Tri-Counties Genealogy & History by Joyce M. Tice
Diaries & Letters of Tri-Counties
Bradford County PA
Chemung County NY
Tioga County PA
1837 - 1840 Albert M. Potter  of Elmira NY
Diary of Albert M. Potter
Elmira, Chemung County NY
Year: 1837-1840
Transcribed by Diane Bender
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FRANKLIN, William S.


MOULTON, M. D. (Miss)


SMITH, Gerrit

April 10th 1837. Once again I have attempted the repursuance of a Diary a private Journal after a long silence. After the closing of my diary ending in Cortland Academy Nov 2d 1834 I thought I should soon renew the practice but this date shows how soon. The space of nearly three years being too great to give a minute detail of occurrances I shall content myself with a brief sketch of my places of residence business &c.

I am indebted to Mr. Jacob Abbot for my plan at present adopted & for the resolution made to act upon it. He says in The Young Christian pg 369 ‘When from forgetfulness or loss of interest, of pressure of other duties, you have for a long time neglected your journal, do not throw it aside & take a new book, & begin formally once more — but begin where you left off filling up with a few paragraphs the interval of the history & thus persevere.’ ‘— Resolve simply to write when you can, & only be careful to watch yourself, & see that you persevere in your plan whatever interruptions may for a time suspend it.’ I am satisfied from experience that it is highly beneficial both for the present & most certainly for the future to have an account of past events. The great difficulty I now think in my former diary was, that I confined it too much to my religious exercises. This is highly important & necessary in its place, but yet a journal should take a more comprehensive view of one’s life & affairs. — But to return from this digression to the filling up of the interval of time. At the close of my last journal I was at Homer. I remained at school the fall term from Sept 1st to the 31st of December. My studies were Algebra, French & I know not what.

I remained at home during the rest of the winter & in the spring of 1835 went to Ithaca till some time in Oct, at which time I again returned to C Academy. My studies the half term were French & Latin. I spent the vacation at home of course, & returned to school the next term beginning Jan 1st 1836 & ending April 15th. My studies were Latin & Geometry. I resided at home until the Aug 1st & then went to Albany in the lumber yard of Hill & Sanford. Had my health been usually good I should have spent the time very pleasantly while in the city, as it was, I received much benefit & satisfaction.

While in Albany I came very near entering the engineering business but was Providentially disappointed that I might fill some other station. I returned home during the memorable snow fall commencing on Oct 12th. I reached home thro’ snow & mud on the night of the 18th. The remainder of the Fall & the winter of 1837 I spent at home. — Now as I am coming near my date I shall become more diffusive. The winter of 1837 passed away in reading, flute playing &c.

The principal work in course of reading was Rollin’s History which is not yet finished. Never have I become so completely charmed & so pleasantly entertained in reading any work especially of a historical character. Plutarch is interesting but Rollin having lived in a later age has sipped the sweets from every author making his own the masterpiece for a History. Josephus I never liked & history has ever been unpleasant, till I took up Rollin. Should health permit I mean to continue my historical reading till History seems familiar. Letter writing has also been another source of pleasure & profit. I have no time, neither would it be proper for me here to give an account of my several correspondents. Suffice it, to say, there are mostly good writers & interesting correspondents & warm friends. — My business for a few months past has been quite limited & I have had much time at leisure. Flute playing has been a most delightful & I hope not an unprofitable part of my pursuit. I should like to become a master of the instrument as I am sensible that the nearer one attains to perfection in music the more pleasant & beneficial it becomes. The effect of music on the mind & on the disposition is salutary when rightly & justly prized. It has a good effect too on the religious affections & exercises if duly employed. True we should not take the excitement of animal feelings to be beneficial unless associated with true devotion. There is a harmony in every thing in nature & a careless observer loses many beautiful & important lessons of the Wisdom & Omnipotence of his Creator.

In a letter to a friend not long since I gave him the description of a room as I could wish one furnished according to my present taste. — It should contain a collection of insects, shells, minerals, with birds dead & alive, fishes also, & plants of foreign & domestic culture, and a good library with musical instruments of all kinds, at any rate a piano & organ. One might suppose here would be too much of novelty without any use. But I am of quite the contrary opinion if such a room was rightly used & appreciated. Why has God scattered over this earth, our habitation, everything beautiful useful & instructive if not for man to draw from thence important lessons. But I must not protract my remarks, I confess the nature has charms that seem lost to many & I am often led to wonder at the perfect carelessness of some about what surrounds them & is constantly before their eyes. They admire the productions of art but are lost to all the beauties of creation. — At this time I have a small collection of minerals & insects & a small assortment of shells. These I intend to enlarge as time & opportunity offers. Such things cannot be collected in a minute, a day, or year, but require constant exertion. — Now as I have been over a general view of things I shall confine myself to a series of dates previous to the date commencing this journal.

