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1898 Diary (July-December) of Esther Mankell

NOTES: Punctuation has been added and some grammar and spelling corrected, which will aid the reader. “Forenoon” means before noon. "..." indicates unreadable text.

At the time that Esther began to write this diary in 1898 she, brother Otto and her mother Elizabeth were living at the homestead. (Esther's father HW had died in 1889 when she was 15 years old.) By April Esther was living in Willmar.

As July 1898 begins, Esther continues to stay with the Nordin family in Willmar, and works for area families: primarily cleaning and sewing. Gustave is at his family farm in Irving Township, northeast of Spicer. Esther travels by train from Willmar to Spicer to visit Gustave. By late August, Esther is back at the farm and makes references to harvesting.

By fall she is working in Willmar. In late November Esther writes about taking the train to Hawick and then visiting Gustave at his school. It appears that he is teaching at a school in or near Hawick (about 10 miles northeast of New London; only a few miles north of the Erickson homestead in Irving Township).


July 1
Rained all night; very hot today. Thru at Ramsett...bought my shoes...will make my waist tomorrow and wash.

July 2
Cleaned house and sewed for myself; glad I am thru at R.

July 3 (Sunday)
Went to church; wore my new shoes and silk waist. Warm as usual; took a walk with Mrs and Mr N.

July 4
Up early; ironed before seven. No trains going this morn. Took the train at noon; arrived at Spicer and found Gustave there; happy were we both.

July 5
Came home this evening; feel tired; went to bed at twelve; up at three. Saw the soldiers off; how sorry I feel for them.

July 6
Home today; worked, mended stockings.

July 7
At Youngs today. Worked late. Mrs Young is very very kind. Think lots of Erixson.

July 8
Youngs yet.

July 9
Worked hard; feel tired; Mrs Young is such a nice Christian woman; How much I think of her; I feel so sad tonight.

July 10
Was at Olsens; Mary was alone. Stayed over night; slept very little; nervous; don't feel good.

July 11
Mrs. Young again

July 12
At Mrs. Young

July 13
At Mrs Young

July 14
At Olsens; sew for Amy

July 15
Olsons; sew for Mary today.

July 17
Gustave came to see me. We spent some time by the lake in the evening. I intend to take a rest for some time as I am much in need of it. At Mrs Olsens thru tonight; took a nice bath; very warm.

July 18 (Sunday)
A very warm day. Gustav and I spent it in the woods by Foot Lake. How happy we are in each other's company!

July 19
Sewed for Mrs Hackett. Very warm; Gustave went this morn. WIsh I could have seen him this morn before he went.

July 20
Mother called; went with up town; talked; very windy yet

July 21
Very windy; thru at H; will rest for a while; up early and ironed clothes.

July 22
Intend to go out to the lake; visit Mrs Johnson.

July 23
Went out to the lake...stayed over Sunday; raining all day.

July 24 (Sunday)
Windy and cold; wished it had been warm and fine.

July 25
Came home today; very warm; feel tired; was up at six and picked berries.

July 26
Sew for Mrs Ormen today.

July 27
Home today; Washed

July 28
Up early; ironed; Agnes and Mrs Lind coming at noon.

July 29
I bought some goods for a nightshirt and handkerchief for Gustave. Had telgram from him to come out there tomorrow and spend a week.

July 30
Went to Spicer on the morning train and walked to Irving; met Gustave on the way; We spent the afternoon by the lake and reached his home in the evening. Saw Augusta Osberg (his "second cousin") there and she invited us to call on her tomorrow.

July 31
Went to Osberg on a party; walked all way; spent a fine time; rather warm.


August 1
forenoon fished; afternoon picked berries and rained some; lovely day.

August 2
Rained all night; afternoon went to Spicer; took train for Willmar; Came home late; all gone to bed; slept at Mrs Hacketts.

August 3
Up early; feel tired from walking; sewed for Mrs Hackett; shall sleep with Mary.

August 4
Sewed for Mrs Hackett

August 5
At Olsens; slept here last night; we are all alone; rained and thundered all night; did not sleep well; stayed here because it rained too much to go away; N. is not at home; out the lake; This year I earned $107.27 since January until first August; Will earn more yet.

August 6
Johnson accounts and earnings are from Feb until August is $1080.47. Went to N; cleaned all day; worked hard. Mr N went out the lake at eight oclock PM; took my picture and did some reading.

