Local Memories from the Garfield’s own words

Garfield, James A. James A. Garfield Papers: Series 1, Diaries, -1881; Vols. 1-12, Jan.-1873, Dec. 1848. Manuscript/Mixed Material. https://www.loc.gov/item/mss219560001/.

1848 August 30

Wednesday, 30 arrived in Youngstown took 60 tons Coal and started for Cleveland where we arrive September second.  Staid over Sunday reloaded Monday and started up the Canal again.  My business is bowing which is to make the locks ready, get the boat through, trim the lamps, etc.  I get 14 dollars per month.  I followed that business about two months in which time we transported 2140 tons of stone Coal and 10 tons of Iron to Cleveland and 52 tons of Copper ore, 150 barrels of Salt, 10 thousand lath and 1000 feet of lumber from Cleveland to different places along the Canal.  When we arrived in Cleveland after the fourth trip I was taken sick with the fever and ague and on the 3rd of October came home with Charles Garfield.  I was confined to my bed about 10 days and then broke the ague, it staid off about three weeks.  It came on again…”

1850 March 3

Garfield made his confession on March 3, 1850, and was baptized the next day. He wrote in his diary words that were widely used then and for many decades afterward: “I was buried with Christ and arose to walk in the newness of Life.”

1850 October 1 & 2

Today commences a new month in the era of my existence.  Two years ago today I was taken with the ague in Cleveland.  When I consider the sequel of my history thus far, I can see the providence of God I am what I am and not a sailor.  I thank Him..  I have lately practised the habit of scowling, making grotesque figures with my mouth and the other negative poles of my Phrenological organs, when anything was said which I did not agree with, and also when I have heard my classmates make mistakes.

1850 November 19

Again does the daily revolution of the sun announce that another year of my life is numbered among the things that were.  Another natal day announces that 19 of the days of my years have fled forever.  Let me reflect.  Where will I be in 19 years to come, perhaps not in the land o the living.  The heart is full but I am out of paper nearly.  Staid at Stile’s over night.

1850 December 10

Tuesday, School today.  Some scholar wrote a lot of trash upon the board.  I laid the matter ever till tomorrow.  I intend to appeal to their sense of justice and friendship, to ask them it no cruel.

1850 December 11

Wednesday,  After school came to order, and read, I spoke 15 minutes, nearly, upon the “black business,” as I intended to Yesterday, and I think with good effect.  I jerked a boy (15 years old) out and made him promise to obedience.  I have got to “earn my money” this winter I think. 

1851 January 21

The same old story to tell.  Thump and bang.

1851 April 25

Friday, Brought three whips into the school house, the first that I have had. 

1851 February 27, At ttwo o’clock in the morning we started for Cleveland where we arrived 20 minutes past 7.  We stopped at the New England Hotel, bought our tickets for Columbus and started at 10 on the Railroad.  After a very pleasant ride and several stoppages we arrived at Columbus after 8 in eve.  We took an omnibus to the Neil House, took supper and lodgings and breakfast the next morning.  Bill was $2.50.  Good fare.  Room 97, fifth story. 

1851 May 6

Tuesday, Today I was, for the first time in this school, under the very disagreeable necessity of flogging two boy 12 or 14 years old.  I had repeatedly warned them against fighting, and told them that if they fought I should castigate them.  Today William Perdew and Edwin Boyce came to a open rupture and I flogged them thoroughly.  I hope I shall have to do so no more. ….

1852 November 19

This is my birthday; (21st) a date when young men usually ‘commence to be men’ as they say.  It is however, to me but another milestone on the great high road of my earthly existence, bringing me one year nearer the “Silent City’ where ends all strife and ragin war.  Where will my next natal day bring me?  I cannot prophesy.  It is a time in my life when I know as little of my future as any other since reason first dawned in my mind..


The Garfield property was sold and the family was preparing to move.  On the occasion of the last dinner prepared by Eliza, the family walked to the location of the original cabin and later James wrote, “Our old home is sold and the familiar scenes of childhood will be desecrated by strangers“. 

1854 June

For a short time in the morning visited Cousin Harriet’s school – the school-house on the spot where first the beams of science dawned upon my infant mind.

