|In a message dated 9/17/2009 11:53:47 AM Eastern Standard
Time, firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
Always love the work you do on the Tri-Counties site. You are a
whirlwind, and a selfless one. Thank you again.
On Albert M. Potter's diary page
I have, however, recently uncovered a wealth of information about his
A first-hand account of one man’s journey through life in mid-nineteenth-century America is found in this transcription of the diaries of lumber merchant–turned–dentist, Albert M. Potter. Included are the two diaries known to exist: his first, an account of his daily life in Elmira, Ithaca, Candor, and Dryden, N.Y., from 1837 to 1841, and his last, in 1865 Houston and Galveston, Texas.
He was born June 17, 1816, in Dryden, Tompkins, New York, the second son of Bradford A. (1793–1850) Potter. (1793–1850); and Sally Alpha Foster. In February 1839 he moved to Elmira to pursue his family’s lumber business, which included his father and his older brother, Aaron. (1813–1883);. Educated, cultured and deeply religious, he enjoyed a wide variety of social and cultural activities, such as lectures, sermons, concerts, debating, singing, chess, backgammon, fine arts, walking, astronomy, phrenology, nature, gardening, and music, in particular his hand-made Eolian harp.
Albert draws us inexorably into his life as he details his hopes and dreams, yet finds most of them dashed in little more than a year. His once profitable family lumber business teeters on the brink of bankruptcy from the recession following the .irecession:Panic of 1837;Panic of 1837, and his beloved bride of eight months dies in his arms. He rises above these devastating setbacks by deciding to study medicine, a profession he considers infinitely rewarding. (Instead, he eventually becomes a dentist, perhaps due to his distaste for dissecting cadavers.) His grief is somewhat alleviated when he meets Elizabeth F. Tuthill, who becomes his second wife and mother of their four children.
He relocated to Galveston about 1859, probably motivated by the degree of competition for dentistry work in Elmira. It is a surprise to learn that in a short time he has converted from a Yankee to a Confederate and is heartbroken at the defeat of the South. He devotes much time to poignant reminiscences of his lost Julia, whom he longs to meet in the spirit world. His wish is soon granted: he dies suddenly of heart failure at age 49.
Both diaries have been transcribed without altering his grammar, spelling or punctuation, which are occasionally antiquated or erroneous. This transcription has been exhaustively proofread by the author, as well as by the diaries’ owner, June B. Gaume of Las Cruces, New Mexico, with her friend and colleague, Nellie Mayers. Even so, occasional errors may remain.
The Elmira diary has been abridged only slightly. The Texas diary contains extensive religious and philosophical musings on such topics as the nature of man, women’s denial of their "passional" nature, marriage, as well as considerably more reminiscences of Julia. Only his references to the Civil War and selected passages about Julia have been included in this edition. Interested researchers are invited to contact the author for information on deleted or unindexed material.
The index lists all individuals, as well as his activities and observations (where they are deemed important), but does not include religious and philosophical references or the weather. An index to names and initials has been added for quick reference. Information found on mentioned individuals has been included as footnotes.
Particular gratitude is due two people whose vast knowledge and gracious
assistance added so much to this work: Rose Woodard, Steele Memorial Library,
Elmira, New York, and Casey Edward Greene, CA, Assistant Archivist,
Rosenberg Library, Galveston, Texas.
