The journal of John Smith Coleman was contributed by Dorathy and Alan Hardie. When visiting historical societies, ask about copies of personal diaries and journals in their collection. Originals may still be in private hands or lost but could have been loaned to an archives or library for copying. A typewritten copy of John S. Coleman's journal was found at the Oneida County Historical Society by Alan's sister. John Smith Coleman was Alan's great-grandfather, through his son Sidney Bellinger Coleman. John S. Coleman's diary is intimate, talking about the joy of birth and sadness of sudden death intimated by our online baptismal and cemetery records, revivals and faith, traveling long distances to work or visit relatives, occupations, and coping with Mohawk Valley winters.



I was born in Whitestown, Oneida County, N.Y. on the 24th of March A.D. 1809. My father is a farmer, and now owns a large farm; and here I will say that I do not like farming, tho I am convinced that it is the best business a man can follow; the great reason why I do not like it, is, because my constitution is unable to sustain the tasks that were always put upon me; I having a backbone almost dislocated in my boyhood. But I had to, of course, endure it, till my seventeenth year, when I was put to a trade, with Messrs. Danby and Maynard, printers and publishers of the "Oneida Observer"; with whom I staid about one year. I liked the business well, but my education was poor, and being some dissatisfied I returned home. At the close of 1826, but I did not avail myself of the advantages I had, as I ought have done, to obtain that common education which I might have easily acquired. My education is still poor, and probably ever will be, as I never expect to go to school any more. About 2 months a year, is all that I have ever been at school. My remarks in this journal must necessarily be very brief. The year of 1827 were the golden days of my life, and I look back upon that beautiful and pleasant summer with many a sigh; but I know those days can never return to me again. I worked in my Fathers Saw Mill, as I did in 1825, before I went to Utica to my trade in 1826. The year of 28 came and with it trouble and care, and discontent. I was 19 and was foolish enough to think that I could do better away from home than I could there, trudgin on the farm, for they had taken me from the mill. What a contrast there is in my mind, in viewing the years 27 & 28 the former smooth and tranquil, the latter boisturous & turbulent. In the spring of 1828 I went to N.Y.; but in a few weeks I returned again. I was but a boy, and had never been so far from home. (I had forgotten to say that in the spring of 1827 I visited the village of Rochester.) I cannot give incidents, oradventures here, but barely time and some events. My object in going to N.Y. was to learn the printing business.

In April 1827, as I was on my way to Rochester, I stopt at the pritty village of Syracuse, and at the more pritty village of Auburn, which is pleasantly situated on the outlet of the Owasco. This is a neat and healthy place. Here my eyes met the massive walls of state prison. The busy hum of their labors saluted my ears; and I considered it well.

The fall of 1827, like the summer passed pleasantly away. But the spring of 1828 opened with new scenes and different prospects. I became disaffected, and went to New York, as I said before. My mind has always been roving and unsettled; whether it will ever be otherwise or not, I cannot tell. I was taught, from my youth to look upon all man kind with charity; and as pure as I knew my own heart to be. But I have learned the folly and fallicy of mans integrity. I have strived to study man; I have been in all companies, and mixed in all societies; and searched the hearts of those around me. Still I had the path of rectitude in view; still I claimed an honest heart, and a clear conscience.


It is now the blooming month of May. Twenty one years have passed away of my life. The clouds of adversity seem always to have hung over me, for I seem to be her favorite child. Well, perhaps 'twill change. I have always had a predeliction for the printing business, at this late day (May 1830) I cannot divest myself of the ___ ___ ___ ____ ____ ___________ established in that business.

In the fall of 1829 I visited the falls of Trenton. In viewing the sublime scenery, we are taught to look through nature up to natures God. Here then over this roaring, tumbling, foaming and broken cataract, fell, in 1827, Miss Eliza Suydam; hurled in an instant before the dread tribunal of almighty God. Subsequently have fallen several other persons.

In September I, with my Father and sister Jane went to the State of Ohio. In passing Rochester, I again visited the falls of Genesee, where the famous, (or infamous) Sam Patch took his last leap a few months before.

