January 1861

January 1, 1861

In school. Very pleasant day. Few there. Got a letter from home. Evening, festival at Church Negroes. I helped distribute. Mrs. Syberg gave me as a present 2 pocket handkerchiefs & a pair of kid gloves in return for what I had given them.

January 2, 1861

In school. Raining. Went down the street. Got a letter from home. Had Reardon order a translation of Ovid & Sallust for me. Evening, reading & studying.

January 3, 1861

In school. Went down the street. Evening, talking. Mr. Mathews is looking badly. Tomorrow we do not have school.

January 4, 1861

No school. Went to church. Read. Carried up wood. Went down the street. Evening, reading & telling stories – ghost ones when we could think of no others. Annie tried to frighten me. I went upstairs without a light to see if my fire was burning. She slipped into the hall with the tongues & a tablecloth over her head & touched me with it as I came down. I was startled for a moment but I knew her in a moment.

I told them about the old Medical College at Geneva [New York], its being haunted, and how we used to go up in the loft & get mice & hang them down. That we once went up after dark & in coming down we were obliged to jump through a hole to the floor. That when one had slipped through to let himself down, he was grabbed by someone below [and] he screamed. [Then] we heard a deathly groan near us [and] we all ran down for dear life. [It turned out that] two other boys had gone [ahead to] frighten us.

[I also told them about] another [time when] I went out calling [on friends and I] left [to return to Hobart College] about one o’clock in the morning. [It was] very dark [and] as I turned a corner about three quarters of a mile from the college, I heard a groan. I stopped, heard it repeated, & then [some] rustling as if something [was] moving. I quickened my pace. Then I heard something moving behind me [again]. I stopped [and] it stopped. I was frightened. I walked faster [and] it also went faster. I went on a run & I heard the feet clattering after me, almost on my heels. I turned [but] could see nothing for the darkness. I ran all the way up to the college in almost no time, but it seemed like an age, till I reached my door which broke open with a kick & I flew in & braced myself against it.

January 5, 1861

Wrote 3 letters; one home, [one to] John Belknap, [and one to cousin] Lucy Fiddis. Went down the street. Have a very bad cold. Reading. Evening, telling stories. Mrs. Syberg said that a lady once was frightened on the [railroad] cars when they had run over a man & cut his legs off. It was while she was pregnant & her baby [was later born with] no lower limbs. Another one was frightened with a caterpillar [and] her child [was born] having the resemblance of one under her eyebrow in the shape of a mole covered with hair. In Florida, Annie Ward has a mark on her face like an oyster much in the same manner.

January 6, 1861

Sick with cold. Did not go to church. Reading. Evening, Mr. Mathews called over [and we] had a long talk. Mrs. Syberg [told a story about how] she was making a chemise [when] a Catholic Priest called on her. [When] he asked her what she was making, she said she was making a covering for an alter which he didn’t worship at.

January 7, 1861

In school. Went down the street. Had a talk with Deuel.

January 8, 1861

In school. Warm day. Yesterday we had a new boarder – Mr. Burnett. Let out school early. Went down the street. Took a walk with Deuel. Evening, Colonel [John Baker] Thompson spoke at the Representatives Hall on [the subject of] education. He said the North was not well educated because they did not take the right view of slavery. [As such,] they rejected the philosophy of Aristotle, of Plato, [of] reason & common sense. I thought that Thompson knew better than that. Captain [Syberg] returned today.

January 9, 1861

In school. Warm day. Got a letter from home. Evening, speaking at the Hall by [a man named] Cousin. It was a Union speech.

January 10, 1861

In school. Evening, had another quarrel with Captain & Mrs. Syberg before Wadell, about telling that Bayard Taylor had been hissed on account of abolitionists…

January 11, 1861

In school. Rather rainy. Got along well. Mrs. Syberg very good today. Evening, talking.

January 12, 1861

Went up to the [Federal] Arsenal. Got a letter from [Henry] Handerson [who] says [George McClure] Tourtellot [of Wyoming, Iowa] is dead & [William Cornelius] Lane [is] insane. Wrote a letter to Handerson. Took a ride on the pony. Evening, reading.

January 13, 1861

Very rainy. Attended church. Very few there. Afternoon, at the funeral of Major Crutchfield. Evening, Mr. Mathews came over. A new servant today. Mrs. Syberg told me about the Reams that boarded here – a son & daughter went round the streets arm in arm, too intimate for a brother and sister even. He had long curly hair. The people hated him & wanted to get him drunk so they could cut [his hair] off. But he could stand so much [liquor] that it was almost impossible to get him. Finally they succeeded & cut his hair off evenly & put it on his head under his cap, so when he took it off, his hair dropped. He left town soon [after].

