Archive for the ‘Diaries and journals’ Category

Kent Scribner Collection (MS 270) is now open to researchers.

This newly processed collection consists of the campus events from Scribner’s time as a University of South Dakota undergraduate student from 1956-1960. The other part of the collection consists of Scribner’s work at the USD Foundation mostly with the capital campaign named Campaign South Dakota.

This collection is organized into seven series: Diaries, Fraternity Materials, USD Event Programs, USD Foundation, USD Publications, Photographs, and Video Tapes.

Scribner’s collection includes his correspondence with Mary Jean (Hynes) Fine, and his role in the translation and obtainment for the Archives and Special Collections of her Native American family diaries. These are in the Mary Jean Fine Collection of Thomas Hunter Diaries, likewise in the Richardson Collection.

Scribner also kept copies of Blast, a student magazine that includes what campus life was like in 1959 and in 1967.

This collection also includes information for the USD building dedications programs, history and videos that relate to the Buildings, Other Structures, and Utilities Collection in the University Archives.

Contact the Archives and Special Collections for a copy of the guide to the collection.

Blast Magazine

Blast, 1967 in Kent Scribner Papers (MS 270), Richardson Collection, Archives and Special Collections, The University of South Dakota

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edwards-diary-001“As soon as we were across the [Missouri] river, we started up the river on our long westward journey. Late in the evening we camped at a farm house some six miles from Covington. The road we traveled is very smooth and level. The Missouri bottom here is some 18 or 15 miles wide and, for between one to three miles in width, is covered with a heavy growth of cottonwood timber. Back of Covington, for several miles, the country is not settled and cultivated as it should be, for, to all appearances, a more beautiful locality could not more easily be found. The soil is deep and rich and covered with an abundance of grass, with water and timber within convenient distance.”


edwards-diary-003This description of the Sioux City, Iowa area in 1865 is from the Edward Edwards’ journal. (I will use diary and journal interchangeably in this post.) Other towns mentioned in the next couple of pages of the diary are Decotah, Franklin, St. John, Ponka, St. James, and Niobrara. Some of these towns still exist and can be visited by driving west of Sioux City.



A portion of the Edward H. Edwards journal is in the Archives and Special Collections.


edwards-diary-002The diary’s writer Edward Edwards was from Sioux City, and he was 24 years old when he joined the Sawyers expedition as teamster. The expedition’s goal was to construct a wagon road from the Missouri River at Niobrara City, Nebraska to the gold mines of Virginia City, Montana (Drago and Mott).






edwards-diary-004.jpgThere are many different types of diaries. Some give an account of day-to-day life. Edward’s journal is not that type. It doesn’t have daily entries, and it doesn’t tell us much about constructing a road or what it was like living in a camp. It does contain detail descriptions of the land, plants, weather, and major events like meeting Natives or finding fossils. It reads like a travelogue.





When reading a diary for historical research, it is useful to ask yourself questions similar to the following:

What was the diary’s context?

What was the writer’s intent? Was it promotional? If so, what was the goal?

Was it written while the events were occurring or later?

Are there phrases borrowed from other contemporary literature? Clichés may indicate that the writer is repeating common knowledge rather than writing personal observation.


edwards-diary-005.jpgDrago and Mott tell us that Edwards wrote to his family during the same trip. I wonder how the observations in this journal compare with observations in those letters.


Some of the diaries from the Archives and Special Collections are on the Digital Library of South Dakota. Diaries by Austin Horace and an unnamed Civil War soldier are available there for viewing.




edwards-diary-007If you are looking for a fun volunteer activity, consider transcribing handwritten diaries for an archives. One of our diaries is in shorthand. If you know how to read shorthand, you could tell us what a young man in Sioux Falls in the 1870s-1880s was journaling.






Harry Sinclair Drago and Phyllis Mott. “The Edwards Letters and the Wagon Road to Virginia City.” In The Westerners, New York Posse Brand Book, Volume 9, Number 1, 1962.







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