Thursday, December 5, 2019

Woman's Work - November, 1859 Diary of Sarah Young Bovard, 31-year-old mother of 8 in Scott County, Indiana

About the writer: Sarah Waldsmith Young was born on February 21, 1828 in Hamilton County, Ohio. She was the daughter of Abner Young, born 1799 in Maine, and Jane Waldsmith, born 1806 in Hamilton County, Ohio. Her husband James W. Bovard had been born in Steubenville, Ohio in 1828. They married February 29, 1844 in the small crossroads town of Alpha in Scott County, Indiana, which was nestled in southern Indiana.

By the time she began her diary in 1859 at age 31, she had eight children: Oliver William, February 9, 1845
Marion McKinley, January 11, 1847
Maria Jane, February 4, 1849
Freeman Daily, January 9, 1851
Melville Young; December 6, 1852
Abner Sinclair, October 13, 1854
George Finley, August 8, 1856
James Carvossa, July 20, 1858.

One of her children had died before she began writing her diary. Oliver William Bovard died Nov. 11, 1857 at 12 years, 8 months and 6 days old. By 1866, Sarah would have four more children, two would go on to become college presidents.

Diary of November, 1859

NOVEMBER 3, 1859: I commence early to boil syrup, boil all day. Catherine and children comes-stays all day--warm and pleasant. Go in the afternoon to grind cane. Mother comes in the evening.

Sarah was boiling cane juice to make cane syrup. Syrup-making is a cold-weather task. The cane is cut close to the first heavy frost. Cold weather increases the sweetness of the juice, a delay would cause it to sour or ferment. As soon as the cane is cut, the grinding and pressing begins to extract the cane juice. Sarah talked of going to grind cane in the afternoon. Apparently there was someone nearby who had a mill or animal-driven crushing device. Cane syrup, molasses, and brown sugar all start with the juice squeezed from sugar cane stalks. The cane juice itself is only faintly sweet, and the original color is an unappetizing murky gray. To make cane syrup, the raw cane juice is boiled to evaporate the liquids and stabilize the sugars; the result is sweeter than molasses, with a rich caramel flavor. Sarah would boil her cane juice for hours in a kettle regularly skimming it to remove impurites. As it boils and thickens, dirt, leaves, bits of stalk, wax, and bark roll to the suface. Sarah might use a coarse collander attached to a long wooden pole as a skimmer. After each skim, she would probably lift the syrup and let it spill back into the kettle to hasten the evaporation. The boiling juice slowly thickens to syrup over the course of several hours. It's nearly finished when a spoonful of it runs down a sloping pan at a slow speed. The syrup is now a rich golden color. Probably Sarah would filter her syrup one last time, blazing hot, through a bed sheet into another kettle. After it cooled a bit, she finally would pour it into waiting mason jars or crocks.

NOVEMBER 4, 1859: Pleasant morning. I boil syrup cane juice till noon, then wash and warp my jeans at night. James helps me. Pap and mother went to Paris to day. Mother bought a fine shawl---$6.30. Clear day but very windy and smoky. Dry time--we wish it would rain.

Paris, Indiana is about 15 miles northeast of Jennings Township.

NOVEMBER 6, 1859: Very smoky. Sleep late. My throat is sore--bad cold. Brother Moses and family goes home to day. James goes with me to Gilead to meeting. Mr. Potts preaches--his text was "Enoch walking with God 300 years and then was not for God took him." Come home late. All well, we left little Jimmy home with the rest of the children. I write at night. The children reads their books and make noise enough.

After visiting for 11 days, Sarah's brother, his pregnant wife, and his 4 children faced a long carriage ride back home. On December 26, Moses' wife Martha would give birth to their 5th child, George Buchanan Young.

NOVEMBER 9, 1859: Pleasant and warm. We beam our 40 yards of jeans--takes us one hour to beam it--put it through the gears and reed. Mother comes with some filling. James still works at fixing our house-the doors and windows. We begin to want rain very bad--the corn is turning yellow for want of rain.

Here are some weaving terms Sarah uses:
Warp are the threads running the length of the loom across which threads are woven.
Weft or filling are the threads which are woven crosswise to the warp to form the web.
A reed is a comb with both sides closed which fits into the beater. It spaces the warp threads evenly and beats the weft into place.
Beaming is winding the warp, which is spaced out to its weaving width, onto the warp beam.

NOVEMBER 14, 1859: Up early this morning--commence washing with frozen water. The children goes to school. I wash hard. Get done against 2 o'clock. Norwood Tobias is here for dinner. Mother goes by to Catherines. James goes to mill with corn to Mayfields then hauls wood. I weave at my jeans. We are all well.

Norwood Tobias was the 21 year old son of neighbors William H. Tobias from Ohio and Sarah Sally Kashow from New Jersey who had married in Jennings County, Indiana, in 1835.

Catherine was Sarah's sister. Issa Mayfield, 46, was a nearby widower who lived on a farm with his 4 children aged 12 to 6.

