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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[Dec. 1, 1840] Tuesday spent in walking & talking. Bo’t a few books but found it very difficult to select judiciously while a clerk was at one’s elbow, unless one had made out a selection before hand which I had not.

In the evening attended a party at Mr. Chedells, very unexpectedly to myself but was gratified with the evenings entertainment. It passed pleasantly away in a circle of twenty five or thirty. Was agreeably surprised to find so little of that aristocratic & unbending haughtiness or affected dignity so looked for in Auburn by previous conceptions of their society gained probably by false reports or from the disappointed & soured feelings of some I had happened to meet.

[Dec. 2, 1840] Wed. preparations for leaving and talking of the future was the order of the day. Evening heard a lecture on Geology. Afterwards went for my bird (canary) to Mr. Chedells. Returned Ithaca Thurs and next evening was in Elmira after a protracted & agreeable absence of nearly three weeks. Many things were quite pleasant & much that I saw & heard was calculated to remind me of Julia and the times but so soon passed when domestic happiness & a new home seemed about to throw around me their welcome ties.

Dec 11th 1840 Friday. Returned this afternoon after an absence of nearly three weeks the events of which I leave till another time to relate.

Dec 12th [1840] Saturday. Feeling more than usually the effect of a cold this evening & its being rather late to begin a recital of the past three weeks I again defer the task. I have had a cold for four or five weeks & sometimes almost fear it will affect my lungs but hope it will wear off without.

Dec 13th [1840] Sabbath. My cold has affected my head considerably to-day & I think it will soon wear off or else I shall find an addition. In either case it will perhaps be safe to do something. Truly I ought to be grateful to God for the most unusually regular state of health I have enjoyed for years & more particularly during the past few months. Perhaps none know such uniform health as myself & yet I am conscious my constitution cannot bear much unless it come by regular habits. Any change in diet or habit affects me after a long period of uniformity.

Oh how often does the death scene of Julia throw around me a dread & awfully interesting state of mind! Often can I see everything in all the vivid & impressing condition of that hour & before I am aware that chilling sensation experienced while I saw the spirit leaving the tabernacle of earth and throwing that strikingly awful yet rapidly passing change over those features once lovely & cheerful with life, then motionless & cold in death. At times I hear Caroline as she screams in real fear ‘Oh Julia dont do so’ — as the last struggle left the impress of that fell king of terrors, on every distorted and quickly stilled outline.

Dec 14th [1840] Monday. Passed almost a restless night from the effects of cold & have felt quite indisposed thro’ the day. I hope by proper means to free myself from its company after a few days.

Dec 15th [1840] Tuesday. The day has been spent principally in reading anatomy & reciting what I had look over before I left for Ithaca. I really feel desirous of getting along more rapidly & tho’ many may think it rather a strange & weak decision in me to take up that profession (medicine) yet I am fully satisfied it is the place where I can accomplish the most general good tho’ it may not directly conduce most to my ease or pleasure without I include that most durable of pleasures arising from doing good to others. If I know myself wealth I crave not, nor honor, except as a means of assistance in performing on a more extended scale what must have been confined to a narrower sphere. I mean the extension of happiness not merely for this world only but that most enduring – which continues on thro’ eternity.

Providence may have other objects of labor or may remove me from the field entirely as Wisdom orders, but I must do what I think duty when my way is not pointed out in direct terms. That I may have the guide & aid of God in all I can or may do, is my desire & that I may do all to His glory my wish and that grace & pardon may overshadow me in every wrong action my prayer.

This evening spent with Tuthill & found her in low spirits, one of those most depressed conditions in which one feels that no one cares for them & they for nobody & for this sole cause they are unhappy. I knew well how to sympathize but not so well how to comfort. Talked cheeringly at times, at others tried to reason & left her I hope in tolerable glee. Oh how often I have felt just as miserable as one could ask & all from purely imaginary wrongs or difficulties & as often condemned and resolved to overcome the propensity.

