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You just never know what you will find on ebay! This compelling journal is too descriptive not to put on LivingHistorySites.com for all to have a peak!


This is the 1857 – 1858 handwritten journal / diary of Elias Ayers who lived near Jacksonville NY in Tomkins County.  Jacksonville is northwest of Ithaca on Cayuga Lake.   There are 61 individual pages and 122 full pages of writing.  The journal / diary is filled with entries from Feb 1, 1857 (Elias 62nd birthday) through January 1858.  Elias documented every person that he saw, things that he bought, money that he paid and received.   Every week he also itemized the money he had on hand.  He also listed the temperature at 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Elias was married and owned a farm near Waterburg NY that he rented to his sons Nathaniel and Oliver.  He and his wife lived on another farm near Jacksonvile NY.   He grew a variety of fruits and raised bees.  He used tallow and bees wax to make candles.

Elias was a religious man.  He was a Christian and every Sunday he would rotate the church that he attended:  Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist.  He also noted who the preacher was and also wrote out the primary scripture that was discussed at Meeting or church.  He was a hard worker and a good man.  There were times when he gave money to others (although sparingly).  He and his wife went to visit a neighbor who was an “inmate” at the Poor House.

Elias was a farmer but also seemed to make deals.  He held notes for money leant to others and collected payments on them.  He would buy a commodity like wheat and trade it for something else.  He did the same with strawberries and other things grown on the farm.  He would sell some and trade others.

Elias was a Republican and voted in each election.

There were also a couple times a year that he attended the meetings of a group he only referred to by using the symbol for a square o.  I don’t know if this was the Masons or some other Lodge or Society he belonged to.

There is also a lengthy handwritten poem at the back of the book.

Elias had at least one brother.   James Ayers lived in Reading NY and died of Heart disease on April 14, 1867.  I think that William W Ayers was another brother.  And he mentionsed sister Mary Treman.

Some Places Mentioned in New York

Jacksonville, Waterburg, Ithaca, Covent , Halseyville, Mecklenburg, Danby, Reading, Seneca county, Tomkins County

Some Foods Mentioned

Coffee, smoked shoulder, milk, small fish, honey, butter, succor fish, veal, lemons, coconut,  raisins,  candy,  loaf sugar, oranges, peaches. Cheese, tea, crackers, strawberries, cheese, wheat flour, beef, pie, brown sugar, apples, “huckel berries”, watermelon, blackberries, mutton, Indian meal, ginger, cinnamon, chestnuts, potatoes, mixed barley, apple cider, vanilla, molasses, ham, grapes

Some Items Mentioned

Candles , candlewicks, cowhide boots, tallow, beeswax, a dress for his wife, hens & roosters, garden hoe, indigo, castile soap, blank book, slate pencil, lead pencil, tanners oil, buggy harness, horse collar, salavatus, curry comb, carpet tacks, ear horn (early hearing aid)


The Journal / Diary is 152 years old and shows its age.  The book is string bound.  It’s 6 ½”x 8”.  The blue marble covers suffered water damage at some point.  The bottom part of the spine has chipped away.  The pages are old, heavy and yellowed.  There is foxing and discoloration and also some water stains. Some of the pages are close to pulling away from the binding.  But the writing is in black ink and is very readable.   


I extracted entries that I thought were interesting.  But this is a very small part of what Elias wrote in the journal / diary.  I omitted a  lot of the buying and selling and dealing that he did.  I also omitted a lot of the names and the various visits.  People visited at the Ayers home and they went to visit others all the time.   Finally I omitted the scriptural references that Elias wrote down each week.  These were the scriptural references discussed at the church services he went to weekly.

I've put in bold some of the entries that I found interesting.

Elias J Ayers

Daily Journal or Note Book

For the year of my existence 62

A.D. 1857 commencing with the 1st of February

February 1

Another year of my life commences to day and as the week the month & with me the year opens with clear & pleasant weather why may not I consider it as an omen of a clear mind and an agreeable and pleasant prospect for another year in all my relations with my God, my neighbor and myself.

