Sever Severson kept a diary in 1864, writing in it every day from January 1 until September 26, four days before he succumbed to dysentery. He remarks almost daily on the weather and the productivity of his wagonmaking business, and also comments on his travels, local elections, visits to friends and family, his sales, his purchases, and the amount of cash he had on hand.
Sever’s spelling is variable and phonetic, as was common through the middle of the 19th century in the U.S. For instance, instead of “stayed”, he will sometimes write “Stad” while at other times writing “Stayd”, “Staed” or “sted”. Sever also only infrequently used punctuation, leading to confusion in a few cases. To help better understand his diary, I have provided edited versions of his entries.
Although Sever wrote his diary entries in English, his Norwegian education is evidenced in a couple of ways. He commonly slips into the Germanic convention of capitalizing nouns, common in Norwegian orthography until the 1907 reform of the language. He also occasionally slips into Norwegian; for example, on July 10 he writes “at Meeting in John Fjelds
Kirke Church” (“kirke” is Norwegian for “church”). In other ways, however, he seems to be pushing himself to break with Norwegian; for example, rather than using the word “begin” (the cognate of the Norwegian “begynne”), he opts to use the word “commence.”
There are many entries along the lines of “L 1 day H 1 day A ½ day”. Sever employed several men to work for him in his shops and on other projects, and it appears these notations were his way of recording the time each man worked on that day for purposes of payroll.
What follows is a first draft of a full transcription. Please let me know of any mistakes you find, or if you can interpret words that I have not been able to understand. Red type face indicates words and names I have not yet been able to decipher. Green type face indicates transcribed words or names for which I do not have full confidence.