1916 DIARY OF AN ANDOVER HOUSEWIFE
The author of this diary was my great aunt, Blanche Hersey Robie. She and her husband, Robert Robie, were married in 1906. They took over the Robie Farm on Cilley Hill Road (Sam Hill Road) from Robert’s father in 1912. They lived there and farmed the land for almost 35 years. Their three children, who are mentioned in the diary, were: Edith (born in 1907), Bernard (1908) and Frances (1912). We previously met Robert in two of my spring articles when Nannie Robie (my grandmother) was corresponding with Robert (her brother) in 1902. Maybe you will recognize the names of some of the people Blanche mentions!
EXCERPTS FROM BLANCHE’S DIARY
18th – Minus 12 degrees in morning and not much above all day. Robert helped saw wood for Ada (his sister who lived nearby). He drew a load of oak lumber to the village in p.m. for Fellows & Son (They cut wood and had a saw mill in one of the pastures). No callers. I nearly completed the rompers for Frances.
19th – Cold & clear. Ten degrees in a.m. Elmer Newton here all day. I churned 49 pounds of butter. Cleaned and washed. Robert got 3 loads of sawdust on Henry Emery’s lot.
27th – Cloudy and very warm for January. Snow nearly gone. Robert went to town with wagon. Sold 49 pounds of butter. Got Frances & Edith rubbers, and leggings for Bernard. Clarence Rayno (nephew) took Pat (their horse) and carried broken sled and new runners down to Uncle Henry Keniston to be repaired. (At that time, Henry lived in the maroon farmhouse in Franklin, a little beyond the town line.) Julia Kilburn and J. Wadeleigh, Jr. called in the morning.
29th – Very cold in the a.m. Edith worked 5 hours for 5 cents. (!) I cooked, swept and ironed. Letters from Emily and Ellen (her sisters).
30th – (Sunday) – Got up late and no one went to church. I went for a walk with Edith and Bernard and fell in brook. (?)
3rd – Edith and Bernard did more than usual on their squares. (?)
10th – Cold and rather windy. Ada had Dan (horse) to go to Franklin. Robert and Clarence drew 2 loads of lumber a piece to car at railroad station and finished car. Mr. Chase got a load of hay for Mr. Robie (Blanche’s father in law who lived nearby). Card from Ellen. I worked quite a little on gingham quilt.
11th – Cold and somewhat cloudy. Robert had his father’s horse, Frisky, and went with butter. Sold 47 pounds and could have sold 10 more. Sam Sargent drove horses and drew two loads of lumber as did Clarence. I went to the C.E. Convention with Dan (horse). Enjoyed it very much. Took Ellen’s place as secretary.
14th – Letter and valentine from Ellen.
16th – Fair in a.m. and not so cold. Dorothy (my mother) and Samuel (my uncle) came over in a.m.
17th – Ada and I went to Franklin with butter. Sold 48 pounds.
18th – Ellen came to Mother’s (Chase Hill Rd.) in p.m. Prayer meeting there in evening.
20th – Very cold. Guy (Blanche’s brother and my grandfather) shoveled drifts in hill above railroad crossing. Ellen came to Nannie’s (my grandmother) after church, and Robert went for her about 4 p.m.
21st – Ellen started on foot for Mother’s about 10:30. She went back to Laconia on 1:19 train. Robert drawing lumber.
22nd – Edith and I put percale quilt on frame before dinner. Ada & Esther (Robert’s sister & niece) came up in p.m., and we tacked that one and put gingham one in frame. Edith & I tacked that one alone. Mr. Adams called to look after trouble on line (telephone, which I’m surprised they had!). No mail.
23rd – Long letter from Ellen.
24th – Ada & I went with butter. Sold 49 lbs. Men drawing lumber.
28th – Very cold. Guy drew one load of oak; Robert one and Clarence one, as far as Shaw’s (Jerry Hersey’s today). Mr. Robie milked 3 cows.
29th – Mr. Robie milked 3 cows and stayed for breakfast.
2nd – Ada & I went to Franklin. Sold 57 lbs. of butter.
3rd – Heard Emily had chicken pox.
5th – (Sunday) All but Robert went to church.
9th – About an inch of snow fell.
12th – (Sunday) Hill drifted. Could not go to church. Guy broke it out about noon. (He may have used his oxen.)
18th – Edith split quite a little wood.
19th – (Sunday) Hill not fit for me to drive over.
25th – Robert sold 61 lbs. of butter.
5th – Edith & Bernard began school. (Probably spring session or term. Robert took them to school and went for them in bad weather.)
7th – Mr. Ellms (minister) called in p.m.
9th – (Sunday) Snowed all day. No church service. Made mock ice cream at night. (Probably custard mixed with new snow.)
14th – (Sunday) All went to church, although I didn’t feel able. Mr. Ellms had a splendid sermon.
16th – I began making a suit for Bernard.
30th – Emily & Kenson (sister & son) came to Mother’s.
1st – I went to Mother’s for Emily & Kenson. Kenson & Frances got along well.
4th – I carried Emily & Kenson to Nannie’s. Emily made a birthday cake for Dorothy (my mother).
23rd – (Sunday) All except Robert went to church. At Dyer’s Crossing School in p.m. for the 5th meeting held by Layman’s League of Franklin. A powerful meeting.
4th – I went to C. E. Meeting in evening, and was the leader. Only 7 there, but had a very good meeting.
18th – Twenty seven or twenty-eight at Dyer’s Crossing. A fine meeting.
8th – Edith helped me with cleaning and cooking at 5 cents per hour.
16th – (Sunday) Very cold. All went to church and Ellen came home with us.
17th – Ellen went to Guy’s at 3 p.m., and children took horse home.
It was disappointing to have so many gaps in the diary entries. This is because I do not have Blanche’s actual diary, but only the above excerpts which her daughter, Edith, transcribed onto yellow lined paper at a later date. I can’t help but wonder what was happening in Blanche’s life in 1916 during the days that aren’t mentioned in the diary. Did Edith copy only excerpts that were of interest to her? Did she think many of the entries were too repetitive or boring to repeat? Was Blanche just too busy during those summer months to even write in her diary? I’m sure they were milking cows and taking care of their animals every day, but there is little mention of it. They must have planted their garden in the spring, hayed during the summer, and gathered their crops in the fall, but again it is not even mentioned. Despite its limitations, the diary excerpts give an interesting glimpse at daily life in Andover NH over one hundred years ago!