April 3d 1837. To-day busied myself in writing letters. Wrote two, one to my old friend Benedict, the other also to a friend [Julia]. This evening attended monthly concert. I am oftentimes astonished at the thinness of this meeting & know but too well the reasons.

Thurs April 6th [1837]. After laboring nearly all day I took it into my head to make a call & as the punishment brought home an Album.

April 7th [1837] In the PM worked hard to find something to write in the Album but did not succeed, except in making the selection of a French piece.

Saturday April 8th [1837] To-day I concluded to venture an original piece & was tolerably satisfied with my production. Carried home the Album & bro’t back another.

April 9th [1837] Rev Mr. LittleJohn gave us those most powerful & excellent discourses, & I hope they may not be in vain. I wish all the church could have heard them. The weather was extremely unpleasant & the walking very bad, there being a continual fall of snow, yet he had a good audience. —

April 10th [1837] Well here I am, once again at my starting point. I am satisfied that the mentioning of small events, are sometimes uninteresting & often appear insipid on a reperusal but yet I am inclined to think it advisable to notice events of minor importance as this often proves a very good reference book.

A delightful day overhead but very unpleasant about the feet. — I have attended the funeral of an aged lady & find it good to converse with the dead for most surely we shall all be among that number in a few passing years at the extent.

After funeral I had a call from Solomon Scofield who is now pursuing a course of study & has just returned from Homer. This too is interesting. Yes it is pleasant to talk with, & see those climbing the rugged heights of Science. This evening I buried myself in reading Rollin. How strong a motive for action, treachery & cruelty is self-interest, led on by the false ideas of glory held by the Ancients? How little of true loyal affection was felt by the successors of Alexander toward the royal family or each other? Nought was undertaken but what was intended for the self-aggrandisement of some particular individual. Most certainly a tragical & singular fate attended every heir or relative of Alexander as every one found an untimely death. The cruelties of that haughty king were paid in his own blood. Yes & those even who had adored this prince, in a few short years seemed to boast in having thrown aside all their affection, in causing the death of every branch of the kings family. Oh to what hardness is the heart of man capable of attaining? ——

April 12th [1837] Wed. A delightful day. Too pleasant to work or be in the house. In the PM made a pleasant call. In the evening had a severe head-ache.

April 13th [1837] The birds are singing this morning most delightfully, & how pleasant to listen to their warblings? It awakens reflections both interesting & pleasant. One thing at least strikes me as being true. Their songs are not the deceitful tales of imagination picturing the happiness they mean to enjoy, & that at some anticipated season in the distant future. No they sing of joys & blessings now known & enjoyed, & that most probably with a degree of gratitude which should awaken ours, for blessings incomparably greater.

This PM made a call & had some good warm sugar & a first rate visit.

Have been engaged, & that most agreeably this evening in reading the Token of 1829. I think the annuals are the best works now published. The selections are generally of the first character & judiciously arranged. Many of the pieces in this volume are filled with romance & couched in language impossible to dislike. Most of the productions are from the pens of our own countrymen & the scenes of nearly all the tales are in this fair & happy land. Most certainly we have no need of going to foreign climes for scenes or to cross the ocean for poets or for original writers. As spoken of in the work just mentioned our writers need no longer borrow skeletons & plans from beyond the seas, or the limner gaze upon the scenes of Scotland or Italy or any foreign land to animate his pencil or awaken his genius for in this country are subjects & scenes not soon to be exhausted or transmitted to paper. In my humble opinion our country will one day become the land of the muses & the school of the fine arts, for should the present government continue there is nothing to prevent such a period save the pride & luxury that ruined Greece & Rome from which nothing could save them. We should however in avoiding one evil beware of falling into a greater. I often tremble for the land of the Pilgrims when I gaze abroad upon our national evils tho’ there yet may be hope. If we fall it will be from the pride & luxury fast creeping over this vast nation.

April 15th Saturday [1837]. This has been a most delightful spring’s day with an agreeable air & pleasant breezes. Improved this A.M. in labor & this PM have enjoyed myself beyond measure with the company of little children. When the intellectual faculties just begin to show themselves & the usual peevishness of children is overcome by good government then it is I love their company. Music has seemed unusually pleasant, but possibly it is owing to my Eolian Harp for it has performed some of its most thrilling & charming airs. This evening that harmless, musical & yet unpleasant reptile the frog has begun his monotonous chattering—a term not very appropriate.

