Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Meet Abba Owen, 16-Year-Old Ypsilanti Teen Diarist

May I introduce you to Abba Owen, daughter of Ypsilanti mineral water baron Tubal Cain Owen and Anna (Stowe Foote) Owen. The Owens lived in a now-vanished house near the current day Roosevelt School building on EMU, where Tubal also had his magical and very profitable well.

In 1888, when she was 16, Abba kept a diary. It begins with a trip she and her family took out East to Buffalo and Niagara Falls. We shall join the family there. The cabinet card at left was taken in 1888. This is how Abba looked when she was keeping her diary.

Abba was named for her paternal grandmother, Abba (Ward) Owen, married to Benjamin. Over the next year you and I will discover more about the family, their era, and Abba's later career as a music teacher at Normal College--following in the footsteps of her maternal grandfather, Normal music professor Ezra Mead Foote. For now, let's join her as we start off her diary in the week of her birthday!

Abba's spelling and punctuation is replicated here; words I can't quite read are in guess-brackets. Sometimes I'll accompany those with a reproduction from her diary so that you can help puzzle it out if you wish.

Buffalo, Friday July 27th: We left Lewiston this morning at ten o'clock and stopped at the Falls we spent the rest of the day at the Falls. Libbie met us at the Falls and we went all around to the Horseshoe Falls. The Three Sister Islands visited all points of special points [sic] of interest. One can form but a slight idea of the grandeur of the Falls by reading descriptions of them. They are simply grand. We started at six for Buffalo and stayed all night at Libbie's.

Ypsilanti, Mich. Saturday July 28th: We left Buffalo this morning at seven o'clock and arrived home at three this afternoon. Grandpa was at the train to meet us. They were all glad to see us and we were glad to get home although we had had such a splendid time. It is the longest time that I have stayed away from home. Papa received a telegram from Aunt Matilda just about an hour before we got home saying that she and Abbie would be here on the five o'clock train so Eber [the older of Abba's 2 older brothers] went down to meet them. This evening we went and took a ride.

Sunday July 29th: Not any of us went to church this morning but Eber. Grandpa, Grandma, Aunt K ate, Mabel and Charley came up to dinner [lunch] and we all went down to their house to supper. Tomorrow is my birthday so Grandma made me a lovely birthday cake with candies all over it. We celebrated to-day instead of tomorrow.

Monday July 30th: Today is my sixteenth birthday. This morning I received a lovely birth-day card from my [several] relatives, wishing me many returns of the day. Aunt Matilda and Abbie and Lottie [Budbridge] started for home this morning at half-past-ten. This evening Eber hitched up Jessie and Fred and we went for a nice ride.

Tuesday July 31st: Today has been the hottest day we have had this summer. This afternoon at five o'clock the thermometer stood at 90' in the shade. It was so hot that we did nothing but lounge around all day. About supper time it began to grow dark and it rained and blew very hard. After supper Eber took Aunt Kate, Mabel, Mama and I out for a ride and it began to rain again and we were caught but did not get very wet.

Wensday August 1st: To-day is Emancipation Day and all the colored people celebrate it so we have no girl and Grandma also hasn't a girl so they all came up to our house and took their meals and helped us do the work. In the afternoon Marian Henderson made a call. Eber started this afternoon for Gross [Ieal] Island to make Miss Gray a visit. To-day has been a great deal cooler than yesterday.

Thursday Aug 2nd: This morning we got breakfast and our girl got home this morning. This evening we went out for a ride. Aunt Kate is sick with a wisdom tooth [tonight], and so mama brought the baby up to our house to-day.

Friday Aug 3rd: This has been the hottest day we have had the thermometer stood at 100' in the shade this afternoon about half past three. Mama took the baby again tonight for Aunt Kate was not able to take care of him.

Thanks for reading! Tune in next Tuesday for another week of Abba's diary!


Lisele said...

I've never heard of Emancipation Day being celebrated Aug 1. Interesting. We were in the archives yesterday and found that City Directories around this time noted which residents were "Col'd" or "colored." My daughter found that in 1899, Nancy Robbins, colored widow of William, was residing in her home (one of just a few) in Normal Park. I wonder if she was "a girl," or renting. Many African-Americans in the Robbins family all appeared about the same time, living around the city on Maple, Second, South Adams, etc.

Dusty D said...

Emanicipation Day on Aug 1, and not the "Juneteenth" that I was familiar with, seems to have its roots in the Caribbean: Link

I took a quick look for Nancy Robbins in Ancestry.com, guessing she was born around 1869, but didn't find her. If you have an approx. birth year, I'd be glad to try and find her.

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