Diaries of T. N. Smith
Kanona, New York
A number of months in 1888 were rather tranquil, if not slow-paced for T. N. Smith and his household, but that was not true of October. This may be seen from the condensed summary. His diary clearly shows how greatly the death of John Nellis affected Smith's life. Nellis was not a relative, but a neighbor and close friend. He entrusted his posthumous affairs to T. N. who gave diligent attention to this added obligation. Part of the property Nellis left behind was growing crops, unharvested and unsold. A farmer like T. N. was ideally qualified to see them through into cash for he could cope with them with a sure hand, far better than a lawyer, banker or merchant. Being Nellis's executor meant for T. N. Smith operating two farms for a while — his own and his deceased friend's.
Besides the legal necessities and burial, in October this involved Nellis's apples, hops, cauliflower and buckwheat. Smith's October diary makes no mention of Nellis's cabbage crop — that comes later, mid-November — but we can be sure he kept a close farmer's eye throughout on Nellis's cabbage. That crop has an exacting requirement as to timing of harvest, especially in a rainy season. Up to a point, it will grow, adding pounds of cabbage, but once that point has been passed the heads are prone to splitting, bursting wide open from internal pressure. They are then totally unmarketable, suitable only for livestock feed. A fine-line crack appearing on outer leaves of a few heads to start gives warning that this in imminent, calling for prompt action.
Of the twenty-eight days in October following Nellis's death, all or part of fourteen of them required Smith's attention as executor. If there was a near-constant refrain that ran through much of October on Smiths own farm, it was "Ed digs potatoes."
For details, see a "Condensed Summary" following:
1. Set up coal stove. Dug potatoes. Some thundershowers.
2. "Squally all day," after rain last night. Start coal fire. Mother feeling better. Guests at dinner. Split wood and ground feed.
3. Picked apples, dug potatoes — also this important item: — "John Nellis sends for me to come down on business and go immediately. He give me a statement of his affairs which I entered in a book. John dies about 4 p.m. from Paralasis (sic) of the heart."
4. To Bath. Select casket and grave for Nellis. Ed digs potatoes.
5. Back to Bath to see about burial. Altho he doesn't say it in words, the near illegible state of T. N.'s handwriting at this point tells us he is much moved and affected. His writing becomes clear again when he leaves this subject and notes that (1) Ed digs potatoes and (2) he himself lost on the road a package of papers and $50 cash.
6. Back to Bath, advertised for lost papers. Got harness repaired, bought neckyoke. "Rained all day."
7. Nellis funeral.
8. Took care of tools on Nellis farm, arranged to have apples picked there. Weather "squally, unpleasant, cold."
9. Cold day, frost. Ed draws in a load of coal from Kanona and 8 loads of pumpkins from fields. Spent all day on Nellis business, presented will for probate. Sold bull (his own) for 8¢/lb., weight, 1575#.
10. Dug 20 bu. potatoes. Sold "calaflower" (Nellis's?). Froze ice window-glass thick.
11. In Bath settling odds and ends of Nellis business. Ed digs potatoes. Froze hard last night.
12. Rain. Prepare granary for threshing.
13. Rain all day. More Nellis paper work. "Mud deep, roads bad."
14. Damp, misty. "Roads muddy. We all stay home."
15. Hard frost. Load of potatoes to Kanona. Ed digs potatoes (With all the rain and mud, that would have been "no fun." Working in any mud is bad enough, but working in cold mud is purely miserable.)
16. To Bath on a transaction involving sale of hops for $250. Nellis must have grown hops and had them ready for market. A very unusual crop, I believe, for this locality. Bought rubber boots and did other business. Back home, "Ed digs potatoes."
17. Guess what Ed did. Right! "Ed digs potatoes." "Expect threshers but they don't come." Bought some coal for their steam engine.
18. Ed and helper finish digging potatoes. "Threshers come at night."
19. Threshing day — a one-day stand. Got 87 bu. of wheat and 362 bu. oats. Cost 3¢ per bu. to thresh wheat and 2¢ for oats. T. N. remarks that this has been a rainy fall.
20. Helped neighbor thresh buckwheat. Put lock on Nellis house.
21. Sunday. Rainy. Stayed home — roads bad.
22. New hired man, "Myron" came — "begin to plow." By train to Avoca on Nellis business.
23. Rainy. Occupied away from home on Nellis business.
24. Rain. Buried a pit of potatoes in garden for own use. Myron plows. Democrat party meeting in Avoca in evening.
25, Clear day. Myron plows. T. N. goes to mill and post office. Haul 2 loads corn previously "husked by Do Wandler." "Doctor" (meaning castrate?) "3 calves" for neighbor. Clean Nellis buckwheat in evening.
26. Bag up 36 sacks of Nellis buckwheat, draw in own corn.
27. Took neighbor's wool to market for him, collected note due him from proceeds. Sold Nellis buckwheat.
28. Rain, roads muddy. Bought "box of grapes" — no doubt the old standard Keuka picking box.
29. Harvest Nellis apples.
30. Delivered 16 bu. potatoes to D. L. & W. R. R. Store own winter apples, draw in corn.
31. Draw in winter apples and corn.
© 1995, John Rezelman