Diane C. Bender
P.O. Box 178
Washington Grove, MD 20880
Return To Introduction
|1837||Feb 1839||March 1839||April 1839||May 1839||June 1839|
|July 1839||Aug. 1839||Sept. 1839||Oct. 1839||Nov. 1839||Dec. 1839|
|Jan. 1840||Feb. 1840||March 1840||April 1840||May 1840||June 1840|
|July 1840||Aug. 1840||Sept. 1840||Oct. 1840||Nov. 1840||Dec. 1840|
Published On Tri-Counties Site On 7/27/99
By Joyce M. Tice
Email Joyce M. Tice
1837 diary, copied by Potter .................................28–41, 44–45
Summary of 1838 by Potter ...................................................45
Feb. 11–May 20, 1839 ....................................................38–53
June 25, 1839, diary commences .............................................1
1840 begins ............................................................................59
1841 begins .........................................................................144
1842–1865 notes by author .................................................168
1865 diary, Houston, Texas ................................................170
1865+ notes by author ........................................................178
Potter lineages ....................................................................181
Albert Potter’s known descendants ..................................182
Index to Names and Initials ...............................................194
Elmira June 25, 1839
The undertaking now under consideration seems to be one of much greater importance than is generally thought. I mean the opening & continuation of a Journal. The question shall I keep a Journal, & will I continue it may at first to many appear almost unworthy of hesitation, but to me at least they present difficulties not easy to overcome. One may commence as I have done often before. I continue it for a few weeks but it is soon dropped & for various reasons. — That the object is worthy of attention & pursuit & that the benefit to be derived from a few minutes spent in each day or every few days is the source of great profit none ever will deny, but only a small proportion of those who know its benefits ever reap good them is quite evident. Few very few so far as I am capable of judging ever succeed in rendering their journals so interesting as to prompt them to a continuance. They commence & after a little time forget or neglect to do what is known as duty to themselves & the journal is set aside till a more convenient season. This has been the case with myself at least. The difficulty in deciding or in finding matters worthy of remark is a great hindrance to my journal & even tho’ there is enough interesting at the time being yet one thinks it cannot be so ever again. This cause & many others have helped to keep me from the continued entries in my previous undertakings.
Julia having threatened me with a punishment (A kiss I suppose) if I did not pull off my coat and let her Mother mend a hole under the arm. I was forced to do so and meanwhile I am furnished with Henry’s finecoat as a substitute while engaged in H’s room conversing with my most devoted and dear friend Wm.F. .;— so you see I am about under the thumb as she calls it, as I am at home I must comply with the family rules, among which & first is, to obey Mother.
From the introduction of this letter you will readily conclude that I am in pretty good spirits and you will have no reason to think differently as you proceed. The next day after I wrote you my "last" letter Julia seemed better and tho not out of danger yet we entertained hopes of her recovery. Since then she has slowly but gradually gained strength and is now considered out of danger by her physician. .;She is yet very feeble and going very slowly. The day on which I received your most interesting letter the 18th dated 16th inst. she seemed not so well as usual and on reading your condoling and kind epistle it opened afresh the fountain of bitterness, and I almost feared lest it might indeed be appropriate to my condition. A few hours, and she was better but the same warmth of affection glows in my heart toward the friend who would willingly leave all to add to my happiness, in the hour of need. Long shall I remember such a friend, and while gratitude lives in my heart shall I be grateful for the kind words, and sympathizing expressions, which I could expect in vain from any other than W.S.F..; Often had I thought my affection for you was at its climax and all that my heart was capable of containing, but now have I found a new cord, a new tie binding me to yourself. Tho it was just what I had hoped and just what I should have expected, yet on reading from your hand an assurance of your willingness I was overcome with joy to know that I had indeed a friend in need, and one so dear. You know full well my feelings and useless is it for me to think of adding or expressing to you my gratefulness for your kindness in writing me so directly & I to your Dear H—i.Putnam, Harriet N.; alas am I grateful for her sympathy and kind feelings. And for Julia and myself to Harriet and Wm. I would acknowledge your warm expression of concern for our welfare and I will say that had providence indeed taken from me my Julia as I expected when I last wrote I should have been indebted and deeply indebted for your kindness, but I do think I feel the same admiration for your disinterested regard for anything else than my happiness, and the same gratitude for the expression of your willingness to come to me as tho’ you did come.
Heaven has indeed been merciful and, Julia lives, she lives, we hope to bless our years with her society and to benefit the world. She seems fast coming back and we hope will soon greet us with a hearty and deep felt affection for our attention when she will no longer need this. Tho’ very low and much debilitated we see no reason, by using prudence & discretion why she may not regain a perfect degree of health. As yet she cannot stand up alone and can sit up but a short time and what adds greatly to keep her from coming up fast is, that she cannot bear stimulants as they excite an inflammation of the lungs. She will however get up, with care, in a few weeks, of herself and then will probably go to old Connecticut with her Mother. — I shall leave her on Monday as I now expect. If she should fall into another relapse I should stay. I was at Willseyville yesterday and was surprised tho not unexpectedly to find that Aaron. (1813–1883); and Maria have had a thousand dollar legacy bequeathed them in the gift of a Son. Hurray!!! The very picture of its Father. Harray!!! Harrah!!! Well that is the way we go.
