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Harriet Hemperley diary


Held at: University of Delaware Library Special Collections [Contact Us]181 South College Avenue, Newark, DE 19717-5267

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Harriet Hemperley worked as a seamstress in Columbia, Pennsylvania, while she kept her diary. In July 1868, she traveled to Manheim, Pennsylvania, for the camp meeting of the National Holiness Association. On May 12, 1868, Hemperley noted that she had engaged a tent for the meeting from a Mr. Gorham while she was in New York City, likely one of the four hundred boarding and prayer tents surrounding the encampment. Hemperley arrived at the meeting on Monday, July 13, and remained until the camp closed on Thursday, July 23, 1868. At its height, the camp meeting hosted between 20,000 and 25,000 participants. In her diary, Hemperley recorded that she heard sermons from several of the camp meeting’s organizers, including John S. Inskip, J.A. Wood, Alfred Cookman, and Methodist Bishop Matthew Simmons. She also recorded her participation in a love feast, which she described as an “experience meeting,” on Sunday, July 19th, when “there was about four hundred witnesses for Jesus.” Hemperley’s interest in Evangelical Christianity, meetings, and religious associations is evident throughout her diary. Following her death in 1874, Hemperley specified that her personal belongings be sold and the money donated to the Methodist Episcopal Church in Columbia, Pennsylvania.

Kostlevy, William. “Christian Perfection in Pennsylvania Dutch Country: The 1868 Manheim Camp Meeting of the National Holiness Association.” Chronicle: Journal of the Historical Society of the Central Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church, Vol. 9 (Spring 1998): 25-35. University of Delaware. Library. Self works : diaries, scrapbooks, and other autobiographical efforts : catalog of an exhibition, August 19, 1997-December 18, 1997 : guide to selected sources. Newark, Del.: Special Collections, Hugh M. Morris Library, University of Delaware Library, 1997. Will of Harriet Hemperley, proved June 22, 1874, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Register of Wills, Will Books B, Volume 002, 1873-1876 (accessed via March 6, 2017).Information derived from the collection.

This diary was kept by Harriet Hemperley of Columbia, Pennsylvania, between May 1868 and May 1869. Hemperley recorded her work as a seamstress, social visits, and attendance at various church services and religious meetings.

Hemperley began most of her diary entries with a report on the weather followed by a description of work accomplished for the day or any notable events. It appears that Hemperley lived in a boarding house or rented a room, but frequently traveled to the homes of friends and those employing her to do sewing work. Hemperley recorded working on sewing projects nearly every day, mostly the construction of clothing for local inhabitants. Although she worked steadily, she often lacked money. On April 28, 1869, she recorded her frustration with her situation: “I have no energy and no heart to work, for it seems I am out of money always however much I work.”

Hemperley traveled frequently, spending time at the homes of employers, friends, and relatives. She often cared for the sick, including an aunt in Marietta, Pennsylvania, who died in late December 1868. Following her aunt’s death, Hemperley wrote that “I feel as though I had parted with the last remaining friend for since my own dear Mothers death she has taken her place and been a Mother to me.” Hemperley often noted that she felt sad and lonely, that few of her family remained and that she had “no particular intimate Friend” in whom she could confide. Despite this, Hemperley appeared to have a wide range of acquaintances and was involved in several community organizations. On March 27, 1869, she recorded that she was nominated as an officer at the local Temperance Hall, but declined the honor.

Religion held a central place in Hemperley’s life. She prayed for self-discipline and guidance against “Satan’s temptation to neglect duty,” and she expressed concern for friends she hoped to see converted. She attended the Manheim camp meeting in July 1868, where she thanked God that she was “counted worthy to be one of the number and on my knees I covenanted anew to be wholly the Lord’s.” She regularly attended Sunday church services and weekday religious meetings. Although it appears she most often attended Columbia’s Methodist Episcopal Church, she sought out other religious meetings as well. On several occasions she recorded going to the “coloured meeting.” On April 25, 1869, she went to hear her minister “preach to the coloured people,” noting that she “love[d] to hear them sing.”

This volume is bound with brown marbled paper over boards and has a badly rubbed leather spine with traces of gilding. The corners of both the front and back covers are covered with black leather, although one leather corner is missing from the back cover. The manuscript contains 90 leaves of laid paper, many of which have vertical pink lines forming columns, suggesting the volume was meant to act as an account book. It contains handwritten text in black ink and pencil throughout. Part of a pasted label remains on the back cover.

Item 0035: Shelved in SPEC MSS 0097

Gift of the Moyerman family

Processed and encoded by Elizabeth Jones-Minsinger, July 2017.

University of Delaware Library Special Collections
Finding Aid Author
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
Finding Aid Date
2017 July 7
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

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Collection Inventory

Harriet Hemperley diary, 1868-1869.
Item 0035
Physical Description

1 volume

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