A few days before we came to Buffalo, the Wm. Peacock burst her boiler, and 15 persons were killed.

December 7
Whilst I was at the west, a revival of religion commenced in Whitestown; and when I heard of it I came back, and thank God I have been made a participant in its glorious results. About the 21st of Nov. on Sunday eve, I found peace in believing, in the old school house. That time and place will ever be remembered by me, with joy and gratitude.

May 1831
During the past winter and spring I have enjoyed myself very well. I have joined the M.E. Church. I like their doctrines and usages well; much better than any other denomination of christians.

October 1, 1831
I am about to enter into partnership in the printing business with E. P. Moore, at Rome in the Telegraph office. I do not know as I shall do very well, but I hope I shall. I know I shall like the business, but how I shall like the man I do not know, but hope well.

March 2, 1832
I am now in Ellisburgh, Jeff Co. I have sold back again my part of the Rome Telegraph to Moore; I believe him to be a dishonest and unprincipled knave.

March 13
I am now to work in the Courier office, Sackets Harbor. I board with Uncle McKee. Flory Ann is a fine girl; I feel very much attached to her, indeed.

April 4
I am now in the Free Press office, Oswego. I have been to John Enos. His wife is a very pritty woman. He is related to me.

May 10th, 1832
I returned from Oswego a few weeks ago, and have been to work for Moore. This day I have bought him out altogether; tho he has got from me considerable money.

August 1, 1832
I have sold the Telegraph establishment to J. ?. Harris and I shall collect in my debts, and then clear.

Oct. 23, 1832
I am now at the house of Weston W. Bliss, in White Pigeon prairie, Michigan, to collect a debt of him. (2.50 D)

Nov. 1, 1832
I am now in Detroit. At ten I shall take the Steam Boat for Buffalo. I have been to St. Josephs county, 150 miles from Detroit in less than a fortnight; on foot and very bad roads; besides staying two days, to do my business. I have secured a mortgage of two hundred and forty dollars, (for my father). Here let me go back to mark to the time I started; which was on the 24th Sept. from home. I arrive at Buffalo on the last day of Sept. I think, which was on Sunday morning, and I attended divine service at the M. E. Church. On the next Thursday I took the Steam Boat up the lake; I landed at Fair Port 180 miles from Buffalo. And went to my Uncle Gage Smith's in Mesopotamia T. Trumbull Co. Ohio some 40 or 50 miles from the lake. I staid there a few days, and then went back again to Fair Port, and took the First Steam Boat for Detroit. And here I will add that the Lord has been with me. I have not been alone. In my lonesome and toilsome journey the Lord has been with me. I was a stranger in a strange land; but I have felt a companion in my own bosom; a sweet, consoling power, that spoke peace to my weary soul, and tired body.

Nov. 7
I have arrived at Buffalo and am now to work in the Patriot office; A & H Sallesbury. On my way down, as the S. Boat touched at Cleveland I went upon the Hill in the village and the boat had just shoved off- so 'twas all day with me there; in two days I started again for Buffalo.

Nov. 21, 1832
I have just arrived from Buffalo, and am at work in the B. Register office, Utica.

Jan 1st, 1833
I am at my Fathers in Whitestown; I have been sick 3 or 4 weeks, but am now convalescent. I have about concluded to work again in the saw mill, if I can work in peace. This afternoon I shall bring my intended from Rome down to Fathers. I intend to be married next fall! to Miss Harriet Hartwell if the Lord will.

Thursday Evening Oct. 3, 1833
I was married last evening. O may I lead a happy life, with a pritty wife. There has been a long interval since I have written in this Book. But I have everything to do, and to see to, almost. I have not prospered in my religious course as a Christian ought to have done.

Nov. 15, 1833
This day we have moved and began keeping house.- Nov. 20. It seems very odd, and altogether new to us to keep house; but we do very well.

