A Civil War Diary from French Creek: Selections from the Diary of Sirene Bunten
Edited by Stephen Cresswell
In the Rare Book Collection of West Virginia Wesleyan College is a fine Civil War diary written by a young girl who lived at French Creek in Upshur County. Although the diary has been overlooked by historians, it is valuable because the sensitive and insightful diarist provides a clear narrative of life, both civilian and military, in a Unionist area of West Virginia. The diary begins on New Year's Day, 1863, spans the war years and ends in the late seventies. Then, in 1901, the diarist again picked up he diary for one last entry. Presented below is a sampling of the entries from this extensive diary.
The diarist, Sirene Bunten, was born on April 11, 1847, and thus was fifteen years old as she began this Civil War diary. Bunten lived at French Creek, a small community a dozen miles south of Buckhannon. The people who lived along French Creek were, in the words of Confederate General A. G. Jenkins, "among the most disloyal in all western Virginia." Disloyalty, of course, was in the eye of the beholder, and young Sirene was passionately loyal to the United States, and in time, to the new state of West Virginia.
Sirene Bunten's mother figures rarely in the diary and her father had died before the war. Among the most commonly mentioned names are those of her brothers and sisters. Three Bunten brothers served the Union cause: Burnham (Birney) and Walter served in Company E of the 3d Virginia Volunteers, while Watson Bunten served in the deep South with Company I of the 40th Illinois. Sirene also had three sisters: Sarah, Harriet, and Elsey. Harriet (Hattie) was a schoolteacher who taught at Sago, and was a close confidant of Sirene, Sister Elsey was less close to the family after she married a Confederate sympathizer, Fenton Payne.
In Sirene Bunten's diary, we see what the war was like for many West Virginians. Families were often divided by conflicting loyalties, reduced in number by deaths on battlefields and in field hospitals, and there was the constant fear of raiding parties that commandeered horses, cattle, shoes, blankets, and other materials. Sirene watched thousands of soldiers march past her French Creek home, and saw Buckhannon occupied twelve times by Union and Confederate troops. Through the whole diary shines the personality of Sirene Bunten, in her successive moods of despair, impatience, mourning, introspection, and optimism. The diary's postwar entries show the rural life lived by a young West Virginia woman, including both its drudgery and beauty. Details of the later life of Sirene Bunten are given in the diary's last entry; the diarist died at Buckhannon in 1912.
January 4, 1863. One year ago today what sorrow fell on us; my dear brother Birney died at the hospital in Buckhannon. He belonged to Co E 3d Regt Va Vols. He was one of the many that gave his life to his country. Great excitement here now in the consequence of [of] there being no soldiers on the Creek. Rumor says there is to be some sent up through here this week. I had a letter from James & Lorenzo this week, they are at Winchester now. Did not have any from Watson or Walter.
January 26, 1863. Walter was at home last night, he could not stay but one night. He started for camp this morning, and we may not see him again for some time. William Curry has the smallpox, I think if it spreads we will have something besides war to think of. The war is still raging. It seems that we will know what war is after while, everything is swallowed up in the all absorbing topic war. I do hope we will hear that General McClellan has command of the army again. I think that the President ought to know better than to keep changing the commanders so often. I guess he thinks he is right but I do not. I would like to see him and tell him about it.
February 2, 1863. What a beautiful day it has been, the first clear one we have been favored with for some time. Oh! I have some news to tell you. and it is this. George Lee has come home, he belongs to Co E 3d Va. He has been wounded and had the smallpox but he arrived at home last Saturday. Oh! how I would like to see my brother Watson. I have not seen him since about five years ago, he too is fighting for our country, was wounded at Pittsburgh Landing, but has recovered.
