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Saturday, August 21, 2010

My Centennial Diary - A Year in the Life of a Country Boy

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by Earll K. Gurnee, age 18
Skaneateles, New York 1876
©2009 ALL rights reserved.

January, Saturday 1, 1876
The morning opened dark and foggy, but not cold. Mud from 1/2 to 2-feet-deep. Toward noon the weather cleared and the balance of the day was excruciatingly fine and warm. Thermometer 60 degrees throughout the day. At 12 last night the Centennial was ushered in with ringing of bells and shouting and screeching from many voices. Many business places were illuminated. A large amount of Whiskey was probably consumed as many were hilarious and a few pugilistic. In fact, I deemed it imprudent to leave the vicinity of the store for fear of violence and consequently paid O’Grimes one dollar to stay the night.

January, Sunday 2, 1876
School commences tomorrow after a weeks vacation - which spent sawing wood. Pa plowed yesterday and I plowed day before yesterday in the big meadow.

January, Monday 3, 1876
I went to school today - had to walk for Pa plowed. Week ago today we sawed down an elm tree which measured 100 feet up to where the longest limb was 6 inches. Through it was about 4 feet through where we sawed it off and made five loggs about 12 [feet] long.

January, Tuesday 4, 1876
Attended school today - had pretty good lessons. It has frozen up and I walked to school. The roads are dreadful rough.

January, Wednesday 5, 1876
I sapose I must write something as I did not have any diary until several days of the new year had passed away. I have to “think up” what has passed and all I can remember is that I went to school. I went down to the school-house and herd the spelling “nine” practice. [Probably refers to a spelling bee played in baseball terms - as in nine players on a team.] Chauncey Clark is the champion. He is also catcher. Edd went home with F--- which made me fearful jealous.

January, Thursday 6, 1876
Examination commenced today. I was examined in Arithmetic the first thing in the morning. There were 8 examples all of them quite easy. I omitted two of them for want of more time. In the afternoon I was examined in Algebra - five questions and five examples was all that was given. I guess I answered all of them correct.

School closed at half past two.

Will Dunston’s spelling nine from Willow Glen and Edd Powells nine from our own district meet for a spelling contest tonight. I am to be “scorer.”

January, Friday 7, 1876
Examination continued today. I was examined in Grammar - do not believe I “passed.” I was also examined in Reading and Spelling. I was pronounced “excellent” which is next to the highest. 100 words were pronounced in Spelling. I returned two library books (one for myself and one for F. Powell) and got two more viz. “Seek and Find” and “ Pallace & Cottage. Edd won the prize last night although Will’s nine made a good show.. Addie Durston was “pitcher.” I scored with the aid of Charley Signor. I found it quite a job but an interesting one. Edd’s side spelled 3 words more than Will’s in eleven innings. Mr. and Mrs. Devit went up to Cram Hollar today. Emmett came down after them. Bought this diary today for 1/2 price at Wallace’s.

January, Saturday 8, 1876
Well, today has been a workday. It rained this afternoon quite smart. Pa and I put new raves and inners on the stow boat. We sawed them out of elm planks. It was quite a job. Mr. Hutson got 25 pounds of white flour today - he paid 85¢ for it. I have just finished Place & Cottage - it is a good book. I red the other one through last night. I expect to be “scorer” down to Willow Glen some time next week. It still rains at 9 o’clock.

January, Sunday 9, 1876
Today is warm but rather gloomy. I went over to Mr. Powell’s this morning. Edd paid me 40¢. The thermometer has averaged 50 degrees all day. It rained some this afternoon. I ought to write a composition tonight, but I don’t believe I shall. Tomorrow is school and I am glad of it. Po got a letter from Uncle Sylvester. Frank Powell brought it up. Uncle Sylvester’s people were all well. He enclosed $10 to pay subscription for American Agriculturalist which I must not forget tomorrow.

January, Monday 10, 1876
I----some this morning and I went to school horse-back on George. I mailed a letter for Edd P., two for Mille Clark and two for Father. Paid Wallace 50¢ and paid subscription for American Agriculturist for Uncle S.

And I was tardy in the bargain. The report for examination was read but I was not in time to hear my Grammar report.

Arithmetic   6 1/4 (perfect is 8)
Algebra 10 (“ “ 10)
Reading 7 1/2 (“ “ 8)
Spelling 84 (“ “ 100)
Grammar 4 4/10 (“ “ 10)

It is fearful cold tonight. The therm is 15 degrees. The wind is west. It snows a little. H was over this evening. The wind blind-slammed at the schoolhouse and took out 8 pains of glass.

