‘Stopped by rains’

By 1917, my great-grandfather’s farm in Princess Anne County, Virginia, was up and running, with actual profits registered. The weather remained a preoccupation:


3 February: Coldest day in eighteen years.

10 February: Fred’s yew [sic] had two lambs[;] she disowned one and had to [be forced to] nurse.

23 February: Little Frances[1] sick in bed with measles.

4 March: Inauguration Day – President Wilson’s second term… Fred served at communion today at the nine o’clock service and the 11 a.m. service. Frances recovered from measles.

21 March: Planted a few potatoes – stopped by rains.

23 March: Finished planting twenty-five barrels potatoes. Used six tons guano.

7 May: Very cold and raining – have big fire in living room.

8 June: Potatoes selling today in market for $10.50 per barrel.

A fleet open day during the 1930s, from my grandfather’s album.

24 June: Our family went with the Dobsons to Yorktown and witnessed a most beautiful sight – about twenty battleships anchored in harbor.

11 July: Shipped one car potatoes containing 220 [barrels?] for which I received $880.00.

18 July: Estelle[2] went to New York.

24 July: Estelle returned from New York and brought her mother[3] home.

26 July: Rain every day since July 5th – grass getting the better of everything. More rain in July than we have ever seen.

1 August: Hottest day in twenty years.

The Bells had hopes of a Naval Academy appointment for my grandfather:

6 September: Fred and I returned from a most delightful trip to Washington, Mt. Vernon & Baltimore. While in Washington we called on the Secty. of the Navy Hon. Josephus Daniels.

1 October: My birthday. Very happy Sunday.

3 November: Sold the entire lot of sweet potatoes for $81.00. This more than pays our coal bill, which is $76.50.

10 November: Estelle and I took a trip to New York and spent a most profitable and happy time.

10 December: Coldest day this winter, 18° this morning.

12 December: Snow eight inches deep.

17 December: Snow for the last week. No chance to work on farm. Man cutting wood and building hog runs.

25 December: Merry Christmas. Day clear and pleasant, snow at night.


1 January: Coldest weather this city has ever seen… Monticello Hotel[4] burned today, also six stores on Granby Street.

20 January: Inspected potatoes stored in Anheuser-Busch and found about 25% of them frozen. Rather discouraged.

31 January: Sleet everywhere – the trees and lawn sparkle like diamonds.

15 February: Think the ground hog saw his shadow as we are having some fine weather. Estelle and I took a long drive this afternoon.

28 February: The month of Feb. has been the finest open weather ever known just as Jan. was a record breaker for being cold.

Continued here.


[1] My great-aunt Frances Fairfax Bell (1909–1997).

[2] My great-grandmother Minnie Estelle Jackson (1876–1935), who married J. Frank Bell in 1902.

[3] Estelle’s mother Rebecca Jane Eggleston (1856–1937), who was married to Oliver Dodridge Jackson 1875–1915 and to William E. Waterman in 1924.

[4] Where my great-great-grandfather O. D. Jackson had once had his office. The linked article, from a 1902 history of Norfolk County, offers a rosier portrait of Jackson’s career to that point than is perhaps warranted.

About Scott C. Steward

Scott C. Steward was the founding editor at Vita Brevis; he served as NEHGS Editor-in-Chief 2013-2022. He is the author, co-author, or editor of genealogies of the Ayer, Le Roy, Lowell, Saltonstall, Thorndike, and Winthrop families. His articles have appeared in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, NEXUS, New England Ancestors, American Ancestors, and The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, and he has written book reviews for the Register, The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, and the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.

4 thoughts on “‘Stopped by rains’

  1. Oh how I do love a Diary, it just gives the feel of how living was then, and perhaps about the same as now, the measles unfortunately now could be prevented. Out news tells us some are not doing so now. It was dangerous then and is now of course.

  2. I’m really enjoying your great-grandfather’ s diary. My great-grandfathers were also farmers.

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