February 16, 1863. Once more I take up my pen to write, I have been thinking of what I had done since last I wrote and the answer comes, nothing, and it is a fact, it seems that I have no heart to study and there is not much else to do most of the time. I have been reading novels, I am passionately fond of reading and I have read over our papers about a dozen times and am heartily ashamed of it. To think that I should spend the precious time reading love stories over and over, and have resolved that it shall not happen again. I have no aim in life, nothing to make me wish to live and I often wonder what will become of me, but one thing is I will study and perhaps someday I will be a school teacher. I wonder if it would be very agreeable work to teach the "young idea how to shoot" &c. I have been thinking and thinking and it amounts to the fact that if I do not try to learn something before long it will be too late. I am as homely and awkward as I don't know who, if any company comes in I am afraid to speak, afraid that I will make a blunder. I mean gentlemen, I can talk as fast as anyone with my school mates, but oh dear, if a young man speaks to me I must blush and stammer and all the time I am thinking, well he must think she is a dunce. But I do not care for the young men, only I wish when I am in company I did know how to talk like I have heard some young ladies do. I do not think that I ever can. If only I could talk as I think.
February 17, 1863. I made quite a confession on the last page, but it is true. I received a letter from Watson today. He is in Miss., has good health. He wrote to Mrs. Clark that he was a second Lieutenant and it that is the case I have the honor of being a Lieut.'s sister. Quite an honor I declare. I wish I could hear some news.
March 5, 1863. Oh dear me I am so lazy. I don't know what to do, I get clear discouraged. Old time is lazy too, he goes along so slow it seems like Hattie is never going to come home. I wish I could teach school then I would go away off & stay a long time, oh dear oh dear me hum.
March 6, 1863. Everything is still on French Creek, we cannot hear of anything going on at all but I presume it is because it is so muddy that one can scarcely step outside of the yard without getting over shoe top. I will be glad when some of it gets dried up so we can have something to look at besides mud and water.
April 11, 1863. Just sixteen years old today, it does not seem like I am that old. I have been working so hard to day. Aunt Caroline, Bel and Winnie have been fixing flower beds and they do look nice. Looking for Oc up today, he may come yet. We have had to carry water up the hill to put out fire and we are so tired. Five cavalry men went by and stopped for some water. Co E was to leave Bull Town and to Sutton. It is not known whether they went or no. We have had three nice days.
April 25, 1863. Saturday. Report says our troops and Imbodens are fighting at Huttonsville. I hope he wont get in there. Had a letter from Mrs. Sexton to day. I would like to see her so well. Good bye till next time.
Since I quit writing there was a man come by and told Chet that the secesh was coming, they were in sight of Centerville and he unhitched his horses and started off with them. We were frightened very bad. We thought they would burn our houses, after while they come in sight and lo, they had uniform of USA, and it was the union soldiers. How glad we were, it was part of the 8th Va and they said the 3d Va was coming in too. It is most dark.
April 27, 1863. What a night we spent last night, just before dark Claude Lee came up from town and said they were cannonading the town, but it was not so. A little after dusk some of the 3d Va come here and they said Walter was coming, they was going to stand on picket out on the hill till their Regt. came up. We got supper in a hurry. We said that the enemy were at Middlefork bridge and our men were fighting them. I have not heard from there since. We did not go to bed until 12 oclock. I think H will wish she was at home.
April 30, 1863. Harriet and May came home Monday. The secesh are in Buckhannan now, there was four went by here this morning. I do not know where they were going. I don't see what we will do if they stay there long, it is a dreadful thing to think of. I have heard the cannon this morning very plain but cannot tell where it was. If General Milroy and his army was only here to fight them. I think Stonewall Jackson has the command if the rebel forces here. There is some at Maxwells Mills. Ah me.
May 1, 1863. 18 or 20 more of the enemy went by here and some two hundred went up to Slab Camp road. I don't know what they are going to do. I heard that they were going back to Buchanan to day. One of them came in the yard to get water and one stopped at the gate. They were very polite then. I do want to hear from`our forces so bad. Mrs. Upton is here and I will stop and see what she has to say.
May 10, 1863. It is the Sabbath day but we did not go to meeting. I doubt if there was any. It is a light beautiful day, the sun shines warm and the little birds are filling the air with music; the apple trees are in blossom. Going to have fruit if the rebels do not get it. Have not heard any very reliable news to day. I heard that the troops were on their way from Clarksburg to Buchanan but we hear a thousand and one tales and don't know whether to believe one. The next union soldier I see I intend to take a good look at him, I have not seen one for so long.
