Tag Archives: 1800s

Christmas on Isle Royale, Diary entries of a frontier woman

The ever-white winters of the Keweenaw are beautiful, but the intense snowfall can also leave residents feeling isolated. Both of these sentiments become even more true on Isle Royale.

The following set of diary entries were written by Lydia Smith Douglass in 1848 during the first year of her marriage to Columbus C. Douglass. During the winter of this year, the couple lived on Isle Royale while Columbus worked for the Ohio and Isle Royale Mining Company.

These entries were written around the time of Christmas.

 

Isle Royale in Winter. (Photo courtesy of the Keweenaw Digital Archives.)
Isle Royale in Winter. (Photo courtesy of the Keweenaw Digital Archives).

 

 

December 23, 1848

It was eleven o’clock before I retired last night. I said some time before night that I would finish the piece of work I was engaged with before I slept. Consequently, I had to sit up later than usual. Mr. Douglass returned home a little after six this evening, having walked from Epidote to Datholite and from thence home today on snow shoes. He was so fatigued as to be hardly able to stand up, when he came in, and so completely drenched with perspirations, one might have thought he had been in the water. Such overexertion must certainly be very injurious to one’s health.

December 25, 1848

Christmas has come with pleasant weather, and snow sufficient for good sleighing, but unfortunately for us we have neither roads nor teams. The contrast in the manner of our spending the day is quite different from last Christmas Day, then among our friends at Ann Arbor. Now, on a remote and lonely island, but I forbear to repine. We are happy here, even in this solitude, but would still be happier if we could communicate with our friends. We have as many of comforts of life here, as we should enjoy in almost any place. Many more than one would suppose that had no experience in this new country. We have as yet a plenty of fresh meats such as, beef, fish, fowls, rabbits, etc. etc., together with as good vegetables as one would wish to find in any place, also a sufficiency of nick-nacks. In short, everything for our health and comfort.

December 26, 1848

The morning was rather snowy, but cleared away about noon and remained pleasant during the rest of the day. The day passed off in the usual routine of sewing, reading, writing, eating, etc., etc., etc. We brought with us a choice library, with which to employ our leisure moments, and it is a source of amusement and profit to us. We are now reading the Life and Voyages of Columbus, written by Washington Irving, which is very interesting. It seems strange to us of the present day that a civilized people should have thrown so many obstacles in the way of this great discoverer.

 

These diary entries are held by the Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections as a part of the Lydia Smith Douglass Diary Collection.