The Zelona Eaton journal is the diary of a Baptist minister from Troy, Ohio, who was active in the local anti-slavery and temperance movements. The volume is composed of a 95-page diary that Eaton kept from October 31, 1843, to September 17, 1844; three pages of accounts for house-building materials (December 1843-January 1844); 8 philosophical essays with an introduction (undated); and 2 letters addressed to Lottie Churchill of Washington, Vermont (1823).
In the diary, Eaton wrote about his daily life (health, food, family, and building a new house) and the activities of his church community in Troy. He wrote descriptions of his ministerial duties, such as travelling to meetings and conferences, visiting parishioners, performing marriages, lecturing, leading prayer meetings, raising funds for missionary work, and writing sermons. Eaton also described his intellectual and spiritual life in Troy. He attended a Millerite lecture (November 15, 1843), a lecture on phrenology (November 9, 1843), and multiple anti-slavery lectures (November 29, 1843; January 19, ,March 2 and 10, April 1 and 27, 1844). He often read the Cross and Journal and the anti-slavery paper The Emancipator, which some of his friends had procured for him. In the fall of 1843, he recorded thoughts on his own spiritual health, writing that he was, "Greatly distressed about my situation in temporal things...I have reason to think God is against [me]" (November 17, 1843). Eaton also kept track of some of his finances, which he worried about frequently, and often noted food and daily house work. He mentioned making sausages and vinegar, and purchasing coffee, cinnamon, buckwheat flour, eggs, rice, and apples.
Much of the journal concerns African Americans and the anti-slavery movement. On at least two occasions, Eaton interacted with two free African Americans: he visited a man named Mr. Newsome and loaned him money, and purchased items from another man named Mr. Smith. Registering the intensity of anti-slavery activities in his community, Eaton described the many anti-slavery lectures, debates, and prayer meetings that he attended. At the meetings, they discussed questions such as whether Congress should abolish slavery in Washington D.C. without the consent of the city's inhabitants, and what people who lived in free states could lawfully do to end slavery in the slave states (December 10, 1843). Eaton also served as the secretary for a group of women who formed a "ladies Society to educate colored persons" (December 3, 1843). He traveled one hundred miles to Brown County to visit what he described as a "Colored Association," perhaps a settlement of free African Americans, reporting, upon his return, that he "was much interested at the Association, mostly by the talent exhibited. They showed about as much attention to me, as an Association would have shown to one of their ministers (September 8, 1844)."
Eaton also recounts several controversies surrounding sex in his community. On March 14, 1844, Eaton wrote that he felt "exceedingly afflict[ed]" to have "Learned of an aggravated case of fornication by two of the members" of his church. A month later he excluded two parishioners from church service "for lewdness" (April 29, 1844). Eaton also gave an account of a case of "buggery." Minister T.A. Warner had "been accused of buggery, but not proved guilty [in a church trial]" and claimed to Eaton not to be guilty (July 25, 1844). Before his church, however, Warner had "Confessed the attempt & attributed it to a habit contracted when a boy." Eaton and a Brother Whitman informed Last Creek Church of the incident "because [they] thought, such a thing had much better go before a man than to come after him" (March 2, 1844) Eaton clearly felt disturbed by Warner’s purported behavior but what is especially noteworthy is the matter-of-fact tone Eaton used in writing about the situation.
Starting at the back of the volume, Eaton wrote 8 "dissertations," with an introduction and a transcript of a letter, that explore moral, religious, and philosophical questions (pages 162-98). Eaton's goal was to "attempt to enter into the immaterial world, & investigate the properties of spirit" (page 160).
- Dissertation 1: Methods, What is meant by a Faculty of the mind? What is meant by a principle of mind?
- Dissertation 2: Understanding
- Dissertation 3: Taste
- Dissertation 4: Will
- Dissertation 5: Liberty
- Dissertation 6: Natural & Mortal Agent
- Dissertation 7: Good and Evil: Dr. Hendrick's Lecture on Good and Evil
- Dissertation 8: Difference between Natural good and evil & Moral good and evil
Many of the essays have commentary labeled "Dr. Henricks Remarks" or "Professor's Remarks." These are brief notes and criticisms of the essays.
The two letters are addressed to Lottie Churchill, wife of Arthur Churchill, of Washington, Vermont (1923). One is from her cousin Cretia from Walla Walla, Washington (3 pages), and the other is from her friend Estella, from Morrisville, Vermont (8 pages). Both letters focus on personal news and mention food and cooking.