Thomas Miner Diary

The diary of Thomas Miner is a unique memorial of daily life in 17th Century New England.  Almost all other writing from the period concerns religious and legal matters.  Although the entries are terse and never give details, they do give us a glimpse into his daily events and community activities. He records many births, marriages, and deaths among his neighbors.  He meticulously records the day of the week, the number of days in the month and the year, for no doubt this served as his only calendar. He entered the date when a field was planted and its yield, for this would guide him in his planting the following year; unusual weather conditions such as “a great snow” or “bitter cold” made his diary truly his farmer’s almanac. The death of his 21-year-old son is reported in simple and unemotional language, though it must have caused him considerable pain. He makes brief notes of some of his financial transactions.

Thomas Miner - Diary Page

It is quite probable that after the death of Thomas Miner, his son Manasseh Miner may have considered it his duty to continue a diary as long as possible.  Manasseh’s diary covers 1696 – 1720 and is available on Ancestry.com.

To give you a flavor of the diary, here is an entry for 1654 (spelling, punctuation as in the original):

The first month is march .1654 and hath .31 days wensday the first friday the third John went to Coneticut & tusday the .7. I made an End of hewing of timber at the mill brooke  watch came backe from Coneticut and wensday the eight I begun to plow the wheat land and monday the .13. I made an End of sowing pasnepes and monday the .22. I looked for the swine and wensday .29. I vewed Cary lathams farm and friday .31

The above entry represents one month.  It is somewhat difficult to track in detail what is happening in the diary – places aren’t identified in a recoverable way, and it is in many ways a listing of agricultural highlights, with occasional visitors or other events mentioned.

In a typical month, Miner’s business could run the gamut from farmer to selectman, and from husband to member of the trainband. [in those days double ff meant the same thing as today’s capital F]

The third moneth is may and hath .31 days  The ffirst is svath day: the 5 day I was at The ffarme and Ephraim with me  ffryday the 6.  I was planting Corne in the playne.  The .7th day manaseth and Hames Averie Came heare sabath day the .8 mr noyce said he must goe abroad I put up a paper on the meetinghouse doore the 10. day the Two mares ffolled: the 12 day I made an end of plowing the 14. day I Ended the litle house sabath day the 15. and sabath day the 22. I was come ffrom stratford monday 23. I covered the oven and sabath day 29.  The .27. day I was at new London hanah and marie with their Children came whome with me monday 30. we sheered our sheep Tuesday 31. The 25. day wensday the Leeftenant tooke the Charge of the Company in the ffield p. 96 [1670]

It does give some picture of local life in places, though; for instance:, from pages 8-9:

Sabiantwosucke promised the .30. of desember befor mr stanton and tomus shaw to make Watch a canoow for that which I had and to bring me six pecks of nunup (Indian word for beans).

By 1668, when this selection from his journal was written, Miner, his wife Grace, and their children were living in what is now Stonington, a town on the Connecticut coast. Indians lived nearby, and the journal shows Miner and his family interacting with them. Miner was a farmer, and he also had a number of public responsibilities including town treasurer, leader of the militia, selectman, and brander of horses. He also participated in church and in town meetings. This selection records one year in Miner’s life. He began the year in March, as people in England and New England did until the mid-eighteenth century. While his spelling is idiosyncratic and therefore difficult to read, the journal is a valuable record of how written English looked at that time—and probably also of how Miner pronounced his words.

The ffirst month is march & hath .31. d: sabath day the first and in the first after the leap yeare and from the Creation .5617. and the yeare .1668. and the 20th yeare of the reinge of our lord King Charels the second the .6. day Thomas Tracie and leaffingwell was heare the .7. dai I branded .2. Coults [colts] I sowed hemp & pease in the orchard sabath day the .8. day: sabath day the 15. The 13. I was at mr palmes I had A barell of mallases [molasses] wensday the 18. we made an End between Jossepth & Marie Averie monday the 30 day I ffecthed [fetched] my wifes mare and 26. day Thursday we trained fryday .31.

The second moneth is Aprile and hath 30 days wensday the ffirst we sowed pease in the plaine & wheate: the 7. day we had a towne meeting wensday the .8 I gardned the .9 day I mended the Brige & was at Tagwoncke The 14. day it snowed and the 15 day being wensday ye 16 day we plowed ffor segamoot in the plaine The 20 day mr Brewster and mr star was heare I marked the red mares Coult wensday the .22. I sowed fflax the 23 I was with mr noyce to pay him it was wet.

