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Guide to the Leon A. Colby Papers, 1887-1925

Collection number: MC 22

Size: 2 boxes

(0.66 cu.ft.)

About Leon A. Colby, 1870-1945

Leon A. Colby was born on December 18, 1870 in Whitefield, New Hampshire, the son of Charles and Hattie Colby. He worked as a farm hand on his parents’ farm and later inherited the farm when they died. In his youth, Leon attended the local school and enjoyed blacksmithing. For some time, he worked in the wood mill at Zealand (Carroll), New Hampshire and in 1905 he began to work at the Riverton Electric Company in Lancaster, New Hampshire, boarding in the town during the week and returning home on weekends. On October 18, 1902 he married Grace Howard. The couple continued to live on the family farm and eventually had seven children: Viola (b. Nov 19, 1903), Charles Henry (Feb 2, 1908 – Nov 17, 1924), Richard (Oct 11, 1909 - Apr 4, 1999), Leona (Oct 22, 1911 – Jul 8, 1950), Wilma (b. Mar 11, 1917), Asa (Mar 11, 1917 – Jul 28, 2005), and Joseph (Aug 8, 1919 – Feb 20, 1999). Leon Colby died from coronary thrombosis on April 10, 1945.

About the Leon A. Colby Papers

The collection consists of thirty-two diaries from the years 1887-1893, 1897-1900, 1902-1916, 1918-1922, and 1925. Leon A. Colby began keeping a diary at age 16. His diaries contain daily accounts of the weather and of his work. In recounting work at his farm and at the Riverton Electric Company, he can be very descriptive. Occasionally, he will comment on social activities, new technology, and family matters. The diaries over time document Leon’s coming of age and growing maturity. The diaries also double as account books of varying consistency and as address books. The collection also includes newspaper clippings, personal and business papers, and three letters, all found in or with the diaries.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

This collection is open.

Copyright Notice

Contents of this collection are governed by U.S. copyright law. For questions about publication or reproduction rights, contact Special Collections staff.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Leon A. Colby Papers, 1887-1925, MC 22, Milne Special Collections and Archives, University of New Hampshire Library, Durham, NH, USA.

Acquisitions Information

Purchased:

Charles Apfelbaum, dealer, Watchung, NJ, July 1, 2005 (Accession number: 2005.04)

Al Ports, dealer, Rumney, NH, July 12, 2011 (Accession number: 2011.21)

Collection Contents

Series I: Diaries, 1887-1925

Box 1
Box 1, Envelope 1 January-December, 1887

Records school activities, chores, weather, farm life, and social life.

Box 1, Envelope 2 January-December, 1888

Records school activities, chores, weather, farm life, and social life. Leon records sicknesses in the family and community, recounts that the selectmen came to town (Apr 4), has a mowing accident that results in the death of a cat (Jul 14), visits Jefferson, NH, and buys a watch

Box 1, Envelope 3 January-December, 1889

School activities, chores, weather, farm life, and social life. Visits Barnum and Bailey Circus and builds a bycicle

Box 1, Envelope 4 January-December, 1890

School activities, chores, weather, farm life, and social life. Recalls Mr. Barnet taking the census.

Box 1, Envelope 5 January-December, 1891

Work at the Zealand wood mill, farm work, weather, family, social life, and medical ailments. Visits Barre, Vermont

Box 1, Envelope 6 January-December, 1892

Work at the Zealand wood mill, farm work, weather, family, and social life. Tells of a passenger train accident and the death of his friend Mary Walker

Box 1, Envelope 7 January-December, 1893

Records work as a night watchman for two local mills, farm work, weather, family and social life. Visits Boston, Massachusetts. Contains detailed account records.

Box 1, Envelope 8 January-December, 1897

Records work for Clark Colby in a bobbin mill, farm work, weather, family and social life. Contains detailed account records

Box 1, Envelope 9 January-December, 1898

Records farm work, weather, family and social life. Notes a skirmish at Matanzas, Cuba during the Spanish-American War and the loss of the steamer Portland. Contains blacksmithing metal formulas and gunpowder formula as well as detailed account records.

Box 1, Envelope 10 January-December, 1899

Records farm work, weather, family and social life. Notes the death of his friend and neighbor, Mr. Stillings; takes up photography as a hobby, and takes a trip to Boston, Massachusetts and Providence, Rhode Island. Contains detailed account records.

Box 1, Envelope 11 January-December, 1900

Records work at the bobbin mill, farm work, weather, family and social life. Begins to court Grace Howard and visits Boston, Massachusetts. Contains detailed account records.

Box 1, Envelope 12 January-December, 1902

Records farm work, weather, family and social life. Marries Grace Howard. Detailed account records with price of diary.

Box 1, Envelope 13 January-December, 1903

Records farm work, weather, family and social life. Has two teeth filled (Jan 22), makes a drag saw machine, mentions a forest fire (June 4), works for the Drew Machine Company/Agency, daughter Viola born (Nov 19). Detailed account records.

Box 1, Envelope 14 January-December, 1904

Records farm work, weather, family and social life. Mentions his daughter Viola. Contains detailed account records.

Box 1, Envelope 15 January-December, 1905

Records work at the Riverton Electric Company, farm work, weather, family and social life. Contains detailed account records.

