The beginning: January 1888

Sunday, January 1, 1888

Weather very rainy all day.
Our family at this time numbers eleven. Grandpa and Grandma Williams, myself, husband and five children. Also a foreign man and woman.

Married May 14, 1874

(Prescott Williams Born Oct. 19, 1819.
(Susan A. Williams “ July 9, 1829.

Married Mar. 21, 1878

(Frank C. Richards “ Mar. 21, 1855.
(Emma L. Richards “ “ “ , 1858.

Prescott W. Richards “ April 5, 1879.
Mattie E. Richards “ “ 17, 1880.
Emma L. Richards “ Feb. 12, 1882.
Henry T. Richards “ Sept. 28, 1884.
Susan D. Richards “ Dec. 31, 1886.

We are all in comfortably good health looking forward to the events of the New Year. Frank went to church alone – attended S.S. then went to the M.E. Church and heard Rev. Mr. Jones. Union meetings are being held in the village.

Monday, January 2, 1888

Clear sky appeared this morning.
Frank has been over to Mr. Oliver Everitts packing apples to send to N.Y.
Grandpa W. took new sleigh thills down to be mended.
Mary G. and mother have done a large washing.
Henry rode to the school-house on a bobsled with Grandpa to bring home the children.
I sent a letter to Aunt Susan Miller in Northampton.
Mattie has finished her set of mats.

Tuesday, January 3, 1888

A beautiful day – Merc. 24⁰ – 32⁰.
Frank at work over to O. Everitts.
Grandpa been to the village and the saw-mill at Searsville.
Mother W. received card from mother.
Arthur is not very well.
F. has been packing apples in the village this eve. Took supper with Mr. Bisbee (the one that helps pack the apples).

Wednesday, January 4, 1888

Pleasant in the A.M. Snowy this P.M. and evening.
Frank has been loading a car of apples to go to N.Y. today.
Susan Davis Richards weights 17 lbs. making a gain of 12 ½ lbs. in 12 mos.
I have written to mother and Clara Geckler this eve.

Thursday, January 5, 1888

Rec’d letters from Brooklyn and from Mrs. Geckler.
Henry is not very well. We are afraid he is to have another sore in his head.

Friday, January 6, 1888

Pleasant until 3 O’c then snow, then clear sky.
Grandpa and Grandma W. accepted an invitation to visit with Mrs. Vining at Mr. H. M. Porters this P.M. this being her 83rd birthday. They enjoyed the gathering very much.
F. been packing apples at Mr. G. Bradfords.

Saturday, January 7, 1888

Rain and fog. Frank gone to Cummington and Worthington to buy apples for Frommel.
We baked pies, bread and cake.
Henry a little better. Mother W. not well this P.M.

Sunday, January 8, 1888

Rain, hail and snow. Frank, Prescott and Mattie and Emma have been to church.
Mother a little better. Henry is also.

Monday, January 9, 1888

Pleasant. Mary and I have done a large washing.
Mother W. took the 11 O’clock train for Springfield to buy her silk dress.
Frank is packing apples.

Wednesday, January 11, 1888

Colder. Wind blows and snow flies.
F. loaded a car to send to Frommel.

Thursday, January 12, 1888

Colder yet. Frank has gone to Chesterfield to stay over night.

Friday, January 13, 1888

Very stormy. First snow – then rain.
Grandpa went to the village after sugar, flour, and ker. Oil.
Mr. O. Nash here.
F. came home this eve. Does not storm now.
A card received from mother.

Saturday, January 14, 1888

Warmer and very pleasant. Mother W. came home. Grandpa took Prescott, Mattie and Emma down to the depot to meet her.
Mother came with her dress nearly finished. It looks very nicely.
Frank has been to Westhampton today. Is writing to Mr. Frommel this eve.

Sunday, January 15, 1888

Very rainy – until evening. No one went to church until eve. then Frank went down. John Egg came down from Munson’s and brought a letter. Aunt Fannie did not stay with them but a week and three days. She is in Goshen now.

Monday, January 16, 1888

Pleasant and cold. Children all in school today. Prescott says Gertrude Nash has the scarlet fever. We shall keep the children home for a few days. We have been at work on the dress. I have ripped one of mine ready to wash.