The third moneth is may and hath .31. days ffriday the first Thursday I was at black hall [Black Hall, a coastal town west of Stonington] John [his son] came hither ffriday the 8. the .11. day I was at norig [Norwich] and burnt my bill: the 12. day John went Away I was to goe to the Court the 14 day was the Electun [election] ffriday the 15 The 17 day I was sicke the 22 I was at Courte the being ffriday monday 25 I came whome [home] the 30 day I paid thee firkin of buter to badcok sabath day 31. [[A firkin was a quarter barrel. Butter and soap used to be sold by the firkin, too. In these cases it was a measure of weight, instead of volume: e.g., 56 lb and 64 lb respectively]

The fouerth moneth is June and hath .30. days monday the ffirst: The .4. I came from new london the same day I received .3 letters ffrom bristoll & monday the 8 I was caring wood the tenth I was lookeing horses Monday the .15 hanah [his daughter] went to Tagwonck The same day was a towne meeting to Chuse a Constable Thomas wheeler was Chosen my lot drawne and the 18 day we ended all about our ffarmes agedowset his five ackers [acres] laid out and he and I exchanged monday 22. the 23 day I was branding horses 24 day my wife came whome sicke ffrom Tagwouncke monday 29 I had mowed most of my orchard Tusday the 30 I was to go to New london we Killed the catle.

July is the fift moneth and hath .31. days wensday the first Thursday mr hill was maried the second day wensday the 8. I was at Crandals mill ffriday the .10. we had our ffloore laid I had ffouer loads and halfe of hay in the baren wee wer [sentence unfinished] Tusday the 14 Cap denison nehemiah palmer & Tho minor was Chosen to make the Contrie Rate and lists the 15 day we made the Contrie Rate being wensday the 17 day I was at pocatuck [Pawcatuck] the 20 day monday Josepth [his son] had Twentie six shillings of wamppum and wensday the 22. 23 I had 2 load of pease into the barne the .25 day saterday we had all our oates & pease into the barne Rachell mason was heare wensday 29. Tho bell came to worke my wheat came all downe ffriday 31 I was at badcoks

The sixt moneth is Agust and hath .31. days saterday the ffirst we tooke all our fflag out of the water the ffifte day wensday I was at Crandals mill saterday the .8. Crandall and his wife was heare we had Ten load of hay whome monday 10 I went to bostowne with the oxen saterday the 15 monday the 17 I came whom from bostowne and saterday 22 I ffecthed the litel Reeck with the .2. steer: and The .27. we had ale our hay whome. 28. we gathered aples saterday .29. I writ letters to Bristoll monday 31.

The seventh moneth is september and hath .30. days Tusday the ffirst saterday the .5. we set up the place for to put corn in monday the 7 we gathered hops Tusday the 8 Thomas perke was heare The 11 I was at new london monday the 14 the Towne meeting about parkers land Tusday the 15. the 17 day I was at the Courte saterday I came whome Tusday .22. the Jurie was discharged Thursday the 24 was our Traing day: .36. was ffined when we came to the Top of the greate hill we met Thomas perk and his sonn Thomas perk and Robert holmes it Rained and wensday the 30 we made an End of carring of indean corne

The Eight moneth is october and hath .31. days Thursday the ffirst the secon day wee chose deputees p’fected our list: mr Richerdson discovered Captaine gookin his horse the .8. day John his wife and Children was heare my wife and I was at london and let the Catele to John keny Thursday the .15 ffriday the 16 John & the Rest went away the 7 day of this moneth John ffish was hurt and Thursday The 22. I make an End of Shuflin in the yard the .18 day mr Thorneton Taught heare thursday .29. we wer to traine

The ninth moneth is november and hath .30. days and sabath day the ffirst The 4 day we delivered the mares to nathaniell Cooper sabath day the .8. mr noyce came whome the 9 day I sent to John and sabath day the 15 the 16 day we broke our wheel Caring muck the 17 day we gathered Turneps we had bushels wensday the 18 was A day of Thanksgiving sabath day 22 the high Tide was sabath 29 mr noyce apoynted the 30 day of december to be a day of ffasting and debate being wensday month and munday the 30 we laid out 300 ackers of land ministrie

The tenth moneth is december and hath .31. days Tusday the ffirst we laid out 200 ackers of land for the ministry The third day the .2. snow and Elisha Cheesbroughs son was borne the 6 day my wife ffell of the mare at the Cart brige the 7 day we looked land the 8 day Tusday I was at the Captaines and gallops the 15 day tusday the 3. snow I begun to thresh and wensday the 4 snow my sons went to new london Tusday the .22. I was at new london Thursday .24. I arested shumatuck 26 day williams was heare

The 16 day of November 1669 Thomas park Junior ffetched a barell of sider and one bushell of apples that was the Just sume ffor the house building

The leventh month is Januarie and hath .31. days ffriday the ffirst and ffriday the eight I tooke up my bay horse The 13 day mr noyce Captaine and his wife was heare the 14 day Ephraim and marie was heare and ffecthed wood the ffifteen ffriday The 20 day wensday The meeting was at our house ffriday 22 The snow melted all away the 23 day we ffecthed wood ffriday the 29 and sabath the .31.