Nov. 30, 1833
Altho my wordly and pecuniary prospects are very dubious and gloomy, yet I feel to trust in God. When the first day of our housekeeping began, we erected the family altar, and I hope we shall rally round it with true devotion.

Dec. 26
Yesterday we went to Hampton, to the dedication of the new Methodist Chapel in that village. Rev. Sirs Paddock and Havey preached the best Sermons I most ever heard in my life.

Tuesday, Feb 4, 1834
Last night I felt the satisfying power of God: I was very happy. I had it very forcibly imprest upon my mind to preach the Gospel O may the Lord strengthen me.

7th Feb.
My mind is anything but calm. I take no peace when at my labor. My father and older brother are scolding and jawing, cursing and swearing at me everytime they come into my presence. Everything I do is always wrong; it is impossible to please them; and I get nothing for my labor scarcely at all.

Friday evening, Feb. 14, 1834
My mind is calm and tranquil tonight. I still feel it strongly imprest upon my mind to preach the Gospel; and every day has it been upon my mind for a number of days. And why is this, at this time? I have professed religion for three years. Ah, this is by living a life of Piety; yea I long for the power of Sanctification, that I may love God with a perfect heart. Then He will send me forth to preach the Gospel; (in the far west I hope.)

Sunday Eve. Feb 23, 1834.
Whitestown. This day in our little church in the western part of this town I, (or we,) have attended, but no preaching. Our class leader, Brother Lovel brought a volume of Mr. Wesley's sermons, out of which he requested me to read one, which I accordingly did. I felt something daunted, but not so as to be preceved. May the Lord strengthen me, and enable me not only to read, but also to speak to pray, and to preach in the congregation; and fill me with his holy spirit, and save me at last in his kingdom.
J. S. Coleman

1834, Saturday Evening March 15th
Whatever may come in after life, be it remembered that we are, now a happy couple, as there need be; Our lives flow on in a smooth stream, and peace and tranquility reign with us. We are strifing to live Christian lives, to love each other mutually, and God supremely. Brother Snyder our stationed preacher from the York Hills, preached at our little church every four weeks in the evening. Last Sunday eve week he stayed at our house.
J. S. Coleman

Wednesday evening, March 26th
Today we have had very good sleighing- logs have come in, to the mill very lively. Yesterday was very stormy, snow fell 10 inches. On Monday was my birth day; and if I had time I should like to make some pleasing reflections; on this event. My mind turns back to the happy seasons of my life, like the scattered woods over the vast prairies of the west and South; they seem as the sunny spots of my life; with almost a holy feeling, and quite so since I was converted to God.

Thursday, May 15, 1834
This morning the snow was seven inches deep, in some places a foot, ice was an inch thick.

December 16
We have moved into a new house. A long time has elapsed since I have written in this little Journal of events. Things have gone very well with us during the last Summer and Autumn. I have had to work very, very hard. I believe I feel willing to work with my hands for a subsistance; but I cannot endure such hard labor for many years.

January 23, 1835
This day my wife has presented me with a fine Daughter. This is a joyful event. May she live, and may we train her up in the nesture and admonition of the Lord. We have had the coldest January that has been experienced for thirty years; The thermometer ranging thirty five & six below zero.

March 22,
My wife, I carried to Rome, to her fathers four days ago, and I now feel quite lonesome. It is now Sunday eve and I am unable to attend prayer meeting, having been hurt yesterday severely from the turning over of a sled- the effects of which I fear will affect me through life.

Whitestown, Tues. 24 March
I am this day 26 years old. I have been to Rome this day with a cutter; sleighing tolerable good. My sister Electa is very sick, so that we do not expect her to live but a few days. My Sister, Lucy Evans died very suddenly on the 24 of Dec last. Oh we felt very bad on that occasion, it has had a salutary effect upon my mind & I hope it will upon other.

March 31, 1835
My Sister, Electa died this morning about one o'clock with the Typhus Fever. Oh how sad, how gloomy, and how solemn, are my feelings. She was very dear to me, more so than any of the other sisters. But my other sisters double dear to me now my favorite one is dead. Electa had lived at our (my) house, considerable for about a year. But she has gone, gone to the eternal world. Fryday- yesterday we buried our sister. Oh what a trying time. We wept bitter tears; Our sister was so kind, so mild, and cheerful, in life.

