The Diary of Hannah Ditzler Alspaugh (Page 3)
Naperville, Illinois 1848-1873
Excerpts from her diaries, published in "A View of Historic Naperville," from The Sky-Lines, articles by Genevieve Towsley, published in the Naperville Sun Newspaper. Consent to reprint graciously given by Sun Publications, July 20, 1999. Thanks beyond words to Sun Publications and Ms. Towsley for this wonderful contribution! The original ledgers amounted to 500 pages. All notes in italics are Ms. Towsley's comments. Please read additions and corrections submitted by family members.
The Last Chapter...
"Jan. 9- The new school term began today. We girls were passed to the high school room- the north upper room that used to be the Masonic hall. It is furnished nicely, like a parlor. Raised platform across south side. Boys door on east end- girls on west. Miss Cunningham has formed a calisthenics class.
"Feb. 23- Today I am 17 years old. Lydia was over and gave me 17 slaps...
"March 15- Only a few in school, river is so high. No school in P.M. At noon we went down town to see the river. Water is up to New York house (northeast corner of Jackson and Main) and the dam is carried away and the iron bridge (Washington street).
"March 16- This was our examination day. No one failed.
"March 17- Got up early to iron Sarah Rose's pink dress that I will wear in exhibition and program...The hall was crowded. Eli said the exhibition was very good. It makes me feel sad that it is over. I feel like crying. (1925- That was the last of our school days. We received no diplomas but stepped forth from our Alma Mater ready to battle with the trying scenes of life.)
Hannah's light-hearted school days ended when she was 17, but she was to have many more years of association with her beloved "academy" as a teacher. Her personal joys and sorrows are expressed in her diary, as well as events of the village and the nation.
"April 3- There was a great time in town- ringing of bells and shooting because Richmond is taken from the Rebels.
"April 10- News came General Lee surrendered, so there was a great time in town. No school, and the school girls marched around town with red, white and blue badges. boys made a man of straw and rags, calling it Jeff Davis. It was hauled around the streets. Stores were closed and decorated with tri-colors...In the evening the streets were alive with people. Fireworks shot off and the effigy burned...
"April 15- Eli brought the painful news that President Lincoln is dead...I hope the murderers will be caught. Everybody is in sorrow. All public places are draped in crepe, also some private homes. Met Eli Richert. He said Joe Weaver is wounded in both legs. (Joe was the brother of Hannah's "soldier boy", D.R.W.)
"May 2- Eli was in Chicago yesterday when Lincoln's funeral car arrived. It was blue like the sky and studded with stars, and an eagle perched on the top. The coffin was draped in black and drawn by 10 span of black horses, a Negro on each horse...On one side of the coffin was the Goddess of Liberty, holding a shield in one hand and the other hand to her eyes- weeping for a martyr President.
"May 5- Met Mr. Richmond and he offered me one of the classes to teach. I was so surprised. Several girls have applied but I never thought of such a thing. Mr. R. once told father he was going to make a teacher out of me, and now he has offered me a class, bless him.
"June 15- Just as I was through ironing, who should come but my soldier boy! The long watch waS over. He stayed a long time. Went to Nortons, too, for he was Henry's best friend, but came back to dinner. He has black hair and mustache, but his sparkling eyes are not dark. Was dressed very nicely, however. After dinner he went away with Eli.
"June 18- Went to church and S.S. D was there and he joined us on the way home. He asked me to go to a dance at Wheaton, but my parents would not allow it.
"June 21- D had invited me to go to Plainfield with him. I wore my green shirt and checked waist and one [?] up my hair in a waterfall with crimson bow. At 8 a.m. he came with a nice top buggy and we had a nice ride...Started back at 3 started home but stopped at Aunt Betsy's for supper.
"Afterward drove way around by Copenhagen, he said 'to have a longer ride.' It was dark when we arrived home...Never, while life lasts, will there ever be a day so sweet in my memory. I would give all my years if I could live over that ride once more. (The last remarks were written 65 years later!)
"June 23- D. came while mother was at Mrs. Buck's funeral...He tried to kiss me and I ran away. He gave me his photo.
"June 25- another nice ride with D. Back at home on he back porch I was caged within his arms as he stole a kiss. He leaves for Waterloo tomorrow.
"June 26- I went to the depot when he and his sister Mary left. We had our last chat and promised to write each other . Then came farewell...It proved to be forever. The correspondence was pleasant, but why I dropped it, I cannot tell. And now I have a lifetime to regret...(Again and again, as Hannah was copying her journal, she adds remarks, including "my heart still aches and yearns," that emphasize her everlasting regret.)
"Sept. 13- Forenoon saw Mr. Richmond and he asked me to take a class downstairs. Said I should begin this noon! In P.M. I went over and began my first school with a trembling heart. I have 30 scholars.
"Nov. 13- The Catholic church is dedicated today. We closed school in the forenoon and went. The bishop came from Chicago. There was a big crowd and a host of colors and vestments, banners, etc.
"Dec. 9- Eve I went to church and saw Lib and Em kneel at the seekers' bench. Lydia was converted and is very happy. She spoke to me about her conversion.
"Dec. 15- I wish I was a Christian. Now is such a good opportunity as all my friends go forward. Lydia says, 'Just think, Hannah, if you should die!'
"Jan. 3, 1866- Rev. Gossele (of the Evangelical church) as here and talked religion till I cried.
