Josiah P. Gilson Diaries, 1867-1908 – MS083
Provenance: Portsmouth Athenaeum Special Collections Purchase, 2006
Citation: Josiah P. Gilson Diaries (MS084), Manuscript Collections, Portsmouth Athenaeum
Size: 1 Hollinger Box (.5 linear ft.)
Access: No restrictions
Processed by: Courtney MacLachlin, 2007
Scope and Content
Josiah P. Gilson lived in New Castle, NH, where he did odd jobs and worked at Fort McClary and Whaleback Light. About 1890 he began working at the Wentworth Coolidge Mansion in Portsmouth as a caretaker, handyman, and coachman. His eighteen journals intermittently cover the years 1867 to 1908. In them he describes routine jobs and chores and some social activities (especially in the earlier years). He apparently did not marry.
1867 diary of Josiah Gilson of New Castle lists daily activities and jobs such as raking hay, digging potatoes, breaking roads, working on rigger gang at Fort McClary, hauling boats. Social life includes loafing at the shops, visiting neighbors and playing parlor games, rehearsing for a play, oyster supper. Names Lizzie White, Mary Locke, Rufus Yeaton, Hollis Flanders, John S. Frost, others.
1870 diary of Josiah P. Gilson of New Castle, NH. Lists days he worked at Whale Back and his pay. Mentions lobstering, blueberrying, other seasonal and daily activities. Lists articles of clothing he bought and their prices. Mentions many local names.
1873 diary of Josiah P. Gilson, New Castle, NH. Describes working in the Navy Yard in the molding loft, on the rigger gang, on the vessels in dry dock, and using ox teams to haul lumber. Lobsters in summer. Visits neighbors in the evenings, plays parlor games such as Parcheesi.
1874 Josiah P. Gilson diary mentions working at the Navy Yard loading and unloading vessels, coaling up steamers, also cutting ice and hauling sawdust, hauling cod, and hauling coal. Attends the Osgood Lodge of Odd Fellows. Many local names.
1876 Josiah P. Gilson diary describes daily round of activities in New Castle, including digging clams, catching lobsters, painting boats, plastering, carpentering, cleaning out cistern, banking the henhouse, stringing and barreling apples. Mentions Payson Yeaton’s store and John Amazeen’s store. Visits post office daily and visits friends most evenings. Plays Parcheesi, croquet, attends dances. Lists the year’s expenses and debts. Lists his pay from the Navy Yard.
1878 diary of Josiah P. Gilson of New Castle lists daily activities. He mentions chores around the house, ”drawing” lobster pots, catching bait for lobsters, selling fish to a fish peddlar, Rufus Preble’s store, George Kennard. Diary contains a ring of blond hair.
1890 Josiah P. Gilson diary describes his work at the Wentworth Mansion in Little Harbor. Duties include building morning fires, making beds, sweeping, helping with dinner, getting milk, cleaning lamps, shoveling, getting sap, going to the depot, taking care of the boats, taking care of the stable and horses. April 3 train wreck. Evenings: reads or plays Forty-five. Lists articles of clothing he bought for the year and their prices. Lists pay that he earned at the Wentworth Mansion.
1892 Gilson lists names of employees at the Wentworth Mansion. Lists clothing he bought for the year and its cost. Chores include pruning trees, shoveling, buying provisions and milk, planting garden, washing and oiling the carriage, driving to the station, raking hay, painting, cooking for the gentlemen, taking care of boats, taking care of children. Sundays he goes to New Castle. Entertainment: games of forty-five and high-low. Names Mrs. Whalen, Dan Brooks, Amory Meloon.
1893 Josiah Gilson diary is the first diary where he gives his address as the Wentworth Mansion. In it he lists the other employees at the Wentworth Mansion, his pay, his new clothing and its cost. Chores include maintaining the horses and stable, checking the mansion in the winter, painting it, cleaning the brass there, hauling gravel for the road, and harnessing the goat cart for Mollie and Katrine Coolidge. Entertainment: reading, playing high-low Jack, croquet. Other employees: Dan Brooks, Julia Corcoran, Christine McKenna, Kathie Falon, Jennie Gammon, Robert White.
1894 diary of Josiah P. Gilson lists his pay from the Coolidge family, and the clothing he bought for the year with the cost of each item. Repeats the same basic chores as in previous years, with the addition of setting out rose bushes, taking the washwomen to New Castle, pumping wash water, drawing lobster nets, painting the fence. Mentions Dan Brooks.
1897 diary of Josiah P. Gilson records most of the same maintenance chores as in previous diaries. Besides caring for the horses, he lists working on the guest cottage, going to Farmington, beating carpets, collecting eggs (he apparently had a small egg business on the side), applying kerosene to kill lice. Entertainment: pitch (indoor game), a party, having a smoke. Letters to and from Clara. Names Pat Smith, Dan Brooks.
1898 Describes daily chores and activities around the Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion. Gilson was employed by the Coolidge family as a general helper and stable-man. Includes a typed transcription.
1901 Josiah Gilson repeats many of the chores that he had done in previous years. He also includes: getting the horses shod, driving to the steamer landing, feeding all the animals (horses, hens, cats, dogs, doves, and crows), washing the kitchen floor and closing up the mansion for the winter. Mentions Amory Meloon.
1902 Josiah P. Gilson describes many of the same chores that he had done in the past. He also mentions working at the hall stable, packing eggs to send to Boston, spreading manure, cutting trees, and checking the mansion, the hall cottage, and the wharf regularly in the winter. He lists his pay for the year. Mentions John Buckley.
1903 diary of Josiah P. Gilson lists his pay from the Coolidge family, along with his record of routine chores. Additional activities include caring for a flock of hens and selling eggs, feeding other animals including the parrot, grinding the scythe and cutting grass by the boathouse. Entertainment: playing pitch.
1904 Chronicles his daily routine of caring for the horses, the stable, and the Coolidge house and grounds. Mentions Frank, Clara, Lillian, Mollie. August 12: goes to town to see procession and fireworks.
1905 Gilson repeats many of the same duties at the Wentworth Mansion that he has done for years. He refers to Frank who he works with but gives no last name. He does not mention the Russian Japanese Peace Conference or any activies surrounding it.
1907 Josiah Gilson, caretaker at the Wentworth Mansion, Little Harbor, carries out many of the same chores and duties as in past years, including caring for the horses and his flock of hens. Gives daily weather. Mentions needing medicine.
1908 Gilson repeats many of his same chores and duties. He also mentions wheeling in the wood and piling it in the barn and banking the house with manure. He complains of hands, legs, and feet hurting. Has the doctor, and people come in to help. Names Walter Whitehouse, Wilbur Chesley.