Deciphering Memoirs

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Yesterday, we brought you a story of Sarah Ellen Dow, one of the settler women who arrived in the Creston Valley in the 1890s. We know more about her thoughts and feelings on the early years of Creston’s settler era because she actually took the time to write them down.

One of the joys of working in a museum is getting to explore the memoirs and documents that people leave behind – and it’s so much fun, we’re going to give you a chance to do it, too!

First page of Sarah Ellen’ Dow’s hand-written memoir

As you can see, one of the greatest challenges of using primary documents like this is simply reading them – and this one is remarkably legible. Others I’ve seen are nearly impossible to decipher – half the words are completely unintelligible and you kind of have to guess the rest (it makes for some interesting speculations, actually!)

So, how did you do at deciphering this one? It’s a description of her arrival in the Creston Valley, and several sentences from it are included in the story we shared yesterday, if that helps.

Your Daily-Dose-Of-History challenge for today (because we like to suggest things you can do while giving you things to read and think about): Think of a time when you, Like Sarah Ellen Dow, were arriving in a new place for the first time. Maybe the day you moved to Creston, or the day you started a new job, or your first day in a new school – anything like that. Jot down your memories of that experience. outline the setting – where were you, why were you there, how old were you? What did you notice? How did you feel? How did you react to the things you were seeing?

Now that you’ve had some practice deciphering old handwriting, how about trying this one out? It’s also from Mrs. Dow’s memoirs, and talks about a terrible storm that happened on 1 June 1894.

Sarah Ellen Dow writes about a terrible storm, 1 June 1894