May 18, 1863. A squad of cavalry went by this morning, they were scouting I guess. I hope the mail will come up tomorrow, we have not had any for a long time. Perhaps it will come. It was the general opinion that the Stars and Stripes were floating over Richmond but it has been disputed, but I do hope so. If it is it will be a great blow to the so called "Confederate States of America." I hope they captured Jeff Davis when they took the Capitol. I think the war will soon be over. Whew but it is cold today, as Aunt Heckiah says it is recessively cold. We'll freeze into an iceberg, ha ha.
May 20, 1863. Something is the matter with this paper it won't write good but it is war times and I cant get any more. James and Lorenzo have arrived at home. I think they will be up before long. We had a mail today and a letter from Wat, he was at Lagrange, Tenn. He had been marching but was well. I think all the rebels have left there. I seen an extract in the Wheeling Intelligencer from the Richmond Whig, that Col. Imboden (rebel Col) wrote and he made out that he whipped us pretty bad, but then it is nothing for them to tell stories, they don't mind a bit.
May 26, 1863. Went to meeting and to the graveyard, we set some things out on Birney's grave not long ago and they are growing. Had a letter from Watson today, he is in Tenn. He sent me part of his watch chain. He has a commission for first Lieut, maybe he will be Captain some day. L. B. was up today but did not stay long. I am making him and James a needlebook. Every thing is so dry, it has not rained for so long. I seen Captain Gould today. He looked as proud as could be, I do wonder if he is proud. I don't believe he is, it is his nature to be stiff but really, I would like to see him unbend a little, but my oh what am I writing.
May 29, 1863. Last night we had the party and it was a very nice one too; it was at the Dillin house. Hat, Jennie, James & Lorenzo came up. There were a great many there, Capt. Gould was there. I hardly think he is as proud as I thought he was. We had a splendid time. The boys have gone home, they start for camp tomorrow. We hear that the 10th & 3d are to be mounted. I hope it is so. Great news from Vicksburg, if it is so it will be a great loss to the Confederacy. Report says we have the place and 27000 rebel prisoners. It is good news.
May 30, 1863. Have not heard anything more from Vicksburg. I would like to know if it is true that we have it. It is the general supposition that the rebels (Imboden and Jones) will have to come back here, that they cannot get out any other way. I hope if they start they will meet some of the "Yankee Boys" ad will have to surrender. It would be a terrible blow to the chivalry, take down their pride a little I think. There is meeting at the Dillin House this afternoon. Rev. Mr. King, Methodist.
May 31, 1863. Went to meeting and heard a very good sermon. Mr. King preaches again there, four weeks from yesterday at four oclock. There was a great many there. It is the last day of spring, summer commences tomorrow. It is locust year and they do keep such a noise all the time but I expect it will be worse yet after it rains. It has not rained for a long time. The soldiers of Co. B got leave to stay one night longer, they are to meet at Buchanan tonight. I do not know where they are to go from there.
June 6, 1863. Cavalry went by this morning. They go up every day and night to see if there is any rebels up this way. The Tenth Va is at Buchanan yet, and the Third at Weston. They have not got their horses yet, but they think they are going to have them after while, "better late than never."
June 7, 1863. Went to meeting today and they organized the Sabbath School, I am glad we are going to have one. Some cavalry were up today and one of them said that the Third had gone to Clarksburg to get their horses. The cavalry stop for milk when they pass, they seem to be very fond of the article. Not any good news.
June 28, 1863. Well the girls have come at last. I did not write any yesterday. it is raining and will not go to meeting. Hattie and Franty go back tonight. We hear dreadful news now, the rebels are threatening Washington. I do not believe they will have a battle there, perhaps they may. Our army is too slow or something is the matter with them. The soldiers are ready to fight but the Generals don't care whether the war ever ends, I don't believe. It seems so anyway.