January, Tuesday 11, 1876
Attended school as usual - the weather is pretty cold. I went a horse-back. Professor Wright whipped the boys today - one of them tripped the Prof. Up and brought him to his knees. I went down to the schoolhouse tonight and pronounced words for the “nine.” Edd had a bad cold and could not take plane enough. Handed in my composition today - subject “Hunting.” The deepest sounding is 8 3/4 miles. The greatest height ever reached by a balloon is 6 miles.

January, Wednesday 12, 1876
We thrashed our clover down at Mr. Clift’s - we had one bushel. Seward’s clover thrasher did the job. I walked to school today. It snowed about 3 inches and if the roads were smooth there would be little sleighing. I killed a muskrat tonight out west of the horse barn - he was a nice one. I went down to the schoolhouse again tonight - there were seven boys down there - we had quite a spell. I spelled 18 out of 23. Edd, Irving, Fred, Gabe, Albert and I had a splendid game of “tag” at our gate after the “spell” although it snowed hard and the wind blew strong from the west.

January, Thursday 13, 1876
I rode to school with Frank Jones. Had pretty good lessons although I did not feel very well on account of having a hard cold. Thermometer 2 degrees above zero. Rehearsed my piece to the Professor today. Went down to Willow Glen to score at the spelling match. Will Jones also scored. Will Durston won by an excess of 105 over 77. Will’s = 82, Edd’s = 77. I think it was a cooked job an am not alone in my opinion. After the match the nine on both sided spelled down. Chauncey Clark spelled the longest “Bully for Chan.”

January, Friday 13, 1876
Attended school - rode with Frank. I spoke my piece this afternoon. I returned two liberary books and got three viz “Frank in the Woods,” “Starry Flag first book” and “Outward Bound.” It snows fine tonight - had to walk home from school. We all went over to Mrs. Powell’s - had a very good visit. We went over to supper. Edd is very indignant at the way we were treated down to Willow Glen. I don’t blame him one bit. Will ought to have his ears cropped. Paid Mr. P---$1.36. 25¢ is still due him to make $1.61.

January, Saturday 15, 1876
It has been quite warm today/ Father went to the village with the stow boat and go 292 lbs of coal this forenoon. I finished “Frank in the Woods” today - it is a splendid book. We did not do hardly any work today.

Father, Mother, Rose, Mr. and Mrs. Powell, Mr. and Mrs. Spaulding all went up to Mr. Wilson’s tonight. Father drove up with the Hutson’s bobbs and carried all the visitors along. Fred came over this evening. I read “Starry Flag” through this evening - it is “strong.” It is quite warm tonight - I guess it does not freeze much. I am sorry - I am afraid it will all break up again.

January, Sunday 16, 1876
It has thawed all day, but has not stormed any. My head has ached pretty steady. I read “Outward Bound” through. I fort to write yesterday that Pa bought a bushel of turnips. News is rather scary today and I guess I shall have to shut up shop for tonight. I forgot to say that I found a silver 20¢ piece today.

January, Monday 17, 1876
I went down to school with the buggy and got to school just in time to escape being tardy. I took a lot of harness for Uncle Emmett. Aunt Hatty started for Dellaware County today on the 10:40 train. I went over to Mr. Powell’s a little while this evening and fount out that the little cluster of stars in a row high in the Southeast is Orion’s belt and the three at the right and a little below is Orion’s sword.

January, Tuesday 18, 1876
I went down to school in the sulky and had rather a wet time of it, for it rained quite considerably of and on. I took a piece up to Dodge for Edd to put in the paper about the spelling school. The thermometer stands at 54 degrees tonight and the south wind blows a gale. I went over to Mr. Powell’s a little while tonight. Got a postal card from Cousin Isaac today. The expect to come out here in about two weeks.

January, Wednesday 19, 1876
I went to school in the sulky - it was awful muddy - had pretty good lessons. It rainded like suds this afternoon. We had extemporaneous compostion tonight - there were fine subjects - I took the subject “Our Centennial” - I wrote 131 words.

A hole may be bored in a piece of glass with a three cornered file if the point of friction be kept wet with spirits of turpentine.

Nitric acid corodes on steel and it therefore used to write on steel.

January, Thursday 20, 1876
I tried it a foot today - got along first r--- it froze some last night - but not enough to hold. One of the students fired off a fire cracker in school today. Professor Wright could not find out who it was but I found out it who it was it was Wilber Lawton.

