The Jonathan S. Wilcox diaries consist of 13 volumes, spanning 1844-1875, with 1848, 1856-1858, and 1864-1865 lacking. They document nearly 30 years in the life of Wilcox, a storekeeper in Madison, Connecticut. In the various volumes, Wilcox discussed a wide variety of topics, but consistent themes are religion and the salvation of himself and his family, his involvement in the community (including democratic politics and the Total Abstinence Society), health and business concerns, and the weather.
An intensely pious man, Wilcox frequently described his church attendance and evaluated the sermons he heard (sometimes three per day spread among several churches), and gave occasional updates on the religious involvement of his children. He worried about several sons who had moved to Augusta, Georgia, whom he described as "too much engaged with the world," and noted which children had made "religious profession[s]" (January 1, 1844). On his birthday (November 1) and New Year's Day, he annually took stock of his life and professed his gratitude and devotion to God.
Wilcox sometimes described local and national politics, including his hostility toward the abolitionists, support for democratic candidates, and his opposition to the Civil War. On November 7, 1844, he expressed his support for presidential candidate James K. Polk, and criticized Henry Clay for his habits of gambling and dueling. On February 8, 1851, he recounted a trip to New Haven to participate in the Democratic State Convention, and noted the selection of Colin M. Ingersoll as candidate for the House of Representatives. He also expressed his hope for a law prohibiting the sale of "ardent spirits" (April 4, 1854), repeatedly discussed his opposition to the Civil War, which he called "bloody" and "suicidal" (January 1, 1863), and sharply criticized the Radical Republicans during Reconstruction (April 1, 1867).
Wilcox also described several extended travels, including a business trip to New York, where he and his wife saw a 13-year old Tom Thumb in 1847; an 1852 trip around Georgia and South Carolina to visit several of his sons; and a journey to Montreal, Canada, in 1868, during which he visited an Indian village.
Later entries focus more on Wilcox's health problems, especially his rheumatism, which prevented him from writing as frequently. He also noted additional family news, such as the birth of grandchildren, and the death of his son, Jonathan, Jr., during a family reunion in the Wilcox home on September 1, 1869.