September 1859

September 1, 1859

Foggy morning. At the [law] office. Afternoon, talked of the West. If I go, I shall advertise in the [New York] Tribune that I collect, &c. Evening, finished Tristram Shandy & commenced Bayard Taylor’s letters of travel. Pleasant day for the first of autumn.

September 2, 1859

Pa quite unwell today. Fixed a pen for my pig. The dog got him & carried him off quite a way in his mouth. Ma saw him & took it away – not dead. Studied some but did not feel well today. Talked with Austin. Made up my mind to teach before practicing law if I can obtain a situation. Probably will go to Pennsylvania. Read some of Bayard Taylor’s earlier travels – interesting & exciting. There seems to be a change of temperature since autumn commenced; cold & windy.

September 3, 1859

Took some things to Mrs. Tennent. Called at Aunt Lucy [Fiddis]’s. Went to the [law] office to study. Went to Aunt Lucy’s to dinner. Paid [William] Smyth for [news]paper. Did not feel well in the afternoon. Aunt Betsy & [her daughter] Fanny here. Read in the evening & slept.

September 4, 1859

Sunday. Went to church. [James] Rankine preached; rather dull. Wrote a letter to [Charles R.] Coburn, [Lewis] Moss & [Henry] Handerson.  Late Truesdell’s child’s funeral. Read & wrote in the afternoon. Read in the evening & finished Bayard Taylor’s letters. Very sleepy tonight.

September 5, 1859

Went to the [law] office. [Willoughby] Babcock [had] gone home. Called on Mr. [William] Smyth. Read in the Cyclopedia that the Druid’s Priest were supposed to be of Indo extraction or descendants of the Brahmins of India. Stimulant of which you can raise the ideas is to drink Champaign & keep the feet in cold water.

September 6, 1859

Went up to Aunt Lucy [Fiddis]’s, then down to Mr. [James] Rankine’s. Had a talk with him on religion. He believes that there are grades of bliss in heaven. We had something of a dispute about it. He believes that the happiness of each is intensified or diminished according as they have lived spotless or wicked lives, on the supposition that the wicked finally repent & are saved. He says that if a person has wicked thoughts and endeavors to keep them away, he does not sin. To be tempted [by itself] is not sin. Thoughts, though wicked, are not necessarily sinning unless harbored. He gave me advice in regard to selecting a school.

I helped Austin carry his trunk to the depot [where I saw] Austin off. He is going to Pennsylvania to find a school [to teach].  Nice he could try to find me one [too]. Went to the [law] office & studied the rest of the afternoon. [Nathaniel] Davis did not like the notion of Austin’s going away without saying anything to him. Went to hear a chief of the Tuscarawas speak in the evening. Didn’t like him much. Good deal of white blood in him.

September 7, 1859

Cold morning. Went over rather early with an advertisement for the New York Observer for a situation to teach. In afternoon, went to the Court House to see a suit. Went up to Aunt Lucy [Fiddis]’s.  Charlotte Warner was there. Came home with the girls.

September 8, 1859

Attended the law suit a short time. [My cousins] Edwin and George Stratton here. I was examining today of those I saw [in court] who had a high back corresponding with equal developments in other places. Scarcely any had any high back head. Finished reading Practice. My piece [appeared] in the paper [today]. Few errors in printing. In evening, went down to Lee [Goodrich]’s. Wrote & read a little French.

September 9, 1859

Our folks started for camp meeting. Went to Owego and called on Aunt Lucy [Fiddis]’s. Was paid 75 cents for drawing up a deed – the first I was paid since being in the [law] office. Col. [Nathaniel] Davis talked up some of his nonsense a good deal in the morning. Came home early in the afternoon. Went to the depot to see if Stella [Reed] had come. The small boys had built a fire on the circus ring & were performing & jumping over the fire, while in the distance a sweet voice was warbling “Evening Star.” Planning how to go to camp meeting.