June 29, 1863. Went to a burying ground this afternoon, Doctor Brooks is dead. I went to Birney's grave and put some flowers on it. Wrote letters to Watson, James and L. B. today. It is reported that Fenton Payne, my brother in law has gone to Dixie. Sister Elsey says the rebels are coming here this fall and he will come back and see them. It is dreadful to think one [of] our family is a traitor to our country.
July 1, 1863. George Moore was up today, he said that part of company B was out on a scout somewhere in Braxton. I believe maybe they will catch these rebels that have left here for Dixie. I wish they would. The rebels are making a raid into Penn. and Md. I never seen the like in my life and such a time as our new state is having. Lots of rebels in it trying to destroy it, but never mind it will shine as bright as any of the thirty-five after a while. Oh what a glorious flag is ours, if I were only a man to help fight for it. I believe I could fight.
July 2, 1863. Three thousand secesh at Huttonsville. They captured our pickets, they mean to try to get to Buchanan but there is one Regt of infantry, Ewings battery and some cavalry at Beverly. If they make a stand they cannot get here that way and if it is managed right they cannot come at all. Some of our citizens are on picket tonight. I believe the rebels like this part of West Virginia better than the other parts. They visit it often anyway. Oh if I only had the power to stop them. Rumor says Gen. Milroy has been put out because he let his army get cut up so at Winchester. I declare it is enough to drive one mad. He was such a good Gen., but that is just the way they do., take the good and leave the bad. The rebels have cut the telegraph wire between Beverly and Buchanan.
July 3, 1863. Some dreadful news if true. Fenton Payne and Skid Ferril were killed by our men. They were going to Dixie but they have gone to their account. I sincerely pity Sister Elsey. I wish I could go and see her. She is left with seven small children and what is to become of them I don't know. Not any more important news from Beverly. I would like to hear from there. Later. The Union and secesh armies are fighting at Beverly. The report came to town that our men were retreating but it was not believed. The 3d Va was on their way to Beverly. It is awful times.
July 6, 1863. All the troops left town last night at nine oclock for Webster. I expect the citizens of Buchanan are badly frightened now. The secesh surrounded our pickets at Beverly, took them prisoners and then killed them in cold blood. The pickets belonged to Co C 10th Va. The rebels are perfect savages to kill men in that way. I hope they will get their pay for it before they get out of West Virginia.
July 7, 1863. Letter from Watson today. He is at Snyder's Bluff, Miss., 12 miles north of Vicksburg. He was not very well. If all stories are true Vicksburg is ours, it is currently reported anyway, but not believed. "The 20th of June 1863, is the natal day of this last born of the ever glorious galaxy of states constituting the American Union." I copied that out of the Wheeling Intelligencer. There is much more to it, but it is too long to copy. West Va is in its infancy now, I wonder what her motto will be.
July 9, 1863. Not any more important news, rumors enough if one could believe them. A recruiting officer said it was really so about Vicksburg surrendering. Pemberton and all his men are taken, three cheers.
July 11, 1863. Some cavalry just went by, do not know where they are going. Vicksburg is really ours. The 3d has gone on East. Tenth is at Beverly. Our men are fighting the rebs in Penn. but we can not hear much from there. It is very smoky here (perhaps it is because they are fighting) and dreadful hot and dry. Looked for Hattie up today but is the lot of humans to be disappointed.
July 14, 1863. Good news to day, our army has been victorious in Penn. The war will soon be over. Lee's army is badly cut up and good news comes in from every side, enough to make one rejoice I think. The Stars and Stripes are floating over Vicksburg as I hope it soon will be over the whole of the U. S. A. The glorious star spangled banner. Letters from Aunt Elsey, James, and Lorenzo. Some rain last night.
July 18, 1863. The militia has been armed and one company went to Centerville to camp. Lee has skedaddled out of Penn., that is too bad. If they could only capture the whole secesh army. We have not heard a word from Cousin Dwight since the battle at Winchester. I am afraid he is a prisoner in Rebeldom. I hope not. I wish we could hear from him.
July 22, 1863. I have been down to Isaac's today, when I came home I found letters from Watson and James and best of all Watson's likeness. He sent it by mail, it does not look like he used to. It is a very handsome miniature, a broad white forehead, whiskers and mustache, oh what a precious gift it is, looks so much like Birney. I have it here before me now, my precious brother. I have only two left now, may they be spared long long to us. Oh darling Birney it is so hard to give you up.