Tuesday April 7, 1835
My mind feels calm & tranquil. I feel to bow to the will of Heaven, in all its dispensations we live, we think, very happy. I have to work very hard, but perhaps this sweetens life; If I were more idle, perhaps we should not love each other so well.

June 29, 1835
Monday evening- I rejoice that I yet have health.- I rejoice that I yet love the Lord: I am blest Spiritually and Temporarily; Things go very well with me.

Saturday, Jan 23, 1836
I feel yet thankful to my Heavenly Father for his mercies;- We are blest with life and health, and every necessary comfort. Our little Flora Ann is one year old this day. I think we have been most wonderfully blest in Temporal things, for a year past we have had no sickness; Every day has brought its good, and evil; but the good far outweighs the evil. We are happy and contended.

Jan 24, 1836
Our little Flora Ann runs about the house, quite lively, and she begins to say some words. I hope we shall train her up in the nesture and admonition of the Lord! We have circuit preaching once in two weeks in our little Church (which is four miles from York Mills and three from Hampton.) We have enjoyed good health, while some of our neighbors have had sickness and distress to contend with.

Feb 18, 1836
I have attended three funerals in ten days, sickness and death are on all sides of us this cold, severe and uncommon winter.

March 13, 1836
The winter set in about the 20th of Nov. last, and the snow is now probably four feet deep, and this day is a real January day, cold and blustering. We have had no thaw since the winter set in. This is the most sever winter we have had for forty years, in this County, so say old people.

Thursday, March 17, 1836
Last evening, I witnessed one of the most astonishing displays of Divine goodness, and Mercy, that can possibly be conceived of; As I was returning from a prayer meeting, at the paper mill, with Peter Bellinger, the Heavens were opened as it were; we both saw a light above the brightness of the Sun- even the whole Heavens were illuminated, with a flood of radiant light, and glory and Bellinger was instantaneously struck to the earth, and there he agonized and groaned and prayed, and then the Lord set His soul at liberty, and sent us on our way rejoicing, telling all whom we met what the Lord had done for Us. O that Light which shone so glorious to our mental, as also to our natural vision; the power of the Highest over shadowed us with a halo of light and glory; then instantly faded from our natural vision; but not so our intellectual vision; so signally lighted from on High.

March 24, 1836, Thursday
This day I am 27 years old; Oh how fast time flies away. This has been a winter of great affliction, especially with the poor; first the uncommonly cold, severe winter, and the great depth of snow; and this day seems like a January day; so cold, so stormy, with the snow from two to six feet deep. Secondly, on account of the sickness, and death. A great many have been sick & many have died. The mill is entirely froze up; so as I never saw it before. No longs in. Last year started the mill the middle of Feb.

Saturday morning March 27, 1836
Cold as January; no thaw yet, streams all bound up. If this heavy body of snow and ice goes off at once, it will do great damage, to bridges, mills, and so forth.

Monday Mary 28, 1836
There is every appearance of a thaw; The snow has settled some; tho the water did not run over the ice, on the creek, ( Oriskany) The snow is from 2 to 3 feet deep, wet, and heavy with signs of rain.

Wednesday, March 30, 1836
Sleighing good yet- Teams go on the mill pond, and creek, to Oriskany; weather pleasant, and warm but snow 2 to 3 ft deep; the sun softened it a good deal; the water begins to run a little on the ice, on the creek. There has not been a single day of interruption of sleighing since the 24th of Nov., last.

April 2
Snow is now going fast, the creek has pritty much broke up- cut the mill loose, a tedious job. Cutters run today. Snow averages about 2 feet, tho soft. Slumps through.

April 12, 1836
There is a great quantity of snow in heaps on the ground yet. This morning sleighs run very well on some roads. Several loads were drawn from the mill on a sled. The sleighing has continued from the 24th Nov. to the 12th of April, something unparalleled in this country.

