Pamela Brown at Twenty

Journal Entry

Background Notes

In 1836, Pamela Brown of Plymouth Notch, Vermont turned 20, the oldest of five children still at home. Five of her older brothers and sisters were married, and the sixth, her brother Lakin, was preparing to leave for Michigan. Pamela wrote in her diary almost every day, providing us with a portrait of the life of a sociable young woman in a small community. Pamela’s diary records that she led an active social life. Like many young women in New England, Pamela enjoyed a good deal of freedom to visit friends, socialize with young men, and stay out late at dances.

Unlike young women a couple of decades earlier, Pamela was teaching in the wintertime. By the 1830s, young women in New England were being hired to teach the “winter term,” with students of all ages attending school, as well as the “summer term” for very young children. Thousands of young women kept school in nineteenth−century New England; it has been estimated that between 1830 and 1860 about one−quarter of all Massachusetts women taught school at some point in their lives. Most of them were unmarried and living at home.

Transcription of Primary Source

[December, 1835]

Sat., 19th. Louisa and I finished my cloak. Mother went to Cavendish. I think some of going to Senica Carter’s wedding. I made Marcia’s babe a bonnet and Louisa made me one. Asa Wheeler came to hire me to teach school. I did not engage to go.

Mon., 21st. I finished Marcia’s hood; went to Dr. Carter’s, etc. Father killed his beef. It weighed six

Tues., 22nd. Went to Weston with James Carter. It was fine weather and had a very pleasant ride. Dr. Carter and Marcia went also. In the evening attended Senica’s wedding. Had an agreeable party. Saw some of the tallest ladies I have ever seen…

Wed., 23rd. Returned home from Weston. Found Mother very tired. She had been working. We hear of a great fire in New York City which burned about eight hundred buildings on Wednesday the sixteenth.

Thurs., 24th. Went to Capt. Wilder’s and found Louisa was gone to the store to buy her silk cloak. I
went from there to Marcia’s and worked on Jimmy’s spencer*. In the evening Mrs Cephus Moore
came there upon a visit. Her husband came in the evening. Nelson went to Weathersfield.

[January, 1836]

Tues. 12th. Sewed some. Went with Dr. Carter, Thomas and Marcia to Mrs Hale’s. We had a pleasant visit. Did not get home till one o’clock.

Fri. 15th. Streeter, Thomas, James Carter, Louisa, Susan and I went to Mr. Wooley’s. In the evening there was quite a company of young people there. We had a pleasant visit. Got home about two o’clock. It was a cold blowing night. Found Mr. Orvis and his daughter are here.

Sun. 17th. Read in the Bible some and in the “Last of the Mohicans” some. Went to Mr. Hall’s to board*. I expect to commence teaching school tomorrow and to have one dollar and fifty cents per week.

Mon. 18th. Commenced teaching school. Had about fifteen scholars. I think I shall have a pleasant school. In the evening Nathan read aloud, “Much Ado About Nothing.”

[February, 1836]
Fri. 19th.
After school I called at Nathan Hall’s. Mr. J. Johnson his wife and sister were there. Spent the evening reading newspapers.

Mon. 22nd. Taught school. Had about twenty scholars. Commenced boarding at Mr. Allen’s.

Tues. 23rd. Taught school. Washed Mrs. Alien’s dishes. Knit some, etc.

Wed. 24th. Taught school. Knit some and read some.

Thurs. 25th. Kept school. Snowed and the wind blew very hard. In the evening Mial came in from the mill to play checkers. Knit some and played some.

Fri. 26th. Taught school. James tells me father has received a letter from Lakin. I am very anxious to see it.

Sat. 27th. Taught school. Went home with Tom. Found Mrs Carter at our house sewing. I called at Capt. Wilder’s, Louisa is quite sick.

[March, 1836]

Mon. 7th. Was March meeting* and we were expecting company. I did not keep school. Streeter, Thomas and I went to Mr. Hall’s to a ball. There were thirty−five couples. We staid until about day. I danced until I was about tired of it.

Tues. 8th. …I kept school and was so sleepy and dull I had a very hard time of it to keep the scholars
in order. I went to Moses Hall’s after school. Found Mr. James Hall and wife of Cavendish there.
Went to bed as soon as dark.

[April, 1836]

Fri. 22nd. Quilted a bed quilt. Mrs. Lakin and Mrs. Wilder and Louisa helped me.

Mon. 25th. Wrote to Betsy Smith. Susan wrote to Sally Smith and Louisa wrote Sally Dix. I mended
my woolen gown. It was a warm day.

Tues. 26th. Sewed some. We made a barrel of soap.

Wed. 27th . Washed, etc. Father went to Ludlow.