July 30, 1863. Oscar came up today and brought a horse for me to go over with him and I expect I will go if nothing happens. Tomorrow is the last day of school, now if I ain't glad of it. I do not know when I will come back, I don't like to leave me alone all night. A part of the Upshur Rangers went by today: made quite a show with their uniforms of every kind and color. It is high time honest folks are abed. A beautiful moonlight night.
August 17, 1863. Well school commenced today and we had a fine time. Arithmetic, Grammar, Astronomy, History, &c. There was 21 scholars. I hope we will have a good school this summer, good night.
September 6, 1863. Received letters from Watson and Walter this evening. Walter was at Beverly and was well. Watson was in Miss., he talks about getting a furlough but does not think he could come home in the time given him. Oh if he only could and Walter could be here at the same time how glad I would be. Once I hoped to see all three but never shall I welcome one home again, and how many more sisters can say the same. This dreadful war, when will it end? When the sun is set and all is still I get to thinking of dear brothers far away, and it seems like I can't wait another year, and tears fall thick and fast for perhaps before it passes away something will happen. I cannot, must not think of it. Oh if I could see you tonight my brothers and listen to your loved voices how happy I would be, but many nights more must pass.
September 12, 1863. The rebels are coming, are in Centerville. Oh if I only had the power to stop them. Oh what will we do, all is excitement. Later. The secesh have gone, they did not come any further that Centerville. Our militia was there and the rebs fired on them and wounded one man, and took 50 or 60 prisoners. One of the citizens went to town to get a doctor to take off that man's leg.
September 13, 1863. Cousin Lon staid here last night, he started up the road this morning to see if there was any news. I do not think any soldiers have gone up yet. I think there ought to be some sent up to see if they can't catch the rebels that were there.
September 17, 1863. Jashere Brooks is dead, died yesterday. we are not going to keep school this afternoon, but quit at noon and go to the burying. The rebels still keep about Centerville but do not come any farther. Some Yankee cavalry went by last night going to find them I reckon.
October 15, 1863. Part of Co E went up yesterday and went down today, we did not see them. Walter did not come with them. There has been a battle at Bull Town and our troops were victorious. there is cavalry going down now. I like to hear their sabers clashing and hear their horses galloping down the hard road.
July 4, 1864. Today is Independence day, no school. Going to have a dinner here and at Town. Harriet and Watson is over, ma couldn't come. I was up home last friday and staid until last night. Later. We set the table over the river at the old place in the yard, it was so cool and pleasant. We went up to the schoolhouse and Mr. A. Brooks read the Declaration of Independence and then Uncle George (who was Marshall, Watson was President) had us all march down to dinner. Then we read the toasts and we went up to the Split Rock, one of Nature's curiosities. It was beautiful, wish all of our absent friends had been here but we had a very nice time any way.
July 6, 1864. Oh who would have believed one week ago that Walter would be a prisoner. He was captured at Green Springs with twelve others of that Co. Oh it is too much to be true. To think my brother will have to suffer in a southern jail, perhaps never see the outside of it. Dreadful thought but we will hope for the best.
July 10, 1864. We have not heard anything from the prisoners, they were taken the 26th of June. Oh Walter my brother will you have to be kept and starved to death as Cousin Ezra was. I can not think it possible, but this suspense is terrible, perhaps never knew what has become of them. Only one brother left us now. There is a rumor that Capt Gould is killed. I hope it is not so.
September 27, 1864. Today we went to school and heard the rebs were coming and we staid until 2 1/2 then started home, and saw some dozen as we came home, two just left here. Oh my country when will you be free from them.
September 28, 1864. There was eleven rebels ate supper here last night. There was one Lieut. here and he kept his men straight. I do not know how many there is but I do not think they will stay long. That Lieut. tried very hard to make Harry and I rebels but he had to give it up. They camped down at E. G. Burr's last night. Late. There was about six hundred rebels passed here today, they were driving cattle and I just expected they would take ours (cow) but they did not. They took Chet's but the girls got them back. It was a curious body of soldiers, they were dressed in all colors. They robbed the stores and houses all along the road. They took one blanket from us.
