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The Joshua Hempstead Diary

Below is the introduction to the 1901 edition of
The Joshua Hempstead Diary, 1711 - 1758.

It is presented as it appeared with no corrections or changes.

The New London County Historical Society
this year published a new edition of the diary.
If you are interested in purchasing it, Click Here

A CD-ROM version of the Diary is now available.
The CD-ROM makes researching genealogic and
other facts easy and quick.
For more information and to purchase the
CD-ROM edition, Click Here


After nearly two centuries have rolled by, during which the ancient manuscript has been buried in comparative oblivion, it is with no little pride that the New London County Historical Society introduces the Diary of Joshua Hempstead, in printed form, to the public. The Society is entitled justly to indulge itself in this pride, particularly since this, its first separate publication, is so strictly in harmony with, and in fulfillment of the chief object of the Society as set forth in the act of incorporation thirty-one years ago: "they hereby are constituted a body corporate, * * * for the purpose of collecting, preserving, and publishing historical and genealogical matter relating to the early settlement and subsequent history, especially of New London County."
For many decades historical students have regretted the absence of an edition of this Diary which has remained in manuscript for nearly a century and a half after the death of the writer. It is far from being a history, yet it is a production of rare interest, and the information it contains is a valuable contribution to the history of its age. It is a diary in the strictest sense of the word-a systematic account of daily duties, occupations, and events; personal experiences rarely appearing except in the account of a "Journey from New London to Maryland." Hempstead cannot be called an historian, or even a chronicler in the true sense of the term, but simply a recorder.
The Diary is most valuable for a variety of records pertaining to the town and its inhabitants; also for notes of ecclesiastical affairs, genealogical data, and general statistics. It has been consulted by many and freely quoted by Miss Frances M. Caulkins, the talented historian of the county; the late Dr. Charles J. Hoadley, state librarian, had a portion of it in his possession for a while for reference; Rev. S. Leroy Blake, DD., cites at length from it in his "Later History of the First Church of Christ, New London." Now in printed form it will be of inestimable value to genealogists, statisticians, and those historically inclined. But it has another value than the presentation of miscellaneous facts and historical information; it possesses the impress of real daily life and reflects the image of the society in which the writer lived. The reader cannot but find constant occasion to compare the state of things in the time of the author with that of the present period. Yet the people of that age differed from us chiefly in manner of living.

"For we are the same our fathers have been;
We see the same sights our fathers have seen,-
We drink the same stream, and view the same sun,
And run the same course our fathers have run."

Some diaries are merely short reports of a single campaign, a journey, or an important service, but this Diary stands forth conspicuously because it is a record of the daily routine of life, written by a citizen of that interesting period known as the colonial era, and conscientiously maintained with hardly an interruption for nearly half a century.
A brief sketch of the manuscript, of Joshua Hempstead 2d, its recorder, and of the New London County Historical Society, its publisher, may prove of interest.


The original Diary is in separate volumes comprising about seven hundred and fifty pages of closely written manuscript without lines. The pages are 12 by 7 1/2, inches in size (half way between octavo and quarto) now badly faded and worn, some more than others. The first volume dates from September 8, 1711, to November 9, 1732. The fourth volume dates from March 17, 1750, to November 3, 1758. Both of these volumes are in the possession of the Society. The intervening volumes are the property of Mrs. John L. Branch, a lineal descendant of Joshua Hempstead 2d, who resides in the historic Hempstead house (frontispiece) which for nine consecutive generations has been occupied by members of the Hempstead family.

