Friday, April 16, 2010

Excerpts form our NEW Book

MY CENTENNIAL DIARY: A Year in the Life of a Country Boy
by Earll K. Gurnee, Skaneateles, New York, 1876

published by New York History Review
available at

My Centennial Diary is the journal of 18-year-old Earll Kilbourne Gurnee of Sennett, New York - two miles from downtown Skaneateles. Earll was born on January 28, 1858 in Madison, Wisconsin, the son of Robert and Lucy Ann (Kilbourne) Gurnee. The family moved to New York in 1863 to be closer to his grandparents Caleb and Cynthia Brown on West Lake Road in Skaneateles, New York. When he was sixteen, his parents purchased a farm on Franklin Street Road. He attended the Skaneateles Academy in the 1870s.

January, Saturday 1. 1876.
The morning opened dark and foggy, but not cold. Mud from ½ to 2-feet-deep. Toward noon the weather cleared and the balance of the day was excruciatingly fine and warm. Thermometer 60 degrees throughout the day. At 12 last night the Centennial was ushered in with ringing of bells and shouting and screeching from many voices. Many business places were illuminated. A large amount of Whiskey was probably consumed as many were hilarious and a few pugilistic. In fact, I deemed it imprudent to leave the vicinity of the store for fear of violence and consequently paid O’Grimes one dollar to stay the night.

January, Sunday 2. 1876.
School commences tomorrow after a week’s vacation - which spent sawing wood. Pa plowed yesterday and I plowed day before yesterday in the big meadow.

January, Monday 3. 1876.
I went to school today – had to walk for Pa plowed. Week ago today we sawed down an elm tree which measured 100 feet up to where the longest limb was 6 inches. Through it was about 4 feet through where we sawed it off and made five logs about 12 [feet] long.

January, Tuesday 4. 1876.
Attended school today – had pretty good lessons. It has frozen up and I walked to school. The roads are dreadful rough.

January, Wednesday 5. 1876.
I sapose I must write something as I did not have any diary until several days of the new year had passed away. I have to “think up” what has passed and all I can remember is that I went to school. I went down to the schoolhouse and heard the spelling “nine” practice. [A spelling bee played in baseball terms – as in nine players on a team.] Chauncey Clark is the champion. He is also catcher. Edd went home with F which made me fearful jealous.

January, Thursday 6. 1876.
Examination commenced today. I was examined in Arithmetic the first thing in the morning. There were 8 examples all of them quite easy. I omitted two of them for want of more time. In the afternoon I was examined in Algebra – five questions and five examples was all that was given. I guess I answered all of them correct. School closed at half past two. Will Durston’s spelling nine from Willow Glen and Edd Powell’s nine from our own district meet for a spelling contest tonight. I am to be “scorer.”

January, Friday 7. 1876.
Examination continued today. I was examined in Grammar – do not believe I “passed.” I was also examined in Reading and Spelling. I was pronounced “excellent” which is next to the highest. 100 words were pronounced in Spelling. I returned two library books (one for myself and one for F. Powell) and got two more viz. Seek and Find and Palace & Cottage. Edd won the prize last night although Will’s nine made a good show. Addie Durston was “pitcher.” I scored with the aid of Charley Signor. I found it quite a job but an interesting one. Edd’s side spelled 3 words more than Will’s in eleven innings. Mr. and Mrs. Devit went up to Cream Hollar today [Cream Hollow Road, Niles, New York]. Emmett came down after them. Bought this diary today for ½ price at Wallace’s.