My dear friend was there no other reason I could but love J— for the
patience and resignation and cheerfulness she manifests even when in pain
and when wearied out with the bed and debility. Many very many happy hours
have I spent in watching over her and have indeed considered it a blessing
that she has been ill that I might see more fully her real worth. And the
never was one more pleasant or more ready to administer to each others
happiness than is this. Should she recover and circumstances favor I should
like very much to meet Harriet.; and yourself in Ledyard sometime during
the summer and perhaps next month. — I have no time to say more just now
— Oh yes, I was going to speak of your dear H— and could occupy another
sheet, but you see time and space forbids, in the praise of a being
so well worthy of the love of my dear Wm. — That she should feel so much
interested in my welfare and in the affliction of my dear J— is sufficient
of itself to call forth every grateful thought, and lead me to think her
even more than the Harriet.; you think her to be. Most fondly do I hope
that we may meet someday and so arrange matters as to live thro’ life in
each others society. What a circle. Image Mr F. & Mr P., Mrs F. &
Mrs P. with perhaps a few bright eyed little chicks, together under the
same roof and eating in oft repeated times from each others table and what
could be more pleasing. I have much very much I would like to say but after
getting the word from J— to you I will close — she returns her thanks for
your kind wishes and Harriets and Miss Elizabeth. (1817); sends her respects,
and Miss Lucy. (1819); of course her esteem in the equivalent her name
Sage — Yours ever write me soon to Elmira A.M.P. to W.S.F.
June 25th  To continue my remarks I know is needless & in fact, I consider them as omens of evil, as I have always recommenced my Journal with similar remarks. So without further apology to myself for my own failures & faults I will open once again my often relinquished Journal.
Since the last entry in my journal I have been absent from Elmira & have spent over two weeks in Ithaca visiting a sick friend, as has been seen in my letter copied from Franklin of 21st inst. Long & anxiously did I watch that sick-bed & was rewarded in seeing the sick onegradually returning to health. Although very weak when I left, yesterday knowing yet prospects were very flattering for her entire recovery to health. Heaven indeed smiles & I should be grateful. Long have I been prospered in all my ways & yet when I look into my bosom for that return of gratitude so justly due I feel condemned. That I am grateful I believe but that I really do not feel the full weight of my blessings I am fully conscious.
As I said before I returned yesterday I found everything very well in Elmira. To-day has been extremely fine after so much unpleasant weather & I really wish myself back to Ithaca. I have felt lost & the time has passed wearily away.
How gladly would I look over into that room where lies my Julia & see how she gets along but I cannot & I must wait till the morrow for news.
From June 23d back there has been rain (in Ithaca) every 24 hours with the exception of 2 days for the space of 26 days. The longest most protracted season of wet weather I ever recollect to have known. Yesterday it rained but to-day is one of June’s finest days. — I wrote to my mother to-day at Albany & had expected to have copied it, but could not, giving an account of Julia’s illness.
Wednesday June 26th 1839 This has been of the finest days of summer & everything vegetable seems inspired with new life. For the first time this season I have this evening noticed fire-flies. Prospect of rain I think. — I have heard nothing from Ithaca to-day & feel as tho’ I could not wait Friday PM for a letter but so it seems to be. I wrote to J— to-day but felt very dull from a severe head-ache. I often wonder how many people seem so cheerful with a head-ache while it so completely unman’s myself.
June 27th  Thursday. Some rain to-day & some pleasant weather. Have had new peas & new potatoes for dinner & the first I have seen this season. How unpleasant are reports when in every one’s mouth & frequently believed by many! I wonder not that a young lady should so much dislike false reports for it is bad enough to have true ones about & false are of course much more injurious & disagreeable. Since my return from Ithaca I have heard often & very differently told the reason of my journey & cause of my long stay & tho’ they have guessed nearly right yet nothing is known & so every one makes his own comments & the town seems to favor me with its unwelcome gossip. — When the morrow’s mail from Ithaca comes in I shall hope to hear from Julia & most anxiously wish to hear of the recovery from day to day of her strength & health. May Heaven be so propitious & she live to bless mankind & poor me with her society.