September 10, 1859

Commenced raining this morning & continued all day. Went to Aunt Lucy [Fiddis]’s; thence to the office. Went to Aunt Lucy’s to dinner; none but the girls were there. Had quite a disputing time with her boarder Miss Loundsbury. Went up to supper. [My cousins] Jim Fiddis, George Stratton, & Lee Goodrich were in the [law] office. Jim Fiddis came over. Sleepy. Expecting George Stratton tonight.

September 11, 1859

George Stratton here. Got up about 4 o’clock & got the horse. Started for camp meeting about half past seven. Saw [cousin] Edwin Stratton & Dave.  Told Edwin what I intended to do & said I would try to find him a place to teach. He wanted George & I to go up to his house the 21st of this month [to celebrate] his birthday. We were delighted with fine showers through the day. Came home about sundown. Evening sleepy. In the afternoon, George and I went to the tavern & got a drink.

September 12, 1859

Went to the [law] office. Went up to Aunt Lucy [Fiddis]’s to dinner. The girls came over in the afternoon & I with them. Lucy & Anna [Fiddis] and Charlotte Warner from Ithaca [were there]. In the evening, Jo Berry & [his] mother came over, and Charlotte [Warner] & I got in his wagon & took a ride. George Stratton came over & we had a glorious time singing & dancing. They went home about 11.  I went part way with them.

September 13, 1859

Cold day. Nothing new.

September 14, 1859

Very windy. The [day of the] balloon ascension in the fairground. Went to Aunt Lucy [Fiddis]’s in the morning. Staid there some time. Steadsin in the [law] office. Afternoon, went to the show with Lee. At the Ahwaga [House], saw Lin Tinkham. Went up with him. Evening sleepy. Lee [Goodrich], Stella [Reed], & Herbert [Goodrich] & Jo [Berry] here. Went to the depot at 12 [midnight] with [my sister] Augusta. [She was leaving] for Hartford [Connecticut].

September 15, 1858

Went up on the mountain with Lucy [Stratton], [my sister] Mary, and Charlotte Warner. Studied in the [law] office in the afternoon. Evening, was confirmed at the Episcopal Church.

September 16, 1859

Dark & rainy. Afternoon, went with George Stratton up to the depot to see Charlotte (“Lottie”) Warner off. She has some good points about her & some poor ones. She is not the smartest of girls, but is as good as they generally are. Troubled a good deal knowing what I can do. Doubtful whether I can get a situation to teach. It is dark but there is room to hope.

September 17, 1859

Cold & rainy today. Today, closed for a time any study of law in the office though I shall continue to study at home. My intuition is to teach before commencing the practice of law. Went to Aunt Lucy [Fiddis]’s in the morning with an advertisement for [the newspaper]. I am like a bark on the ocean without a rudder. Everything looks dark & hopeless. I scarcely know what to do. I have no means to embark upon any business whatever, but I will hope ever & put my trust in Him who is able & willing to guide and protect. Got a letter from Chum [Lewis] Moss. Told [Nathaniel] Davis that I intended to leave.

September 18, 1859

Sunday. Quite a pleasant day. Went to church. [James] Rankine preached extempore today. Wrote a letter to John Fulton. Evening, went over to hear Miss Spronger. Called at the store to see George Stratton. Read a letter from [cousin] Lucy [Stratton]. She speaks of his going up to Newfield to [their brother] Edwin’s birthday with four others. Ed, at camp meeting, asked me to go with George & take [Lyman] Truman’s team but she said nothing of it. In fact, it seems as if they did not want me to come – or [at least] I get it from the tenor of the letter. I felt exceedingly vexed, especially at other remarks she made. She said she “hoped I bore the disappointment of not seeing her at camp meeting like a ‘marter.’”  I told George to tell [his sister that,] “I didn’t bear it at all like that ‘marter’” It seems that she has a particular male friend at Trumansburgh. Good. She needs all she can get. Ma sick & sent for the doctor. I felt rather miserable for I expected more of them at Stratton’s, but they are like everyone else – selfish.

