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Collection Title: Fike (Didamie Emaline Hicks) Diary
Collection Number: M270
Dates: 1843 and 1844-1845
Volume: 1 Folder (48 pages)
Didamie Emaline Hicks Fike was born on January 31, 1817, the daughter of Reverend Berryman and Elizabeth Durham Hicks. Didamie grew up on a farm in Old Spartenburg County, in an area that is now Chesnee on the boarder of Cherokee and Spartenburg Counties, South Carolina. In 1801 her maternal grandfather, Achulles Durham, purchased a hundred acres of land on both sides of a branch of the Little Buck Creek. This land cost Achulles $100, and the transaction was witnessed by his son-in-law Rev. Hicks. The family lived near the site of the 1781 Revolutionary War battle of Cowpens Fields, where Brigadier General Daniel Morgan won a decisive tactical victory against British Lieutenant Colonel Banaste Tarleton, known as the "butcher."
According to an 1820 map of South Carolina this area was described as generally "extreme poor and level land." In antebellum South Carolina this region was characterized by predominately subsistence farmers growing wheat, corn, peas, tobacco, vegetables, and rearing some cattle and hogs. Holdings were typically under 400 acres and in contrast to coastal regions of the state, this was not an area of large slave holders. Those farmers that did own slaves generally owned fewer than five.
On March 28, 1844 Didamie married George Adam Fike. Fike was a farmer born in South Carolina on April 16, 1809 to George and Christine Souter Fike. His farm was apparently successful, doubling its real estate value from $700 to $1,400 in the ten years between the 1850 and 1860 censuses. On April 19, 1845 their first child Claudius L. Fike was born. Claudius was followed by a sister, Laura L. and brother, George O., who were twelve and ten years old respectively in 1860. The 1850 census indicates that they had a one year old son called Robin, although he is not recorded in subsequent censuses.
By 1870 Claudius had moved away from home and married Mary Ann Goodwin (born November 16, 1848). According to the 1870 census records he had a new son called Russel, born that March. He did not own any property and was earning a living as a teacher in Suffletown, Laurens County, South Carolina. Didamie died on September 19, 1875. Her husband out-lived her by nearly thirty years, dying April 24, 1901.
The Didamie Emaline Hicks Fike diaries consist of a handwritten diary for the month of September 1843 when she was unmarried, and a typed copy of her diary for October 1844 to April 1845 during which time she was married. Both diaries highlight Didamie's daily life, significant events that occurred, and her private thoughts. They reveal the lifestyle of subsistence farmers which was hard and revolved around work, the weather and illness.
The handwritten diary is difficult to read, but it is possible to discern what was important to Didamie in her pre-married life. Diary entries begin with a mention of the weather and if she had to go to school that day. She does not indicate whether she attended school as a student or, as her age and son's subsequent profession may suggest, as an instructor. Didamie also recorded who she saw and met each day, and the news they brought her. This gossip consisted primarily of who was sick, dead or dying. Of particular importance to her was hearing from "G" (George Fike). Although she does not detail her feelings for George in her diary, she constantly mentions seeing "G" or that "G" did not come today. Also, the handwritten diary closes with the phrase "I believe in you, I am contented with you, Oh I love you," which may refer to her future husband.
The second diary is typed and covers Didamie's married life in the months prior to the birth of her first child. No direct mention is made of her pregnancy, although her diary entries record her feeling bad and tired, as well as mentioning the making of a crib and bonnet.
Her life revolved around work on the farm. She records washing, cooking, spinning, shucking, having peas ground for the cow, and making clothes. In addition, she mentions her husband's work, such as killing hogs, buying supplies, and helping a neighbor build a wagon shed. However, clearly "Mr. F's" absences from the farm were more significant to Didamie. Her entries constantly mention her feeling "lonesome" due to his trips to town, or more often to socialize with friends. On Christmas Eve 1844 she writes, "this is Christmas Eve. Feel lonesome tonight. Mr. Fike and George went to Mr. Epting's tonight. Heard many great guns. We went to bed before they came back."
Despite Fike's obvious fondness for male revelry and drink, he and his wife made social visits together to share a breakfast of squirrels with a friend, or sing at a neighbor's home. In addition, Didamie mentions visiting her family, going to hear a preacher at the Buck Creek meeting, or going to a quilting. However, much of Didamie's social life was lived through the eyes and ears of her husband. In her diary she recorded the latest news he brought home to her. Again, the attention here, like in her pre-marriage diary, was on who was sick or had died.
The diaries of Didamie Fike provide insight into daily life in a rural community in South Carolina in the first half of the nineteenth century. The diaries do not give precise details about the location of the community or specific genealogical information about the people who lived there, but the entries afford a general picture of life that is representative of that geographical area, time period and socioeconomic environment. They are particularly interesting as life is seen through the eyes of a young woman. Thus, a researcher concerned with a female perspective will find these diaries especially valuable as they illuminate Didamie's world: what she had to do; who she met; and what she thought was important.