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Niles, Willard Smith diary, April - August 1832

 File — Box: 1
Identifier: id40024

Scope and Contents

Diary of Willard Smith Niles for April through August 1832. Volume is a twenty-leaf unlined writing book published by Knowlton & Rice, Booksellers & Stationers, Watertown, New York. The front cover gives the title "Writing Book," beneath which is printed a woodcut vignette of military accoutrements. The border is of alternating bunches of grapes and roses, with two small houses and a tree at top center and two manicules at lower center. The back cover features a similar border with fleurons at the corners and a dog at lower center. It features an advertisement for Knowlton & Rice's paper and blank books, as well as other items they stock and/or publish.

This diary, densely written across the first nineteen leaves, covers the period in which Niles taught school at Greene, Chenango County, New York, ending just after his return home in August 1832. It recounts his travel from his home in Madison County to Greene via Smyrna, Norwich, and Oxford, his views of the school and its students, frequent comments on the weather, his homesickness, people he meets, ministers he hears preach, etc. He has quite an acerbic wit, at times. He mentions on April 30 that a company of navigators left Greene to try and reach Philadelphia by river. Around May 23 he makes a rare reference to politics, noting the many turmoils of the Jackson administration but adding "politics is not my business." Beginning in June he frequently mentions the cholera epidemic of that year. The last entry, dated August 1, is a long entry about the death and funeral of a friend or relative named Julia.

A partial, basic transcription of the diary provided by the bookseller is included.

Laid in at the rear is a small partial sheet of paper: on one side is a receipt for $25 from W.H. Miller to Niles as payment on a contract; on the reverse is a recipe for "custard without eggs."


  • April - August 1832


Biographical Note

Willard Smith Niles was born October 21, 1803 in Lebanon, Madison County, New York, to Isaac and Lucretia (Russell) Niles. He had siblings Sally, Allen, Isaac, Samuel, Lucretia, and Nathan, who are frequently mentioned in the diary. He taught school at Georgetown, Pitcher Springs, Smyrna, and Greene before 1835, in which year he married Mary Moseley. She was also a teacher and after their marriage the pair taught at Hubbardsville, Earlville, Elbridge, Hamilton, and Smithville, New York. Willard's obituary notes that he also frequently taught singing schools in the evenings.

In 1855 Willard and Mary Niles moved to Jones County, Iowa, where he lived until his death on January 8, 1885. His local obituary notes "In his death Jones County loses one of her oldest inhabitants and most respected citizens - one whose chief aim in life was to make happy those around him. Of a peculiarly sweet disposition, he seemed ever in communion only with pleasant and spiritual thoughts. His last years, those in which his vision was shut out from the world, seemed to find full comfort and pleasure in communion with friends and his Creator."


From the Collection: 1 Linear Feet

Language of Materials

From the Collection: English

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased from Savoy Books, 2023, with funds from the Mark Kulikowski Collection Endowment.

Repository Details

Part of the Binghamton University Libraries Special Collections Repository

Binghamton NY 13902 USA