Transcribing Hannah’s Diary

This entry was written by Student Intern Mike Ericson whose assignment was to complete the transcription of an 18th century young woman’s diary.

       Hannah Hadassah Hickock was born in 1767 in Southbury, Connecticut. Her diary spans the years 1784 to 1786 and gives a glimpse into what life was like in the late eighteenth century.  One of the constant activities in her life is that she is always attending meetings.  Most of these are religious meeting where she goes to listen to various preachers.  Towards the end of her diary she also begins to quote some of the texts that the preachers used.  For example on August 7, 1785 she wrote:

 Mr Wileman’s text was, Peter 2. 1,2,3.  Wherefore laying aside all malice & all guile & hypocrisies & envies & all evil-speakings as new born babies desire the sincere milk of the word that ye may grow there by, if so be that ye have tasted that the lord is gracious

Many of her diary entries either quote the Bible or make some reference to religion.  However, she also writes about how she doesn’t really like to read in the Bible and that she wonders if there is something wrong with her.  On May 6, 1784 she ends her journal entry by saying, “I wish I loved to read in the Bible – Why don’t I.”  Also on July 8, 1784 she writes, “Read a little in the Bible, but I am too stupid.”  While she was constantly attending meetings to listen to preachers, she found it hard in her early years to read and interpret the Bible by herself.

Another common theme in Hannah’s diary was how often she was “indisposed.”  She may have been constantly sick or just over-exaggerating her illness to get out of doing chores or going to meetings.  An example of this is can be seen on March 21, 1785 when she wrote, “I was exceedingly indisposed and had a fire in the outroom.”  Also on April 4 she wrote, “Last Saturday I rose late very much indisposed & discontented I was.”  According to her diary she was quite often indisposed which led to her not being in the best of moods.

Hannah’s diary is also unique in the fact that she went back 40 years after she had originally written it and transcribed it.  Hannah starts her transcription by saying,  “Diary, originally written in 1784 by HHH, and transcribed by her in March 1844, 60 years afterwards.”

While it’s extremely interesting to find a journal where the actual author has gone back and transcribed it, this also made it a tough read at times.  Hannah liked to constantly re-read her writings and edit them.  There are numerous words and lines in her journal that have been crossed out and new thoughts added in the margins.  There was even one paragraph that she erased so hard that she made a hole in the paper!  Furthermore, sixty years later when she was transcribing her diary she added a poem to the end of it.  Her poem speaks about how fast her life has gone by and how her hopes lie in the future.  She writes:

If at eighteen when life was new

Time was so rapid in its flight

That I should bid my pen adieu

At sixty six how shall I write!

Altho’ our day so quickly flee

We would not live them o’er again

So very few of them are free

From care & trouble, toil & pain

We are not seeking for the past

Our hopes aspire to future bliss

May they be realized at last

And in a better world than this

One of the final pages of Hannah Hickok's diary, with the poem transcribed above. Connecticut Historical Society. Ms 100961.

In conclusion, her diary entries show how life was for people in the late 1700’s.  While constantly attending meetings and being indisposed she found time to help her mother run their tavern and engage in activities such as knitting or sewing.  Hannah’s diary was an extremely fascinating study and would be useful for anyone seeking a greater understanding for early American life.

Hannah’s diary can be read at the Connecticut Historical Society’s Research Center. Just ask for Ms 100961.

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