A Farmer’s Life

S1938-10-7-7Frederick Lailey’s Diary

Frederick Thomas Lailey, the son of William H. Lailey came from Winona to farm in Grantham Township (now St. Catharines) in 1899. He remained on his Grantham farm until 1926, when he moved to Niagara-on-the-Lake to continue his agricultural pursuits. Lailey started keeping a diary in 1899 and his writings provide wonderful insight into daily life on a St. Catharines farm in the early 20th century. Lailey continued writing for many years – the diaries dealing with his life in St. Catharines are part of our collection, while the post 1926 diaries that chronicle his life in Niagara-on-the-Lake are kept at the Niagara Historical Society and Museum.

Lailey was in his late twenties and single when he first started writing, but in 1901 he married Margaret Kelson (often called Madge in his diary), the daughter of Captain Mortimer Kelson. The couple had three children, Barbara, William and Charles.

We are featuring selected entries from Frederick Lailey’s diary on the blog to give our readers a peek into life on the farm a century ago – everything from holidays and special events, to the days where Frederick confesses that he “did nothing all day”. The diary interweaves Lailey’s personal experiences with current events – he makes note of news from the Boer War and the death of Queen Victoria alongside reporting on the weather and status of his crops. As far as possible, the diary has been reproduced just as it was written, complete with Lailey’s spelling, punctuation, shorthand notations and what may now appear to be outdated language.

We’ll begin this series where Frederick did – on January 11, 1899:

“Starting to keep daily journal: also intend to smoke only 3 pipes per day; and to keep other good resolutions. Accounts and correspondence rather topsy-turvy: too cold to write in room, 4 below zero. Milked cow for last time till she comes in! Spent day mainly trying to hunt up vegetables.”

Meredith Leonard is the Visitor Services Coordinator at the St. Catharines Museum & Welland Canals Centre.

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