Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, October 18, 2009, Pg. 5
This week I'd like share with you an interesting story concerning an 1863 diary. Several weeks ago in August, a letter arrived at City Hall in Albion simply addressed, "Mayor, Albion, Michigan." Our illustrious Mayor, Joseph Domingo, passed the letter on to me for research.
In the envelope was a letter from a Mrs. Bettye Alhadeff of Clermont, Georgia explaining that she had had possession of a diary for 50 years and wanted to make sure it was given to a descendant of the person who wrote it. Bettye had worked at a factory there after the World War II, and one of the workers brought in a diary for others to look at that her ancestor had wrote, but never claimed it back. So Bettye retrieved it and has had it all these years. Upon calling her she sent the diary to me for proper disposition.
Inside the cover is written, "The Property of Erastus G. Covey, bought in Albion, Michigan December 17, 1862. Price: 50 cts." The printed title page states, "Daily Pocket Diary for the year 1863 for the purpose of registering events of past, present, and future occurrence." It was published in New York by Kiggins & Kellogg.
Inside are dated pages in which Mr. Covey recorded day-by-day. As was customary, the condition of the weather was a familiar topic throughout 1863, at the height of the Civil War. But there are numerous other entries which gave names of neighbors, friends, family, and business associates that put the pieces together about this diary.
It became apparent that although Mr. Covey purchased the diary in Albion, he lived in Marshall. The 1868-69 Directory lists him living on Mulberry St. as a laborer. In numerous entries he mentions working for "Mr. Dobbins," who would be James L. Dobbins, a prominent Marshall builder and furniture manufacturer of the late 19th century. Mr. Covey did numerous carpenter jobs for Mr. Dobbins, and there are several pages devoted to the "Dobbins account" listing his jobs and what materials were used. There are numerous Marshall personalities and businesses of 1863 mentioned in the diary as the writer worked in their homes.
Erastus' wife was May C. Jarvis, whom he married in Eaton County. The couple had two daughters: Capitola, and Ida May. Erastus passed away in December, 1880 from tuberculosis, while May was still living according to the 1894-95 directory. Their interment location(s) is unknown.
Here are a few sample entries: January 3, 1863: "Mr. (or Wm) Johnson bought the gun home today. He did not kill any turkeys but shot a cat and tom owl. The owl had a steel trap fast on his foot." Friday, December 11: "Smallpox in the city and seminary of Bellevue." Friday, December 19: "Afternoon I went to Dobbins Machine Shop and worked at sawing a bedstand staff."
Upon receiving the diary, I searched the Covey family forum on the free www.genforum.com website and found a 2004 entry inquiring about Erastus and his wife. I contacted the author of that entry, Lyn Emery of Walnut Grove, California. Upon corresponding, it turns out that Lyn is the great-great-granddaughter of Erastus, via his daughter Capitola who married John T. Freed on May 3, 1882. Lyn now has the diary as was the wishes of the donor.
From our Historical Notebook this week we present a photo of the inside cover of the Erastus Covey diary. How many of our readers have old Albion-area diaries from the 19th century in their possession?
The Erastus Covey diary, inside cover
All text copyright, 2020 © all rights reserved Frank Passic