Eliza Northrop. His relationship, if any, is not yet known.)
Clear and moderate in morning. Clouded up in afternoon and come up foggy in the evening.