Annie says that in Ireland some men were gambling on Sunday. One dropped a card & as he stooped to pick it up, he saw the Devil with cloven feet under the table. Another saw it [too] and all ran & never entered the house again. [She also told] another one [in which] an Irishman had lost his wife. He told the Priest that his wife was dead & was turned into a hog & ate up all the swill from the others. The Priest disbelieved it, but the man took him & sure enough he saw the man’s wife in the shape of a hog. He whistled three tunes & the hog vanished.

January 14, 1861

Rainy. In school. Whipped William Jones. At table tonight, had a little spat with the old lady. Mr. Mathews told me today that I was too quick in school in tempo. He wanted me to do better.

On Friday night I dreamed I got a letter from Handerson containing bad news, writing not as plain as he usually writes on account of sickness. The next day I received a letter from him containing the news of the death of Tourtellot & the insanity of Lane, & he himself unwell with the fever. The writing was scarcely as good as formerly. Strange.

January 15, 1861

One session [of school] Rainy. This morning, found all my clothes gone [from] out of my room. Went down [and] almost asked [Mrs. Syberg where they were but found that] Annie had taken them. Took a ride on pony. Went down to the hall. A minute company [was] being organized. But a few there.

January 16, 1861

In school. Took a walk. Fixed up a man in Annie’s room to frighten her.

January 17, 1861

In school. Got a letter from [my sister] Augusta.

January 18, 1861

In school. Captain [Syberg] at home. Evening, supper at Hall Episcopal ($2.65), went then to theatre. Got home about 12 at night.

Page from Goodrich's Diary, Arkansas History Commission

January 19, 1861

Saturday. Deuel came up. Took a walk with him. Down the street with Captain [Syberg]. Evening, went to the hall. Sick with a cold.

January 20, 1861

At church. Fire in the morning – a tin shop burned up. At church. Sunday school. Evening, went to Campbellite Church.

January 21, 1861

In school. Pleasant day. Sent off letter to [my cousin] Jim Fiddis and one home. Took a ride on the pony. Mr. Mathews called for me to go to the Campbellite Church. Went. A man was tried for intending to shoot another. Mrs. McCulloch says he took liberal aim.

January 22, 1861

In school. Pleasant day. Evening, over to Mr. Mathews room calculating school bills. Played cards a little after supper. Mr. Mathews made some punch.

January 23, 1861

In school. Evening, saw Deuel. Company this evening [included] Dr. [John T.] Wheat, Dr. Scheifler, [5] Mrs. Graves, [George] Linde, & Methionery (??)

January 24, 1861

Snow. Mr. Walshe came today. Was at school. Played dominoes.

January 25, 1861

In school. Last of the quarter. Dr. [John T.] Wheat at school. The Jones’ have left. Sick. Mr. Mathews here in evening. Some of the scholars never paid up.

January 26, 1861

Sick. Went down to [Thomas] Barrett’s. Mrs. [Elizabeth] Barrett paid me. Got some medicine for dyspepsia (25 cents). Paid off Captain Syberg [for rent] up to the first of February ($89.05). Evening, Mr. Mathews came over for awhile.

January 27, 1861

At church. Took a walk. Feel sick.

January 28, 1861

In school. Few there. Pleasant day. Went down to store. Sallust, Ovid came [which had] $3.00 [postage due]. Wrote letter to [my sister] Augusta [and] sent her one dollar.

January 29, 1861

Sent letter to [my sister] Augusta with a dollar in it. Evening, went down the street with Mrs. Syberg. Called at Dr. Wheat’s. A young man died today – W. Boswell.

January 30, 1861

In school. The Jones’ came today. Captain [Syberg] gone. Went down the street. Evening, went down with Captain & got some cider. Helped him.

January 31, 1861

Rainy. In school. A German here. In evening, got a letter from Mrs. Adams [of Bel Air, Florida, and was] well pleased with it.


Ralph’s received the following letter from his mother with a second letter enclosed from his younger sister Mary enclosed:

December 5, 1860 Owego [New York]

Dear Ralph.  I wrote to you Sunday [but] did not send it till yesterday and when [your brother] Steve came home he had a letter from you saying something about cloths or clothing. I have been over to the [Owego] village today in a sleigh and have been to Mr. Platt’s. They have your measures for coat, vest & pants and can make all to order. Mr. Platt has good black broadcloth for 3.00 dollars a yard. Says she can make you a coat from that piece for $13.00. Do you want he should make it? I can get good cloth for pants $1.25 black cloth. He will get you up a vest of grenadine silk for 5 dollars or velvet for 7. I went in to see Mr. Robbins, the Express man. He says he does not think the Express would be over 2 or 3 dollars. Says if I send you a suit of clothes, I must put them in a paper box and put thick paper around and tie it up strong with twine. Whatever you want, send for, and if you know which is the best way for it to go. Mr. Robbins said he did not know which way to send it, but I think it must go west. If you want Sarah to make your vest, she will. Or if you had rather have it made at the shop, you can. She can make the vest and pants as good as they can and we can make shirts if you want and any other clothing. Do you want stockings?