June 29th  Saturday. Once again we have had a pleasant day. Indeed it is with 3 or 4 others the only pleasant day this month has afforded. I presume it has been enjoyed by all who could feel the effects of fine weather. — I hope it has raised the spirits of the sick, & most especially the convalescent Julia. I had a letter from her mother & Lucy. (1819); last evening & was delighted to learn that she was fast returning to health. Long have I desired it & great has been my anxiety on her account & I am happy in hearing that she will soon regain her former strength. To man the lessons of experience tho’ not always effectual in producing their intended objects, are nevertheless beneficial in a great degree. They teach those who have been careless of health by sickness to make wise the simple, & to all, by sickness, the value of that boon granted to only few & from those, often soon removed this improper treatment. How very stubborn is our general disposition! When we have suffered on the sick-bed long & painfully how soon will we take perhaps the same course till it is too late, when health renews our strength.— I was very much struck with Julia’s remark after having not seen her face in the glass for 3 or 4 weeks, during a severe illness & of course greatly emaciated.— ‘O Death! I had no idea I looked so bad.’
It shows how very much sickness will do in removing from our form its beauty, the glow of health, & is no weak simile of the heart being sick with sin & not having been seen for a long time. —— Of one more subject — For several months past I find myself very much addicted to spending entirely uselessly considerable money & I scarcely know how to break the habit. In fact I do it even before I stop to think of my often-repeated resolution to break the habit. I am aware that it takes very largely from my small means & I must leave it off. Yes & at some rate I will & must.
June 30th 1839 Sabbath. To-day we have had real summer weather. A warm sun & a pure cool air. In fact it has been the pleasantest day I have yet seen in the summer of ‘39. The evening tho’ not moonlight is most charming. — I confess however that I do not like the manner of spending sabbath evenings as they are generally spent, so far as my acquaintance extends, in Elmira. They are usually occupied in calls or frequently so, & are often spent in idle conversations. Conversation of a proper character on this day I think oftentimes useful & good but cannot approve of that trifling or common place chat which on a week day may be not out of season.
This AM I heard Mr. Frost.); preach & this PM attended church & heard Mr. Winslow.);. Were it not for some few reasons I might easily become a churchman but under present feelings I could not, although there are many things I very much like. I like Mr. Winslows discourses at least & have of late enjoyed the privilege of hearing them frequently. — So long as the Presn church matters are so completely out of order I shall feel as much at home in one place as the other, & shall not feel desirous of taking a letter from my much loved Dutch Church of Ithaca. In fact as the Presbyterian church en-masse seems so completely agitated from high to low & rent with discord & dissension I am almost inclined to say I will never again become one of its members. That good may result from their troubles I sincerely hope & that God will raise them up & glorify His Name in their prosperity I ardently wish.
July 1st 1839. If before we have had cool weather, we now have warm, for this has been an extremely warm day & tho’ it is, now, nearly 10 PM yet it remains warm & sultry. Prospects seemed to favor a shower but it now bids fair for another summer’s day before a change.
I have spent this evening with Mr. Hill., Esq.;’s Esq playing chess & have enjoyed it very much. In fact chess is the only game that seems worthy of being played —— O how beautiful is music when wafted to one’s ear upon the gentle zephyrs of the evening when the din & noise of the day is hushed to silence & the air is soft & clear, when one’s mind if ever is at rest & the fatigues of the day are in part lost by the invigorating powers of the balmy air, then how welcome is some distant music. We have been favored with a few airs from a band of music from some source probably the Chemung Band & they played very well. At least it sounds well at a distance.
July 3d  Wednesday Evening. Should Providence permit to-morrow at this time I shall again be in Ithaca & shall have heard all about the 10 days of my absence from my dear J— This is like many other sudden & unexpected starts that I take & cannot therefore deserve very particular attention. I confess that under existing circumstances I should rather have remained in E— but business calls & I must go. — Nothing very fine going off for the evening of the 3d but suppose they will make up to-morrow.
This has been a fine day tho’ rather warm. Good weather for farmers.
July 8th  — Monday Eve. July 3d I found it necessary for me to leave for Ithaca & left on Thurs July 4th. One passenger & myself had quite a celebration in singing talking reading &c with lemonade till we arrived at Ithaca. For the first time saw farmers haying & think it rather early. Saw some fine fire works in the evening. I found Julia gaining rapidly & was pleased to see so favorable a change in so short a time. Met there Ithaca Brother Aaron. (1813–1883); & Cranston. (1820–1893);, two cousins Hart .;& Betsy with his wife & her beau, making quite a meeting for an accidental one. The time passed very pleasantly along till the present date in the morning when circumstances ordered me home & I reluctantly the family & one on whom I have bestowed the strong & lasting affections of my heart. The day has been one of the finest I ever saw for travelling. This PM about 4 or 5 we had a very heavy shower with hail & great rain, with near & sharp lightning. Found Mrs. Luce.; at work on my carpet & we succeeded in getting it down in my room to its comfort & good looks. —— Saw cherries ripe & raspberries to-day for the first time this year. Everything is very flattering save the corn-crop which is rather backward.
