Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
John Wheeler Journal and Essays, 1859

Finding aid created by
Meg Hixon, May 2012

Summary Information
Title: John Wheeler journal and essays
Creator: Wheeler, John
Inclusive dates: 1859
Extent: 1 volume
This volume contains a journal and two essays composed by New Hampshire native John Wheeler in 1859. He kept the journal between December 1858 and September 1859, detailing his experiences after moving to Albemarle County, Virginia, to teach school. He later wrote an essay in which he reflected on the cultural differences between New England and Virginia. In a second essay, he discussed "the three learned professions": law, medicine, and divinity.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1970. M-1514.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This collection has been processed according to minimal processing procedures and may be revised, expanded, or updated in the future.

Preferred Citation:

John Wheeler Journal and Essays, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


In December 1858, John Wheeler, a native of New Hampshire, traveled to Albemarle County, Virginia, where he taught school between January and September 1859. He later wrote a lengthy reflective essay on his time there, noting differences between the residents and customs of Virginia and New England.

Collection Scope and Content Note

This volume (205 pages) contains a journal and two essays composed by New Hampshire native John Wheeler in 1859. He kept a journal of his travel to, and experiences teaching in, Albemarle County, Virginia, between December 1858 and October 1859 (pp. 1-137); wrote an essay based on his experiences, focusing on cultural differences between New England and Virginia (pp. 139-174); and composed an essay on the professions of law, medicine, and divinity (pp. 187-216).

The first, and largest, portion of the volume is the journal Wheeler kept between December 1858 and October 1859, while he traveled to Albemarle County, Virginia, to teach school. The first two pages contain an introductory essay on the virtues of traveling, and pages 3 through 21 recount his journey from New Hampshire to Virginia, beginning on December 21, 1858. He mentioned multiple sightseeing destinations along the way, including Plymouth Rock (p. 5), and arrived in Charlottesville, Virginia, on December 31 (pp. 16-17). There, he made the acquaintance of the Durrett family, with whom he remained close throughout his stay in the South.

Wheeler began to keep regular journal entries on January 1, 1859 (p. 21), and thoroughly described his life as a schoolteacher, as well as his impressions of southern scenery and customs. Many entries mention the violent treatment of slaves, including men being lashed for stealing a pig (p. 77) and a legal case that ended with the sentence of execution (p. 84). Wheeler often attended religious services, commented on southern hospitality, and described the scenery, particularly the Blue Ridge Mountains. Wheeler did not keep his journal between January 23 (p. 67) and July 4 (p. 70), though he recorded the dates of planting and ripening of several crops (p. 68).

Wheeler left Albemarle County on September 26 (p. 121) and traveled to Luray, Virginia, where he witnessed the hanging of a female slave (pp. 123-126). From there, he traveled to Alexandria, where he provided a detailed account of a visit to Mount Vernon, home of George Washington (October 8, pp. 132-137). The journal concludes with a brief closing statement on page 137.

In the second section is an essay that Wheeler composed after he returned to his home in New Hampshire (pp. 139-174). He wrote about his impressions of the South and his experiences, often commenting on the differences between customs in Virginia and in New England.

The third part of the volume contains an essay about the history and characteristics of "the three learned professions": law, medicine, and divinity. It begins on page 197 and continues through page 216, though pages 176 to 184 are blank.

Three clippings from published works are laid into the journal: an image of King Umberto I of Italy, recently assassinated (pp. 174-175); and two pages of poetry (pp. 180-181).

Subject Terms

    • Albemarle County (Va.)--Description and travel.
    • Blue Ridge Mountains.
    • Executions and executioners--Virginia.
    • Massachusetts--Description and travel.
    • Mount Vernon (Va. : Estate)
    • Plantations--Virginia.
    • Professions.
    • Slaves--Virginia.
    • Southern States--Social life and customs--1775-1865.
    • Teachers--Virginia.
    • Virginia--Description and travel.
    • Virginia--History--1775-1865.
    • Virginia--Social life and customs.
    Subjects - Visual Materials:
    • Umberto I, King of Italy, 1844-1900.
    Genre Terms:
    • Clippings (information artifacts)
    • Diaries.
    • Essays.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Volume   1  
    John Wheeler journal and essays,  1859 [series]