John Williams journal  1814-1836
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Collection Scope and Content Note

John Williams, a farm laborer in Chester, Massachusetts, composed 183 pages of daily, one-line journal entries from January 1, 1814, to October 9, 1836. The volume (16” x 6 ½”) holds 3 additional pages of his financial accounts, kept in 1830.

Journal entries document the author's daily labor on farms around Chester, Massachusetts, and his travels to nearby towns. Williams performed a variety of different tasks including planting, tending, harvesting, and processing crops (wheat, hay, potatoes, corn, flax, and others); shoeing horses; fixing fences and buildings; boiling sap; sawing, chopping, and transporting lumber; raising houses and barns; attending to household chores; and other work. Williams regularly attended church services and often recorded the names of preachers. He also visited general elections, town meetings, and meetings of the school board.

John Williams recorded news about his family and others in Chester, Massachusetts, and also documented events such as births, marriages, sicknesses, deaths, and the movements of family members and neighbors. Other local news included floods, droughts, an execution (November 9, 1815), the burial of an African American woman of questionable repute (February 13, 1827), and the mustering of soldiers during the War of 1812 (September 12, 1814). Williams also periodically attended musters (see October 8, 1821 for an example).

Many entries are annotated by F. W. Moore, a grandson of John Williams, who later owned the volume.

The following documents related to the Moore and Keith families were donated to the Clements Library with the John Williams journal:

  • Eleazar Porter partially printed DS to Anna Williams; Hampshire County, Massachusetts. January 1, 1782, 1p. Granting Anna Williams guardianship of minors Larkin and Louisa Williams.
  • Zephaniah Keith and Salmon Keith DS to Oliver Keith; Bridgewater, Massachusetts. January 8, 1821, 3pp. Sale of land in Bridgewater.
  • Zephaniah Keith and Salmon Keith DS to Oliver Keith; Bridgewater, Massachusetts. January 23, 1821, 1p. Sale of land in Bridgewater.
  • Nathan Mitchell DS to Oliver Keith; Bridgewater, Massachusetts. November 17, 1821, 1p. Administrator of the estate of Cary Mitchell completes the sale of land in Bridgewater.
  • David H. Daniels partially printed DS to Oliver Keith; Hampshire County, Massachusetts. February 7, 1832, 2pp. Sale of a farm in Prescott.
  • David Colton partially printed DS to Oliver Keith; Hampshire County, Massachusetts. May 13, 1845, 1p. Sale of a pew and interest in the Congregational meeting house in Prescott.
  • Oliver Keith partially printed DS to Oliver Keith, Jr.; Prescott, Massachusetts. May 8, 1849, 1p. Sale of land in Prescott.
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