Thurs. 28th. Father discovered a papule in his nose. He went to Woodstock with Nelson. Dr. Parker
took it out. I sewed and Mother washed.

Fri. 29th. We quilted Susan a petticoat. Father was very low spirited. He staid in the house all day.

[May 1836]

Wed. 18th. Washed and began to piece a calico quilt. Mother went to see Mrs. Conant. Louisa spent
the afternoon with us. Susan made a pie.

Thurs. 19th. Went with Susan to a quilting to W. Whites.

Fri. 20th. Mother went with Dr. Carter to Woodstock. She expects to stay with Mrs Fletcher till
Sunday. I am about sick today. I took too long a walk yesterday.

Sun. [Mon.]23rd. Began to tambour* me a lace bag to put over silk. Mr. Green came and engaged
me to teach school in his district for three months. I am to have a dollar a week and to begin next

Tues. 24th. Worked on my work bag. Josephine Hall came to see me. She stays all night.

Wed. 25th. Worked on my bag. Washed the woolen clothes. Mother went to see Mrs Hall avisiting.

Thurs. 26th. Worked on my bag. Went to the store with Sally.

Fri. 27th. Finished my bag and helped quilt me a petticoat.

[June, 1836]

Sat. 25th Received an invitation to go to Ludlow to Independence. Think I shall go. Nelson and
Elmina went and carried me home after school. We all went to the store. Mr. Moulton and one of the
David brothers was out from Windsor and while we were at the store Mrs Orvis and Catherine came.
After tea Nelson and Elmina went home. John Squires came with a load of goods.

Sun. 26th Helped get breakfast and did the work. Susan and I dressed and went to meeting half of the
day. Davis preached. I did not like him a all. Betsy Morgan, Mrs C. Moore, Joel Slack and Nelson
Earle came home with us at noon…

Tues. 28th Commenced boarding at the Hostley’s. Took a pair of the stockings I knit for Lake last
winter and pulled out the toes and knit shorter as they were too long. A very warm day. A shower
towards night.

[July 1836]

Fri. July 1st I hear that Louisa is very sick indeed and that her life is not expected. I feel very anxious to see her. It is a year today since John Wilder died. Mr. Sargent is to be buried today. I cannot attend the funeral on account of my school. Fri. night I have seen the boy that lives with Cephus Moore. He says Louisa is better. I am very glad…

Mon. 4th. Went with Nelson Earle to Ludlow. There was a celebration of our Independence. All the
young people were there from this part of town and none from our neighborhood but Thomas. He
carried Euridice Boynton. It rained some but upon the whole we had a pleasant time and enjoyed
ourselves very well…

Wed. 20, After school I rode home one of Mr. Headley’s horses. Lakin and Dr. Carter are preparing
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to start for the west in the morning. Mother and all the rest are very tired.

Thurs. 21st. Father and Mother, Dr. Carter and Lake started about nine o’clock. Father and Mother
are going as far as Saratoga and Nelson and Lakin are bound for Michigan. I staid and saw them start
and then came back to my school.

Sun. 24th. Elmina and I laid abed very late. They had hardly got the work done before James Merrill,
Joel Slack and Thomas Fletcher came in. They staid and talked and sang an hour or two. Then we all
walked down to the “Five Corners” where we met Solomon Carlisle, H Willis, the two Briggs and
Charlotte Duncan. Staid there and sang a few tunes and then walked up to Mr. Pinney’s. Adeline
came part way home with us. When we came home Elmina and I were tired enough to go to bed and
rest the rest of the day after our long walk.

[August, 1836]

Fri. 19th. Hannah was taken sick. Dr. Crowley staid with her all afternoon. Cool and rainy. My time
is out. I expect to close my school tomorrow.

Sat. 20th. Lorena, Elmina and Eliza came into school. I feel very sorry to have them all dismissed
school. Joel Grover brought me home.

[September, 1836]

Mon. 5th. Spun six skeins and began me a pair of stockings.

Tues. 6th. Town Meeting. Mrs Boynton, Mrs Weston, Mrs Page, Mrs Earle, Mrs Slack and Mrs Moors visited here. Helped Mother about the house. Mr. Orvis and John are here.

Thurs. 8th. Spun two skeins and worked on my veil. Marcia and I went to the post office for a letter
but found none.

Sun. 11th. I am twenty today. A rainy day. Heston took dinner with us. He appears as he always did.

[October, 1836]

Tues. 18th` Began a pair of blue shoes for me to wear to the ball. After worked about the house. Mr.
Wheeler’s wife was here from Cavendish.

Wed. 19th. Twisted* some and helped Mother do the work. Went to Mr. Conant’s. Helped them
some about packing their things for Michigan. Their whole family stay here tonight. Sally Bond is
here. Mr. and Mrs Wheeler stay at Capt. Wilder’s.