Tuesday, January 17, 1888

Cloud until about 2 o’c. then a snow-storm set in.
Children did not go to school today for we hear that Gertrude Nash has the scarlet fever.
Grandpa and Prescott went for the mail. Rec’d a card and papers from mother, also the Demorest’s Mag. for which we have subscribed.
Sent a letter to mother.
Mr. Nichols here after the barrel-rack.
Mother finished her silk dress today. I have cut out an apron for Henry and a dress for myself.
Commenced a letter for Florence.

Notes: Florence was Emma’s younger sister.

“Demorest’s Mag” is almost certainly Demorest Family Magazine, which ran under that name from 1879 until its final issue in 1899. I found an 1890 issue online. The issue includes articles on topics such as life at Wellesley, the Lapp people, the fur seal, and November meteors. There are also stories and recipes (receipts). Other pages are given to instructions for paper flowers and a caution against buying used bedding and clothing as it may harbor infectious diseases. A column called “What Women are Doing” includes such items as “Dr. Razie Koutloiaroff-Hanum, a Mahometan woman, born in the Crimea, has passed a brilliant examination as physician and surgeon before the college authorities in Odessa, and is now a qualified practitioner. She is the first Mahometan woman who has graduated.”

William Jennings Demorest, the magazine’s publisher, was a prominent prohibitionist, and the magazine issue includes a profile of the president of Florida’s Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. And Demorest’s second wife, Ellen Louise Demorest, was the inventor of the tissue-paper dress-making pattern. So the magazine also includes pages on fashion design and style and dressmaking.

Wednesday, January 18, 1888

Clear and cold. Mother had a dizzy head most of the day. I have been sewing on my dress and mending.
The children are all quiet this eve so I could work without interruption.

Thursday, January 19, 1888

Clear, cold and windy. Been sewing again today. Finished my skirt and waist except buttons. Susie, Mattie and Prescott have a hard cold. Pretty hard work to keep easy in the house all day. Frank is still in Worthington packing apples.

Friday, January 20, 1888

Pleasant and cold 5⁰ above 0. Children have spent quite a pleasant day. Mother and I have sewed, made bread, biscuit, and twelve lbs of butter. Mary made apple sauce – and had plenty of another sort on hand. Finished Florence’s letter.

Saturday, January 21, 1888

Very cold. I have finished my dress and done a little mending. Mother apple pies and cake. Mary has not been in good humor the past week. Anton came to make a visit tonight, was intending to go back to Holyoke this eve. but he is waiting to see Frank. He came from W. Reached here at 9 o’c.
President Garfield’s mother died.

Note: From the Univ. of Virginia’s Miller Center online bio of President Garfield:

“Eliza Ballou Garfield, the first mother of a President to attend her son’s inauguration, survived her son’s death by seven years. She lived at the White House with her son’s family during Garfield’s brief term of office. She was a frail woman who dressed only in black and wore a lace handkerchief on her head to hide her thinning white hair. Garfield, a strong man, standing over six feet in height, personally carried his mother up and down the White House stairs.”

 Sunday, January 22, 1888

10⁰ below 0 last night. 18⁰ below down to the village. Very pleasant. Frank and the two girls went to ch. and S.S. F went again this evening. Most of my time has been taken up in reading to Henry. Wrote to Florence and mother this eve. Mr. Price’s text was “Who am I” etc.
Mrs. Homer Cooley of Conway died last Tues., leaving three little boys under 5 yrs. old: the youngest born the 5” of this month. It seems very sad to think of but suppose all is for the best in some way that we cannot understand.

Note: From a quick genealogical search online, Mrs. Homer Cooley (Mattie Georgiana Page) was only 27 when she died.

Monday, January 23, 1888

Not quite so cold. 10⁰ above 0 tonight and snowing a little.
Frank has been to the depot to prepare to load apples but “so cold” none were brought down. Anton returned to H. this morn. Ferdinand and Mary both gone to Northampton today.
(A new lamb arrived today. This is the 3rd one that has lived).
I have cut and basted a wrapper for mother W. today.
Frank has gone over to Mountain St. this eve.

Tuesday, January 24, 1888

Pleasant and cold. 3⁰ or 4⁰ below 0.

Frank has been loading today did not finish until 7 o’c – then put in oil stove and left the car until it comes a little warmer. I have sewed some today. Ferdinand returned at noon. Mary came this P.M. She wants to leave here to go to Amherst – expects to get $3.00 a week.