NOVEMBER 18, 1859: Rained all day--commenced before daylight. James commenced his sled--went to paps for an auger--took their salt home. I wove all day. James quilted some. We are glad to see it rain. Jimmy went barefooted. He is a good boy--I do not get to nurse him much. I do not get to read my Bible enough--too much work to do.

Surprised to see her husband quilting. Her baby James Carvossa had been born on July 20, 1858. Baby James would die after Sarah stopped her diary, on July 20, 1864.

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 1859: Cloudy, make a kettle of pumpkin butter--very good. I weave some. Mother comes out awhile. I fill quilts. Maria Jane irons, James finishes his sled. Marion went to the [post] office. Freeman and Melville and Aby and George all disobedient children. I hope they will get better.

Pumpkin butter is thicker than apple butter and usually eaten as a spread on breads. The taste depends on what spices you have on hand; the recipe is very easy. The mixture is so thick, that it is splattery when cooking and must be stirred constantly. Bring it to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about 30 minutes.3 1/2 cups of pumpkin, pureed 3/4 cup apple juice 1 - 2 teaspoons ground ginger 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves 1 cup sugar 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Not sure how Sarah stored her pumpkin butter. With so much family living nearby and her own family of ten, perhaps it disappeared quickly. If she did store it, I hope she used a boiling water bath to can it, because in the 19th century, the govenment did not tell you what to worry about. Today the USDA recommends not canning pureed pumpkin, because the density and pH vary too much-- which can lead to botulism. The 21st century advice seems to be to freeze or refrigerate pumpkin butters. No freezers in Sarah's day.

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 1859 ; Blessed Sabbath morning. We are all well as common. Up late this morning. James and I went to Gilead to meeting. Brother Potts preached. His text was, "Ye are my friends as long as you do whatsoever I command you."--5 chapter and 14th verse of St. John.

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 23, 1859: Up early this morning. James goes to husk corn for Mrs. Miller, then hauls corn in the afternoon. I weave hard afternoon and mind the children, cook dinner, sweep, wash in the forenoon, sew at night thinking how much work I have to do and how to get it done.

Mary Miller was an 80 year old widow who was born in Virginia and lived with a 35 year old William Miller and a young housekeeper in Jennings Township, Scott County, Indiana.

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 24, 1859 This is Thanksgiving Day. I feel thankful that all is as well with us as what it is. Pap and mother have gone to Deborah's to day. Cool, and cloudy. James hauls rails for his fence--then is very sick at night. I weave all day--almost out of heart. So much to do here. Here comes Mary Ann Tobias with Ruth's jeans. My thoughts don't get much rest.

Mary Ann Tobias, 23, was Mary Ann Whitsett who married John J. Tobias, 26, in Scott County, Indiana in 1854. They lived nearby in Alpha and had one child at this time, Edward who was nearly 2.

Ruth was probably Ruth Ann Kashow, 34, who married William Jefferson Young, 30, Sarah's brother. They lived in Jennings Township, Scott County, with their 4 children: Maurice Pierce, 7; Eleanora, 5; Viola Jane, 3; and William Arthur, 1.

No Thanksgiving celebration on this day.

TUESDAY NOVEMBER 29, 1859: Up early and off to town. Beautiful day, warm sun--some streaked white clouds-cool air-white frost. The children goes to stay with Catherine (her sister.) Isaac goes to town. We get to town before sun down. James stays at the tavern and I stay at Mrs. Byrds. I seen and heard many things, but with very little satisfaction amid poor encouragement. This is a very wicked world, but I do not see much of it. I did not sleep much. The boats made such a noise and I was uneasy about home and children.

James and Sarah traveled to Madison, Indiana, on the Ohio River. They dropped 7 of their 8 childern off to spend the night with her sister, Catherine Sampson, who had 2 of her own.

Isaac Sampson, Catherine's husband, traveled with them.

James and Isaac spent the night at a tavern/inn. Sarah and her nursing baby boarded at a local home.

Madison was about 25 miles from home. Madison is located on the north bank of the Ohio River 46 miles upstream from Louisville Ky, and 88 miles downstream from Cincinnati Ohio. It prospered in the 1st half of the 19th century, when river travel conveyed goods and people into the midwest. It began to decline in the 1850s as railroads began to criss cross the land.

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 30, 1859: Leave town (Madison) at half past 9--sick and tired. Not enough money to buy what I need. James (husband) buys 5c worth of cake and l0c worth of cheese. We get home just dusk-the roads very good. We stopped at Julia Roseberry's a few minutes. A beautiful warn day--begins to look like rain in the evening. The children all well--done well. Marion (son, 12) and Maria Jane (daughter, 10) goes to a spelling to night. I slept very sound last night was very tired. Little Jimmy (son, 1) was such a good babe at town--never cried to trouble me any. I bought Maria Jane a shawl for $l.25. Caroline McLain come home with Maria Jane from spelling.

Julia Roseberry was Sarah's aunt. Sarah's mother Jane Waldsmith's sister Julia Ann Waldsmith (b 1819) married Samuel Roseberry (b 1817) in 1841. They lived about 14 miles away in Jefferson County, Indiana.

You might enjoy reading Sarah Bovard's Diary from its beginning in January of 1859. Free websites containing all diary entries include: