Ohio History Journal

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School and Other Days, 1859:

School and Other Days, 1859:

Selections from the Diaries of

Robert and Sylvester Bishop






ROBERT WAS ELEVEN and Sylvester nine when they began

their diaries in the Christmas season of 1858. They kept them

with fair regularity during 1859, except for summer vacation.

Their father, Robert Hamilton Bishop, II, encouraged jour-

nals among those of his twelve children who were the right

age. Professor of Latin at Miami University and son of its

first president, he spoke with gentle authority in and out of

home. He was "kindly," which is nineteenth-century for

being in control. He was able, for example, to tell his children

that if they were good he would listen to their catechisms.

He may have promised the boys something to keep up their

diaries. Their sister Kate, fifteen, began her own diary for

1859 with the explanation that her father would buy her a

present worth ten dollars if she kept it up for a year. Instead,

Kate died. Her last entry reads, "I am thinking I not goin [to

get] the handsome present Pa promised me on condition that I

would keep a journal for the whole year."

As historians of their own world, the boys are sometimes

intuitively concise, but more often prolix. This selection is

perhaps a fiftieth part of the manuscript diaries (which were

recently given to Miami University by Mr. Robert H. Mont-

gomery). I have supplied periods (which the boys did not

trust) and capitals (which they enjoyed promiscuously), but


* John Weatherford is assistant to the director of libraries at Miami University.