'A mighty happy time'

My great-grandfather was a man of few words, at times, as when he made his sole reference to a new office: “Elected to the [Norfolk] City Council tonight.”[1] A more typical effusion occurs nine days later, when he notes the “Early cabbage [is] looking good.”[2]


1 April: Bought an Overland car.

3 May: Went with Hotel Ass[ociatio]n to Cape Henry[3] for Oyster Roast.

8 May: After supper tonight the whole family[4] went to the strawberry patch and picked berries for breakfast. Had a mighty happy time.

13 June: Bought Auto truck for $854.00 which I hope to use at farm and haul luggage at hotel.

16 June: Fred went to Lynchburg as a delegate to Sunday school convention.

2 July: Estelle and the children spent the day at Marstella’s, Willoughby Beach [in Norfolk].

12 August: Fred went to Northfield, Mass., attending Brotherhood convention.

1 September: Fred returned from Northfield, Mass.

1 October: My fortieth birthday – Fred presented me with a pair of cuff buttons which I very highly appreciate.

11 November: Germany Surrendered!![5]

28 November: Thanksgiving day – took dinner with the Wendels, and after leaving their apartment, found that our Automobile had been stolen.

29 November: Found our Automobile on Cooke Ave., where joy riders had left it.

17 December: Attending Hotel Exposition in New York. Weather cold and raining.

25 December: Sick in bed, but could not stay sick on Christmas, so got up and enjoyed a big dinner. The Wendels and Mrs. J.[6] visiting us.


7 January: Mrs. Jackson returned to New York.

4 March: This has been a very mild winter, only one snow so far.

27 April: Killing frost.

25 June: First rain for three weeks. Crops burned up.

3 July: I see from record that the stone walk was laid by Fred and myself today one year ago and this day I had equally as hard a task. The wind mill was out of order and I worked until 11 PM to repair it.

17 July: Very rainy day. Went home at 5 o’clock and after putting on rain coat and rubbers Frances and I went to the peach orchard and had a fine time picking peaches. Frances is a great comfort to me as she enters into everything with a light heart and so happy.

18 July: Fred received notice of his appointment to Annapolis.[7]

Continued here.


[1] J. Frank Bell journal entry for 5 March 1918.

[2] Entry for 14 March 1918.

[3] On Chesapeake Bay.

[4] J. Frank Bell (1878–1944) was married to Minnie Estelle Jackson 1902–35 and to Margaret Feller Stegall in 1936. Frank and Estelle’s children were my grandfather Frederick Jackson Bell (1903–1994) and Frances Fairfax Bell (1909–1997).

[5] The armistice signed at Le Francport near Compiègne marked the end of the First World War.

[6] Estelle’s mother Rebecca Jane Eggleston (1856–1937) was married to Oliver Dodridge Jackson 1875–1915 and to William E. Waterman in 1924.

[7] He was only fifteen years old at the time.

Scott C. Steward

About Scott C. Steward

Scott C. Steward has been NEHGS’ Editor-in-Chief since 2013. He is the author, co-author, or editor of genealogies of the Ayer, Le Roy, Lowell, Saltonstall, Thorndike, and Winthrop families. His articles have appeared in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, NEXUS, New England Ancestors, American Ancestors, and The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, and he has written book reviews for the Register, The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, and the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.View all posts by Scott C. Steward