Friday, May 27, 2016

Treasure Chest Thursday: Jean La Forêt's Diary

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.

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Souvenirs personnels

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.

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Personal Memories

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.

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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?


  1. You are so right that these types of notes are treasures. My maternal grandmother kept thousands of notes on stenographer's pads about everything in her daily life. I have quite a few of her notes and treasure them dearly. She loved to travel and lived all around the world and kept notes about cultures, religions, foods, etc.. My grandfather kept journals on exotic plants when they lived in Hawaii and I especially love those notes since I'm a botanist. I wonder if any of those plants are extinct today?
    It's easy for relatives to discount or overlook the value in such articles and I have found so many treasures in trash cans that relatives through away when their parents passed and they were cleaning house. I have a lot of WWII items from an Admiral that was at Pearl Harbor- including his medals that were tossed in the trash by his own children!
    Last month I had a most exciting experience! I have been researching a family in NC ( unrelated to me) for a few years and had hit a brick wall on one particular woman. I suspected that she had changed her name slightly which was throwing me off track but believed that my theories about her identity were correct despite not having any evidence. Last month I received an email from a another researcher on who belonged to this family because he had received an email from a lady in NC who had found a photograph book at a thrift store with the family members identified in the pictures, etc.. of this family. The buyer contacted the other researcher and he contacted me. Yes indeed, this was the proof I was looking for and it just landed in my lap with no effort whatsoever! The pictures included post cards written to siblings, parents, and more!
    I also received a family history journal from a woman in Missouri who found it in an old abandoned farm supply store. The journal was written on an old feed and seed bookkeeping ledger but it contained info about my ancestors.
    I really appreciate it when someone makes the effort to search for researchers when they find and or purchase items like these.
    One last thing...
    If you are or anyone is interested in reading a fascinating journal about southern life ( including slaves' lives) in GA and Alabama pre and post Civil War, check out Laura Beecher Comer's diary. Laura is Harriet Beecher Comer's cousin ( the abolishionist). There are many mentions of the famous Comers of Alabama. Simply fascinating!,Laura_Beecher.html

    Be sure to scroll down the page to the actual pages of the diary that you can download.

  2. I'm always dismayed to hear that someone has thrown out family papers, or that a person's letters, photos, etc. have shown up in a thrift store or yard sale. I just wrote about some Civil War documents that a man found in a box he bought at a rummage sale ( It's great to hear that some of those items find their way back to family members.

    Thanks for the link to the diary! It sounds very interesting.

  3. Janice, my brain is not working properly. I meant to say that Laura Comer was Harriet Beecher Stowe's cousin. The journal is very interesting. At one point I decided to read it out loud and record it but I never got the cassette player I wanted because it was too expensive. I may still do it. Hey, that's a good project for me while I'm still a vegetable.

    I read your post and I saw that episode of Antiques Road Show! I love that show! That was truly an amazing find and such an important part of our history. Well, the good thing is that the items were not destroyed.

    1. That's ok, I figured out you meant Harriet Beecher Stowe. And this would be a good project for you to work on while you can't do a lot of other stuff. Who knows, maybe you'll find a career as a reader of books for the blind.

      I think it is amazing that those drawings have survived, but I suspect some didn't. At least those twelve did, and maybe their descendants and relatives will see the drawings and get to learn what they looked like at that time.

  4. Bonjour, Hello,
    I am french, so I can tell you the 2 words you didn't read in the second letter of Adrienne La Forêt, this one of the 23th of august of 1926. The first is 'hélas" (alas), and the second is "Dieu" (God).
    Bien cordialement

    1. Thank you very much! Your assistance is greatly appreciated.

    2. Oh, and I hope you enjoyed reading my blog!


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