Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Zelona Eaton Journal, 1843-1925

Finding aid created by
Amanda Moinz Lenter, June 2003 and Philip Heslip, May 2010

Summary Information
Title: Zelona Eaton journal
Creator: Eaton, Zelona, b. 1797
Inclusive dates: 1843-1925
Bulk dates: 1843-1844
Extent: 166 pages (1 journal) and 2 letters
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 diary, in which Eaton discussed his ministerial duties and local issues concerning abolition, temperance, fornication, and sodomy (1843-1844); 3 pages of accounts for house-building materials (1843-1844); 9 philosophical essays with an introduction (undated); and 2 letters addressed to Lottie Churchill of Washington, Vermont (1823).
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:

Before 1999. M-4281.

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:

Zelona Eaton Journal, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The single volume is comprised of a journal, a series of essays, and 2 letters dated 1925.


Zelona Eaton was born in 1797. He married Almira (1802-1853), whose maiden was also Eaton, from East Hoosac, Massachusetts, in 1821. Eaton served as a Baptist minister in Troy, Ohio, and was active in the local anti-slavery and temperance movements. He was also involved with several Baptist associations, and served as a trustee of the Ohio Baptist Convention, which organized conversion work throughout Ohio and helped foster the Baptist faith throughout the state.

Collection Scope and Content Note

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).

Below is the list of essay topics:

  • 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.

Subject Terms

    • Abolitionists--Ohio.
    • Adventists.
    • African Americans.
    • Antislavery movements--Ohio.
    • Baptists.
    • Freedmen--Washington (D.C.)
    • Millerite movement.
    • Morrisville (Vt.)
    • Ohio Anti-slavery Society.
    • Ohio Baptist Convention.
    • Ohio--Description and travel.
    • Ohio--Social life and customs--19th century.
    • Phrenology.
    • Piqua (Miami County, Ohio)
    • Religion.
    • Slavery, abolition, and emancipation.
    • Slavery--Ohio.
    • Temperance--1840-1850.
    • Troy (Ohio)
    • Walla Walla (Wash.)
    • Washington (Vt.)
    • Women--Ohio.
    Genre Terms:
    • Diaries.
    • Financial records.
    • Letters (correspondence)
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Volume   1  
    Zelona Eaton journal,  1843-1925 [series]    [Note: Two letters are located at page 66]
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    The Clements Library has a wide variety of material related to abolition, temperance, and other mid-nineteenth century social issues. For books and printed material, see the University of Michigan's online catalog.

    Below are a few notable manuscript selections in the Clements Library:


    Minutes of the twenty-third anniversary of the Ohio Baptist convention and proceedings of other societies of the Baptist denomination in Ohio. Held at Mt. Vernon, May, 1849. Dayton: Daily Journal office, 1849.

    Howe, Henry. Historical Collections of Ohio: Containing a Collection of the Most Interesting Facts, Traditions, Biographical Sketches, Anecdotes, Etc. Cincinnati: R. Clarke & company, 1875.