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Collection Title: McElrath (Esther Turner) Diary

Collection Number: M141

Dates: January-May 1859

Volume: 1 folder

Provenance: Unknown

Copyright: This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).

Biographical/Historical Sketch:

Scant biographical information has been located on the author of this diary. An Esther J. McElrath is listed in the Deep South Genealogical Quarterly (Volume 5, August 1967, page 3) as having been buried at Redbone Methodist Church Cemetery in Warren County, Mississippi, near Vicksburg. This Esther McElrath was born June 13, 1830, and died November 28, 1859. Whether she is the Ester of this diary is not certain as the surname of her husband, a physician, cannot be clearly deciphered from this photocopy of her diary. Other spellings that are possible for her name are McElrarts, and McElraits.

There is a Dr. McElrath listed in Warren County in 1860. He 50 with a nine-month-old daughter named Hester in his household. He gave his place of birth as Tennessee while the daughter was listed as being born in Alabama.

The 1860 Mortality Schedule records the death of an H. McElrath in May 1860 in Warren County, Mississippi. She was the age 40 and had been born in Alabama.

Warrenton, located seven miles south of Vicksburg, was settled as early as 1802. Incorporated in 1820, it was the county seat until 1836, when Vicksburg gained that position and the population shifted.

Scope and Content:

This diary contains the daily recordings of Esther Turner McElrath who was newly married and living at Warrenton, near Vicksburg, Mississippi in 1859. The diary covers the dates January 3 through May 5, 1859 with some exceptions. Missing are entries for the dates January 26, 27; February 19, 20; April 19-24; April 26-May 3. There are three additional pages of memoranda.

Dr. and Mrs. McElrath received an almost constant stream of visitors and Esther mentions many of them by name, providing the surnames of her neighbors, friends, and relatives.

Of special interest are Esther's recordings of the elements that made up her daily life: her reading materials, shopping lists, menus, entertainments, the family's illnesses and her relationship with her servants.

In late March, 1859 Esther makes reference to a break in the levee, apparently along the Mississippi River, and the resulting flood. In addition, she recorded weather conditions almost daily through the late winter and spring. Also mentioned is the destruction, by fire, of the steamboat "Princess" in late February, 1859.


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Revised: December 8, 2004