Celestia Levina Buell, one of five children of Chauncey and Levina Willis Buell, was born on 25 July, 1831 in Lebanon, New York. Celestia Buell married twice, first in 1849 to Lafayette Muzzy of Hamilton, New York, who died in a sawmill accident in 1849. After being a widow for six years, she married Patrick Henry Burchard in Hamilton, New York, in 1855. Their daughter Lettie Buell Burchard was born July 10, 1859 in Hamilton. Patrick Henry Burchard died in 1883. Three years later, Lettie Burchard married Thomas Jewett Wheeler. After Celestia Burchardīs death in 1903, her daughter continued the tradition of keeping a diary that her mother had started in 1862. In 1910 the Wheelers move to Laurens, Iowa, in Pocahontas County, which became their permanent home. Lettie and Thomas Wheeler had a daughter, Adelaide Wheeler Joselyn, who wrote one diary in 1921. Lettie Burchard Wheeler was the grandmother of Alberta Randall Hall,who donated the family diaries to the Iowa Womenīs Archives.
The Burchard Family papers date from 1862 to 2003 and measure 1.25 linear feet. The papers are arranged in two series: Biographical information and Diaries. The collection is comprised of fifty diaries and focuses on the activities of daily life for the women of the Burchard family from the 1860s to the 1930s, first in New York and after 1910 in Iowa.
The Biographical information series consists of obituaries, eulogies, funeral programs relating to the Burchard family, family correspondence from 1866 to 1993, genealogical information and the wills of Chauncey Buell and Hamilton K. Wheeler. Also included are talks and research notes about the diaries by Ann Murray, great-granddaughter of Lettie Burchard Wheeler and daughter of the donor, Alberta Hall Randall.
The Diaries series contains twenty-two diaries written by Celestia Burchard between 1862 and 1898, twenty-six diaries written by Lettie Burchard Wheeler between 1880 and 1931, one written by Celestia Burchard's mother Levina Willis Buell in 1869, and one by Lettie Wheeler's daughter Adelaide Wheeler in 1921. Various topics are covered in the diaries, including health, weather, travel, food and clothing, social events, religion, news both local and national, farm work and education.
Extensive financial notes are in the back of each diary. For example, the 1898 diary documents the income and expenditures from the sale of cattle, handmade butter, and boarders who stayed in their home. The repetitive cycle of work that these women undertook dominates the diaries, which describe such tasks as sewing, washing, and the hours it took to melt the snow in order to wash clothes during the winter months. Other duties included cleaning, churning as much as 60 pounds of butter, baking, making soap and cheese, providing food by butchering cattle and canning fruit. A quilt pattern is tucked into the back of the 1902 diary. Many of the social events described in the diaries, such as weekly temperance meetings, quilting, dances, and Ladies Aid gatherings, occurred through the local church. Letter writing was an important means of communication for these women outside their domestic sphere and the diaries discuss letters received by friends and family from the East Coast.
Health is another topic in the diaries, which document diseases and deaths in the family. They describe the outbreak of yellow fever in 1878 and include recipes and remedies for such ailments as "prairie itch" (found in the 1862 diary).
Politics and national news are mentioned sporadically throughout the diaries. Grandfather Burchard's political involvement, including his attendance at caucuses and town meetings, is described in the 1862 diary, which also includes discussion of the Civil War, war meetings and making bandages. Passing reference is made to the Chicago Fire in 1871, the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 and the sinking of the Titanic in 1912.
Access: The papers are open for research.
Use: Copyright held by the donor has been transferred to The University of Iowa.
Acquisition: The papers (donor no.1231) were donated by Alberta Hall Randall in 2009.
Preferred Citation: Burchard Family papers, Iowa Women's Archives, The University of Iowa, Iowa City.