Should we not all of us lay hold of the hope set before us.  Thus if we conform to the above relations to God by never mentioning his name but with the reverence that is due from the creature to his creator – and also in having gratefull & thankfull hearts for all his continued blessings to our neighbors by dealing justly with and  acting mercyfully & charityfully towards them as we would have them do to us and to ourselves in observing those physiological or hygienic laws which God has ordained for the health of the body which may be summed up in “love to God and love to man”

My wife is quite ill to day she having been ill for 2 or 3 days. But I hope she will soon get better

Feb 4   inspected his bees and found 6 hives where the bees had all died.  Gave Mary Treman 1 ½ lbs of honey.

Feb 8  He attended Meeting at the Methodist House.  Discussion of scripture.Then had a steak dinner at Lydia’s

Feb 10  Paid for tallow and a bushel of buckwheat

Feb 12  He had corn ground at the mill and brought it home for family use but thinks maybe they won’t use all of it for the family

Feb 13  He paid J.C. Letts for pens and penholders

             He paid the negro Salvon 6 cents for a cup of coffee

Feb 15  He attended Meeting at the Presbyterian House .  Kellogg preached

             Jane took his horse and buggy in the afternoon to Waterburg

Feb 17  He brought a plate of nice white honey to A.G Stone and got from him a quart of rummy fluid

Feb 19  He attended at the new Methodist meeting house and there was a sale of pews (I think this was where a church member could but a place to sit in a pew each week).  He and Nathaniel got one with a bid of $200 (Pew #90) However after a discount they got it for $100 or $50 each.  Ayers paid an additional $2.50 to get a deed to the pew.

He paid $1 for “Life Illustrated” to be sent to James Ayers at RockStream Gates County.

Feb 22  He attended the Baptist meeting house.  Old Bacon preached.   Ayers was not feeling well and had a headache and fever

Feb 25  He went to the farm and got 2 young plum trees and 1 pear tree.  He planted them by the woodhouse door.

Feb 26 He attended the funeral of Judge H.D. Barto at the Presbyterian House.  Elder Bacon presided.

March 1  He wrote down all of the money they had on hand $108.92 including some gold.

March 2  It snowed.  Part of the people went on runners and part on wheels

March 6 He attended the Chapter in the evening.   Earlier he had taken his wife out

March 7 He and Raymond went to Ithaca in the buggy.  They paid some debts and he bought a copy of the Ithaca Journal for a relative

March 8  He went to meeting at the Presbyterian house and contributed 10 cents

March 11  He and his wife went to visit Nathaniel and his wife at the farm. While there he went into the woods and measured the wood that 2 different men had cut.  They evidently sold wood by allowing other men to saw on their land.

March 23  He felt unwell and made a hotbed.

March 25  He received $100 from Nathaniel and Oliver Ayers for rent on the farm

March 30  He worked in the garden and planted some onions and Kent peas.

April 7   he went to the annual town meeting and election.  There were Republican and the others were “conglomerated into one  and composed of almost every stripe, those who called themselves democrats and slavocrats Buccanians, niggarites and No Nothings”  

April 8  The Republicans carried  this town yesterday at majorities ranging from 6 to 60

April 16  He went to the Methodist Meeting House to watch them sell pews

               He paid for a Sunday School Book for Jon

April 27  He whitewashed the setting room

May 1  He got his horses shod and two of them had their toes corked

May 4  He planted corn and potatoes in the garden

May 16  His wife went to get her carpet yarn woven

May 18  His wife took the buggy to the farm to see Nathaniel’s first born

May 20  He paid $3.50 for a pair of pantaloons and suspenders to F.S. Dumond

 He hired two men to paper the room on the second story above the setting room.  They painted overhead (ceiling?) and also the overhead of Silas’ bedroom.

May 21  He was sick with a stomach ache, headache and “lassitude”.  They got him some castor oil.

May 25  He bought some fish “succours”

May 28  He gave his land warrant to Elder Bacon who was going out West and took it to locate the land for him

May 29  Nathaniel and Oliver gave them two fish:  one was a succor and the other was a salmon trout

May 30  Raymond and Lydia had his horse and buggy to go to Covent

June 3  He paid Cooper 63 cents to make him some pantaloons

June 4  His wife took the horse and buggy to pick up the carpet being woven for her but it wasn’t done.  She must have gone somewhere else because she was away all p.m.