January, Friday 21, 1876
I walked to school again today - took back by liberary books today. We had Mathematical exercises today instead of Compositions. Prof made Roscoe Giles ann I stay after school and pick up all the waste paper on the floor it was not fair as we had hardly any and several other students had five times more than we. I got “Shamrock and Thistle,” “Make or Break, and “The Cruise of the Frolic.” Got a letter form Hattie - she was to start at 3 o’clock this morning and get to Albany at 7 and at Alex’s at 11 o’clock.

January, Saturday 22, 1876
It snowed some today, but not enough to make sleighing. Pa fixed my fine boots. Fred Hutson and I sawed a lot of wood. Mother put a large plaster on my back which has been very lame lately.

January, Sunday 23, 1876
It thawed today quite a little. I went over to Mr. Powell’s today and had a lot of butternuts, and a piece of pie for lunch. Was ashamed of staying so long. Frank’s butternuts made him sick. Mr. and Mrs. Powell came over here this evening. Sarah was over here a little while tonight.

January, Monday 24, 1876
Walked to school with Frank Jones - had pretty good lessons considering who studied them. Rode home with him. Durston stopped at the schoolhouse. Edd was riled up considerably and I don’t blame him after what Bill Durston put in the “Free Press” calling Edd a sore head. But Edd is a-going to give it to him in the “Democrat” this week. I’ll bet Bill will read it over more than once. By gum.

Fred H. was over here this evening a little while. I traded gloves with him, and gave him a “Dime Novel” to boot.

January, Tuesday 25, 1876
Walked to school again today - or rather part of the way and rode the rest with Edwin Clark. Had a lot of errands to do viz. Screws, glass, rubber.

I heard that Aunt Mira fell down stairs and hurt her some - but nothing serious. It snowed like everything tonight, but the thermometer is almost too high (28 degrees) for a good run of sleighing.

Frank Jones is over here after Arithmetic help in “ratios.”

Dancing School Masquerade Ball tonight.

January, Wednesday 26, 1876
Walked to school again as usual. Weather about as usual. Lecture at the academy tonight - subject “Temperance and Staid-Life in New York.” Went over to Mr. Powell’s tonight. Edd’s reply to Bill Durston in The Democrat, which I took down to Dodge, speaks well for the writer.

We almost went to Syracuse.

January, Thursday 27, 1876
It rained last night and covered everything with ice half an inch thick. Went to school in the cutter - much against my wishes. Rained also when I went to school but did not get much wet. F. Jones rode with me. Well, it thawed some all day consequently had drag home through the mud about as I expected. Saw Mrs. D--. Mira fell down the cellar stairs and blackened her eyes, hurt her shins and her back. Went over to Mr. Powell’s again tonight and collected my library books so not to forget them tomorrow. Bought some things at Wheadon’s.

January, Friday 28, 1876
I hitched George on Mr. Jones’ buggy to ride to school. Frank, of course, rode with me. Returned my library books and got there more. “Dungeon and Escape” is one of them. It rained almost all day. Fred Hutson and I went down to the Village and attended the Masquerade Ball. It was first rate. There were about 45 masked. There were several very nice costumes - both gentlemen and ladies. There were very few that I knew. Got home a few minutes after twelve.

There were 3 very nice tableaux viz “Bandits waiting for their Victim,” “The Bandit’s Death,” and I don’t know the name of the other.

January, Saturday 29, 1876
I did not get up until after seven o’clock. It was quite warm this morning, but it gradually grew colder until at dark it was frozen hard enough to hold out. Father and I cleared out the corn-house and made it a little more comfortable for the hens. Mr. Hutson got 146 lbs of hay today. My back has been very bad today. I guess I have caught cold and it has settle there. I wish if it has it would move.

January, Sunday 30, 1876
It froze up pretty solid last night. Father and Mother and Rose went over to Uncle Jonathan’s today. I stayed at home. Edd Powell came over a little while this afternoon. My eyes commenced to get sore tonight and the light hurts them.

Frank Powell got our mail today. He brought a letter from Cottage Grove. Grandma is quite sick, and she has been so for 5 months.

January, Monday 31, 1876
Did not go to school today on account of my eyes. Father went to Auburn today. The roads are rather rough. He took out seven dozen of eggs. I went over to Mr. Powell’s and from there to Mr. Spaulding. Their baby is sick - a hard cold on the lungs. Mother put on a potato poltice tonight.

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