A Pleasant Spring Evening

19-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Thursday, April 9, 1914:  Ruth and I have returned home after escorting Carrie back from where she came from. It’s awful nice out. The moon light makes it almost as light as evening.

Source: Wikipedia

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

A moonlit walk on a pleasant spring evening. . . What a lovely way to end the day!

Carrie Stout was a friend of Grandma and her sister Ruth who lived on a nearby farm.

Something doesn’t seem worded quite right with this diary entry. Grandma wrote that it was “almost as light as evening”–though she must have meant the daylight hours.


Doctor Not at Home

19-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today:

Thursday, March 26, 1914:  Walked to Watsontown this afternoon with the expectation of having my nose doctored, but the doctor wasn’t at home.


Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Hmm. . . what was the problem? . . . stuffy nose? . . .sinus infection? . . . something else?
This diary entry brings back memories of similar experiences I had when I was a child. I can remember visiting two Watsontown doctors—Dr. Persing and Dr. Yannaconne—when I had a cold or other minor ailment.

Both had offices in their homes. No appointment needed—just stop by during office hours and wait your turn. And, the medicines or salves they gave me always cured whatever ailed me. . . .

Diary Blues

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Tuesday, December 2, 1913:

Now if I was an energetic girl, I’d have these pages filled with things overflowing of great doings, but alas and alack, it’s actually the reverse.


Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:


Don’t be so hard on yourself, you have the diary blues—today people talk about the blogging blues when they struggle to come up with things to write.

Was It More Likely to Rain on Sundays?

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Sunday, November 16, 1913: So disappointing, I wanted to wear my new hat to church this afternoon, but it was raining, and so I wore my old faithful brown hat that the water can’t hurt. I have a cold now for a change. I cough, sneeze, and pinch my nose.

Precipitation.Williamsport.1Data source: Climate Zone

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:


It’s too bad that you couldn’t wear your new black velvet hat that was trimmed with a rose ribbon and pink velvet flowers.


It seems like there have been a lot of diary entries where Grandma wrote that it rained on a Sunday. Was it more likely to rain on Sundays than on other days of the week?

Grandma’s wrote that it rained on Sunday, September 21, 1913 and Sunday, October 19, 1913. So it rained about one Sunday a month during Fall, 1913. In other words, it rained one Sunday out of every four or five.

I then found some current climate data for the nearby town on Williamsport PA on the Climate Zone website—and was surprised to discover that in a typical year that there is 0.01 inch or more of precipitation on 10 days in September, 10 days in October, and 12 days in November.

(It really doesn’t seem like it rains on 1 out of every 3 days when I’m in Pennsylvania, but maybe I’d barely notice the rain on days when there was just a little bit and it fell in the middle of the night.)

Conclusion—Assuming the number of days with precipitation has been about the same across the last hundred years and that Grandma mentioned every Sunday when it rained, it looks like it was less likely to rain on  Sundays than on other days of the week during  Fall, 1913.

Cleaned Up After Party

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Saturday, November 1, 1913:

November now is here again

Upon her scenes we’ll linger

Thanksgiving comes e’er she has gone

We count the days upon our fingers.

Not much sleep came to my eyes this morning. Ma got me up at half past four to dry the dishes left from the party. I tell you it was quite a mess, but it was accomplished at last.

Didn’t do much of anything as I was too much done up and by good luck it happened that there wasn’t much to do. Did feel lonesome after all the festivity here last night.


Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

If I could get in a time machine, I’d go back and reprimand Grandma’s mother:

I’d angrily scream, “What kind of mother are you? How dare you wake your daughter up at 4:30? The Halloween party made her the happiest she’s been in weeks—let her sleep and bask in the memories for a few hours.

But. . .  maybe I’m being too hard on Grandma’s mother.

I told my daughter what I was going to write. She shrugged her shoulders and said, “Mothers are just like that. You’d have been mad if I’d left the house a mess after a party. You probably won’t have woken up at 4:30, so you won’t have known it was a mess until later, but you’d have made me clean it up.”

What a Difference a Year Makes

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Tuesday, September 30, 1913:  These days have come and gone. They ground me working on my job.


Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:


You work so hard on the farm—husking corn, digging potatoes, rolling fields in preparation for planting wheat—the list could go on and on.

I know that your life working on the family farm is fairly typical of the lives of many young unmarried women a hundred years ago. . . so I assume that your life just feels normal to you.

But . . .sometimes I wonder if your current jobs and tasks are fully utilizing your knowledge and skills.

Exactly one year before you wrote this entry, you were a high school senior  and wrote:

Our class had a meeting this evening after school. I had the misfortune to be elected secretary. But better, or rather it suits me better to have been that, than president or treasurer would have suited me.

September 30, 1912

You always write in such a matter of fact way.  I hope you feel good about what you are doing—and that you think that your work suits you well.


Russian Wheat Production a Hundred Years Ago

 18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Friday, September 19, 1913:  

September 16 – 17 – 18 – 19:  Nothing much of importance happened during these days. I have to help Pa some and get put at rolling for one thing. Of course I had my mishaps even to going off of the roller. That work is all done by this time.

Photo Caption: An American Reaper in a Russian Wheat Field (Source: The Book of Wheat by Peter Tracy Donglinger
Photo Caption: An American Reaper in a Russian Wheat Field.Source: The Book of Wheat (1908)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

This was the fourth of four days where Grandma wrote a single diary entry. Three days ago I described how Grandma rolled the fields in preparation for planting fall wheat. And, two days ago and yesterday, I shared  pictures of large and small wheat farms from a hundred-year-old book.

The 1908 book, The Book of Wheat  by Peter Tracy Dondlinger, had lots of interesting information. One part I really enjoyed was the description of wheat production in several other countries.

I’m going to share what the book said about Russia. Within the larger historical context it is fascinating to read something about Russia that was written in the years prior to the Russian Revolution and the formation of the Soviet Union.

Russian Wheat Production

Viewed solely from the point of view of its natural resources and economic aspects, Russia is the United States of Europe. It has immense undeveloped areas that would form ideal wheat lands, lands very similar to those which constitute the wheat belt of the United States.

The similarity between Russia and the United States in the natural resources of the wheat growing regions is quite equaled by the dissimilarity of political practice, social theory and economic condition.  The Russian peasantry had had neither means nor opportunity to attain a higher plane of life.

The poor system of land ownership and the antiquated methods of agriculture made Russian wheat a dear wheat in spite of cheap labor and a low standard of living. The future possibilities of Russian wheat production depend upon the social, economic and educational progress of Russia.

There are symptoms of improvement in this direction. The extension of peasant land ownership is improving economic conditions. It seems that political and social conditions are at last changing and popular education is growing. In agriculture, better machinery is being introduced, and the crops are being rotated.

The Book of Wheat (1908)