Diaries of a Farm Boy

In 1881, my great-grandfather Allen Frank Cass was born on his family’s farm in Western New York state.  Fifteen years later he began to keep daily diaries.  At times the entries reflect resolute faithfulness to recording the small details that compile all of our days.  At others, he seems only to write out of the obligation enforced by a blank page and routine. 

Allen’s mother Nora had been a school teacher before she married Frank, a farmer.  His brother, 10 years his junior, was Rollin.  Allen would one day inherit the farm and raise his own large family there though none of them would carry on the rural tradition.  The house "Lone Pine" stands to this day in Ivory, NY.

Painted by Mabel Cass Lucas 1970

When I was 15, I found Allen's diaries at my grandma Mabel's house.  After she died a few years later I found them as I helped clean out her room.  A note was attached in her hand that said "Jenny once asked that these diaries be hers.  Now they are."  My grandmother was very effective like that. 

A Day in the Life

(Age 14)
Wea. Cold                                     WED. JAN. 1, 1896                       Ther.

Pa went to Jamestown + had 3 teeth pulled.  I stayed at home and went skating.

(Age 16)
Wea. Stormy                                 SAT. JAN. 1, 1898                         Ther. 15

Very windy day snow is about 1ft deep. + still coming.  Pa + Rollie went up to the store in Pope Hollow.   Geo Walters and Chas Slater are cutting cherry logs to haul to Falconer.  I went over and got grandma took her home this P.M.  Milked 9 cows.  Killed a pig. 

(Age 17)
Wea. Clear                                    SUN. JAN. 1, 1899                         Ther. 0

Stayed at home all day and took a bath. 
Ma and Rollie went down to church and Mrs. Mason’s.  Mrs. Mason sent me up a book named Thaddeus of Warsaw for a New Years present she also gave me this diary for Xmas. 
Ed. Harrington came down after his mail this A.M. and stayed a while. 
In the evening I stayed home and read. 
Pa and Ma are both cross as two half-starved bears.

(Age 18)
Wea. Stormy                                 MON. JAN. 1, 1900                       Ther. 8

Went over and got grandma at 11AM took her home about 4 P.M.  Stayed at home all day.  There is about 6” of snow and it is awful windy + cold.  Happy New Year.

(Age 19)
Wea.                                               TUES. JAN. 1, 1901                      Ther.

Alice’s folks came down for a New Years dinner and Gil’s folks came down in the afternoon and stayed for supper.  Grandma was over.

(Age 20)
Wea.                                              WED. JAN. 1, 1902                       Ther.

We all went over to grandma’s

(Age 21)
Wea. Cold                                     THUR. JAN. 1, 1903                       Ther.

My folks, Grandma, Alice + I all went up to Andrew’s to dinner.  Dave finished drawing out manure by the cow barn.

(Age 22)
Wea. Cold                                     FRI. JAN. 1, 1904                             Ther.

 We all went up to Grandma’s.  Aunt Ada came down.


  1. I love this: "Pa and Ma are both cross as two half-starved bears". Brilliant! Keep it coming!

  2. Hello Jennifer, This is Patsy Eccles descendent of Gilbert Wright Eccles. I think that Ada was Ada Crandall who was married to Josiah Eccles who was Gilbert's brother...does this agree with your research?

  3. Patsy Eccles e-mail: ecclesp@iron-bridge.net


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