SUMMARY OF EBENEZER SPARHAWK’S DIARY, by Dorothy Mitchell McClure.
On the diaries. Ebenezer Sparhawk Jr. (28 May 1764 to 31 Oct 1836) of Rochester VT (here’s how he works into the family tree) kept a diary for 30 years. How Dorothy Mitchell McClure came into possession of the diaries is unknown, other than Ebenezer being gggrandfather of her husband, Albert, but they were quite delicate so she made a summary of them. The diaries were kept in a safe deposit box and I was never privileged to view them but received a copy of the summary. The style of her summarizing changes several times as it progresses, and shortly moves to being primarily direct abbreviated quotes. The transcriptions I’ve made of the summaries aren’t religiously exact as the style of summarizing was confusing at points where it was difficult to distinguish between direct quotes and what were her notations, but the transcriptions are close.
Though summaries, there are numerous accounts of transactions of various types with neighbors and others, accounts of illnesses and deaths, trading and selling of goods, mentions of town meetings, who was preaching, record of his surveying work for the towns and individuals, mixed in with notes on weather (and whether it was exceptional) and general and unusual chores.
One will notice that below some of the years are unlinked, empty, they have no summaries. Why? Well, I scanned all the pages and had them on CD and had begun transcribing them. The photocopy of Dorothy’s summary had been damaged enough over the years that I threw out the notebook that was falling apart. Then, as can happen, something happened to the CD I had the scans of the summaries on. Something happened to a number of my CDs, not just that one. I lost a lot of material. A lot. Not just Dorothy’s summaries of the diaries but other material. This was back in 2003 and it still pains me to remember the loss of those CDs. So, all I had left were the transcriptions that I had completed.
As for the diaries themselves, on Feb 19, 2004, The Herald of Randolph ran a story of them being contributed to the Rochester Historical Society by a member of the family after my grandmother’s death.
Sparhawk Journals Return Home
Over two centuries after they were written in the neat and elaborate script of the day, the journals of Ebenezer Sparhawk Jr. have been returned to Rochester by one of his descendants.
The journals, which were handed down through Sparhawk’s family, first came to the attention of the Rochester Town History Committee 38 years ago, in 1966, when a letter of inquiry came to the town postmaster. That led the committee to have access to material from the journals and thus, the Rochester Town History book, published in 1975, included many interesting entries from those journals.
The owner of the journals at that time was Albert McClure, a descendent of Ebenezer Jr. Albert’s wife, Dorothy McClure, transcribed many of them and Jane Sparhawk, another relative, typed up the transcriptions.
Dorothy valued the journals greatly and thought they should be returned to Rochester after her death. After celebrating her 100th birthday this past October, she developed pneumonia and died Dec. 8, 2003. Her daughter, Betty Kirby, sent the journals to the Rochester Historical Society, causing great excitement among its members.
“What a treasure!” said Mary Davis. “We are so grateful to have them.”
The journals, which span the years 1789-1822, are about 3 1/2 inches by six inches, made of folded paper hand-sewn with thread. They are brown with age and very fragile.
Davis explained that Ebenezer’s father, Ebenezer Sparhawk Sr., was one of the signers of the charter issued for the town July 30, 1781. His intention was to provide land for his sons, Ebenezer Jr. and Henry.
Born May 28, 1764 in Templeton, Mass., Ebenezer Jr. was a teacher, surveyor, carpenter and farmer. A prominent citizen, he was active in church, school, and town affairs. According to his journal, 20 year-old Ebenezer Jr. first arrived in Rochester in the fall of 1784 to view his father’s land.
This was at a time when traveling in the area wasn’t easy. For example, there was only a bridle path through the woods from Royalton to Rochester. North of Rochester, and through to Warren and Waitsfield, the only guide for a traveler was a series of marked trees. However, for the next five years, Ebenezer Jr. traveled back and forth frequently between Templeton, Mass. and Rochester, working his own land and working for others. Finally, in October of 1789, he began framing his house and became a Vermont resident.
It wasn’t until almost 10 years later, on June 23, 1799, when he was 35, that Ebenezer Jr. married. His bride’s name was Azuba Jefferson. Their first child, George, was born in May 1800, followed by a second son, Samuel, in 1802, and three daughters: Priscilla, born in 1803, Polly in 1805, and Naomi in 1807. A third son, Ebenezer III, arrived in 1809, and a fourth, Joseph, (who died at the age of two) in 1811. Two more daughters, Martha, born in 1814, and Louisa, born in 1816, also joined the family.
Ebenezer Jr. died Oct. 31, 1836, at the age of 72. His widow, Azuba, died in 1847 at the age of 68.
Sparhawk’s diaries provide a fascinating look at the everyday activities and special occasions in the early days of a rural Vermont town. They cover births, deaths, marriages, and other family news; farming issues, the building of houses, his work as a surveyor, the weather, the establishment of stage routes, churches and town organizations; trips out of town, business deals, local court cases, state news, the War of 1812, and various milestones for the town.
The Rochester Historical Society Museum, located on the second floor of the Rochester Public Library building, is closed during the winter months, but will have a number of the journals on display when it re-opens June 1.
The historical society members are currently working on plans for their display at the Vermont History Expo at the Tunbridge fairgrounds June 26 and 27. Their subject this year is “Wash Day Circa 1900,” and anyone who has artifacts, photos, etc. they would be willing to share, is urged to contact Mary Davis at 767-4759. New members are always welcome.
By Martha Slater