Thurs. 20th. Mr. Conant and family commenced their journey. Rained very hard all the forenoon.
Started off in the afternoon and Mr. and Mrs Wheeler and Sally Bond returned to Cavendish. Susan
and I went to the ball.

Fri. 21st . Returned home a little after light. We had an excellent ball. Susan and I lay a−bed most of
the day but Thomas went to digging potatoes. I believe, however, he would have liked well to have
staid a−bed. Mial called to see us a few minutes.

Wed. 26th. Spun yarn all day. In the evening Uncle Bassett, Lydia and Fitch came here. They stay
here tonight on way to Albany. Lydia and Fitch are going to school. Their father is to return after
seeing them to Manchester. Mr. and Mrs Culver here tonight. They are going to Weston.

Thurs. 27th. Our friends this morning to commence their respective journeys. I spooled yarn as
yesterday. Mial called and gave Susan and I an invitation to ride with him to the singing school*
Saturday. I think we will go.

Fri. 28th. Twisted fifty knots of cotton yearn and washed my pongee* gown.

Sat. 29th. Commenced making me a muslin cape. Susan and I went with Mial to the singing school.
The house was crowding full. Had a good time and returned home about ten o’clock. Mial leaves
tomorrow for New York.

[November, 1836]

Fri. 4th Mrs Moore and I called at Mrs Kimball’s and at Mrs Hubbard’s about ten o’clock. Mrs Slack
went with us to Mr. Earle’s where we staid till most night when we returned home. Had one of the
best visits I ever had in my life. We have received a letter in my absence from brother James. He
writes sister Sally had a son born the 12th, of Oct. and that Father and Dr. Carter will start for home
in a few days.

Sun. 6th. Mr. Johnson preached at the schoolhouse. Thomas, Marcia and Susan attended but as I had
the toothache I staid at home and read Hamlet. Mrs Moore came home with the girls after meeting
and took tea with us. Mrs Beadell and her children were here most of the day.

Tues. 8th. Worked about the house some, etc. Mother, Marcia and Susan went to Mr. Beadell’s to a
quilting. There was a Town meeting at the schoolhouse. Joel Slack and Nelson Earle came home with
Thomas and took tea with us.

Wed. 9th.` Prepared my clothes to go to a party to Mr. Earle’s tonight. Old Mrs Lynds died today.
Father returned from his journey to Michigan about two o’clock this afternoon…

Wed. 16th. Wrote to Lephia. Sewed, etc. Two years since I returned from Michigan.

Thurs. 17th. Worked about house and sewed some. Thomas, Susan and I went to an evening party at
Cephus Moore’s.

Sat. 19th. Sewed, etc. Susan and I made an evening visit at Thomas Moore’s. Addison and Clarissa
Pollard with their cousin Ruth Felt were there…

[December, 1836]

Fri. 30th. I hear they have a party at Capt. Wilder’s and as I have no invitation I hope Thomas and
Susan will not go. Taught school and knit, etc.

Sat. 31st. Moses Hall carried me home after school. Father and Mother, also Dr. Carter and Marcia
have gone today to Cavendish. Mr. Doton is boarding at our house. I like his appearance very well.

Husband: Thomas Page b. 1779
Wife: Sally Parker b. 1782
Betsy m. James Smith, before 1832
Sally Experience b. 1807, m. John Dix, 1835
Ebenezer Lakin b. 1809
Lephia b. 1811, m. Asa Brigs Brown, 1832
Thomas b. 1812, m. Salley Wooley
Marcia b. 1815, m. Dr. Horatio Nelson Carter, 1832
Pamela b. 1816, m. Dr. Nathan Thomas, 1840
Joseph b. 1819, d. 1828
Susan b. 1821
James b. 1824
George b. 1829


  • board − meals and a place to sleep. It was usual in the early 19th century to provide “board” for schoolteachers, apprentices and other workers.
  • March meeting − town meeting
  • pongee − a chinese silk used for clothing and curtains
  • singing school − music classes sponsored by people interested in improving quality of singing at church services; social gatherings for young people
  • spencer − a short jacket constructed like a tailcoat but without the tails
  • tambour − to embroider with a chain stitch using a circular frame formed of one hoop fitting inside another that looks like a drumhead
  • twisted − plied; spun two or more threads together to produce a stronger and heavier yarn

Curator Notes

Exact Title: 
The Diaries of Sally and Pamela Brown 1832−1838
28, 31, 34−35, 39, 41, 44−45, 47, 51, 53, 56−59, 63
Selected entries from Pamela Brown’s Diary. Edited by Old Sturbridge Village.
Bryant, Blanche Brown and Gertrude Elaine Baker
William L. Bryant Foundation
Place of Publication: 
Springfield, Vermont
Old Sturbridge Village