August 7 (Sunday)
Slept at Dr. J. Went to church with Hannah; was for dinner and supper; ...H is with me in the office reading and I have copied some songs.

August 8
Went to Hawick, noon train. Was to Olsens for dinner; been hustling about this forenoon; arrived at Osberg; busy harvesting; went with coffee.

August 9
Fine weather today; very warm; folks pleasant; have a nice time.

August 10
Gustave came today. We feel happy; Stacking commenced.

August 11
Out working all day; very warm.

August 12
Was to Warmelens this afternoon; had coffee; washed clothes this morn.

August 13
Worked this am; very warm.

August 14 (Sunday)
Went to the lake fornoon. PM Erixons came; spent the afternoon. We girls drove a ways with them.

August 15
Very unpleasant today; went to E; stayed over night.

August 16
Unpleasant as usual; how sad I feel...if I was away. Why shall such trouble come. Is this Gustave's nature or what does this mean.

August 17
Feel very sad; slept very little all night; went to meeting this evening.

August 18
Gustave and myself went to Erixons. Minister there for supper.

August 19
Here yet. Went to New London; Gustave and myself came to town; had a ride with Larson home. Walked from there home; feel tired; ...sat down in the old parlor and thought for myself. How years has fasted and things has changed. Not long since all things played and laughed to me and now how dark and sad; how old I am and what makes me so.

August 20
Slept late; very warm night; cleaned all Saturday up stairs and down; feel sad. Men noisy stacking; children crying; how changed from years ago.

August 21 (Sunday)
Very warm; read some am; pm undressed and layed around in my room with my night dress on. Feel good; Jenny and Mrs Lund came from coffee.

August 22
Packed my trunk all day in my room. Finished some work.

August 23
Dena came; spent PM packing took a walk, enjoyed our self. Dena is very kind.

August 24
washed clothes AM; PM worked on some ...went to the store.

August 25
Around a while and sewed; little Herman sick.

August 26
Had company; Hannah Negaard; finished my quilts

August 27
Letter from Gustave; very windy; feel lonesome.

August 28 (Sunday)
Home; ...was for supper. Gave her a pale of apples, picked when they were gone... Gustave is in Willmar; I presume is writing to me; how lonely he must be.

August 29
Washed forenoon; made nightshirt; hope it isn't too small.

August 30
Ironed; sew on tie for myself; over to Dena; stayed overnight; ate watermelon by the lake shore; put them out in the water to cool; read and laughed.

August 31
Dena's all day; sew my night dress; went to Mary's for supper; had potato salad, chocolate and cake; ate and laughed; went home later in the evening; had moonlight; walked alone.


Sept 1
At home sewing

Sept 2
Very warm; went to Willmar with Alfred; came home late; found Gustave here; was happy.

Sept 3
Gustave here; noted our quilt in the afternoon; spent the evening out walking in the moonlight.

Sept 4 (Sunday)
Out walked forenoon; PM went to Gordhamers; spent the evening by the lake side and had a serious conversation.

Sept 5
Finished the quilt; Gustave went on business; came for dinner; went to New London 4PM I followed him at the hill; Anna Q. stayed over night; I took a hot foot bath; went to bed.

Sept 6
Up early; Oscar gone a thrashing; Anna went to New London; not feeling well; took some hot brandy.

Sept 7
Baked all day for the thrashers; very windy

Sept 8
Had a letter from Gustave and such sad news. Uncle Bermlene died Sunday

Sept 9
Thrashers came this forenoon. All goes well.

Sept 10
Very busy; fine weather; up early this morn.

Sept 11 (Sunday)
Fine weather; slept late; had a few men for breakfast; all be hear for supper; will be thru tomorrow forenoon.

Sept 12
Thrashers left this noon. Had a letter from Gustave.

Sept 13
Rain all day; washed clothes.

Sept 14
Alone home; boys out thrashing; sew for myself.

Sept 15
Mother gone to New London for Oscar; cleaned up story. Cloudy weather; sent a letter to Augusta.

Sept 16
Everything as usual; washed today.

Sept 17
Cleaned all day; made a cover for Mother's trunk.

Sept 18 (Sunday)
Asbergs Al and Gustave came for dinner. Oscar and Minnie went to church with children.

