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Writing History & Mysteries

When I'm not delving into historical research, I'm planning a character's demise.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

D is for Diary of Matie Cole

 January, Friday 1. 1875.

When I was young and had no sense,
I bought a fiddle worth fifteen Pense.
And all the tunes that I could play,
was Me Me dolly and drive away.

A gentleman from LeRoy, came into our office carrying with him an “Excelsior Diary,” not much larger than the size of a credit card. It’s black wrap-around leather cover, has a tab that comes around to the front, and slides under a thin strap to hold it closed. It showed the usual signs of wear expected for its age, but otherwise it is in very good shape for 1875.
The diary was among items the gentleman had purchased at an auction.  Normally when he comes across such personal mementos he attempts to track down a descendant in order to return it to the family. He had success doing this in the past, but in this case, no such luck with the diary of Matie E. Cole. Since I live in Perry, and my boss was busy with a Revolutionary War veteran’s project, she thought I might enjoy researching to solve the Cole diary mystery. Of course she was right.

Being careful not to open it all the way as I turned the pages, I noticed that Matie documented some marriages, deaths and birthdays—including her own. Matie was a teenager when she wrote her diary. It was the year she turned 14. This is like gold. It is rare to come across a diary written by a teenager and have it survive for this long. Usually the diaries we come across are written by adults. This is a small glimpse into teenage life 138 years ago. If you think that back then they rolled up the streets and dragged their teens in by 9 p.m. you would be mistaken.

Jan 28. Thurs. Universalist Church had a festival and for the first time I danced and stayed until ½ past 4 in the morning.

April 27, Tues. Fred G. Cole. Alvira Hathaway and myself went a riding to Castile at 8 o’clock at night and got home at 10 min to ten in the evening. M. Cole Perry, N.Y.

 September 7, Tues. Fred Cole and Charlie Calkins got up a dance at Saxtons hall. I went with Fred Cole, and we danced all night and the last thing we danced was Mrs ____ and when we promenaded I got Fred Botsford every time. He is splendid.

The above entries are good examples of what we assume about life in the 1870s is not always accurate. Teenagers appeared to have an active social life.

Train at Silver Lake, NY (Pre-1900.)
September 11, Sat. Fanny Keeton and [I] walked up to the lake in the eve and was walking along and I saw Fred Botsford & he bowed & so did I and then he came along with us and took us on a boat riding, in the moon light eve. There was a dance up there from Wethersfield, and so Fred and I and Mary & Fanny got up in one corner and had half a dance. We had piles of fun, and then Mary went off, and Fred got Will Calkins to dance with Fanny, and Fred & myself, and we was just going to have a good time and the 9 o’clock train come, so we had to go and we promenaded down the station and we went in the car. The boys went in to see if we got a seat–and we had and when and when red went out of the car, he took off his hat, and said good evening and threw a kiss.
Matie did all right for herself, as they say. If you are a local, her husband’s name will most likely be familiar. On January 12, 1896 she married William D. Page, who would become the president of the National Bank in Perry. Matie herself would serve on the board of directors for 60 years.

According to a booklet done by the bank in 1955 titled First National Bank One Hundred Years in Perry 1855-1955, as well as obituaries and information in our family files, Matie would not be the first woman in the bank’s history to hold a prestigious position in its lifetime.

If  you are interested in women’s history, the bank holds a little known secret. By every known source, Maggie L. Walker of Virginia is said to be the first woman bank president. To take nothing away from her prestigious career, she is undoubtedly the first African American woman to become president of a bank when she became the first woman to charter a bank in 1903, but not the first woman to own a bank or be president of a bank. I believe that now goes to two women in Perry, NY.

Laura Page Smith, president, 1866-1886
Eliza D. Page, president, 1894-1907
Mary (Matie) C. Page, director, 1896-1956

I will leave you with this fitting poem from her diary, that over 100 years later, describes the feeling of looking at it. If she only knew...

 1875 January 23, Sat.

Forget me not,
forget me never.
Till thy blue eyes
shall close forever.

Remember me
when this you see
and think that I
remember thee.

(The full story I wrote, titled "The Diary of an 1870s Teenager: Matie E. Cole," appeared in the January 2013 issue of Historical Wyoming.)


Stay tuned for more history tidbits throughout the month of April!

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  1. ANOTHER GREAT Historical Blog! I am not using my HISTORICAL blogs for A-Z but you can find them via http://thebridgeofdeaths.com shared and loved the posts!
    #Blogging from A-Z swinging by to meet and greet. I am 456 & 457 in the long list, with MOVIES & What's in a NAME Hope you swing by to 4covert2overt and Defining Ways. Hope to meet up everywhere @M_C_V_Egan
    .⋱ ⋮ ⋰.,;***;,.⋱ ⋮ ⋰
    ⋰ ⋮ ⋱..._/l\_...⋰ ⋮ ⋱
    ♫ ƤҼƌҪҼ ƌƝƊ ĻƠṼҼ ॐ βԼƐֆֆїɳɠֆ ƌƝƊ βԼїֆֆ ♫

  2. That diary is a very cool find. It is very interesting to get a glimpse of how life was back in the 1870s. It appears that teens back then had more of a social life than I ever did at that age.

  3. I am so happy I found you! I am doing research and writing on my second great grandfather from Broome County. Since I am now in CA, I use Old Fulton daily for information! My writing is not available right now, but I do blog about other things.

    This is my time period so it was a delightful share to me.

    From Binghamton, grew up in Rome, went to college at Houghton and Syracuse. Must follow along!

    A-Z; http://linensandlaurel.typepad.com/my_weblog/


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