July 9th  Tuesday. This day has been very warm & sultry. A very little rain. Have had for the first time this season new potatoes as a meal.
Have written to WmSF.; to-day & would have copied it but for the length. The hail of yesterday done considerable damage but the vein was quite narrow & the general damage but little. This eve I have been enjoying the benefit of some music with Miss Cleeves. I like much to play when I can find some one that I can play with.
July 13th  Saturday. The weather for a few days has been very pleasant but for a variety an occasional shower. To-day business has been very lively altho’ it bids fair to bring a change in a few days. Strange that every few months there must come such a general cessation of business or account of money affairs.
July 14th  Sunday. To-day I have heard Mr. Norton.); a new comer as a stated supply [preacher] for a time & perhaps he will be settled. Nothing new. Liked him very much thus far.
July 17th  Wednesday. Brother AFP. (1813–1883); came to Elmira Monday Eve from Willseyville & to-morrow morning I intend to return with him. Shall expect to see Pa & Ma . (1793–1850);besides the Ithacanians.
Have been highly gratifIed this Eve in hearing that Julia still continues to gain in health. Hope I may see her in a few days at least. —— The weather has been very singular for a week of two. Warm sultry air & showers constantly to be seen (in the PM in particular) in some direction. Bad weather for wheat. Business rather dull & hard times for getting money—prospects gloomy.
July 24th  Wed. Eve. Nine oclk. — This PM about 4 oclk I reached Elmira after having visited at Willseyville & Ithaca. The weather has been extremely warm & has in some measure destroyed the pleasure of travelling.
The day we left was excessively warm but we reached home about 8 P.M. & found my Mother, Sister & all our family in excellent health & Spirits. Especially Mother — she has not looked better in several years to my knowledge. Attended church in Canelon Sabbath & heard Mr. Riggs .);as usual. Monday about 1 AM I was expecting the car at the mill with the anticipation of seeing Ithaca early but had the exquisite pleasure of waiting its coming till after 4 oclk. The time was passed quickly by wrapping around me a cloak & with a board pile for bed & valise for pillow I slept & watched for the car. It came & I was in Ithaca at 6 A.M. —— After breakfast & a few hours rest I rapped at the door of Mrs. Sages’ & found my convalescent Julia even better than I had expected. The day tho’ rainy passed rapidly & pleasantly away. Tuesday morning for the first time (this season) I had cucumbers at the Tompkins House. A fine day & we improved it well in riding visiting &c. For the first this season have seen several farmers harvesting to-day (Wed) on my return. This evening I have been very much pleased & annoyed by a little child spoiled by the effect of bad training. Tho’ extremely quick & with the politeness of a city lady yet pettish & turbulent when crossed. The admiration of all & disturbance too, as she knows no bounds or government. The most passionate creature I ever saw. Wish I knew her name but do not.
July 28th  Sabbath. This day tho’ very warm has not been so excessively so, as has been the few first days. The day has been occupied in hearing Mr. Spaulding .);in the A.M. soliciting funds for the Auburn Theo. Seminary. P.M. in hearing Rev. Mr. Brown.); Epis. I hope the Pres ch will be able to get in some able & good man for they have been long enough without steady preaching to feel its need. A church without a pastor like a home without an inhabitant to ruin runs. — For myself I wish there was a Dutch Ref ch here, or perhaps I might rather say, I wish I had life enough to enjoy the privileges already at hand, for then I should live better than I now do. I should however feel differently if I had those of my own opinion to meet with, for I find myself fast declining from the Pres ch & as it now stands cannot see how so many divisions & parties can be united or harmonious. There is fault somewhere. — That I may have little to do with such affairs Heaven grant & that I may live to do good & to glorify my Redeemer I most sincerely pray. That the world has at the present a strong hold on my mind & feelings I am well aware & that I would break the spell I feel certain, that I will I truly hope.
July 30th  Tuesday. — This probably has been in most respects the warmest day we have this season. The air being light & heated almost to suffocation rendered it the most depressing of any day I have seen this season.
I had expected to have heard from Julia this P.M. but have not & shall certainly hear to-morrow P.M. I fear the effects of this weather on her health.