It snowed yesterday and Steve went over and got that sleigh of your Aunt Betsy [Platt]’s. It is too large for one horse. We do not like it. I do not think we should keep it. Steve cannot sit on the back seat and drive. Mr. John Taylor is about the same.

We are all usually well. We got your letter in just a week after it was mailed. We knew you had had a letter from [your cousin] Lucy Stratton. Aunt Anna said to Lucy she would like to hear Ralph’s letter read. “Oh yes,” Uncle William said, “Lucy, if you have got a letter from Ralph, we would like to hear it read. I think a good deal of Ralph.” And accordingly, Lucy went upstairs and got the letter and read it, but she read it so fast that Aunt Anna said she could not tell us as much about it as she wished she could. She wanted to ask Lucy to let her read it, but did not. She said your letter was very interesting but enough of this.

Hellen Bristol is a young lady about 20. [She] is a sister of Mr. Wheeler Bristol [and] the youngest daughter of Mrs. George Bristol who lives in Mrs. Rice’s farm house. Hellen is Aunt to little George Bristol but none related to George Worthington. Wheeler Bristol’s wife was Mary Worthington, a cousin of George Worthington.

I think you need not trouble yourself about sending anything to [your sister] Augusta until you are better off. How did you like it – my keeping so much of your money? Of course you will write as soon as you get this if you want the clothes. Mary says she will write a few lines. With love from us all. Goodbye. – [Your mother]

Dear brother Ralph. It has been a long time since I have written to you and a longer time I think since you have written to me. Ma has answered your questions about Hellen Bristol. You would like her, I think. She is nothing like Louise Rice. Hellen, Eliza & Will ____were here Monday evening. We have not heard from Louisa nor George since she went back to New York. I do not see why she don’t [write]. She must be offended with us all.

I saw Jim Mersereau at the Fair. [He] enquired about you [and] said he was doing very well. You know he is in partnership with Connet (?) in Lock Haven [Pennsylvania]. And I saw Chauncey Shipman too. All of his family are living in Union now. He said he was going to keeping house & teach the school there this winter. He looked just as he used to.

Aunt Anna started Monday morning. Mr. Truman went as far as New York with her. Dora is at Newburg with Add (?) this winter attending school. Cad Gridley is in Thatcher’s store. Has been there several weeks. I saw George Stratton a while ago. Said he & Ed were going to write to you. Hear you heard from them. They always enquire about you. Mr. Stevens has been to Kansas this fall. Pa has heard today that he is going to move there. He used to be in with Chatfield in the grocery  I cannot think of any news. Write as you can. With much love, I am your affectionate sister, — Mary

In the mid-19th century it was customary to give gifts on New Years day as well as Christmas day.

On January 9, Mississippi joined South Carolina in seceding from the Union. On that same date, South Carolinians fired upon a ship attempting to supply the garrison at Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor.  The pro-Union speaker may have been Little Rock merchant Peter R. Cousins, a 26 year-old native of Virginia.

Probably 14 year-old William E. Jones, the son of William (a Little Rock Merchant) and Anna Jones.

Advertisement for the Female Collegiate Institute taught by Graves and Scheifler

This is the first reference to Dr. Scheifler in Ralph Goodrich’s diary. See the entry of 13 April 1862 for more information on his death. Rev. Dr. Frederick F. Scheifler and Rev. Mr. Nelson Zuingle Graves were co-principals of the Female Collegiate Institute in Little Rock. The attached newspaper clipping from The Daily True Democrat, 11 March 1861, advertises their school. From Goodrich’s diary, it appears that Scheifler also boarded with the Graves family. All three (Mr. & Mrs. Graves, and Scheifler) are found residing at the same address in New York City at the time of the 1860 Federal Census so they must have relocated to Little Rock late in the winter of 1860-61. I was able to confirm that Graves did serve as Principal of the Warrenton (North Carolina) Female Collegiate Institute in the 1840’s. Graves and his wife, natives of Vermont, were born in 1809 and 1807, respectively. Mrs. Grave was formerly Elizabeth Brown Wilcox; her parents were Julius Wilcox and Elizabeth Brown. Scheifler was born in Germany around 1833. It looks like he arrived in the United States at the age of 17.  His ship, The Danube, arrived in New York City on 16 October 1850. He applied for Naturalization in NYC on 30 July 1860.

Probably William Boswell, a twenty year-old clerk who worked for Mr. S. H. Tucker, a merchant in Little Rock, Arkansas.

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