September 19, 1859

Commenced working at home cutting corn. Hard work & blistered my hands terribly. Read a little law, but feel too sleepy to do much.

September 20, 1859

Cut buckwheat in forenoon & put up fence. Evening, read & talked & wrote. Had such a joyous time with Louise [Rice]. She is a gay girl. Talked over some of the old school days & plays such as “Tit Tat Tow, 3 in a row”, “Five & Geese”, “Puzzles”, “Shuttle Cock”, “Battle One”, “Entry Mentry”, “Pease Porridge Hot”, & such like, “Rotten Eggs”.  Been writing some rhyming but can’t find a line. Pa said one thing which I had not heard since boyhood, “As I went over London Bridge, I found me a 4 pence happening and I bought me a kidd.” Also,

Caffee had a son born
Looks like ye daddy oh
Bowy shins & crooked toes
Top ye head the wooley grows.

September 21, 1859

Rainy day.  Louise Rice went from here for good. Gathered a few butternuts. Studied & wrote some. Went to Owego. Staid a short time. I feel decidedly bad today.

September 22, 1859

Another gloomy & rainy day. How I do wish that the clouds would clear away and give us a little sunshine. Gloomy without & still gloomier within. I feel as if I had neither friend or hope. Went to town in the afternoon with the team. Read, studied & wrote.

September 23, 1859

Went to town. Saw Wash Gladden. Said he had almost given up the idea of having a school & is going to write. I think I will try the business for a time & see if anyone will be willing to pay anything [for my work]. I showed the piece I wrote to our folks today. Afternoon, cut corn. Studied, read & wrote.

September 24, 1859

Looked lowering in the morning, but it was pleasant enough to finish cutting corn. Anna [Fiddis] & Ruth G. here in the afternoon. Shucked nuts part of the afternoon and evening. Johnny [Griffing was] playing with his shadow. Dick said that Steve was so ragged that he would be whipped to death in a windy day. Been writing on a poetical piece.

September 25, 1859

Sunday. In the morning it looked as if it might rain. The hills round about, in the north and west, were storm brewing, from the hazy mist through which was streaming lines of showers, which hung about thin peaks. Went to church. Wrote in the afternoon. Evening, went to church. [James] Rankine preached an excellent sermon. He undoubtedly endeavored to beautify it as much as possible. Evening read in Spalding’s Literature. Started a subject for a future essay on Superstition & laid out a plan for a story, which will be merely descriptive. I have not heard of [any teaching] situations yet. Austin did not write & he uses me meanly & ungentlemanly.

September 26, 1859

Pleasant day. Built fires forenoon. Gathered chestnuts in afternoon. Girls went with us. [My brother] Steve took them to town in the evening. My part was 35 cents; we got $1.20 [in all. My cousin] George Stratton was here in the evening.

September 27, 1859

Warm & pleasant day. It was a real golden autumnal day. Gathered chestnuts in the forenoon. Lucy & Anna [Fiddis] were here in the afternoon. Threshed wheat. In the evening, read & wrote & talked with Lucy. The fog rose from the [Susquehanna River] valley until you could see the plain beneath with the dark canopy above, moving & rolling in fantastic shapes; here light streaming in & through grotesquely, here a somber shade. The evening [was] all golden & purple, beautifully typifying the fulsome harvest time. Lucy spoke of [her travels to Kentucky and] the character of the Southern people. They are hospitable & kind, but do not want to be disputed in their ancient privileges & institutions. One old lady [of] 73 years noted for her eccentricity – in fact, one which runs through the whole family – used to whip her children regularly as a duty and she said that she noticed that they looked more thoughtful than before. The same [woman] was walking by a lake with her husband [when she] jumped in and came very near being drowned. She was at a table with such a number [of guests] and during a pause in the conversation, she laughed. On being asked the cause, she said she had been thinking what a difference there was betwixt noses. Forgetfulness is another defect.