June 5  He paid Lyman Strowbridge .50 to take his ambrotype and put it in the record

June 15  He separated the beeswax from the comb

June 18  “Wet!  Wet! Wet!”  They had a lot of rain and the ground was saturated.  He and his wife went to the farm.  He trimmed some apple trees.  Then they went to Waterburg to get the carpet

June 19  James Ayers and wife came for a visit.

June 20  They fixed the new carpet down in the kitchen

June 21  He went to Ithaca.  Oliver fetched a horse, put it to his buggy and they went together

June 23  He subscribed $2 for the purpose of “repaiving” the road south of the house

June 25  He agreed to buy 10,000 shingles from A.g. Stone But the deal fell apart.  So he went to Jones’ Shingle Mill near Waterbury and bought shingles there which would be delivered.  .  He bought cloth for a vest from one person, went to another person to have it cut and then went to a woman at Tremley’s to have it sewn

June 27  He fixed a scaffold to the barn and took some shingles down.  He went to the farm and got some cherries and strawberries.   He gathered grass for the horse.

June 30  He hired Hageman to help with the shingling.  They shingled 1/3 of the barn.

July 2  Hageman finished shingling the barn.  Elias paid him $3.75 for 2 ½ days work

July 3  He went to Reading.  Left at 11 ½ oclock and arrived ½ after 5

July 5  Elias L Ayers, the son of James, comes to stay 2 or 3 weeks

July 8  He and his wife went to the Poor House to visit John Gillet.  Elder Bacon and others were there and they had a religious service for the “inmates”

July 10  He went to the farm and got enough grass to make 200 lbs  of hay

July 15  He washed the buggy

July 17  He paid Lyman Strobridge $5 for 25 lbs of butter  The butter came in a crock that they guessed weighed 12 lbs.  When they were done with the butter they planned to weigh the crock and “make it right”.

July 18  Nathaniel brought some side pork and they didn’t pay him.  The Kellogg boy gathered cherries for them and they paid him.

July 24  They had 2 swarms of bees today which makes 4 that they saved

July 27  He washed his buggy and brought it to  Cuffnous for a new spoke and to paint and varnish it for $6

July 28  Julia Dickons (their housekeeper) quit today.  She and his wife had some hard words.  He didn’t understand what it was about

July 30  He took Julia Dickons home beyond Mecklenburg (southwest of Jacksonville)

July 31  We have no hired help now

Aug 2  He went to Meeting at the Presbyterian House.  He didn’t feel well and had pain in his stomach and bowels

Aug 3  He got a new apron for the buggy

Aug 11  Elder Bacon went with him to look at ear trumpets to help Elias hear better.  After looking at them he didn’t think they would benefit him

Aug 27  They were done with the butter and weighed the crock.  It weighed less than they had estimated.  This meant they got more butter than they thought.  So they paid the seller for the difference

Sept 1  He went to Ithaca and from there to William W Ayers at Danby (south of Ithaca) where he found his wife ill

Sept 2  He rode home but his wife was too sick to travel.  He planned to come back in a few days to get her

Sept 6 He returned to Danby to get his wife

Sept 11  He and James went to see Hannah Hovey to get her to work for him  ---“didn’t get her”

Sept 15  Nathaniel and Oliver took his horse tonight to thresh

Sept 25  He went to the Tompkins County Agricultural Fair.  “The last day ladies rode on horseback which was the chief show”

Sept 28  He attended the Lodge

Sept 30  He carried part of his window blinds to Abel & Dickinson’s Shop to get them oiled.

Oct 1  He carried the rest of his window blinds to Abel & Dickinson’s Shop to get them oiled.

Oct 5  Biddy Cushion began to work for them

Oct 7  Attended the first sermon at the Baptist Association

Oct 12   He put a lock on the north room on the second story and after bolting the south room  he  locked the north one and so ? both the large rooms in the second story.  He concluded not to board Jane any longer since he had boarded her 75 weeks.

Oct 16  He bought a Methodist hymn book

Oct 26  Oliver Ayers is boarding with them

Oct 29  He dragged 5 loads of dirt from the road to the yard to make a manure heap

Nov 3  Paid a peddler 24 cents for 3 lbs beef

Their annual election was held and there were 3 parties: republicans, democrats and Americans (? )  Republicans had 195 votes, Democrats 147 and Americans 42.  W.W. Ayers got 215 votes though (cross party voting)  “I voted the republican ticket”  It’s reported that Tomkins County gave 1200 majority for the republicans.  The state is believed to have gone the same way.