1854 Poem


My native state!  I love thy welcome name.
The names of Mother, Sister, Brother, Friends
Nearest and dearest to my throbbing heart.
It speaks of home, of boyhood’s early years,
Of days long buried with the solemn past,
Of scenes, bright joyouse scenes now gone for aye,
But graved in gold on memory’s faithful page.
It calls companions from their graveyard homes
And lovingly they look

1872 September 21

Saturday, John Meharg took me to Mantua 9 miles distant where I got the train for Solon at 9:23 and found Crete and our two mothers and the two youngest children on board.  Reached Solon at little after ten and found a carriage and mounted escort of 75 men awaiting me.  Went with them to Chagrin Falls.  After ten and found a carriage and mounted escort of 75 men awaiting me.  Went with them to Chagrin Falls.  After dinner the long procession from the surrounding towns moved up to a grove in the outskirts of the town and I spoke two hours.  Did quite well in spite of my hoarseness.  This is nearer my birthplace that I ever made a political speech before.  Went to Orange with Cousin Henry Boynton.  Crete and her party came down from Solon and we spent the night at the old spot where I began life.  How I would love for a few days at least to be left alone by the world, as I once was in this place.  Am nearly sick.

1873 October 22

Friday.  Drove down to Sister Mary’s and spent the day in visiting there and at Sister Hitty’s.  In the afternoon Mr. Palmer took Mother, Crete, two of the children and myself to Orange where we visited Cousin Henry Boynton and his family and after a late tea had a long and pleasant visit  My birthplace with a hundred rods of this place is now a cultivated field with no sign of the old habitation left excepting the orchard.  Spent the night at Cousin Henry’s.

1874 September 8

Tuesday, Took the early train to Solon where I was joined by Dr. Boynton and his wife and baby Amos.  At Solon engaged carriage to drive us to Orange.  Called at Sister Mary’s and too Mother in with us and made arrangements for Mary to follow.  Drove to Orange over the old familiar ground.  Found the friends and spent one of the pleasantest days of the year in rambling over the old fields and showing the children the spot where the old house stood in which I was born.  In the evening sang some old favorite songs and hymns.  The day has renewed my health and helped to restore my faith n life.  Spent the night at Cousin Henry’s.

1877 September 7

Friday, Started the new Champion Drill and got in about two acres on the south side of the road.  I am putting into the field about 250 lbs. of bone phosphate and 175 lbs. plaster per acre.  At noon it commented to rain and stopped the sowing.  In the afternoon, went to Dr. Robinson’s to try a new plow., the Robinson chillde dplow, and bought it from Roberts of Orange.

1880 October 10

Sunday, at ten 0’clock. Crete, Mollie and I, with the black colts and carriage, started for Solon, going by way of Kirtland, Chester, Russell, Chagrin Falls.  Arrived at Sister Mary’s at two and spent the afternoon there and at her daughter Hattie’s.  Called at Sister Hittie’s, but she was away from home.  In the evening drove to Orange and spent the night at Cousin Henry Boynton’s by the old birthplace.  Walked out under the cold starlight and tried to recall the old sensations of boyhood.  Her I first learned the constel[l]ations and their places in the heavens.  It is my Greenwich, where all the world is exactly in its right place.  Every other place shows variation more or less.”

1880 October 11

Monday, Breakfasted at seven.  Went with Crete and Cousin Henry and hius wife into mother’s old orchard and gathered some apples from the trees which my father planted.  At a quarter before nine we started along the road leading towards Bentleyville.  On which I do not remember to have traveled for more than thirty-five years.  I drove slowly for every spot was crowded with childhood memories –by the old places of Smith, Frazer, Willey, Rathbone, Hoyt, Bentley.  All Gone.  Nearly all dead.  Turning back from Bentleyville, we went down the river by the old widow Fisher place.  Burnett’s, Gates Mills on the road to Willoughby and thence home…

1880 November 19

Friday, …spent the forenoon in constellation with different gentlemen.  All went away at noon except Governor Jewell who remained over.  Mother, Aunt Alpha Boynton, Crete and I took the train at noon for Cleveland.  We were met by John Hofste who drove us to Uncle Thomas Garfield’s at the edge of Warrenton.  Ten miles from Cleveland.  Where a family party of (for) Uncle Thomas and Myself.  He 79 and I 49.  Our Birthday was held.  A pleasant family dinner party and visit…