September 28, 1859

Cloudy and rained a little in the morning. Threshed wheat & cleaned up. Lewis & his wife parted. C. Abbott, her guardian & one who caused the trouble. Afternoon, made fence. When I came home Charles Goodrich and two Miss Giles [were here]. I did not know him at first. Sleepy all the evening. Saw what color the trees are when frost bitten: Hickory – yellow & light brown; Chestnut – same; Maple – yellow & red; Oak – red & brown; Elms – yellow; Iron-wood – red; Basshood – yellow; Ash – red & yellow; Butternut – yellow & brown.

September 29, 1859

Pleasant day, rather cold in the morning. Raked up buckwheat a little while. Went to Barnes’ to see Lem who had been lately killed on the railroad while drunk. He was a frightful object – mouth open, eyes sunken, livid & ghastly. Blood was tricking out of his ears and the top of his head & back of neck. It fairly made me sick and faint to see him. There was a black-purple tinge like mortification. One finger was chopped off. Wrote in answer to an advertisement [for a teacher] in Easton, Connecticut. Afternoon, went to the [Tioga County] fair. Nothing very good. Saw [J. A.] Prindle & had a talk with him.

September 30, 1859

Cool but pleasant day. Went to the fair. Received a letter from Geneva stating that Chester Roy was dead. Surprised much and felt bad. Went up from Aunt Lucy [Fiddis]’s with [cousin] Lucy [Fiddis].


Bayard Taylor, born 11 January 1825, in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. He began his career as a printer and journalist, but then made extensive travels all over Europe and wrote several books on his observations. He eventually became a journalist for the New York Tribune and began pubic lecturing in 1854. He wrote four novels in his lifetime.

William A. Smyth, born about 1819 — a native of Ireland, was the editor of the Owego Times, a republican weekly paper. He also served as Principal of the Owego Academy for a number of years.

Betsy Goodrich, born 23 December 1796, was a younger sister of Silas Goodrich, Ralph’s father. She married Jonathan Platt and lived in Owego. Her daughter Francis (“Fannie”) Platt was born about 1832.

Probably Charles Rittenhouse Coburn, born 1809. who was for 18 years the Principal of the Owego Academy. He also served as President of the New York State Teacher’s Association in 1848. In 1852 he became one of the editors of the New York Teacher and at the same time acted as associate Principal of the Bingham Academy. In 1859, Charles was serving as County Superintendent in Bradford County, Pennsylvania.

Lewis Moss was a college chum of Ralph’s. They graduated from Hobart College together in the Class of 1858.

Charlotte (“Lottie”) Warner, of Ithaca. Nothing more found.

Miss Loundsbury. Identity not confirmed. She was not boarding with Lucy Fiddis at the time of the 1860 U.S. Census.

David Stratton, born 14 May 1826, the son of William Stratton and Alice Miller.

Joseph Berry was the eldest son of Joseph Berry and Lucy Goodrich, an older sister of Silas Goodrich (Ralph’s father). Jo Berry and Ralph were first cousins.

I can’t find any published reference to this ditty, but it appears to have been a juvenile’s poem intended to slur the reputation of the father of whomever it was directed. It seems to suggest that “Caffee” – a negress – has given birth to a child that looks like someone’s daddy – presumably a white man.

Probably Ruth A. Goodrich, born 22 May 1844, the daughter of Ephraim Goodrich and his wife Hannah B. Horton. She was a second cousin of Ralph’s.

Probably Charles W. Goodrich, born about 1814, and the eldest son of Cyprian Goodrich and Abigail Giles. Cyprian was an older brother of Ralph’s father, Silas Goodrich. Charles lived near Cato, New York. The two Giles girls were probably relatives of Cyprian’s wife.

Lemuel Barnes, born 22 March 1814 in West Leroy, Pennsylvania, the son of Lemuel Barnes and Polly Reed. He died 24 September 1859.

J. A. Prindle, born about 1831, was a teacher in Owego, Tioga County, New York.

Chester Roy of Torrey, New York was a Hobart Free College classmate of Ralph’s, a graduate of the Class of 1858.

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