Box 1, Envelope 16 January-December, 1906

Records work at the Riverton Electric Company, farm work, weather, family and social life. Tells of a fire at the Maine Central Water Tank House and his actions in the rescue efforts. Mentions that Viola, his daughter, is walking. Contains detailed account records.

Box 1, Envelope 17 January-December, 1907

Records work at the Riverton Electric Company, farm work, weather, family and social life. Contains detailed account records.

Box 2
Box 2, Envelope 1 January-December, 1908

Records farm and blacksmithing work and odd jobs, weather, family and social life. Builds a circular saw, son Charles Henry Howard born (Feb 2), “Uncle James Colby” dies (Feb 22), brother Walter has a stillborn (or dying soon after birth) daughter (July 9), the factory where they always took their milk burns to ground (July 12), Viola is kicked by one of the family horses (July 19), Leon makes a trip to Boston (Aug 18). Contains detailed account records.

Box 2, Envelope 2 January-December, 1909

Records farm work, weather, family and social life. Viola suffers a broken arm (July 28). Leon first mentions his son, Richard (Oct 20). Contains detailed account records.

Box 2, Envelope 3 January-December, 1910

Records farm work, weather, family and social life. Does jury duty on “the Goddard case” (Sept 12), and then on a criminal case, friend Gilbert staying with the family gets “the grip,” goes “crazy” with it (Nov-Dec), and dies (Dec 24). Contains detailed account records.

Box 2, Envelope 4 January-December, 1911

Records farm work, weather, family and social life. Speaks of a town meeting and later of selectmen coming around, “old lady Miller” goes missing, then found again by townspeople (May), Leon goes to a fair (Sept 7), daughter Leona is born (Oct 22). Contains detailed account records.

Box 2, Envelope 5 January-December, 1912

Records farm work, weather, family and social life. Uncle Ira dies (recorded Apr 6), Leon attends Roosevelt rally at the town hall (Apr 20), votes for delegates (Apr 23), goes to the primary election (Sept 3), and visits Boston (Oct 8-10). Contains account record.

Box 2, Envelope 6 January-December, 1913

Records farm work, weather, family and social life. Attends a Progressive meeting at the village (Jan 24), sees a man parachute out of a hot air balloon (Sept 4), and is visited by life insurance salesmen (Nov 6); also, Leon’s father dies (Feb 18). Contains detailed account record.

Box 2, Envelope 7 January-December, 1914

Records farm work, weather, family and social life. Catholic church burns down (Jun 15), daughter Wilma is born (Jul 27), and Leon is baptized (Aug 23). Contains detailed account record

Box 2, Envelope 8 January-December, 1915

Records farm work, weather, family and social life. Traps two bears; visits “the Flume” (Franconia Notch; Sep 25). Contains detailed account record.

Box 2, Envelope 9 January-December, 1916

Records farm work, weather, family and social life. Viola is baptized (Sep 24), Viola takes examinations for and later ends up going to the village school. Contains detailed account record.

Box 2, Envelope 10 January-December, 1918

Records farm work, surveying work, effects of the “Spanish influenza”, weather, family and social life. The “Overlook hotell” burns down (Jul 29), son Richard falls off the mowing machine seat and is badly injured (Aug 19), Leon is sworn in as a surveyor (Oct 18). Records local reaction to the end of WWI (Nov 11). Contains detailed account record.

Box 2, Envelope 11 January-December, 1919

Records farm work, weather, family and social life. Two local buildings burn down (Feb 13), Leon initiates a law suit (Feb 19-20), son Joseph is born (Aug 7 and 8), mentions son Asa (born 1917), first mention in these collected diaries (Dec 31). Contains detailed account record.

Box 2, Envelope 12 January-December, 1920

Records farm work, weather, family and social life. Contains detailed account record.

Box 2, Envelope 13 January-December, 1921

Records farm work, weather, family and social life. Leon wins law suit he initiated in 1919 (Jan 7), builds a “road cart” (Apr/May), Viola begins attending school in Manchester (Sep 6), Leon receives his settlement check (Nov 30). Contains detailed account record.

Box 2, Envelope 14 January-December, 1922

Records farm work, road work, weather, family and social life. Leon’s mother dies (Apr 10), roads are washed away (Jun 29), records details about working on roads (Jun 30 – Nov 10). Contains some account records.

Box 2, Envelope 15 January-December, 1925

Records farm work, weather, family and social life. Writings in diary go only through September 3. The family watches an eclipse (Jan 24), Leon mentions his bear (Feb 8), goes to Republican caucus (Mar 8) and Democrat caucus (Mar 9), mentions Henry’s grave (May 30), first such mention in these collected diaries, Leona is baptized (Aug 2). Contains some account records.

Series II: Papers, 1892-1925 and undated

Box 2, Folder 1 Articles and advertisements, undated
Box 2, Folder 2 Personal and business. Includes written agreements, money order receipts, tax receipts, store orders, photograph of an elderly woman, scrap paper notes, etc., 1909-1925 and undated
Box 2, Folder 3 Letters
November 27, 1892. From Miss Flossie Howland to Leon A. Colby confirming his visit the following Wednesday to North Woodstock, New Hampshire
April 4, 1899. From Warren W. Bennett to Leon A. Colby detailing Bennett’s work in Providence, Rhode Island
December 4, 1918. From F.M. Greenleaf to Leon A. Colby confirming receipt of order for a Blodget Caliper and describing the Cordwood Caliper

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