It’s unclear whether Mary took another domestic service post or another kind of work. I know that there was a general historical trend for women to move out of domestic service into more independent ways of wage-earning.

There was a revolving door of domestic help throughout Emma’s journaling years. I stumbled across what seems a relevant excerpt from Catherine E. Kelly’s book In the New England Fashion: Reshaping Women’s Lives in the Nineteenth Century  (I would consider Emma to be a provincial woman):

Provincial women prized hired help when they had it, but the full value of that help was most conspicuous in its absence . . . It was not simply that women lost what leisure they had, although they did. When housework mounted, or when female kin were incapacitated, women faced more work than they could manage . . . To say that provincial women valued the services of the women they hired is not to say that they were always sensitive to the servants themselves. The relations between mistress and maid were hardly immune to conflicts that arose from differences in class, ethnicity, and age – conflicts that were only exacerbated as women shouldered demanding work in close quarters. (p. 30-32)

p. 30-32

Wednesday, January 25, 1888

Pleasant and cold – a little warmer this eve. with snow-storm coming. Put up clothes line in the west room. Mary has done a large washing. Ready to leave tonight.
Mother is not very well tonight. Fitted and stitched her dress today. F. has been down to the depot. Bought an oil stove to use in cars.
Rec’d a card from mother.

Thursday, January 26, 1888

Cold with a drifting snow-storm. Frank and Grandpa have drawn three loads of wood down from walnut hill. F. went down to see that car of apples were all right to go this morn.
We ironed colored clothes and churned. Had 12 lbs. The snow is getting badly drifted. Hill came and killed two hogs this noon.

Note: In trying to find photos of Walnut Hill,  I came across a photographer’s website that included landscapes from the Williamsburg, MA area. I think this photograph really sets the scene well. The photographer’s name is Carol Duke.

Friday, January 27, 1888

Very cold, snow still drifting. Men went to the village via of “Junction.” Did not try to bring the hogs home. Frank found that the car had not left the depot so he is staying down there to keep fire until the road is open. Train blockaded all along the line. We have ironed what clothes are dry and sewed on dress a little.

Saturday, January 28, 1888

10⁰ below 0. Pleasant and not quite so windy. F. did not come home. Grandpa went down at noon and found that the track was cleared and freight went out this morn. F. went to see to the apples. I feel quite forlorn tonight to think he is out in a freight car this cold day.

Four new lambs two of them twins. We have them all in the kitchen. Grandma has had to be quite busy with baking and tending lambs. This eve we succeeded in getting them to nurse a bottle. One that we supposed frozen to death is coming to life again. We were going to see the total eclipse of the moon tonight, but while tending to the lambs we all forgot it.

Sunday, January 29, 1888

2⁰ below 0. Pleasant. No one has passed here today. No sleigh track open beyond Dennis O’Brien’s place.
Mother W. has a dizzy head today. Is a little better tonight.
This has been another lamb day. We have the mother of the twins in the kitchen tonight in a half hhd. The children have all been very good learned their S.S. lessons and recited them this eve just before I put them to bed.
Four men killed on Conn. R.R. by snow plough coming on to them while shoveling snow from track.
Very cold about the house fires did not seem to make much impression in our room and upstairs.


Dennis O’Brien, originally of County Kilkenny, Ireland, died in Williamsburg, MA in November 1887, only two months before this journal entry.

 Monday, January 30, 1888

Warmer. Merc. reached 30⁰ in the middle of the day. We only washed a few pieces. Grandpa went to village after the butchered hogs. Frank came on the seven o’c train, left N.Y. at 2 o’c. this P.M. He arrived in N.Y. with his apples Sun. morn. found Mr. Frommel at home in Hoboken N.J. Called on Mattie and F. in the eve in Brooklyn then returned to Hoboken and slept until today noon.


Mr. Frommel, of Oscar Frommel & Bro., Fruits and Produce. An early 20th century caricature of him can be found in the Hoboken Historical Museum’s Online Collections Database.

In an obituary in the May 26 1917 edition of the Chicago Packer, Frommel was known as a “potato man”.

Tuesday, January 31, 1888

Pleasant. Frank helped get off cider to Athens, Ga. Wrote letters then started for Chesterfield this P.M. Rec’d card from mother. I have finished mother’s dress. Did not sew any this eve.

Sent letter to Aunt Ruby.