Saturday evening April 16
Last Wednesday was a cold, stormy December day, snow fell six or eight inches, and today there has been some teaming with sleds, and sleighs- logs and lumber. John S. Coleman

May 5, 1836
This day I seen snow in heaps in several places, that fell in early part of winter.
May 29
Cold, rainy weather; for 10 days past it has rained almost continually; Everything in nature is late, a month later almost, than usual.

Aug. 13
Started for Mich. Reached Buffalo 17th- Detroit the 19th. White Pigeon the 23rd ten days from home, 800 miles and over.- Done my business Wednesday and started back, reached Detroit on Sunday morning.

Monday Aug 29
150 miles took steamboat for Buffalo,- reached there Wednesday night took Boat same evening for home. Rochester Friday 2 P.M. Took packet, reached home Sunday morning before light, gone 22 days.

Sunday Jan 1st, 1837
We have commenced another year in life and health. The Lord is still merciful to us, in giving us a home, and food, and clothing convenient for us, for which we desire to be very thankful and for which we praise him.

Sunday, March 5, 1837
All in life and health praise the lord. Protracted meeting to Hampton, to which station our little church belongs. Next Sabbath we are to commence a protracted meeting at our small church west Whitestown. May the Lord bless us and pour out his spirit here abundantly. Every day I have abundant reason to thank God for his mercies. Amen.
John S. Coleman

Friday March 24, 1837
This day I am twenty eight years old. Thro the mercy of God, we have a protracted meeting in progress in this place, which commenced on the last Sabbath; many have been awakened and a few converted to God. O may the Lord pour out his spirit here in a wonderful manner, even as he did in the fall of 1830; at which blessed and glorious revival I experienced a change of heart. And Justification thro faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.
John S. Coleman

Monday April 3, 1837
This has been a comfortable day to my soul. Good meeting yesterday. My way grows clearer and brighter, and Oh may it shine into the perfect day. I have a clear evidence of my Acceptance with God. This day I have begun sawing in the mill, and have earned a little, for the first time in quite a number of months. This has truly been a hard winter for the poor, provisions very dear.

September 1, 1837
Oh my God, my ever dear companion (typist note: this is Harriet Hartwell Coleman, his first wife) is no more. On Monday morning, Aug. 21, in a fit of mental alienation, or derangement, she made way with herself. But Ah, the blessed consolations left to me, that she was not accountable for the last sad act of her life; therefore as she lived a good, pious, christian life, I have every reason to believe that she is now in Heaven. She had been in a melancholy state of mind for some time; with strong testations of the Adversary. Oh how dreadful, how overpowering were my feelings on that dreadful occasion. But ah my two children are spared to me yet; And I feel God supports me in a wonderful manner; God is good; Religion is good; in this time of great affliction. For almost four years we had lived in as happy and comfortable a manner as can well be imagined. No disputes, no quarrels; no cross words; all was peace, all was love, joy, and consolation in the Lord; and now this tender tie so rudely torn asunder.

Tuesday, Sept 12, 1837
How desolate, how lonely I feel. Day after day, passes away; and here I loved the mother of my children, comes not. But of my dear companion is gone, to a brighter and a better world. I know it, I feel it so. My children too, are ten miles from me, under the tender care of their grand Mother; and I cannot see them oftener than once a week or so; and now they are double dear to me, as they are left without a mothers anxious, watchful care.

Jan. 6th, 1838
The Lord is still my preserver, glory be to his holy name. Oh how desolate I have been since my wife died; and had it not been for the special protection and mercy of God, I should not have been writing here at this time. Oh I feel that I shall go to Heaven when I die, and that hope bears me up under all my trials. Oh if it were not for Religion I could not live; but now I am willing to live, or die, as God sees best. I have not seen my children for two weeks; and O how long a time: this is saturday night. I did expect to go today, but could not; but must go to Rome, Monday, and see them. O how double dear they are to me at this time. I have been praying the Lord to give me a home, again, that I may have them under my own care; nevertheless, not my will but thine O God, be done. But they shall never want for temporal things while I can labor, whatever they may suffer for, Oh God preserve them; Amen.