September 30, 1864. We had another great scare yesterday, we heard that they were coming back again but it was false. W is safe, he is up to Uncle's now. I hope we will see no more of the rebs. They stopped out here in our field and grazed their horses and when they were ready to start they blew their bugle and off they started. We talked to them just as we pleased.
October 2, 1864. We were very badly frightened again yesterday, we heard that they were fighting in Buckhannon but it was false, some one fired on the pickets early in the morning, and that is what it came from. Capt. Hagans and his men fought bravely in turn but had to retreat. I do not think there will be any meeting today, we are not going anyway.
October 9, 1864. It is very cold, snowed yesterday and to-day. I do not think I ever knew it to snow before, in Oct. I think winter is coming soon and how I dread it.
December 14, 1864. Oh my dear journal, once again I am called upon to mourn the loss of a beloved brother. We heard to-day that Walter is dead, starved to death by a set of fiends. There may be some mistake, oh if I only knew, this agonizing suspense is worse than certainty. My brother my brother how can I give you up. Our father help us.
December 19, 1864. Have not heard any more from Walter. The dark cloud that has been hanging over us so long has grown darker. Oh when will the sun once more appear. It is dreadful to think we will never know when Walter died or where. Oh Walter I did not think of this one short year ago.
December 25, 1864. And this is Christmas. Oh! how different from last Christmas. We have heard nothing more, oh if it would only prove to be a mistake. Received a letter from Aunt Elsey Bunten and her photo.
December 28, 1864. Cousin Lon wrote to Harrie that it was certainly so [page torn] and Mr. Moody being dead. But just now this very hour, one of the militia that was captured and has been exchanged passed here, he said he left Walter in September at Fort Sumter and he was well and cheerful and he did not hardly believe that he was dead. Oh what is one to believe, this suspense is worse than truth. Daniel Gould of the militia has got home. O will my brother ever come home.
January 1, 1865. And to-day is New Year, it is cold oh very cold. The old year went out with storm and wind, the snow forming a burial shroud for the dying year. The greatest snowstorm of the season, one foot and one inch deep. Several of the militia have come home and some of them saw Walter in Sep. and said he was well then, and do not think it can be so about his being dead. Hope we will hear soon and hope it will be joyful news, a happy new year it would be then.
January 18, 1865. Received letters from James and L. B. to-day, they are on the north side of the James River, can hear the cannonading at Petersburg. The rebels have again been in Beverly. We had about 900 men there and some five or 600 of the rebs came in and captured 400 of them. The officers were at a ball. It is the most shameful thing of the war. We are in danger now as there are no troops at Beverly. We are thrown upon the border and are in danger of raids more than ever. I think it is too bad after we have furnished some of the best and bravest soldiers that we can have no protection. I am just getting out of patience.
January 27, 1865. Last saturday I went over to Swago to meeting and staid until yesterday. John Carter & Mr. Langford were there. It was the best meeting I ever was at. I trust I have found pardon for my many sins. I hope I will live a better life in the future.
April 11, 1865. On this my eighteenth birthday I must write a little in you my journal. We have great and good news from our army. Richmond, the capital of the so-called Confederacy, fell the 3rd Inst. General Lee surrendered himself and whole army to Grant, and there is a report that "Old Jeff" has absconded to Mexico with all the gold and silver he could rake and scrape in Dixie, don't know whether it is so or not. We are in hope now that the war will soon end. Sarah's boys were in the battle at Richmond and I am very anxious to hear from them, and other friends were there too, perhaps they were slain, wounded, or taken prisoner. All we can do is pray for them. The loss on our side, killed, wounded, and missing, was about 7000. It was a terrible battle though won at what a great sacrifice of life. It almost makes one say "was it worth losing so many lives." It makes me feel sad to think of the desolated homes all over the country. Fathers, mothers, and sisters are mourning for those that will never come again. Ah me! What might have been.