Some of my most unhappy hours were during my courtship & I can now see that my feelings arose from really no good ground whatever. I sometimes think God was just in removing Julia from me from this very cause – my complaining disposition and inclination to murmur at dispensations which providence wisely arranged.

Dec 17th [1840] Thursday. Thanksgiving coming on this day I have spent it accordingly. Heard from Mr. Fowler one of the best productions I ever listened to for the occasion & after a good dinner with friends Gridley & Armstrong & passed the PM in talking & glee. Evening called on Miss Lawney then Miss Parmeter after at Tuthills, on the whole passing the day pleasantly & I hope profitably in part at least. More a day of recreation & amusement than thanksgiving after all.

Dec 19th [1840] Saturday. For two or three days have felt in a measure the effects of my cold & my cough seems quite disposed to fix on my lungs & I am at times fearful it may but shall endeavor to give it a leave of absence. Sometimes when I think only of the past & present my feelings are quite careless & even would prefer that it might be my companion to an early grave, but conscience and Heaven tells me in this would be the sin of suicide & I feel bound to do all that consistency appears to demand, to free myself not only of such thoughts but my cough also.

Dec 21st [1840] Monday. Wrote this morning to friend WSF & sent little messages in papers to Cousin Maria M Potter & friend Jackson.

Have been out this evening playing flute as accompaniment to piano with Miss Parmenter. Like such times very much for a variety in life.

Dec 23d [1840] Wednesday. Have finished in my reading of Anatomy, this afternoon, the bones and commenced on Syndesmology. I ought to have much farther advanced but for interruptions and a present turn of feeling for society leading me to spend quite too much time from my books. Thus far however I am much disposed to like the study & as I proceed I find the interest increases. If Anatomy is the most uninteresting part, as many think, excepting Materia Medica I am sure I shall become deeply engaged in the course as I advance.

Have been out calling this evening. Called on Mr F Roe a young man of fine taste & acquirements. I find company of such character beneficial & pleasant, and wish I had more at my command. Came in half past 8 oclk & seated myself to the reading of Greyslaer a Romance of the Mohawk, a historical work. Like it well thus far.

Dec 25th [1840] Friday. Christmas. Wrote this evening to Mother Sage & think it strange that all my correspondents keep silence so long. Nothing very marked for Christmas has occurred that I reccollect. Weather steadily cold without snow of any consequence.

Dec 27th [1840] Sabbath. Feeling quite unlike a writing mood I can only glance at the very interesting sermon of this PM from Mr Fowler, it being not only full of the pathos & feeling for which all his discourses are marked, but being one of great merit & flow of spirit I felt that it demanded more than usual notices. The text I forget but the subject was the contemplation of heaven as an incentive to action restraint to sin. Heaven too little thought of, & quite beyond our power of imagination to image forth its exceeding glory & happiness. I could add much but will not.

Dec 29th [1840] Tuesday. I had thought there would come a favorable time for giving a description of my absence but none has offered when I felt like writing & I have consequently deferred it & may neglect it entirely. — I was much gratified this evening with a letter from Jackson his silence having been long & painfully protracted thro’ a failure in my getting in his letters. I feel happy to hear from him under any circumstances indicating comfort which his letter of to-day’s is tolerably indicative for Jackson his road seeming a weary one at best.

Have been playing this evening with Miss Parmenter & have spent the evening quite pleasantly.

My reading goes on moderately. I shall probably commence on Myology to-morrow. I like Anatomy thus far very much. I have also commenced as casual reading Materia Medica but as yet have done little at it.

Dec 31st 1840 Thursday. The year has nearly flown & gone gone may be inscribed upon its few remaining moments (1/4 past 10 PM).