The manuscript passed through many vicissitudes from the time it was indited until its lodgment in its present repositories. Tradition asserts that at a distribution of the Hempstead property among the heirs, it was divided into four parts. It would be most interesting to trace the intricate labyrinth of its wanderings, which partake of the air of fiction if unaccompanied by existing proofs. Suffice it to be mentioned in this connection that Miss Caulkins writes, "The Hempstead Diary repeatedly quoted in this history, was a private journal kept by him, from the year 1711 to his death in 1758. A portion of the manuscript has been lost, but the larger part is still preserved." Nevertheless, subsequent to this time a section was found among the family papers of a Hempstead descendant living in another state; and later the largest section which was absent from the state for several years was finally located, returned to New London and given to the Society, so that the Diary is now published entire.
The question may be asked, why did Hempstead write his Diary? It would seem there were two paramount reasons. First, it was due to his natural tendency. The proclivity to jot down memoranda appeared at an early age, as may be noticed in his school books, some of which are still in existence. Secondly, it may be attributed to his need of a day book for entering the almost daily transactions of his various business employments, and one can readily see the value to him of such records. It is probable that the contents were not written for the public, for there is a certain frankness about them which would have been a matter of some embarrassment if published at that time.
While the Diary is valuable to the investigator of the colonial period for the prices of wages and merchandise of every description, records of births, marriages, deaths, and an infinite variety of subjects, it is Hempstead's faculty of coupling such entries with brief notices of current events and town topics, which places such a high value upon the Diary to those searching for missing record entries. Unlike the town records of that period which were meagre and often silent upon events now of import, information is to be obtained from the Diary which can be had from no other source, for Hempstead's records were full and accurate. This fullness and accuracy is retained in the present publication, the manuscript being printed verbatim and even the orthography strictly followed.

The unwearied perseverance of the author in continuing his work has resulted, finally, in the publication of the Diary, which will be an enduring monument to his name and cause him to be the best known of the early members of the Hempstead family. Let us now turn our attention to


There is neither a printed sketch of Joshua Hempstead 2d nor a published genealogy of the Hempstead family in existence. Joshua Hempstead 2d was born in the old Hempstead house, September 1, 1678. He was the son of Joshua Hempstead, born June 16, 1649, and the grandson of Robert Hempstead, who died in 1654. Robert Hempstead was one of the 36 grantees of original house lots in New London. From facts recently brought to light it is more probable that Robert Hempstead came from Hempstead, Long Island, rather than with Winthrop's men. So far as known all of the Hempsteads in this country are descended from Robert Hempstead and his brother. Mary, the daughter of Robert Hempstead, was the first child born in New London. From the entry appended to her father's will it appears she was born March 26, 1647.

Miss Caulkins, in writing of the Diary, says: "Its author was a remarkable man-one that might serve to represent, or at least illustrate, the age, country and society in which he lived. The diversity of his occupations marks a custom of the day; he was at once armer, surveyor, house and ship carpenter, attorney, stonecutter, sailor and trader. He generally held three or four town offices; was justice of the peace, judge of probate, executor of various wills, overseer to widows, guardian to orphans, member of all committees, everybody's helper and adviser, and cousin to half of the community. Of the Winthrop family he was a friend and confidential agent, managing their business concerns whenever the head of the family was absent." Only when we pause to think that Joshua Hempstead 2d was born but 32 years after the founding of the town, 2 years after the death of Gov. John Winthrop, the younger, and that his whole life was spent in the house of his birth, can we realize the significance of his journal in a time when records were scarce. As the Hempstead descendants are numerous, and this publication should have an especial attraction to them, a genealogy of the immediate families of Robert, Joshua, and Joshua Hempstead 2d is given.

Robert Hempstead, married Joanna Willie.
Mary, b. March 26, 1647, m. Robert Douglass.
Joshua, b. June 16, 1649, m. Elizabeth Larrabee.
Hannah, b. April 11, 1652, m. Abel Moore and after his death Samuel Waller.

Joshua Hempstead, married Elizabeth Larrabee. He died 1687.
Elizabeth, died an infant, two months old.
Elizabeth, b. September 2, 1672, M. John Plumb, b. 1689, died 1733.
Mary, b. January-, 1674, m. Green Plumb, May 30, 1694.
Lydia, b. June 7, 1676, m. -Salmon (of Southold, probably).
Joshua, writer of the Diary, b. September 1, 1678, m. Abigail Bailey.
Hannah, b. -1680, married John Edgecomb.
Phebe, probably died unmarried.
Patience, probably died unmarried.
Lucy, m. John Hartshorne.