The 25 day of ffebruarie .1668. there was due to me Thirteen shillings from Thomas bell.

The Twelvth moneth is ffebruary & hath .28. days monday the ffirst: this is the yeare of our lord god .1668. from the Creation .5617. and the first after the leap yeare: and The .20th yeare of the Reinge of king Charles the second the .2. day a towne meeting about mr Richarson building upon marshall wights land the same day I was Chosen Towne Treasurer the third day I was at london and paid the marshall the 8 day monday we wer laing out an acker of land at beaporton the ninth day we sent .4. gallons of oyle to goodwife Cheesbrough the 15 day I was with mr noyce at london monday 22 the 24 I was at poquatuck with mr noyce The 25 day Thursday mr Richardson cried out murther The 27 day I was at new london sabath day 28

There is an interesting analysis of his diary in “By Nature and by Custom Cursed: Transatlantic Civil Discourse and New England Cultural Production, 1620-1660, by Phillip H. Round, Tufts University, starting on page 99.  If this link is still valid, you may find this here.  One thing I found a little surprising in the diary was the prickly nature of the relationships between the settlers; at some points they were suing each other over matters, at others supporting each other in various ways, or cooperating in politics.

I was sent for to pequit for to be reconsiled to the Church and at eveining the the maigor pt met at goodman Calkins hous namly Mr. Blinnman Mr. Bruen Goodman Caulkin Ralpth perker goodman lester goodman morgan goodman coit hugh Roberts Captain denison and goodman Cheesbrough being there all tooke satisfaction in my acknowledging the hight of my spirit Secondly in that I saw my evil in my suden and rash speaking to Mr. Blinnman and with all there was acknowledgement of the Churchs part with promises on both parties that all former offences should be buried and never more to be agitated so desiring the praiers each for other parted from that meeting. (p. 13)

Miner’s unpunctuated account offers a glimpse of the meeting house as a social agent for whom the church was not the only source of agency.  Thomas’ prose emphasizes the fundamentally dialectical nature of the experience of “reconciliation” and highlights the space opened up for improvisatioin by such social interactions.  In spite of the seemingly obligatory nature of Miner’s humble response, his report features a range of options and  is marked by a distinct reciprocity.  His journal catalogs everyone who witnessed his apology, listing not onlytheir names, but their status, separating the middling gentry of “Misters” from the captain and the other “goodmen.”

Miner’s meetinghouse marginality was initially matched by social marginality.  Although technically within the borders of Connecticut, he was actually living on the fringe of the Massachusetts colony’s authority and at first paid his rates to the Bay Colony.  In 1658, however, he decided to cut his ties to the “bay men”, recording his decision in a voice that highlights his true priorities and the origins of his emerging sense of agency

Because that the bay men begun in an unjust way to lay out mens lands that they had in possession before the things were wholy ended maks me to turne wholy to Coneticut & and them my list {p. 28)

Stonington was part of Massachusetts 165-1665

Yet his private decision to put his whole effort into the Connecticut enterprise did not make him instantly “visible” to his fellow townsmen.  Later that year he found himself in trouble again, this time with the civil authorities

I was questioned at my ffathers for being a leader to make division 2ly to  take yet Captains power from him 3ly that [I would][ deliever the Captain if he was demanded 4ly for lightness at Towne. (p. 33)

In spite of this official reprimand, Miner seems to have impressed several members of the community with his honesty for later he was

Called to view the dead body of William Bostuck being by the jury conceived to be poysoned.

Miner’s feeling of belonging faltered in 1664 when the town renewed its effort to parcel out land.  When he was denied a fair share of the territory, Miner signaled his feeling in his pronouns:

Third meeting of the town when they drew lots and granted Twentie lots of an hundred ackers appece.  I and my sons had none. p. 55

There should have been a new choice of all officers in the Towne Tuesday .. we had not meeting Tuesday 22 .. we had no meeting for three sabbaths before friday the 15 . p. 61

When the town finally does meet it is without him

The .4 meeting [of the town] John Gallop was Chosen Townsman and The Captain left out as I was tould.  p. 55

When the Stonington constable delivers a warreant to one Mr. Richardson, a man who makes frequent appearances in the journal as a central player in town affairs

The Constable’s warrant was Torne  … [and] Mr. Richardson and the constable fell out.  p. 132

