In February 2013 we wrote about a dream to travel to New Hampshire to find Seth Ring Shackford diaries and this last week we found some of his diaries at the New Hampshire Historical Society and the Portsmouth Athenaeum. These two libraries have exceptional historic collections, have created fabulous catalogs of their collections, and shared their catalogs online! We are very thankful to these libraries and their excellent staff who care about ensuring documents are preserved properly, spend the time to create detailed inventories of their very large collections, and help all the visitors who visit access their exceptional historical documents!
We found most of Seth’s diaries at the New Hampshire Historical Society in Concord, NH. We had searched their online catalog for the word Shackford and discovered that the diary was described as Diary of Seth Shackford, 1805-1813, 1813-1824. We called ahead to ensure they had the diary onsite (important because some libraries store some of their documents offsite and it may take them time to pull them!). We drove to Concord on a Saturday to avoid traffic and felt awed at the great historical building . When we showed up we felt totally spoiled when Mali Ebel, the reference librarian told us she’d pulled the documents out for us ahead of our visit!
We discovered that we had found a treasure!!! Seth wrote daily documenting the weather, who he visited, what he did, where he traveled, when he was planting, what he was planting, what he was harvesting, who was visiting, who he was visiting, etc. There is a comment in the diary when the War of 1812 ended that is written in larger handwriting commenting on his happy feelings about peace! We were allowed to read this incredible diary, copy the pages of the journal (with a camera – a copier might damage this old book). We had hoped to read the part of the journal describing Seth’s trip to Ohio in 1810 and follow this route on today’s roads but while we found a reference in his diary to this journal we did not find that journal within the documents. We wish to also thank Mr Paul Friday, the onsite genealogist who helped us find some of the documents that were in the Historical Society that helped us learn the details of how the diaries arrived at the library helping us find letters from Seth’s grandchildren Mary Bennett Morse, Helen Champion Bennett, and Harriet Bennett Cate that discuss their donation of these diaries to the library – there’s possibly more to this donation story but that is for another day. We plan to transcribe Seth’s incredible diary and gift our transcription to the library that preserved this document. We anticipate this project will take a very long time… We hope to return to this wonderful library in the future – they have an exceptional collection of other materials…
We also found another of Seth Ring Shackford’s diaries from 1838 at the Portsmouth Athenaeum which is an amazing place! Just being in this building and peeking into it’s inner sanctum is breathtaking — before you even open a book! (Take a look at their Website!!!!) And to open a diary from 1838 in this special space just draws your breath away. Thank you very much to the members of this Athenaeum for allowing the public to visit this exceptional place and for ensuring that the history in your fabulous book and manuscript collections are shared with visitors by your exceptional staff. We received excellent help from Tom, Caroline, and Robin! We were there two days and these folks were so very helpful to everyone who entered this precious space! Not only did they allow me to copy this exceptional diary, but when they learned that I couldn’t find William Moore Shackford’s property on 35 Daniel Street Tom did some research and explained that the street numbers had changed and shared historic pictures of William’s original home with me. Then they helped me learn that William Moore Shackford was one of the original members of the Athenaeum – he owned share 74! They also helped me find an article in the The Portsmouth Journal of Literature and Politics!
We hope to eventually transcribe this diary which describes Seth and his son William’s trip west in 1838 (they were avoiding a court issue related to a fraudulent American Revolution Pension) and continues to March 1848, a month before Seth’s death. We thought about trying to trace Seth’s travel’s following this diary but he begins by traveling by ship to New York City, then heads to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati by waterway. We’re in an RV and stay away from big cities so instead of driving this route we’ll draw out the journey he took on a map sometime in the future.
It’s an honor to get the opportunity to touch and read these diaries. Thanks again to these fabulous libraries their staff for maintaining such wonderful resources such as Seth’s diaries!
(Ooops – posted on a Monday – when you’re traveling you sometimes forget what day of the week it is!!!)
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Copyright 2017 Joanne Shackford Parkes (sharing a link to this post is appreciated but please do not copy this material and paste it elsewhere)