Sever Severson’s 1864 diary, part 1

Cover 1

As I mentioned in previous posts, my newly discovered cousin Anne dropped a bombshell on me about six weeks ago when she mentioned that Sever Severson kept a diary in 1864, the year he died while serving the Union Army in the Civil War. She had a faint photocopy of it that her mother had made, and she recalled that it had been passed down to another branch of the family. She tracked down these cousins and found they still had the diary. One of these cousins, Charlie, lives only two and a half hours away, and Nancy lives in Spain, but just so happened to be visiting over the last two weeks (the curious coincidences of this encounter could fill a post on their own).

A little over a week ago, I drove out to the Sierra foothills to meet Nancy and her father Charlie.  Nancy and her father are also descendants of Sever Severson, and they’re also passionate about family history. Nancy and Charlie are descended from Celia Severson, the sister of my great-great-grandmother, Carrie Severson (making Nancy and I third cousins, one removed, and Charlie and I second cousins, twice removed). After a talking for a while, Nancy took me upstairs to where their family history files are kept and showed me the diary.

It was smaller than I imagined (4.9 x 3.25 inches; slightly larger than an iPhone), and in much better shape than I expected it to be. Nancy and I both put on our cotton gloves to look through the diary, and I couldn’t help thinking that Sever would be happy to see the grandchildren of his grandchildren (or, in my case, the great-grandchild of his granddaughter) being brought together after all these generations by the diary he wrote 149 years ago.

Not only did Nancy and Charlie welcome me into their home and share with me what they know of the family’s history, but they also entrusted me with this precious piece of family history for a few weeks so that I could digitize the tiny volume to make it more easily accessible—to family members and to anyone who might be interested in reading his first-hand account of the life and sad death of a Norwegian immigrant wagonmaker, husband, and father.

In today’s post, I’d like to share with you the results of the digitization of the diary. Transcription and analysis will the the topics of subsequent posts on this diary.


There are several ways to view the diary. I like to view it as a full-screen PDF, which you can see and download here. You can also view the body of the diary (i.e., no frontmatter or backmatter; only the daily entries) as a flip book, complete with turnable pages (pretty, but it takes a long time to load). You can also see and download full-resolution jpegs (shown individually below).

Cover 1

Front 1

Front 2

Front 3

Front 4

Jan 1-3

Jan 4–9

Jan 10–15

Jan 16–21

Jan 22–27

Jan-28–Feb-2

Feb 3-8

Feb 9-14

Feb 15-20

Feb 21-26

Feb 27-Mar 3

Mar 4-9

Mar 10-15

Mar 16-21

Mar 22-27

Mar 28-Apr 2

Apr 3-8

Apr 9-14

Apr 15-20

Apr 21-26

Apr 27-May 2

May 3-8

May 9-14

May 15-20

May 21-26

May 27-Jun 1

Jun 2-7

Jun 8-13

Jun 14-19

Jun 20-25

Jun 26-Jul 1

Jul 2-7

Jul 8-13

Jul 14-19

Jul 20-25

Jul 26-31

Aug 1-6

Aug 7-12

Aug 13-18

Aug 19-24

Aug 25-30

Aug 31-Sep 5

Sep 6-11

Sep 12-17

Sep 18-23

Sep 24-29

Sep 30-Oct 5

Oct 6-11

Oct 12-17

Oct 18-23

Oct 24-29

Oct 30-Nov 4

Nov 5-10

Nov 11-16

Nov 17-22

Nov 23-28

Nov 29-Dec 4

Dec 5-10

Dec 11-16

Dec 17-22

Dec 23-28

Dec 29-31

Memos 1

Memos 2

Memos 3

Back 1

Back 2

Cover 2

Cover spread

1 thought on “Sever Severson’s 1864 diary, part 1

  1. This is like little novelettes that I can read each time you send out and wait for the chapter to appear. Pretty cool. How fun to meet new family and get new information.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *