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Young Girl's Diary (1895)

Pictured is "Amelia's Diary," a diary belonging to a ten year old girl, who traveled with her family from Iowa to Arkansas in 1895.

The diary is found in the Emilie and Marie Stapp Collection that Dr. William D. McCain acquired in 1962. . Dr. William David McCain, former archivist for the state of Mississippi and fifth president of the University of Southern Mississippi, relates his role in the acquisition of the Emilie and Marie Blackmore Stapp Collection as he writes,

"On August 3, 1962, I recorded the following in the daily journal:

'Mrs. Charles Smith, of Poplarville, was in this morning concerning the doll collection of a female writer of Wiggins, Miss., whose name I had never heard. The woman lived at Wiggins from 1934 to her death. I cannot understand why I have not heard of her. I went after the books and the papers of the woman…

'…The home we wanted to see was that of Miss Emilie Blackmore Stapp, who died on June 30, 1962. She would have been 86 if she had lived to July 4, 1962. She was a writer of children's stories. She evidently was from Iowa and moved to her pleasant new home in the vicinity of Wiggins in 1934. She had a sister who lived with her until the sister died some two years ago.

'…We inspected the doll collection which was very large. However, I think that we can take care of it. The manuscript collection is not too large and may not be too significant. However, it is something that we want. I made arrangements to take the doll collection and to get the manuscript collection for the Library. The manuscript collection might supply some person material for a doctoral dissertation and we can get some good publicty [sic] out of it.'"

Perhaps the acquisition was a stroke of luck. Perhaps Dr. McCain's archivist's instinct impelled him to "go after" the Stapp Collection. More than likely he was knowledgeable about the hidden treasures that reside in collections given to archives. He was certainly aware of the research possibility contained in the Stapp Collection. He was not, however, aware of Amelia and her diary. Amelia began her diary on December 28, 1895, with the following words:

"Started at 10 a.m. Dec 28th 1895 on our trip to Arkansas, it is noon now and the horses are eating their dinner, there are 6 of us--Mother, Father, Louise 18 years of age Eddie 15 years of age Sophie 13 years of age and me 10 years of age, we have 2 wagons with covers on and a buggy without a cover. Father didn't want to leave the buggy and it is such an old rattletrap that we couldn't sell it so mother told him to let old Fannie pull us down to Ark in it fannie has crooked front legs and can't travel very good and father says she'll die before long but he likes her and she wasn't good enough to sell either so we hitched her [to] the buggy and brought her along. So and me drove her all morning, and we are going to try and drive her all the way down, we are going to rake leaves every night for her a soft bed so she will be rested again for the next day, besides fannie we have 4 more horses, Grilly and Daisy, and Flora and Clyde, and then we brought Leo, Leo is the cutest one of the family he is so excited and runs around and barks."

The diary is an excellent example of a child's perspective of the long and often treacherous trip. Amelia's observations are those of a child's-noticing cemeteries, churches, animals, food, and local customs. The diary mentions her first trip to Kansas City, where she saw an electric car for the first time. There is an account of the family's traveling through the country where the land is "poor" and sells for $3.50 to $5.00 per acre. This diary is a fine example of children's books, juvenile diaries, and manuscripts contained in the collection begun by Dr. Lena Y. de Grummond in 1966.

This diary is housed in the McCain Library & Archives. To view this item, please contact Ellen Ruffin at 601.266.4349 or ellen.ruffin@usm.edu.

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Text by Ellen Ruffin, Curator of the de Grummond Children's Literature Collection
E-mail:ellen.ruffin@usm.edu