HARTINGTON — The Pages of History column featured in a recent issue of the Cedar County News, quickly caught the attention of a local resident.
Cedar County historian Roger Tryon included notes that had been written in a diary over 140 years ago.
The historic records were kept by Oma (Andrews-Pfund) Jacobsen’s pioneer grandparents, Daniel and Victoria Starks.
The couple settled in 1870 on a homestead three miles east of Coleridge, which at that time did not exist — the Village of Coleridge was not established until 1883.
“The minute I saw the article in the paper I knew it was my grandparents,” Jacobsen said. “I was born in the house that Dan and Victoria Starks lived in — they were my grandparents.”
The early diaries that were kept by her grandparents and later by her mother, Ruth Starks Andrews are now in the possession of Jacobsen.
Jacobsen keeps her ancestors’ tradition alive by continuing to write notes each day and adding them to the large collection of diaries, although she had never planned on taking on that responsibility.
“I had told my mother I didn’t care what she did with them, but I did not want to keep them up,” Jacobsen said. “At first my older brother, Lee Andrews, was going to get them, then after he died they were supposed to go to my other brother, Dick Andrews.”
Jacobsen’s mother outlived both of her sons so the diaries eventually were inherited by Jacobsen as she was the only child left that was living in Cedar County.
Jacobsen has chosen an appropriate place to store nearly 40 books of notes and diaries, along with scrapbooks filled with news clippings. She has them in a cedar chest she received in 1950.
The notes were written each day and have been kept in a variety of books that includes five-year diaries, notepads, a spelling tablet and a 1930 Pandick Diary. The writings include information on the weather, visitors, plowing, hauling hay, picking corn and cutting wood.
Some interesting items pop out as a person leafs through the old diaries.
In 1902, hogs were for sold for $5 and the Starkses sold 14 dozen eggs receiving 16 cents for each dozen.
In 1909, the diaries show there was an 18-inch snowfall and later that year recorded the date “the first bees swarmed” along with a note saying “Pa and the boys going to town.”
Earlier diaries talk about traveling by wagon train and the hardships of living in a place where there was nothing but prairie grass and antelope.
The diaries tell how at first the Starkses had been bothered by the Indians who traveled through Cedar County.
Jacobsen remembers hearing her family talk about the day her grandfather was gone and some Indians stopped at their homestead. Her grandmother was home with two of their children.
“They couldn’t understand what each other was saying but Grandma gave the Indians some bread. Grandma just about went nuts when they took her son when they left,” Jacobsen said. “After the Indians left they killed a deer and cut the liver out. They sent my grandma’s son back home with the liver wrapped in the deer skin. It was the Indians’ way of saying thanks for the bread.”
Jacobsen said her grandfather would carry mail from St. James and would often stay overnight with Henson Wiseman, who lived in a log house near St. James. Several of the Wiseman children were massacred by Indians.
Jacobsen found an entry that tells about the day she was born.
“It says Ruth sick all day — baby girl,” Jacobsen said. “The only way I know it is the day I was born is because it is the same day as my birthday.”
Jacobsen said her mother cherished the diaries and continued to write in them after her parents died.
“My mother would not let us read them when we were little,” Jacobsen said. “She did a good job of keeping the diaries up. She valued them from the start.”
Jacobsen is concerned about some of the earlier books as the pages are getting fragile.
Keeping a daily diary set Jacobsen’s grandparents, Victoria and Daniel Starks, apart from other settlers.
Excerpts from the diaries have been published a number of times in the Laurel Advocate, Cedar County News, Coleridge Blade, Mike McCoy’s History of Cedar County and the Coleridge Centennial Book (1983).
Jacobsen hasn’t made a final decision on what will happen to the historic diaries down the road but she does have an idea.
“I think they should go to the museum,” she said.