Monday evening Jan. 29, 1838
The preserving mercy of God is still over me. For 2 days I have been confined to the house, with a cold; swelling of the face, and headache. Oh how thankful I am that I have a home in my father's house this winter: I fear my children are not as well off, tho I do everything that I can for their comfort. Saturday night it commenced snowing and has continued ever since, till which time we have had no snow, to speak of, and very little frost.

January 30, 1838
I think the Lord has made an opening for me, in the choice of another companion for life. I know not what the world will say, but I think I feel the approval of my heavenly father in the step I am about to take. I want a home of my own, and my children with me.

March 15, 1838
Today is a new era in my life--for I now have gotten my children with me again. Tho when I come to read what I have written last I see I have not written that I was married again, the First of February. But so it is, and feel very well satisfied. I was married to Miss Elizabeth Bellinger, the 1st Feb. 1838 and I hope I shall have a good home again, and have my children with me that I may train them up in the way they should go.

Oct 22, 1838 Monday evening
Spring, Summer and most of pleasant autumn are gone; how time flies. I think I can write here that I enjoy life again very sweetly. I have a home; my children with me; live in peace, and enjoy the presence of the Lord.

Whitestown March 24, 1839
This day I am 30 years of age. Thirty years. Oh how short is life. The Lord is still my Saviour, and on this day I feel more determined than ever to enter in at the strait gate. This is the Sabbath day and I have been to Hampton, to quarterly meeting- Rev. L. Bowdish Preacher in charge, Rev. L. Paddock P. E. while the Lord is blessing me in my soul, he is also giving me abundance of temporal blessings. I am happy in my little family also. Praise the Lord.
J. S. Coleman

Saturday morning, July 11, 1840
With a trembling hand I take my pen to record the overruling Providence of God in preserving my little boy, (John Wesley) from a watery grave. He fell into the floom off the bridge, My Father saw him fall, and my Brother plunged in and brought him out, and as the mills were going in less than one minute he would have been lost.

Sunday evening 12th

I took my children, Flora Ann and John to the 5 o clock preaching, and while on my way I was led to reflect that if John had not been preserved at that moment that he was, I should, instead of leading him to meeting, have been attending his funeral. And when in the meeting I thought how different would have been my feelings, and also on the feelings of the whole congregation. But the Lord spared us. John will be four the 10th Oct next. I feel almost ashamed that I have not written anything in this little journal for so long a time. Many interesting events have transpired since I have made a record here; Among the most eventful, is the happy conversion of my Brother Appleton, in Feb. last, who still goes on his way rejoicing.

The first of April 1839.
We entered into Partnership, and bought the Grist mill; he has lived in my family since that time, and he helps me in the duties of family worship, for which I can never thank God enough. I cannot tell how we shall prosper in our wordly affairs, for we owe about $3000. and have no means to pay, only what we earn from day to day. But the Lord will help us, and give us favor in the sight of the people and I believe he will prosper us in our great undertaking; But in any event may the Lords will be done. J. S. Coleman

Friday March 24, 1843
This day I am 34 years old. And such a March. The snow is from 3 to 4 feet deep, and for 14 days it has snowed almost every day. Losses upon losses. About the 4th of Feb 1842, a terrible freshet carried away our dam and about the 25th of March following we had it mended, and went to work, at a cost of $700. Then on the night of the 10th of January 1843 a still more terrible freshet took away our dam again, and the lying still till this time is nearly $1000. damage to us. The Lord have mercy on us and help us. J. S. Coleman.

No further entry is recorded in the Journal. A note in the back of the booklet indicates that John Coleman died of a severed artery in the foot while chopping wood. Before aid came he had bled to death. Probably 1843.

Also, Elon Gelusha Coleman, Born Oct. 12, 1840, Sidney B. Coleman, Nov. 16, 1842.

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