Nov 6  Fixed up the stove and pipe in the setting room

Nov 10 The state has gone democratic on the state ticket by about 10000 majority though the legislature is republican.  Therefore Tompkins County is no longer talymanic.

Nov 16  He went to the farm and got buckwheat from Nathaniel.  Took it to the mill to be ground

            He made candles from tallow and beeswax.

Nov 20  He paid Tompkins 38 cents for spectacles

Nov 27  He went to the farm with John Davis and worked at the grape vines.

            James C Ayers son Burnett died last night.

Nov 29  Elias went to Reading for the funeral service of Burnett Ayers.   He got to Mr Raymonds at 1 ½ o’clock p.m.  They started in procession there and went to the Methodist Meeting House in Reading Centre where a sermon was preached .  “I staid all night with James.”

Dec 7  He covered his grape vines and strawberry plants to protect them against the cold

Dec 8  Paid Mary Spalding $3.68 for 28 lbs of butter

Dec 14  Beautyfull red in the west about sun set.  This beauty is free for al to the poor as well as to the rich.  Happy is he who can read the Book of Nature as well as the book of life and discover the same benevolent Creator and preserved in both.

Dec 16  He  fixed L. Strowbridge telescope, attended at D Tremleys  set for a daguerreotype

Dec 17  He  sat again for Tremley to take his  likeness not having good ones yesterday Tremley  took two which Elias took home..  They were not cased yet.

Dec 19  He spaded in the garden.  Hester assigned some time ago.  It’s said that E Hopkins has assigned.  The banks mostly have resumed.

Dec 25  Another anniversary of the birth of Christ 185 years ago when “glad tidings of great joy” was proclaimed to the world.  (Elias writes about Christ and salvation)

December 28 “I attended (symbol of a square) this evening  paid them 25 cents dues.”

December 31 “And thus ends the year 1857 But all created things will have an end and we too must have an end .  We are hastening toward that home from whence no traveler returns.  Hence we may profitably enquire if we have that virtue and knowledge which will resound to our happiness and progress in a state of existence.  Virtue to enable us to acquiesce and conform to God’s moral government .  Knowledge to enable us to understand and advance further in God’s glorious ways and works”

At the bottom of the page “FINIS”

Jan 1 1858  He got some fine linen, could not pay them but would pay for it in a few days when he got some money

Jan 2  He received $250 in farm rent from Nathaniel and Oliver

Jan 6  His sister Mary Treman was visiting.  He drove her to a house near Glen Mills to buy some feathers.  But she bought none.

Jan 9  He paid W.J Stone 4.91 for  39 ¼ lbs of lard

          He varnished some of the best furniture

Jan 10  He went to Ithaca and bought tea, loaf sugar, java coffee, raisins, matches, spectacles

Jan 11  He attended L Kellogg’s pastoral visit.

Journal ends with a lengthy handwritten poem.


This is a very neat old journal / diary.  As always it’s a real experience to read words that were never intended for anyone but the writer. I started skimming it but was drawn into the daily life of Elias Ayers.  He was a hard worker and evidently a successful man.  He seemed to like to make deals, whether by lending money or by trading for goods and services.

He had a farm near Waterburg that he rented to Nathaniel and Oliver, his two sons.  The farm provided wood and fruit and vegetables (although not many vegetables aside from potatoes were mentioned) that Elias and his family could use , sell or trade.

He took meticulous care of his home and horse and buggy.  He was very detailed in writing the names of people he saw, who visited his home and whom he visited.  He also wrote down every cent that he received and paid out on a daily basis.

Finally Elias was a religious man.  I’m not sure why he attended services at the various different churches.  It may be that he served some civic role and didn’t want to show favoritism.  Or as a Christian he perhaps found value in attending the various different services.

There was some drama in his life.  I found the entry about putting locks on the upstairs doors interesting.  And deciding to not let Jane board any more.

I did some basic searches for Elias Ayers and couldn’t find information that I felt was definitely for him and his family.  If anyone has access to ancestry.com or other sources of family history and will send me any updates on Elias I’ll post it at the end of the listing.