April 15, 1865. One short week ago and we were rejoicing over the fall of Richmond, now everything is changed. The nation is shrouded in mourning, for our president was this morning killed, shot dead. O what dreadful news it is to write, words fail me to express the deep sorrow that has fallen on our nation. To think that Abraham Lincoln our President, who has for four years governed us well and wisely, was deliberately shot this morning. Also, Sec. Seward died of sickness this morning. I can hardly realize this great loss it was so sudden.
May 7, 1866. Snatchburg. Well here I am at last duly installed into the housekeeping business in Snatchburg. I came here last Wednesday into H Bunten's house to cook, wash, scrub, and everything else generally for Watson and his workmen while he is building the church. I like it tolerable well. Would much rather go to school though if I was not engaged here. At the copperhead meeting in B the Union party came off victorious, conservatives leaving in disgust.
May 16, 1866. The days go by and I am so very busy that I do not get much time to write or read. I have to cook for six men now. It is such hard work. I do not think I shall ever envy anyone the position. House work is indeed hard work. I have no particular desire to get married if my work here is a specimen of what I would have to do after the ceremony. It is first Breakfast, wash dishes, milk, make beds, dinner, wash dishes, sweep house, get supper, wash dishes, milk, go to bed & sleep. This is the daily routine. One has to keep moving all the time, no leisure.
May 23, 1866. What is life made up of. A combination of trials, troubles, and difficulties, I think. Man is born to sorrow indeed. I do not fancy house work at all, one has no time to read or think above household matters. A schoolroom suits me better than this work.
July 7, 1866. Saturday. It is nearly bedtime but I must write a very little to my bosom friend. We made up a birching party the evening of the 4th for this afternoon. A gay party composed of 13 ladies and about half as many gentlemen, met at the residence of Mr. Shobe of Snatchburg and proceeded to the woods. Not being enough gentlemen, ladies had to go together. I was so fortunate as to have an escort, one whom I shall always speak of as brother No. 2. Our way led around a hill through the hot sun. We soon reached the woods and divided into several parties to hunt the trees. One was soon found and the gentlemen commenced chopping it down. It soon fell with a crash and then busy hands peeled it off and brought to the ladies to scrape. We were not very well provided with knives but we devoured a great deal of birch. We wandered through the woods and visited Rock Camp, a great curiosity to us all. I will not now attempt a description of it. I could not do justice to it, and forbear. We went up on top of it and sat down awhile and then started home. There were four of us that were left a good way behind but we did not get lost. Lon and Delia, No. 2 and myself being behind, concluded to go up by the church. We did so, and had a very pleasant walk up there. I visited the graveyard and then we came home, thirsty and tired but very well pleased with our days pleasure and as `tis getting late I will retire.
Rural Dale W. Va. April 5, 1901. My last record in this book was thirty-four years ago and I was only twenty years old. Now my "bonnie brown curls" are getting gray and I will soon be fifty-four. Youth is far behind me and I begin the descent. I have enjoyed reading these pages, many of them were written in stirring times during the Civil War and we were surrounded with dangers often. Both armies marched by the old homes time and again. I am glad I lived then not that I love war but as it had to come, I am glad I saw it. . . .
I have a pretty home on Hacker's Creek below Buckhannon eight miles. I had scarcely met the one I married when I wrote the events recorded in this journal. J. S. Reger attended school on the French Creek after the war and being schoolmates we at last joined our fates and have since journeyed together. Our three boys, Roy, Carl, and Bright are enjoying many privileges in these modern days that Mr. Reger and I never dreamed of. College privileges, railroads, telephones, bicycles, automobiles, and all things pertaining to the last years of the nineteenth century. What will the twentieth century bring to the present generation? Improvements yet greater, more wonderful than any we know. Fifty-four years old! I will not live as long in this new century, yet I have lived in stirring times and times that have made much history. . . .
The smell of apple blossoms seems to come to me when I have this book. I think it is because I used to write in a window near the apple trees and every spring the sweet perfume came into the rooms. The old home is inhabited by another family and scattered are the friends of youth.
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