Although we have enjoyed a day in which nature has been active yet this beautiful weather I fear is about done for the present. A heavy circle surrounds the moon & she seems as if insulted, usually answers the appearance with a storm. The circle of which I spoke just now I saw at precisely 9 oclk PM & now 10 oclk PM the heavens are perfectly clear & without a cloud. A pretty sudden change from a thick haze to a clear sky.

April 16th [1837] Sabbath Exercises to-day as usual. A full congregation came out it being tolerable travelling. I have been much pleased in reading the memoirs of Payson, one of the most devotedly pious, & successful ministers of the present age. His efforts seemed endless, his capacity & faculty of giving instruction most admirable. And withal was blended such politeness & sincerity as none could gainsay.

The storm foretold last night has arrived but cannot say to what extent.

April 17th [1837] Have just had (evening) a pleasant call from two young men. Conversation took a pleasant & I hope beneficial turn, the proceedings of the present Anti Slavery doctrines & advocates. This subject that causes so much discussion & warmth on all hands is one of interest & moment. It is calling up the attention of all & it is hoped will cause a radical change & annihilation of this sin. One thing is certain be that it is an evil & as evil produces sin, and the continuance of sin under any circumstances is criminal. There is in my opinion a contradiction & absurdity in the declaration of our Independence which can never be removed till slavery is driven from our land. Then & then only can we act consistently & call ourselves a free nation & this country a land of Liberty. Most certain it is that a Beneficent God must & will frown upon this nation unless some speedy & effective measures are pursued for the amelioration of the colored men in these U States & territories.

April 18th [1837] The fields & woods present a curious spectacle at the present time, 11 oclk AM. There has just been a heavy snow squall & being snow enough to whiten the ground & the sun shining with considerable warmth causes a thick mist to rise, as if some internal fire had so warmed the earth as to cause steam to rise from its surface. From the woods it rises & curls away like clouds while the fields seem covered with mist. A heavy cloud rests on the summit of the mountain south & hides its top from view.

Spring is fast opening to us its beauties. The trees are presenting evidence of life by a lively color, lilac bushes are well nigh budded, the leaf buds being quite green, the grass presents a lively green in the fields or in pasture grounds especially. Not however the full green of advanced spring.

April 19th [1837] Went to Homer. Weather quite unpleasant there being snow squalls frequently with a chilly air. I hoped to have made arrangements to for Gerrit Smith lecture in our place next week Wed but am fearful of a disappointment. His lectures of Anti Slavery are powerful conclusive & successful. — Had some pleasant visits & was at home in the evening.

April 20th [1837] Thursday. To-day have had a call from two college students, sophs, once my classmates at Homer, now in Hamilton College (Ballard & Earp[?]) When I see old students it awakens in my memory scenes never again to be reacted but which were important & profitable. I know of no class of persons save respectable relatives so near & so friendly as those with whom I have once labored in the attainment of knowledge. And when I converse with those that have continued their course & are now tasting the pleasures of a College life I am surprised that I sit so indifferently & feel so little interested in the obtaining of an education. Had I not made up my mind & fixed my resolution upon the pursuance of other objects I could not remain inactive. But I have thrown aside the idea of getting a college education & must content myself with acquiring such general instruction & information as I can extract from the labors of others. Miss M D Moulton the Perceptress of C[ortland] Academy & has been for 10 or 11 years is probably before this time of day 1/2 past 6 PM embraced in the bands of connubial felicity. She has been a much loved teacher & perceptress ever diligent & active in her situation. I can hardly feel reconciled to her leaving of that institution as it is one in which I feel a deep interest & strong attachment. Her place cannot be fully supplied without great exertion.

April 21st [1837] Nothing unusual has occurred that I recollect at present thro’ the day. The weather as yet is cold & chilly with bleak north winds. The evening brought with a phenomenon quite splendid & curious. The sky somewhat resembled the appearance of Jan 25th except that then the heavens were of a fiery red color all over & but little apparent different in any point of the compass. Now the redness appears only the northern direction. The coloring of a bright glowing red, lively & brilliant. It resembles some what the sun in a lazy summers day at setting only brighter than the sun usually seems at such times. The sky some cloudy & a full moon. The appearance seemed in connexion with the Aurora Borealis its being guided somewhat by the Au Bor. On the whole I think it more splendid & interesting than the similar phenomenon in Jan 25th. I should like well to know the precise cause & effect of such phenomena. I do not wonder that superstition is aided in its base conjectures by such sights for they are truly grand & imposing.