Yes the year which from my very boyhood I had looked upon as almost unattainable has come passed insensibly away & now has bidden me an ever enduring adieu. Passed insensibly I may say with propriety for midst the scenes of this one year few places have allowed me the privilege of noting time. Had those events which have been so numerous & varied, been those of an usual character this volume had not extended itself so far or been filled with reflections & thoughts – where otherwise there had been a casual glance at men & things letting moralizing & attempts at philosophising alone. The very importance of the events are a sufficient cause why time should glide rapidly away & this uncouth scrawl be filled with a monotonous & careless sketching of the year. Monotonous it may be & is in style expression & with few exceptions, in the description of incidents and feelings but perhaps no more so, than journals written wholly without reflection or cogitation would naturally appear – the same thoughts, incidents, and circumstances often occurring during the passing of a year. I am at least most fully convinced of the utility of a journal and have become devotedly attached to the practice of committing to paper many of those scenes and subjects of meditation which otherwise must inevitably be lost to one’s self & thereby to the world. True I never wished nor do I now, that this feeble affair should ever be seen by the eyes of men, without it may be a friend like Franklin or a wife like Julia. To them its pages were open but my heart was equally so consequently this could hold no secrets I wished hid from their eyes.

I did think this evening would bring out a review of the year but I am compelled to relinquish the resolve from the want of time, letting the journal be a review. suffice it that thro’ the protecting & gracious power of God health & life have been mine & with them all those needful comforts which a comfortable competence will ensure. God had indeed been full of forbearance & grace or I had been the victim of justice. Many & great has been the evil-doings & evil-thinkings of this past year yet thro’ Christ I am spared to accomplish a destiny which I hope & pray may result in the performance & fulfillment of some good to the world. How this shall be done I cannot say still if deception clouds not my mind I desire to live for some good purpose.

My beloved Julia had done her work & was called away to that mansion prepared her by Christ. This was to me a source of deep affliction yet fervent rejoicing. So long as life last the effect of her characteristic loveliness, amiable and devoted affection, her deep-toned and heart-felt piety, her peculiar mildness yet decision of mind will fix indelibly their impress on my mind. — I will not say more on this subject for I have already made it the subject of journal-writing, letter-writing, and as it must naturally be the theme of reflection in future, if the future should be mine to know, I pass by for present what would easily protract this sitting to an undue extent.

Business affairs I wish I might let go silently but will not. I had thought of giving a full inventory of my concerns & know precisely my condition but cannot now. I may some other time. I would merely say my business has paid my expenses & the year has brought about the cancelling of some of last years debts yes nearly all. Some new ones to about $150– or 200– are still on hand and my property increased a little so that on the whole I am about even with the world whereas last season I was worse off than nothing if anything.

Under other than present circumstances I dare not say what I may have done but I feel justified in saying that my exertions have been entirely without that peculiar & generally successful motive-power, viz some loved object for reward as would been mine the happiness & comfort of a wife had she been my companion.

My change of business I have before noticed & will only say once again that I am heartily glad that I have taken the step. Never before have I felt that I was acting from a sense of duty & judgment. I now feel conscious that the road to usefulness is opened into a field where I can labor to the best possible advantage. Already do I see the adaptation of my mind character & feelings to that most responsible yet self-paying professional. Self-paying — by which I mean that one is abundantly rewarded in the doing of their duty independent of pecuniary considerations. Benevolence can here find a land full of milk & honey.

God only knows the events that are in store for futurity & I will say nothing of resolutions for the future or of calculations without relying implicitly upon the blessing of heaven. How the year of 1841 may vary in its tale can only be told by the end. Much of an interesting character is doubtless a revelation for me & how deeply important and momentous those events may be I know not. Life & all its consequences are in the Hand that I know will do right. Death may intervene before this night of Dec 31st ‘41 may arrive and if so, or if not, may the wisdom of God, the grace of Jesus Christ, & guiding influences of the Holy Spirit lead me in the road to heaven & righteousness, blotting out my transgressions, doing all not for me but for Him who hath loved me as his own life yea better than life.

(1/2 past 11 PM) End of 1840 — Most important year of my life.