Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Edward L. Buttrick Journal, 1843-1844

Finding aid created by
Rob S. Cox, July 1996

Summary Information
Title: Edward L. Buttrick journal
Creator: Buttrick, Edward L.
Inclusive dates: 1843-1844
Extent: 138 pages
The Edward L. Buttrick journal is a witty account of a young easterner's life in rural Kentucky in the 1840s.
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:

1984. M-2170.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


No copyright restrictions.

Preferred Citation:

Edward L. Buttrick Journal, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Edward L. Buttrick, nicknamed Ned, left his home in Clinton, N.Y., on October 7, 1842, to take work in Kentucky as an itinerant schoolteacher. His accepted his first position at Maysville, but in October, 1843, moved to Helena to teach at the Richland Academy. His sister Harriette joined him in Helena, and also worked as a teacher.

Buttrick was a true northerner, a graduate of Hamilton College, but he was captivated, not always favorably, by his new southern home. Although his exact age is not known, he was probably in his early twenties in 1843, for he refers (p.85) to shaving, where he "scraped off considerable dirt and very little hair." Regardless, whether viewing cigars chomping women or hog butchering, or commenting on slang, slavery, or Kentucky politics, Edward Buttrick dove into his new experiences with the enthusiasm of youth and the eye of a comedian.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Edward L. Buttrick journal is a lively, often witty, account of a young easterner's encounter with rural Kentucky in the 1840s. With an ability to be critical and funny at the same time, Buttrick continually reflects his northern home in writing of his new southern experiences, soaking up the local language, customs, and scenery with equal relish.

In keeping with its humorous content, Buttrick included an elaborate, hand drawn "title page" with his journal, declaring:

Random Sketches of a Sojourn in the State of Kentucky
by the author of the "unknow[n] admirer of his own genius" &c. &c.
Vol. II. Tenth American Edition. Revised & corrected (New York: E. L. Buttrick; London: Peter Knockimstiff, 1843)

Buttrick kept his diary daily from September 10 through December 23, 1843, when there is an eight day gap. After January 4, 1844, the journal was kept only sporadically. Buttrick was generally careful in keeping his journal, but there are two page 30s, the lower half of p. 36-7 is ripped out, and pages 124-125 have been removed. The sporadic nature of Buttrick's entries at this period makes it difficult to determine whether there was any loss of text when the page was removed.

Subject Terms

    • Helena (Ky.)--Description and travel.
    • Hunting--Kentucky.
    • Idioms.
    • Kentucky--Description and travel.
    • Maysville (Ky.)--Description and travel.
    • Mountain people.
    • Schools.
    • Sectionalism (United States)
    • Slavery--Kentucky.
    • Social conflict.
    • Teachers--Kentucky.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Volume   1  
    Edward L. Buttrick journal,  1843 September 10-1844 July 2 [series]
    Page   1  
    Home remedies
    Page   3  
    Thrown by horse; good description of riding in the rain
    Page   4  
    Use of "ain't"
    Page   5  
    Idiom: he feels a "heap" better, but has "the blues"
    Page   6  
    Description of thunderstorm
    Page   7  
    Description of his bedroom and furniture; idioms: "these diggin's" and "slept like a top"
    Page   9  
    Comparison of North and South; Kentucky idiom
    Page   10  
    Kentucky preachers
    Page   11  
    Dreadful family singing
    Page   12  
    Irritation with "blockhead" scholars
    Page   13  
    Ponders fate of former girlfriends and buddies
    Page   16  
    Family ill from food poisoning; is black cook at fault?
    Page   17  
    Sour milk popular in Kentucky: "there is no accounting for tastes"
    Page   18  
    Visits town of Maysville
    Page   19  
    Page   20  
    Women's fashion: bustles. Snobbery
    Page   25  
    Discussion with newly-arrived Yankee who intends to "drive niggers" for a living
    Page   27  
    Reflections on completing first teaching assignment. "Class struggle" hinted at
    Page   29  
    Arrival in Helena
    Page   30  
    Exorbitant board bill; miserly hostess
    Page   33  
    Closing examinations at school
    Page   35  
    Idiom: "Chicken hearted"
    Page   38  
    Meets up with graduate of Miami University
    Page   39  
    Emptiness of frivolous society
    Page   41  
    Appointed to teach at Richland Academy
    Page   43  
    Popularity of fruit "preserves" in Kentucky. Idiom: "Not to be sneezed at"
    Page   45  
    Irate Kentuckian blasts Yankees; Buttrick drums up students
    Page   47  
    Fondness for novel-reading is not good
    Page   48  
    Good description of Gen. Forman, a typical Kentuckian
    Page   51  
    Fleminsburg holds County Court; description of hill-folk in attendance
    Page   53  
    Thoughts of home; reflection on life since coming to Kentucky
    Page   55  
    Reflections on hearing of death of a young professor from Hamilton College
    Page   57  
    What is the job of the poet?
    Page   59  
    Begins duties at Richland Academy
    Page   60  
    Reads book by Lady Morgan, emphasizing woman's subservience to man
    Page   62  
    School discipline; postage due at post office
    Page   63  
    Refers to "blacks" and "niggers" in same paragraph
    Page   64  
    Sermon on converted Jew; philosophizing on Jews in general
    Page   66  
    Idiom: use of "vimmins" for "women"
    Page   68  
    Makes "mud fenders" for his pants
    Page   70  
    Irritation with students who WILL not learn
    Page   73  
    "I see that the great main-spring of all human action is utter selfishness"
    Page   74  
    Coon hunt
    Page   76  
    Hillbilly Kentuckians; woman smokes a cigar
    Page   78  
    He and sister Harriette fall off horse into the mud
    Page   79  
    Butchering hogs
    Page   81  
    Should a lady eat "fat bacon"?
    Page   83  
    Hog butchering in unsanitary conditions
    Page   86  
    Book review on Ten Thousand a Year
    Page   87  
    Idiom: horseback riding is "not what it is cracked up to be"
    Page   88  
    Critique on a singularly poor sermon
    Page   90  
    Thoughts on his college days
    Page   92  
    Longs for home and describes a typical scene there
    Page   95  
    Kentucky funeral
    Page   98  
    Critique of Gutherie's Arithmetic
    Page   99  
    You cannot argue with a woman
    Page   100  
    Nearly illiterate adult joins his school
    Page   103  
    Memories and news of Hamilton College
    Page   105  
    Christmas Day: his black boy servant asks for a present
    Page   109  
    Thoughts on the year's end
    Page   111  
    New Year's Day: classes held as usual
    Page   114  
    Attends (and takes part in) a debate
    Page   115  
    More about the cigar-smoking woman
    Page   118  
    Singing school
    Page   121  
    Book review on Henry Lee's (1787-1837) Observations on the Writings of Thomas Jefferson (New York: C. DeBehr, 1832) and Jefferson's "defamations" of Washington and other early leaders of the U.S.
    Page   126  
    Candy making
    Page   127  
    Toothache remedies
    Page   130  
    Campbellites hold evangelistic meetings
    Page   132  
    Visits with an early Kentucky settler who knew Daniel Boone; the romance of early Kentucky
    Page   133  
    College classmate moves to Louisiana and becomes thoroughly Southern