Sept 19
Forenoon to creamery; PM wne to Ericsons with cake. Found Gustave at home; had a nice time.

Sept 20
Gustave went out on business this morn. Thought he would be back tonight, but did not. I feel very tired and got a cold last night, I guess.

Sept 21
Gustave did not come; presume he gone home; Quams was home for dinner; been sewing my collarett.

Sept 22
Rainy weather; Stella stayed over night. Mother is not home yet. was in ...for coffee. Mrs Nyman called.

Sept 23
Had telephone from Mr. Nordin that I had to come. Mrs. N sick. Will go tomorrow in the morning train. Will write to Gustave tonight.

Sept 24
Left home eight o'clock; went to New London. At three drove with Johnson to Willmar; six. Mrs N is yet up but very poorly...ride went thru Green Lake woods.

Sept 25 (Sunday)
Fine weather. Mrs N and myself went to ...for coffee and for a walk.

Sept 26
Mrs N in bed; I washed fornoon; cleaned the house; Mr N busy out every day. Wonder how my Gustave is. Not heard from him yet.

Sept 27
...having a supper for the church. I did not go.

Sept 28
Dark weather. PM went to Elfstrom for those slippers.

Sept 29
Busy sewing for Mrs N. Anna Quam called for dinner and Mrs. J

Sept 30
Busy sewing; called on Etta Johnson. Must go there on Saturday and sew.


Oct 1
Swept the rooms all over and scrubbed; cleaned the three men for dinner and four for supper. Mr N is all right, got there...

Oct 2 (Sunday)
Very windy; is going out to Allisons about four miles with Mary J. too bad it is so windy.

Oct 3
Washed today; fine weather

Oct 4
Cleaned house and sewed for Mrs. N a waist.

Oct 5
Sewing for Mrs.N, a teagown. PM went to see Mrs Johnson

Oct 6
House work all day

Oct 7
Sewing at Mrs Orem today.

Oct 8
Picnic at the church; all gone excepting Mrs N and myself; bought hat for Dena.

Oct 9 (Sunday)
Went out Norway Lake with Mr Chesvold; morning very fine.

Oct 10
Did not get back until today. Yesterday afternoon it commenced to rain. Very muddy.

Oct 11
At Mrs Orem sewing.

Oct 12
Home today working; at Etta sewing

Oct 13
at Etta

Oct 14
at Etta all day sewing; very dark

Oct 15
At Etta. George went to Chicago; she is alone. I shall stay these nights.

Oct 16 (Sunday)
Dark today. Stayed home today; shall write to Gustave.

Oct 17
Stay at home forenoon; PM went to Etta; George gone.

Oct 18
Went to Gilgers; rain today; don't expect to come back evenings.

Oct 19
Rain; Gilgers

Oct 20
Cold, dark; tonight; Gilgers yet.

Oct 21
Had a letter sent with Stella

Oct 22
Clear the first day this week....

Oct 23 (Sunday)
Came back this morning; very muddy...Mrs Olsen is back from the cities

Oct 24
Home, house alone; Mr N out to country; been gone all week.

Oct 25
At Linders, cold today

Oct 26
Feel very tired; the children very very noisy. Glad it's evening; had a letter from Gustave.

Oct 27
Back today; will snow, I guess. At L. yet; wish I were thru

Oct 28
Cold tonight; shall stay at L over night.

Oct 29
Was in the jewelry store to look at rings. Had a letter from Hawick; had my thimble at Anderson.

Oct 30 (Sunday)
At home alone this morn. Shall have a large dinner ready. Mrs N is going in the country to arrange for the funeral on Monday.

Oct 31
My birthday; dark weather; a Linders yet; went to Olsens in the evening...


Nov 1
At home cleaning windows

Nov 2
Jules T came from Mpls

Nov 3
at Mrs Carl; had a letter from Amanda

Nov 4
Mrs Carl sewing; cold today

Nov 5
Mother called at me and Dena; she shall stay

Nov 6 (Sunday)
fine weather; D and myself home alone am; pm D will go out riding with Mr T; I shall call on Mary Johnson

Nov 7
At Mrs C yet; thru today

Nov 8
Mrs Johnson today; shall stay a week or more

Nov 9
weather fine; had a letter from Gustave and a package from Hilda Erickson.

Nov 10
sun; working at J. yet...

Nov 11
sun; Alexander was in town; called evening

Nov 12
J yet; Etta called; had coffee.