"Jan. 18- To church in eve. A stranger preached. Lib came and spoke to me and I broke down. Something within me said 'Go,' and very soon my Heavenly Father forgave me all my doubts and sins, and I broke out in laughter. Everybody seemed to rejoice.
"Jan. 19- Went to church this eve and sat with converted. It grew late and Maria D. was stiff, so they carried her to the next room. It was 11:30 before she came to...
"March 1- April 13 give daily accounts of a severe illness.
"May 4- School closed because of small pox. It is spreading all over town.
"June 7- Before breakfast a gentleman with a long linen coat came to our east door. It proved to be my cousin John Alspaugh, a son of Uncle Sam, from Ohio. I was so flustrated I dropped the frying pan with potatoes! He was here most all day, and I entertained him the best I could, as mother was gone. (This was her first meeting with the cousin who would become her husband 24 years later!) He and his parents visited the many Naperville relatives for two weeks.
"March 24, 1867- I have studied all week. Yesterday was examination day. Only a few passed and received their teachers' certificates. I was one of the lucky ones.
Hannah named this picture "The Three Graces." Taken in September 1867,
it includes (left to right) Lill Gephard, MAte Tobias, and Hannah.
"July 13- Eliza called for me and we wore our brand new gowns. At the depot a big crowd, about 150, waited for the excursion train to Chicago. Lots of the tony people went, too. In the city Mary and I went to Aunt Hannah's on the (horse) cars. Mrs. Richmond said they took a boat excursion to Evanston.
"Oct. 20- We had company to supper. The Eshers and cousin John. The older folks went to church but John stayed home with me and we had a good visit...I little thought that I would some time be his wife and write this in his home. (This is the beginning of frequent references to 'John'. His family had moved to Naperville from Ohio, but he remained interested in a Jennie Glick in his former home.)
"January 13, 1869- Quite a tragedy occurred in town last night. As C.B___ came home unexpectedly he found J.L______ with Mrs. B_____, and B___ shot L_____ 3 or 4 times as he rushed out of the house. He fell dead at the gate. How shocking! How she must feel to be the cause of his death...Mrs. B___ is a fine looking woman but never liked her husband, L_____ was carried into the B___ house and a jury was called, and a doctor. Funeral by Masonic order will be tomorrow...it's in the Chicago papers.
"Sept. 3- John starts east to be married to Jennie Glick. (He and Jennie had tow children- Noel and Phoebe- who were grown before Jennie died and John married Hannah in 1890. A scrap of Jennie's grey wedding dress is attached to the journal page.)
"Sept. 6- School opened today. I have 53 scholars and get $6.00 a week...Room so full have little seats in aisles...
"Dec. 11- Celia Babcock is here. After we got upstairs she told me she and Eli are engaged. I'm glad she will be my sister.
(Hannah's handwriting grows less legible as she prefaces the copying of her 1870 diary with: "After resting a long, long time, I again take up the task of copying records of bygone days. It is Sept. 14, 1931).
"Jan. 25, 1870. Today the committee is to locate the college. Town is full of people and great interest is taken.
"Feb. 17- I went with Jennie Alspaugh (John's wife) to concert at Hunt's Hall. It was splendid.
"May 17- Today the cornerstone of the college is laid...We had no school and I went. A big crowd and temporary seats over piles of stone.
"June 22- Eli's wedding day. He and I went on 8:17 train. Wore my new suit with pink bow and hair ribbon, hat to match and hair curled nicely. At West Lyons rode to house in dray wagon. The ceremony was at 11 o'clock, followed by congratulations and dinner. Celia wore a dark dress as she was in mourning for her father.
"July 20- Arrived in Waterloo to visit Mary and Eli Richert...D.W. knew I was coming and came to greet me. I composed myself and shook hands...He asked me to come to his home, but he can not know what a trial it would be to see his wife...(He had married in 1866, much to Hannah's sorrow. She remained six weeks in Iowa).
(Hannah's writing grows more illegible as she copies snatches as late as 1934, when she was 86! Sometimes she comments, "I can not see," or "the writing grows dim." The 1870 record ends with Aug. 30, when Hannah returned from Iowa to Naperville. There are none for 1871 and 1872. Entries for the month of January, 1873, are the last that Hannah copied. They speak of revival meetings and once again she "went the the alter...my burden was lifted." On the 29th- one of the final entries was- "Snowed, 30 degrees below zero." The end of that year Hannah went to California to visit her sister Libbie, according to the record of letters from Libbie in Oct. 1873 and Feb. 1874.
Tucked in the journal is a letter from Hannah's nephew's wife- Mrs. Guy Ditzler- telling of Hannah Alspaugh's death on June 18, 1938. she was 90 years old.
The End My postscript...I hope you have enjoyed Hannah's diaries as much as I enjoyed transcribing them in 1999. When I first read the diaries I was surprised to discover that the Celia and Eli mentioned in my great-grandfather's diaries were Hannah's brother, Eli Ditzler and his wife, Celia Babcock Ditzler. My great-great grandmother, Sarah Ellis Sabin's sister, Emerancy, married widowed Lyman Babcock of West Lyons (the place of Celia and Eli's wedding). Celia became Emerancy's step-daughter. Since 1999, I have enjoyed long and dear friendships with distant cousins (and cousins-in-law) who were related to the Ditzlers and Babcock families. My graditude and admiration are immense, for Hannah herself, and for Genevieve Towsley for reprinting the exerpts, giving us a fascinating window into Hannah's world.