Diary of Oliver W. Osborn January 1861

Oliver Webster Osborn (1823-1895) is very fondly remembered by Lenox historians because he compiled “The East Street Book.”  Oliver hand wrote this wonderful description of East Street families as of the late 19th century.

We will learn more about Oliver’s family in subsequent entries.  But, to begin, here’s a snapshot of his situation in 1861 when he started the diary donated to the Lenox Library.

O.W. Osborn’s Situation in 1861

He owned a small farm at the corner of Housatonic and East St. (across from what is now Lenox Memorial High School).  According to the 1860 census, his real estate was valued at $1,000 and his personal estate at $300.  He had lost his infant son in 1858 and his wife (more on this in subsequent posts) in 1859 and lived with his two daughters Mary (age 12) and Thalia (age 11).  His father, mother and brother lived just down the road.

In an example of economical use of paper, his diary did double duty for cash entries.  So, here is a snapshot of life in Lenox in January 1861.

January, 1861
1 Tues Hauled logs to Parkers mill finished logs cut last year in all 59 pleasant
2 Went to Lee in forenoon very pleasant all day
3 Fried Tallow Chopped sausage meat Snowed all day
4 Made Sausages Boiled Soap Snowed in forenoon
5 Went to woods in forenoon to village in afternoon mild pleasant
6 Mild pleasant growing warm
7 Rained all day ground axe worked in Barn
8 Choped in woods alone cold wind N.W. snow quite deep
9 Weds. Went to Bible meeting cloudy not very cold snowed some in evening
10 Worked in house. Not very cold snowed some all day Eve cold Wind WN
11 Very Cold morn 4B Wind Blowed hard last night Went to Mrs. Gunn’s Funeral 88 ys old 6 mos
12 Snowed last night another morn quite cold 6B at 10 PM tonight
13 Very Cold. Clear and pleasant 18B 5 o’clock PM
14 Cold clear in forenoon Snowed part of afternoon cut White ash by side of RR
15 Choped on ash tree Clear AM Cloudy PM mild Father and girls to Lee
16 (Wds) Went to Court Albert Northrup’s wife’s funeral Stormed a hard hail snow all day
17 Now very Heavy wind from NW at evnig Worked
18 Carried ½ Cord Hewn Wood to Miss Cook Chilly misty Snowed in Evening cloudy
19 Clear with squalls of snow from N.W. PM
20 Alternate Clear and Cloud Heavy Squall of Snow from NW at Noon and PM
21 Cold Windy Some Snow very Heavy wind from NW at evnig Worked on Table
22 Clear all day Cold Windy from NW Choped on ash tree part day
23 Clear and pleasant evening cloudy Sick today
24 Began to Snow in morning Snowed all day heavy wind from SEast sick today
25 Cloudy but not cold Better but have not been out much
26 Cloudy all day not cold snowed some in evening sick today
27 Bright and pleasant all day at home cold in my head worse in eve snowed
28 Snowed a little through the day not very cold. My cold Better
29 Not very Cold Snowed some Mr. Kendall’s donation
30 Wind blew and Snowed all day. Heavy wind in evening snow drifted some
31 Not very cold but cloudy some g Morrele staid all night

Cash Transactions – January 1861

  • Green & Co – Jan 1st 1/2 doz Steel pins                                           .05
  • Jan 12th 1/2 Bush Salt                                                                               .37
  • EO& Son State Town County & Highway Taxes*                   22.40
  • EM Sears –  Jan 1st  1/2 Gall Kerosene                                             .50
  • Ball Candle Wick                                                                                            .05
  • Jan 5 3 lbs nails at 5 1/2 2 at 4 1/2                                                      .26
  • 1 lb coffee 20 Needle 6                                                                              .26
  • 9th Bill of Goods to S. Cook                                                                    .90
  • 11th Stove Black 8 Thread 5                                                                  .13
  • 12th 6 yds cotton 60 nails 5 thread 5
  • 1/2 bush Salt .37 1/2 pint Alchohol 7
  • To goods on order to Mrs Cook                                                         2.00
  • Crackers                                                                                                             .05
  • 17th 1 yd bleached Cotton                                                                     .13
  • 22nd 1 Bar Soap                                                                                            .10
  • 19th plate 25 TC 5                                                                                       .30
  • 25th 1 Gall Molasses                                                                                  .56
  • 26th  8 yds cotton cloth for pillow cases                                        .88

*This may have been in arrears or for several households–in other years it is about $5.  Still this would have been the largest single cash expense for the household in what must have been largely a subsistence farm.  Oliver appears (based on entries from other months) to have obtained cash from the sale of firewood, corn, apples and potatoes.

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