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11 a.m. Young Lady Scribes: The Williams’ Family Journal

Paper, cloth, and ink. Pre-1797-early nineteenth century

“We girls got in our musick again dancing until till the fiddle strings broke, then was obliged to leave off.”

-Entry excerpt from June 3, 1797.

The first entry in this book declares, “This journal began Jany 1, 1797 by Ardelia Williams Containing the Principle Occurrences of Noddles Island.” The journal is one in a series belonging to the Williams family who lived on Noddle’s Island, which is now a part of East Boston, in Boston Harbor. One of Elizabeth and Henry Williams’ nine children, Ardelia was born in 1775 . During this year, the Williams’ family house became a casualty of Revolutionary War fighting. The family rebuilt their home and continued living on the island until the turn of the century.

Ardelia began this Journal in 1797 and it continued until 1804, with her sister Catherine and others likely contributing periodically. The most popular subjects consist of weather, church-going, and an almost never-ending cycle of visiting and traveling. The journal also notes unique politically themed events, such as the epic commemoration of George Washington’s death in January of 1800, a month after his passing. The lengthiest entries are dedicated to marriages. A description of oldest sister Betsy’s 1797 wedding devotes most of its attention to the meal,

"At the head was placed a boiled turkey and oyster sauce, at the foot a ham- and boiled fowls, roast duck, grants, guinea fowls, chickens and pigeons and goose with vegetables of all kinds. After the solids were removed, apple pies, tarts, cheese cake, sweetmeats, and preserves- almonds nuts, and raisins [. . . ] then was introduced tea and coffee- while we sat at the table the large cake was cut [. . .]"

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All images are courtesy of The Bostonian Society/Old State House Williams Family Journals 1790-1813 Collection