Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
James S. Coon Diary, 1840-1858

Duane Norman Diedrich Collection

Finding aid created by
Cheney J. Schopieray, March 2003, Richard C. Bates, March 2007, and Meg Hixon, January 2012

Summary Information
Title: James S. Coon diary
Creator: Coon, James Shields, b. 1818
Inclusive dates: 1840-1858
Extent: 1 volume
This diary contains personal reflections and stories from the life of James Shields Coon, a lawyer who practiced in Salem, New York, before the Civil War. Coon commented on contemporary political issues, life as a lawyer, and his family; he noted the births of his three children, reflected on the deaths of family members, and kept some genealogical notes about his family.
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:

2001. M-4149.5.

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:

James S. Coon Diary, Duane Norman Diedrich Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


James Shields Coon was born on January 10, 1818, in Salem, New York, to Rufus Coon (1781-1858) and his wife, Mary Poole (1780-1856); he had at least one brother, Daniel, who died on December 20, 1848. In April 1841, he began to study law in the office of Salem lawyer John Crary, but later moved to Schaghticoke, New York, where he continued his legal studies with T. C. Ripley. In May 1844, he passed the bar exam, and began to practice law in Argyle, New York, where he became a justice of the peace in 1846. He married Jane Clegg on May 11, 1846, and they had three children: Abigail Maria (b. November 21, 1848), John James (b. November 9, 1850), and Charles Ambrose (May 10, 1857-July 13, 1858).

Collection Scope and Content Note

This diary (approximately 178 pages) contains personal reflections and stories from the life of James Shields Coon, a lawyer from Salem, New York. The volume opens on July 1, 1840, with a three-page dedication statement devoted to Coon's reflections on the historical record. Coon wrote his first entry on July 3, 1840, as he sought treatment in Albany for ill health. He kept entries fairly regularly throughout the next few months, and described a trip to New York City in July; there, he stayed with his uncle's family, relaxing and taking in some of the local atmosphere while he recorded his impressions of the city. After his return to Salem, he mentioned a series of fires, possibly a case of arson, that ravaged the town, and wrote about his daily life.

In many entries, Coon commented on contemporary political affairs; he devoted five pages (November 2, 1840, and November 18, 1840) to the 1840 Presidential election, which he believed would be of great historical significance. He also described a debating club meeting about slavery, which led to a three-page entry in his diary (January 11, 1841). After beginning his legal education in April 1841, he wrote less often, but continued to reflect upon his personal life, career, and current events; on May 11, 1846, for example, he wrote of his marriage to Jane Clegg. As his entries became less frequent, he began to concentrate more on the deaths of families and friends, and he described several funerals throughout the 1840s. Toward the end of the diary, he focused on the births of his three children, their birthdays, and his devotion to his family. In the final entry, dated July 13, 1858, he mourned the death of his youngest son, Charles.

Additional material in the journal includes two poems, a four-page list of books Coon read and studied, and genealogical records of the Poole and Coon families.

Subject Terms

    • Argyle (N.Y.)
    • Law--Study and teaching--New York (State)
    • Lawyers--New York (State)
    • New York (N.Y.)--Description and travel.
    • Poole family--Genealogy.
    • Presidents--United States--Election--1840.
    • Salem (N.Y.)
    • Schaghticoke (N.Y.)
    • Slavery--United States.
    • United States--Politics and government--1815-1861.
    Genre Terms:
    • Diaries.
    • Poems.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Volume   1  
    James S. Coon diary,  1840-1858 [series]