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Ruth Austin Wilbur Diaries

An inventory of the collection at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: -
Date: circa 1970

Biographical History

Originally from Hartborough, Vermont, Ruth Austin Wilbur (1803- ), wife of Shepard Wilbur, moved to Chautauqua County in western New York at the age of 26 and there spent the rest of her life. Although her mother, Keziah Cowdrey, is said to have been an early Mormon, there is no evidence that Ruth followed the same faith. Her travels, and those of friends and relatives, were most often between home (near Jamestown) and the villages of Westfield, Stockton, and Mayville, all in New York State. Occasional trips to Warren, Pennsylvania were important for maintaining contact with relatives. Her most extensive travels were after the death of her husband Shepard on Feb 13, 1865, when she returned briefly to Vermont.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Ruth Austin Wilbur Diaries are a daily record of weather, travels, farm news, visits, and health. Most entries are a single line; rarely does the writer go into detail.

Although Ruth Austin's mother, Keziah Cowdrey (photograph in folder 1) is said to have been an early Mormon, it is by no means clear that Ruth followed the same faith. She mentions a Quaker meeting, a "first" for her, and also attended the dedication of a new Baptist church.

References to state or national affairs are almost nonexistent. If Ruth Wilbur had strong feelings about slavery or the Civil War, she did not record them.

The latter pages of the first volume (1856-1859) contain a variety of material, including a recipe for a diphtheria cure, poems on death, a mnemonic list of presidents of the United States (up to Andrew Johnson), and several pages recording death dates of family members. Surnames mentioned in the list are Barney, Brown, Carroll, Cowdrey, Edgerton, Howard, Leach, Rich, Wilbur and Staples.

The second volume (1865-1868) follows the same pattern. Wilbur unbends a bit during her husband's illness and death, mentioning loneliness once. She and Lois Leach, spoken of as a cousin, take a trip to Vermont together, traveling by train across New York State (and missing the correct train on the trip home). Wilbur clearly enjoyed the trip and subsequent visiting.

Weather, farming and relatives again become the chief topics of interest after Wilbur's return home. Towards the end of the volume her hand begins to change, growing a bit larger and less rigidly controlled.

The quality of the photocopies varies from clear to illegible.

Arrangement of the Collection



Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Related Material

A second set of photocopies is in the possession of Brigham Young University, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Subject Headings


Wilbur, Ruth Austin.


Rural women -- New York (State) -- Diaries.
Women -- United States -- History -- 19th century.


New York (State) -- Social life and customs.

Genres and Forms


Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Ruth Austin Wilbur Diaries,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Mrs. Mary Keller, 1969.

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