George Day Diaries

Name of the Collection

George Day Diaries, 1880-1889
Accession #2018.004
.20 cubic feet

Provenance of the Collection

The contents were created by George Day.  The diaries were found in the Archives holdings.  The collection’s donation date and source is unknown.

Biographical Background

George Day was born in Bishopton, Durham, England on May 17, 1825, the son of Thomas Day and Charlotte Smith.  In 1851, George married Rachel Wallis in Teesdale, Durham.  In 1854, George and Rachel decided to join other neighbors and relatives in America. They became part of a group from Durham County, England, who moved to Dubuque, Iowa.  Not long after the group arrived, many moved to the lead mining region of the Wisconsin.

George Day was the oldest of 10 children, 7 of whom were male.  Along with George, 5 of the remaining 6 brothers came to America.  All of his sisters remained in England.  The other Day brothers to emigrate were: Christopher (1829-1917) a shoemaker in Mineral Point; Thomas (1830-1897) a blacksmith in Mineral Point; William (1834-1902) a farmer in Argyle, Wisconsin; Francis (1836-1925) a businessman in Montana; and James (1842-1895) in business with Francis in Montana.

George had apprenticed as a blacksmith in England and would continue that occupation throughout his life.  He and Rachel lived on Hoard Street (later known as Shake Rag Street) in Mineral Point.  George had a blacksmith shop next door to his home. (Their house is now 50 Shake Rag Street.)  George and Rachel belonged to Trinity Episcopal Church in Mineral Point.  They had 10 children – all daughters.  The first two girls were born in England.  The daughters were: Mary Anne (1852-1872); Margaret (1854-1931) who married Martin Pratt; Caroline Jane (1856-1857); Jessie Wallis (1858-1911); Caroline #2 (1860-????); Fannie Elizabeth (1860-1863); Sarah Jane “Jennie” (1862-1936) who married Charles Henry Noble; Charlotte Ellen “Nellie” (1865-1898) who married James W. Fowler; Georgann Rachel (1868-1918) who married Mr. Stickler; Lucy F (1870-before 1880).  The family plot in the Old City Cemetery of Mineral Point would ultimately hold George, Rachel and many of their daughters and  grandchildren.

George’s wife Rachel died in 1871 followed the next year by her 20 year old daughter, Mary Ann.  George died of a stroke on September 11, 1895 at the age of 70.  Four daughters, Margaret, Sarah Jane “Jennie”, Charlotte Ellen “Nellie” and Georgann Rachel survived him.



Scope and Contents

The collection consists of the single Series I: Dairies.  The diaries are 3 small, leather bound books, pre-printed with the days of the week on each page.  They are dated, 1880, 1883 and 1889.  There is an entry for each day, no matter how brief.

George includes a daily weather report and then notes one or more events of the day.  Some of these include his business transactions and give a sense of what a blacksmith did beyond the usual image of making horse shoes.  Many of his comments are about social visits to and from his married daughters as well as neighbors and fellow church members.  In the last two diaries, he comments on births, deaths and marriages among people in the village of Mineral Point, including his own grandchildren.  A tragic thread weaves through the diaries as he chronicles his brother Thomas' struggle with alcoholism.

The diaries do not reveal much about George Day's thoughts or opinions but they do give a picture of the life of an elderly, working class widower in the late 19th century. Numerous names of local people, his daughters, sons-in-law, brothers and in-laws are scattered throughout his narrative.  A reader comes away with a clear picture of the role of family in everyday life.  An interesting feature is George’s spelling. While he is clearly literate, he often spells words phonetically which gives the reader a sense of his northern British accent.

Box Inventory of the Collection

Box # Contents of Folders Date Span
Series I. Diaries
1 Diary 1880
1 Diary 1883
1 Diary 1889

Collection Arranged by Shan Thomas, 2016
Finding Guide Written by Shan Thomas, 2018