Nov 13 (Sunday)
dark and cold; snow I guess. Mrs N and myself went to Iselgers.

Nov 14
At Johnsons

Nov 15
At J

Nov 16
At J

Nov 17
Home today; can not work, not well.

Nov 18
At home, very sick; layed part of the day.

Nov 19
at home; up around today

Nov 20 (Sunday)
Nordins gone to ...for supper; Dena spent the day with me

Nov 21
(no entry)

Nov 22
(no entry)

Nov 23
Went to Hawick where Augusta Osberg met me and I accompanied her to her home. Found my dear Gustave again after a separation of more than two months. How happy we were as we spent the time resting in each other's arms!

Nov 24
Thanksgiving Day. Gustave has taken a vacation until next monday morning and he will spend every moment in my company. I am occupying his room while here.

Nov 25
Gustave and I spent the day in each other's company and talked of the past and the future. We have agreed to celebrate our nuptuals on June 8th 1899. Gustave's 27th birthday.

Nov 26
Gustave sent for a guitar to give me as a Christmas gift. It will cost about $30.00

Nov 27
Gustave and myself went with my father-in-law. Spent the Sunday; had a very pleasant time ....

Nov 28
Snow all day; Gustave at school in the ...I spent a very pleasant time with my dear Gustave. God grant that I will always be so happy.

Nov 29 (Sunday)
At three pm Augusta and myself called at my Gustave school. enjoyed it very much; pupils all seem so cheerful.

Nov 30
Busy sewing today; weather is fine; Gustave at school waiting for him to come back; also fixed the rooms. How happy dear Gustave will be to find this change.


Dec 1
Today I kissed dear Gustave goodbye. I am to leave for Willmar; how lonely he will be here in the lonely country when I am gone. But I shall soon meet him.

Dec 2
everything seems as usual here. folks glad to see me back; seems strange to sleep in this bed again.

Dec 3
worked hard tonight; is to be a party at supper at Nordins; seven families. Oscar was in town; I sent 10 cents of candy to Mother.

Dec 4 (Sunday)
Fine weather. Anna Quam came down to Mrs J. we spent the evening at Dr. playing cards and singing.

Dec 5
Cold; washed forenoon. sewed handkerchief for Mr. N for Xmas; Mrs J called.

Dec 6
at home; rec. a loving letter from my Gustave; how happy I will be at Xmas and hope as I expect that these weeks and months will soon pass by when I can at last show the whole world I am a wife of Gustave.

Dec 7
cold morning; walked for to work; at Mrs ... today

Dec 8
At Mrs J yet; rec a letter from Alex; he expects to leave for Mpls Xmas; had a letter from Hulda and Amanda; all are well.

Dec 9
At Mrs Twetchel

Dec 10
Mrs Twetchel yet; Mr N and Agnes gone to theater.

Dec 11 (Sunday)
(no entry)

Dec 12
Mrs Twetchel; Nels Quam called.

Dec 13-23
(no entries)

Dec 24
Gustave came to Nordin's and I returned with him to his home at Irving where we had a Christmas tree in the evening. I received a guitar from Gustave.

Dec 25 (Sunday)
Gustave, Al and I went to Aron Olson's and spent the day with music. I made the acquaintance of Miss Louisa Olson. She is a skillful guitarist.

Dec 26
Gustave and I called at Vermelin's and spent the afternoon. In the evening we attended the meeting in the little church there.

Dec 27
At home with Gustave. I mended some of his clothes. Went to Olson's on a meeting in the evening.

Dec 28
Al went away presumably on a trip to Minneapolis to see Caroline. Gustave and I remained at home and took a long promenade in the evening. The weather is real warm and the moonlight is so bright that we can see to read by it. Louisa and Lottie called to see us.

Dec 29
Am at home with Gustave. He is assisting with the work in Al's absence. How happy are we now when we can be together all the time and enjoy each other's company. I am very much pleased with my pretty guitar.

Dec 30
Very cold, 18 below zero. Al returned from Minneapolis. Gustave and I spent the day at home.

Dec 31
New Years Eve. The last day of the passing year. Its joys and sorrows are now only things of the past. What will the new year bring to me and my darling Gustave? God only knows. May He guide us and keep us then and always.

Webmaster: Carolyn Mankell Sowinski
Last updated: March 30, 2011