When Samuel Cheesbrough brought an Execution for 22 pounds to Miner, Miner

Denied to him deliver him anything … and tould him that he should carrie nothing … out of [his] house.  informing Cheesbrough to his face “I [do] not owne [you] to be a constable to me at this time.  p. 196

On another occasion, Miner ran afoul of Cheesbrough for trying to collect a debt himself:

I was  at [Shas} & he was not a whome & I asked 30 s of Shas wife and Sam. Cheesebrough was there and forbid Shas wife to pay it me and said that he would answer fit at the Couret & Thomas Stanton Junior was A witnes.  p. 70

Cheesbrough and Miner were not friends, nor were Mr. Richardson and the constable, but neither did these townsmen play the roles of insider and outsider, elect and reprobate.  Both Cheesbrough and Miner garnered enough of the assembled town’s approval to be elected to serve together as deputies of the court.

Here is another run in of Miner’s with the Cheesbrough clan:

A Towne meeting the month being out that the Court order was published about branding horses I desired it might be attended Elisha Cheesbrough said it was but my Story there was no order for it, John Packer Edward fanning was there.  p. 70

More about Thomas Miner’s nemesis William Cheesebrough …,

1649 – The first settler of Stonington, Connecticut, William Cheesebrough , a gunsmith, came in the spring of 1649, overland from Rehoboth in Plymouth where he had been accused (falsely, he always maintained) of selling firearms to the Indians. He came with his wife, Anna Stevenson, and their sons.   He picked a site on a knoll on the west bank at the head of Wequetequock Cove where there was a well sheltered landing place and open meadows for grazing and cultivation. But the authorities suspected he planned illicit trade in rum and firearms with the Indians, so on 7 Nov 1649, the constable at Pequot (New London) informed him that ‘the Goverm’t of Connecticutt doth disslike and distastes the way hee is in and trade he doth among the Indians; and they doe require him to desiste therefrom,’ ordering him to report to [our ancestor] Major John MASON at Saybrook, or some other magistrate, and give an account of himself and his lonely settlement. East of Chesebrough, on the Pawcatuck (just across the river from present Rhode Island), Thomas Stanton built his Indian trading post. A monopoly of trade in furs with the Indians was sort of bonus to the salary of $25 a year paid by the Connecticut colony for his services as official interpreter.

Walter Palmer, a six-foot-four giant, 68 years old, settled close beside his friend Chesebrough, and Palmer son-in-law, Thomas MINER, took up land four miles westward at Quiambaug Cove.  George Denison came in 1654 with his family and located a little north of MINER on a rocky knoll overlooking a great meadow with a glimpse of the ocean beyond. He erected a little lean-to and surrounded it with a stout stockade.

Finally a lyric of town subjectivity

The 22. of July 1662
its the day wherein I went astraty in Companie of Two:
thyat professed they loved me well:
but shouyld we all hold on:
I feare not only I but all had fell:
my children when I am dead:
let none but your selves this read:
but do take heed of being with your professed friends misled:
the two men Il name to you:
remember well the time and you will find it true:
Thomas Stanton and William Cheesbrough were the ment;
but I with them at Shas was merely catched them:
o lord deliever and keep both me:
and you:
from our corrupt harts and them:
and so I say amen.
p. 190

Sources:

http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/6228

http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/6228

By nature and by custom cursed: transatlantic civil discourse and New England By Phillip H. Round Google Books , Townsman Thomas Miner’s Lyric Subjectivity Pg 99-105

The Diary of  Manasseh Minor – Ancestry.com – Published by Frank Denison Miner 1915

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12 Responses to Thomas Miner Diary

  1. HumImmoth says:

    I just built up my first blog and i need someone’s suggestion for templates and good plugins. Thanks in advance.

  2. Pingback: Thomas Miner | Miner Descent

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  8. pat says:

    Thank you. As a Thomas Minor descendant, I find this very interesting.

  9. Pingback: Favorite Posts 2013 | Miner Descent

  10. Shannon says:

    I am also finding all of this very interesting. You have gone to a tremendous amount of work here. I’ve spend the last couple of hours on your site, transfixed. Thank you for bringing these people to life for me.

  11. This is incredible. I too am a Minor/Miner descendent. My direct Miners went to Canada in the early late 1700’s so we represent a Canadian branch. They founded/settled in various towns in Eastern Ontario after the war. We just visited there this past weekend to retrace their steps and were even fortunate enough to visit their old houses and homesteads which are still standing. We descend specifically from Peter Miner listed here:

    http://tmsociety.org/thomas/john/aqwg09.htm#21054

    If any Canadian relations (or other) would like the documents and archives we have (obits, land deeds, etc) they can contact me on ancestry at chipgasser or chip@chipgasser.net.

    Thank you again for doing this – it was obviously a labor of love and very much appreciated by all of us

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