April 22d [1837] Cold chilly weather & but little prospects of better at present. Have been reading this PM in the ‘Spirit of the Annuals’ of 1830 & was much pleased with a tale called the Missing Curate. Its object seems to be the hitting off of the effects of wealth suddenly obtained on the poor however virtuous. Though fictitious as it probably is yet it illustrates fully the effect of wealth suddenly gained on the mind of man. It destroys piety, defaces virtue, & ruins the possessor in numerous instances. I have frequently been surprised at the avidity & eagerness with which multitudes pursue this ignisfatuus, entirely forgetful that it will lead them into snares and often completely elude their chase, for whoever saw a man contented with his present situation in regard to wealth. But very rarely is there such a thing known as a mans being rich enough in his own opinion.

April 23d [1837] Cold chilly weather & poor prospects. The exercises of the day as usual. I was very sleepy this PM & of course heard little or nothing of the sermon. No meeting this evening & I feel at a loss having been in the habit of attending meeting Sabbath evenings.

I am oftentimes astonished at myself when I attempt an enumeration of the privileges & blessings heaped on me a creature so entirely unworthy of their enjoyment. They are blessings for the most part of not inferior character & yet what ingratitude I often manifest in their enjoyment. If there is any sin which should make one suffer the keen ire of Heaven it is ingratitude. What baseness & perfect carelessness of mind does this sin manifest? When one has a gift or blessing of any kind given him as a free gift, & especially after having wronged repeatedly the Giver surely he must be in a wretched & unenviable condition who feels no kindlings of gratitude. And into what reproach would he not be justly thrown by such base ungratefulness to his Benefactor. Such in my opinion is the situation of rebel man with his Bountiful Benefactor.

April 24th [1837] This PM went on a pleasure excursion. Had a spy-glass of great power & could distinguish individuals & call them by name in the village from the hill one mile west. The same cold chilly weather still continues with a wind & nearly every day a little snow.

April 26th 1837. A pleasant day with the NW winds & rather cool.

April 27th [1837] Clear & pleasant to-day as yesterday. Was at Ithaca .to-day & heard Mr Gerrit Smith speak on the Anti Slavery subject. I think no one could help admiring the man as a speaker & as a man even though he is strongly opposed as an Abolitionist. He speaks with ease, distinctness, independence, & force. His reasoning seems conclusive & undoubtedly is so to a great extent. He spoke about 3 hours. A Society was formed in the county & it is to be hoped it will meet with support & success.

April 28th Friday [1837] A fine pleasant day wind as usual, very hazy & was yesterday with no signs of a change. Farmers say it is becoming very dry & that wheat is much injured or will be soon without some rain.

April 29th [1837] Warm sultry day, very hazy indeed. Wind South in AM & west in PM. A few drops of rain but not enough to wet the roof of a house. Heavy thunder clouds, hopeful there will be a shower soon. The weather yesterday & to-day resemble the days of Indian summer. Grass remains scarcely visible at a short distance & trees started but little. There is however no use in complaining & it would manifest but little reverence for the wisdom of God who rules all things well. Heaven seems to frown upon this land for the prospects are gloomy beyond measure. It is not only in the prospects of a poor harvest, but in the prospect of suffering from entirely a difference source, the stopping of business, & the scarcity of money. All things considered I am sure I have known no season so frought with interest & moment as the present. But should even all such things forsake, there is an Arm & Helper amply able, alone to save if we trust in its Omnipotence.

April 30 Sunday [1837]. A very singular thunder shower 9 oclk AM. The sky is very hazy & no clouds can be distinctly seen & in the west there seems only a dark bluish streak but without any form of a cloud. After rising 1/3 from the horizon to the zenith there seems a reddish tinge to the lower edge. Heavy thunder shakes the windows & sharp lightnings. After the cloud had passed over & all prospects of rain apparently gone, it rained a short time.

May 4th [1837] Rec’d a letter & Index Rerum from Wm S Franklin. This Index Rerum is one of the most useful & best calculated works now published. When once it has been filled as it could be, its value must be incalculable.

May 5th [1837] Labored pretty hard in the AM & some in the PM but it being extremely warm I feel quite exhausted. Making garden is hard work & amounts, seemingly, to nothing. Then at noon 81. We have had a very heavy shower & it seems somewhat disposed to return having gone S East (5 or 6 PM). It is accompanied with very heavy thunder & sharp lightnings. How pleasant is a storm while winds sport with old oaks, lightnings rend the clouds & thunders make terra-firma quake or with sudden & tremendous crash making all nature start, to feel that an Arm & Power All Sufficient & All Wise has the entire control, that we are in His hands & if we trust implicitly to His care & goodness all with us will be safety & we can look tranquilly upon the terrifying appearances of the heavens.

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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