Hard-working chess-playing Captain
Bachelor Captain Henry Truby of Gilpin Twp was a man of few words when writing his diary back in 1844, about 9 months after he’d purchased 108 acres of the Hawk Farm. But lucky for us, the Captain often set aside time to scrawl a few simple lines that reveal the labors, travels, and leisure activities of western Pennsylvania’s local farmers in bygone days. Understandably, the weather was often worth remarking on, especially in winter.
Exactly 176 years ago, here’s what the Captain was doing in early February, in the days leading up to Valentine’s day, 1844. I’ve added some modern notations in blue italics below. Note the references to “A” on Feb 11 and 13. I believe “A” is Alvina Hill, who lived with her parents and siblings on a nearby farm. Imagine: What if your February included such activities?
Feb 1, 1844. Went to Stitts Mill and hauled home a load of board.
Fri Feb 2. Went to Stitts and hauled 2 loads of boards on half sledge – fine day.
Sat Feb 3. Capt. Murphy and me played chess. Fine day.
Sun Feb 4. Went to Leechburg with Capt. Murphy – Capt. McDonald was there. I left at one – Martin Culp was at the house when I came home.
Mon Feb 5. Made sheep trough. Put soles on sledge. John split rails. It rained some through the day. [Note: “John” is likely Capt. Henry Truby’s brother, John Thompson Truby (born 1808), who lived nearby]
Thu Feb 6. Fitted bed on sleigh – and then trimmed apple trees – John split rails. It rained some through the day.
Wed Feb 7. Trimmed 3 apple trees. John hauled rails. Wm. Clepper was here this day. It snowed in the afternoon.
Thu Feb 8. Went to Leechburg with the sleigh – got bag of oats and the candles and got my hand saw filed. Rodes was very rough – John went to Stitts Mills – cold and snowed two inches last night.
Fri Feb 9. Went to Warren in sleigh. Got a letter in the Post Office. It was very cold – rodes was rough and bad. [Note: In 1844, the town of Apollo was known as Warren. The name changed to Apollo in 1848]
Sat Feb 10. Went to Freeport in sleigh and came home – rodes bad and weather cold.
Sun Feb 11. Lewis went to Simon Truby’s and I stayed at home and wrote a letter to A. – very fine day – sun shone warm – On Monday morning I intend to go to Pittsburgh. [Note: Simon Truby of Apollo is the brother of Capt. Henry Truby. The “letter to A.” was likely a letter to Alvina Hill, who lived on a nearby farm.]
Mon Feb 12. Started to Pittsburgh. Put up at U.S. hotel about 6 oc. Soft day – snow went fast.
Tue Feb 13. Stayed in Pittsburgh all day – did not do much – fine day – mailed a letter to A.
Wed Feb 14 (Valentine’s day). Left Pittsburgh at 10 oc AM – got to Tarentum that night.
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Capt. Truby’s diary of daily activities continues for several months to mention multiple farm-related tasks and weather updates, which I’ll share in future posts. The diary entries are part of a larger document put together in 1970 by Grace Bush Armitage as background for a DAR application.
There’s no further reference to “A” or Alvina Hill until about 6 years later, when the Captain writes: In 1850, August 6, I married Alvina Hill in Allegheny City by John G. Prestley. [Note: Today, Allegheny City is known as the North Side of Pittsburgh.]
The Captain and Alvina Hill Truby went on to have 5 children: a son and 4 daughters. More about them in upcoming posts….there’s a lot still to tell about this family.
Read more about Captain Henry Truby of Gilpin Twp. in these stories:
And learn more about our local history by visiting these awesome resources: