Wow! This is truly a treasure, even if it isn't for my family. I do wish I had something like this for my own ancestors, though. Among the items I received in my "treasure chest" is Jean La Forêt's diary (or journal), with entries running from May 19, 1884 to May 11, 1909. The book is not complete; it is missing the front and back covers, and a small piece of the page preceding the first one shown here is still attached, so I know I don't have the beginning. The pages appear to have been perfect bound originally with twine; each page has four small indentations/holes where the binding would have been. The pages are 3 1/2" x 5 7/8" and lined. They're a yellowish tone that might be faded from white. Most of the entries are in French. I've decided to transcribe (and translate, where needed) four pages per post.
1884 Mai 19 – Quitté Dieuze pour Sarrebourg par train 5 h. matin. Même jour de Sarrebourg à Strasbourg.
" Mai 20 – Quitté Strasbg. a 1 P.M. pour Metz par Haguenau x Sarreguemines.
" Mai 21 – Quitté Metz à 2 A.M. Arrivé à Ostende à 10 A.M.
" Mai 23 – 10 h. matin embarqué sur la "Louise Marie" pour Douvres. Beautemps. Débarqué 2 h. P.M. Parté immédiatement pour Londres. Arrivé à Londres 6 P.M. Descendu à l'hôtel Halifax.
" Mai 27 – Midi – Quitté Londres. Arrivé à Southampton à 4 h. du soir. Hôtel de la Providence.
1884. Mai 29 – Embarqué 4 h. soir sur "Southampton" pour rejoindre la "Werra", mouiller à quelques milles au mer. Embarq[ué?] sur "Werra" a 5 h. P.M. Cabin 93.
" Du 29 Mai au 6 Juin 7 h. soir – au mer – Beautemps – Comme(?) Mad.(?) Dr. Helène Baecker – Boston; Misses Jenny Lührs, New-York; x Constance Specht. Brèuve(?)
" Juin 6 – Débarqué à Hobocken
" Juin 7 – A New-York. Summit Hotel. Cor. Canal x Bowery.
" Juin 19 – A Philadelphia; descendu à l'Hôtel Lafayette.
" Juillet 5 – New York. Pris chambre 25 Horatio Street.
1884 Juillet 10 – Niagara; de là en Canada chasser avec Dixon.
" Juillet 20 – New-York par New-Port – Ensuite à Philadelphia, Washington, Richmond, etc . . . Beaucoup voyagé jùsqu'à fin du mois.
" Août – 1 – A New-York. Pris chambre 25e rue 138 W. et pension Restaurant de Beuf Maison française Dupré.
1884 – 11 Août. Dans l'armée comme instituteur 1st Infanterie
" 16 Août – Quitté New-York pour Fort Grant - Arizona
" 21 Août – Arrive à Fort Grant 7 h. soir.
" 22 Août – Loge avec la Sergt. en charge de la musique – Attaché à l'Etat-Major.
1884 – Sept. 15 – Clerc au Quartier Genal
" Nov. 19 – Bibliothécaire du Poste.
1885 – Mai à Novembre – Exped. en O.(?)
1886 Fevrier 8 – Rejoins Co "B" Capt. Dougherty (W. E) commdt
" Mars . 1 – Sous-officier.
" Juillet 7 – Quitte Fort Grant Arrive San Francisco le 10. Partons de S. F. le 14 – à bord du "City of Chester"; arrive à Eureka le 15 et à Hoopa Valley le 18 même(?) nous(?).
1886 Octobre 22 – Quitte Fort Gaston dans Hoopa Valley pour Requa – Klamath comme(?) Commandant du Detachement militaire et sous Agent indien.
1884 May 19 – Left Dieuze for Sarrebourg by train at 5:00 a.m. Same day from Sarrebourg to Strasbourg.
" May 20 – Left Strasbourg at 1:00 p.m. for Metz via Hagenau and Sarrequemines.
" May 21 – Left Metz at 2:00 a.m. Arrived at Ostend at 10:00 a.m.
" May 23 – 10:00 a.m. boarded the Louise Marie for Dover. Good weather. Disembarked at 2:00 p.m. Left immediately for London. Arrived in London at 6:00 p.m. Stayed at the Hotel Halifax.
" May 27 – Noon left London. Arrived at Southampton at 4:00 p.m. Hotel Providence.
1884 May 29 – Boarded 4:00 p.m. the Southampton to meet the Werra, anchored some miles out to sea. Boarded the Werra at 5:00 p.m. Cabin 93.
" from 29 May to 6 June at 7:00 p.m. – at sea – good weather – [— —] Dr. Helene Baecker, Boston; Misses Jenny Lührs, New York; and Constance Specht, [—]
" June 6 – Disembarked at Hoboken
" June 7 – To New York. Summit Hotel. Corner of Canal and Bowery.
" June 19 – To Philadelphia; stayed at the Hotel Lafayette.
" July 5 – New York. Took a room at 25 Horatio Street.
1884 July 10 – Niagara; from there around Canada hunting with Dixon.
" July 20 – New York via New Port – Then to Philadelphia, Washington, Richmond, etc. A lot of traveling until the end of the month.
" August 1 – To New York. Took a room at 25 West 138th Street and board at a beef restaurant (?) the Dupré French house
1884 11 August – In the Army as an instructor – 1st Infantry
" 16 August – Left New York for Fort Grant, Arizona
" 21 August – Arrived at Fort Grant at 7:00 p.m.
" 22 August – Rooming with the sergeant in charge of music – attached to the General Staff
1884 September 15 – Clerk for the Quartermaster General
" November 19 – Librarian at the post.
1885 May to November – Expedition(?) in the west(?)
1886 February 8 – Rejoined Company B, Captain W. E. Dougherty Commanding Officer
" March 1 – Noncommissioned officer
" July 7 – Left Fort Grant. Arrived San Francisco the 10th. We left San Francisco the 14th aboard the City of Chester; arrived at Eureka the 15th, at Hoopa Valley the 18th, same(?) [—].
1886 October 22 – Left Fort Gaston in the Hoopa Valley for Requa, Klamath as commanding officer of the military detachment and Indian agent.
I love the detail in Jean's diary. He wrote the exact times things happened, the names of ships, even the hotels where he stayed. There are definitely gaps in the timeline, but who cares? This is great stuff!
We know from the third reference letter that Jean left his last positions in Dieuze on May 1. It looks like he did so planning to go to the United States, because two and a half weeks later he left Dieuze on his multistage journey. It took almost a month from his departure from Dieuze to his arrival in Hoboken, New Jersey. This is pretty close to what Emma stated on her application for an emergency passport.
Jean did some sightseeing in the U.S. and Canada, and then a mere two months after his arrival he enlisted in the Army. There's nothing in the diary to indicate if that had been his intention from the beginning, but it's a pleasant surprise to see that the enlistment date he wrote is exactly the same as the one Emma gave when she applied for a pension based on his service.
There's also nothing in Jean's diary to explain why he wanted the three reference letters (here are the first and second letters). They were written in December 1884, which is skipped over in the diary (one of those gaps I mentioned). It doesn't seem likely that they were for a promotion, unless the promotion took a year and a half to process. When I get around to ordering his complete service file, maybe it will include something about the reference letters. With the specific information about units, dates, etc., I shouldn't have much of a problem finding his service records.
But how in the world will I figure out who the Dixon is with whom he went around Canada?