I am All A Lone: the diary of an early female settler

February 14, 2011 at 2:26 pm (Evans Roots) (, )

I just found out that someone found the journals of my great-great grandma, Mary Swasey Evans and put them into a book! I am currently looking into how I can get my hands on a copy of that book. I guess there will be a book signing/sale at the Discovery Center in The Dalles on March 12th, but my kids have their junior bowling league and I have to work.

Anyway, there is an article about the book here. It has a picture of Leander and Mary Evans. Up until today, I hadn’t seen a SINGLE picure from the Evans side of the family, including my Dad’s own father. This is the first one I’ve gotten my hands on, or even seen! … Pretty excited about that!

Anyway, here is the article:

I am All A Lone: the diary of an early female settler
Former Ontario resident finds family and history in her great-great aunt’s diary

By Patrick McDonough
Argus Observer
Saturday, December 11, 2010 10:04 PM PST

The diary of Mary Swasey Evans (right) an early Mosier settler was the main source for Doris J. Smith’s book ‘I Am All A Lone: The Diary of Mary Swasey Evans Early Mosier Settler.’ Smith also drew from multiple area newspapers of the time and photos, such as the one above with husband Leander Evans, to add to the scope of the work.

Smith said the work, which culminated with the publication of the book “I Am All A Lone: The Diary of Mary Swasey Evans Early Mosier Settler” began with the discovery of the Evan’s dairy while Smith was still teaching school.

“I first read a copy of a copy of the Mary Evans journal while I was still teaching and I thought it needed to be put into a better format so my relatives would read it,” Smith said.”I was not sure they would dig through the handwriting.”

Smith, who is a former Ontario resident and schoolteacher, began transcribing the hand written pages, but as she did this, she realized that there were elements of the diary that would be better served with outside illumination.

“I was immediately captivated by her gentle spirit and the details of her life as a farm wife,” Smith said. “She faithfully recorded her household tasks, the weather and more exciting events. When Mary would describe ‘going to the hall for entertainment’ I wanted more details.”

To gain insight into these details, Smith began researching newspapers from the area, such as The Dalles Optimist, the Mosier Bulletin and the Hood River Glacier, spending hours scouring microfilm and delving further into the mystery of Mary Evan’s life.

Smith said she discovered more about the life and times of a woman who came to Oregon in 1887 with her husband Leander and her two sons. The family cleared and homesteaded 170 acres of land, planted orchards and became well known and loved community members.

Smith said she discovered a great deal about life in the Mosier area around the turn of the century and that the combined elements unfolded what Smith calls a tapestry of Oregon history for her.

“The book takes place at Mosier Oregon, which is along the Columbia River,” she said. “It happens to be my hometown. I have five generations of my family buried there.”

“I thought it would be something that needed to be preserved for family legacy, but as it developed; as we put it together I thought it had a larger appeal than just for the family.”

Smith gathered the excerpts from the diary, the newspaper clippings and more to offer readers insight into, not only the life of a farm wife of the time, but the time itself.

“I have included quite a bit about the history of the area from the newspaper articles as well as photos of area and photos of family.”

The book interweaves all of these elements in an easy to follow and understand chronological manner. An excerpt from the diary dated Jan. 6, 1909 reveals particularities of the vernacular of the age as well as a preoccupation with weather common to the time and also the solitude Evans often found immersed in.

“Commenced snowing at 7:30 a.m. Very cold wind in the east,” Evans writes. “About eight inches of the beautiful. Lee has gone to the station … A Lone.”

Smith said the term beautiful was a quaint term of the time describing the snow itself, and the term ‘All A Lone’ was one Evans often wrote when left at the homestead as her husband went to town for business or social pleasure.

The entry is tied to an article in The Dalles Optimist dated Jan. 14, 1909 which amplifies the entry with a report of the weather being the coldest experienced in the area in many years and goes on to add other items of interest.

“The river has frozen over at The Dalles and milk is being hauled across in sleds,” the Optimist reports. “Thus averting a milk famine.”

Smith said the language of the settlers and the newspapers, the details of life 100 years ago and the photographs and other information make the book interesting and historically significant.

Smith welcomes anyone interested in the history of Oregon or the life of settlers in the area to share in the journey. The book is currently in the collection of the Columbia River Trading Company at the Discover Center and Museum in The Dalles, Oregon.

For more information, contact the center at the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center, 5000 Discovery Dr. The Dalles, Oregon 97058. Or call (541) 296-8600.

“The dairy takes place 100 years ago and this is what a homemakers life would have been like at that time,” Smith said. “These people led a different life than we do, They did not have electricity, and Mary talks about her first automobile ride. It is an exciting cross-over from the horse and buggy days to more modern times.”

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1 Comment

  1. Susan Kielpinski said,

    Thanks for mentioning it. I hope that it turns out that there is mention of other family members. She was my great grandmother’s 1st cousin, and for a period of time her dad and my gg grandfather were in business together in Kansas. It is even likely that she was there when my great grandmother was born, as their fathers were in business together at the time, and her stepmother was Matilda’s sister-in-law, and lived closest as family goes, and Matilda’s mother died in 1861 if I remember correctly, and none of Matilda’s family was in Kansas.

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