Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
John H. Dixon Diary, 1861

Finding aid created by
Philip Heslip, April 2010

Summary Information
Title: John H. Dixon diary
Creator: Dixon, John H.
Inclusive dates: 1861
Extent: 1 volume
The John H. Dixon diary provides a day-in-the-life account of a young man, trying to establish himself in Indiana, in 1861. Dixon described his move from Ohio to Indiana and his daily activities working as an itinerant laborer.
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:

1999. M-4048.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.

Preferred Citation:

John H. Dixon Diary, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Little is known about John H. Dixon. In 1861, he traveled from his home in Tuscarawas County, Ohio, to Daviess County, Indiana, where he worked as an itinerant laborer. He often worked alongside a carpenter named Esrom Redman, who hired Dixon for odd jobs and found him places to sleep. Dixon had a brother named William Dixon and an aunt named Margaret Boon.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The John H. Dixon diary is a 4"x2¾", 142-page leather-bound journal. The diary opens with Dixon's trip from Tuscarawas County, Ohio, to Daviess County, Indiana, from September 5-24, 1861. He made the journey with a group of westward migrants, though he rarely mentioned his companions. Dixon noted each county through which they passed, the terrain, and the food they ate. He often slept in hay or in his wagon and ate in taverns when he could. He also noted when they set off each day (they rested on Sundays) and when they stopped for breakfast and dinner.

The next set of entries, starting on September 25, 1861, is entitled: "An account to things common and general, that may take place during my stay in Indiana." Dixon recorded his daily work activities as a laborer (building and painting houses, maintaining carriages, caring for horses, chopping wood, husking corn, and making apple butter) and his social life (talking, singing, attending a prayer meeting at a United Brethren church, and writing letters). He spent most of his time in and around Clarksburg and Washington, Indiana. On October 1, 1861, Dixon applied for a teaching certificate, for which he was asked to read and write, and was quizzed on geography and grammar. The journal ends with a 7-page "true and correct history" of his life from September 5-October 31, 1861. In these pages, Dixon stated his plans to send this diary back to his friends in Ohio to "keep it to remember me when I am dead and gone."

Dixon often worked with Esrom Redman of Madison, Indiana. When work was slow, Dixon washed dishes, swept the floor, and tended the horses. He spent much of his social time with a man named Clark. His diary entries provide a day-in-the-life account of a young man, trying to establish himself in Indiana, in 1861.

Subject Terms

    • Casual labor--Indiana.
    • Clarksburg (Ind.)
    • Daviess County (Ind.)
    • Davis, John H.
    • Frontier and pioneer life--Indiana.
    • Horses.
    • Indiana--Description and travel.
    • Indiana--Social life and customs.
    • Migration, Internal--United States.
    • Ohio--Description and travel.
    • Redman, Esrom.
    • Tuscarawas County (Ohio)
    • Unskilled labor.
    • Washington (Ind.)
    Genre Terms:
    • Diaries.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Volume   1  
    John Dixon diary,  1861 [series]