Joshua Hempstead, b. 1678, m. Abigail Bailey. He died December 22, 1758.
Abigail his wife, b. 1676, died August 5, 1716.
Joshua, b. July 20, 1698, died August 10, 1716.
Nathaniel, b. January 6, 1700, m. Mary Hallam.
Robert, b. November 30, 1702, M. Mary, daughter of judge Benjamin Youngs in 1725.
Stephen, b. December 1, 1705, m. Sarah Holt 1737, died I774.
Thomas, b. April 14, 1708, died July 4, 1729.
John, b. 1709, m. Hannah Salmon of Southold.
Abigail, b. January 14, 1711-12, M. Clement Miner.
Elizabeth, b. April 27, 1714, m. Daniel Starr.
Mary, b. July 29, I7i6, m. Thomas Pierrepont.

Since sketches have been given of the Diary and its writer, it seems fitting to close this introduction with a brief sketch of


The New London County Historical Society was incorporated July 6, 1870, but not organized until October 17, 1871. The inception of the Society was due chiefly to the interest and enthusiasm evinced by its first president, Hon. Lafayette S. Foster of Norwich.

During the years which have intervened between that time and the present the Society, in addition to performing its regular duties, has secured many results of public importance, published two volumes of Records and Papers, and accumulated an important library of historical and genealogical value. The library now contains about 1700 volumes and 1000 pamphlets. On September 15, 1891, the Society held its first meeting in its present commodious rooms in the New London Public Library building. The rooms with their collection of historic relics are open to the public, but the library is reserved for the use of members. Prominent among the results of public importance which the Society has achieved are: the bronze Statue of Major John Mason marking the site of the fort of the Pequot Indians at Mystic River; the resolution originating the celebration of the 250th anniversary of the founding of New London; the petition to the Common Council resulting in the copying of the old records of New London; and the publishing of the Hempstead Diary.

The printing of the Diary had been contemplated for some time, but the first entry on the records is found under date of the annual meeting of September 2,1895, "the work of copying the Hempstead Diary has been made possible, and a careful and competent person has been employed for the purpose." The next entry appears September 1, 1896: "The work of copying the Hempstead Diary has been completed." The question of publishing remained a perplexing one until the annual meeting of September 7, 1900, when it was decided to proceed, and the advisory committee was instructed to take charge of the work. The committee met October 3, 1900, and ascertained that 181 pledges had been received, which at three dollars and fifty cents ($3.50) each aggregated six hundred thirty-three dollars and fifty cents ($633.50). The total expense of publishing this limited edition of 500 volumes was estimated to approximate twelve hundred and fifty dollars ($1,250). Notwithstanding only about half of this amount was subscribed, yet the committee voted to be responsible, if necessary, for the balance, and placed the publishing in the hands of the executive officers with power. The officers have devoted much time and attention to the execution of the work. The proof reading and indexing were placed in hands most competent and thorough. Quite a number of the copies will be used in exchange for publications of other historical societies. In order to conform strictly to the requirements of modern scholarship, explanatory notes possibly should have been added, but in this, the first edition, it seemed impossible, even if desirable, since so few historical scholars have had access to the manuscript. Not until it is offered to the public will a general opportunity be presented for studying and comparing it with other sources of contemporaneous information for the purpose of annotation.

To encourage historical research; aid future historians; supply missing links in family genealogies; direct the thoughts of many to turn reverently to the past; perchance, excite the curiosity of the young to ascertain what has been done on this spot by the early settlers, which may lead them to investigate in other sources of information for the results accomplished by men of prominence in succeeding years, thus causing them to admire and emulate the noble achievements of their predecessors in this their native county, is the wish of the Society.

Ernest E. Rogers
New London, Conn., July 6th, 1901.


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