In 1877, John Willis Fowler of South Newbury, N.H., was grieving over the loss of his young wife Lonie in 1877. They were married on July 4, 1876, but she died the next month at the age of 24.
In his diary, John Willis Fowler described frequent headaches and fatigue, but he managed to keep going. He and his brothers made wheels for the famous Concord coaches produced by the Downing & Abbot Co. At the time, stagecoaches were giving way to trains and wooden wheels were being replaced by metal ones. During the year 1877, John Willis, or Willis, described the ways he and his brothers adapted: making metal wheels and wooden furniture, repairing clocks and blacksmithing. He also spent time settling his late wife’s estate.
Born April 30, 1849, John Willis Fowler learned a number of skills from his father in his shops. His diary describes the routine of a small-town tradesman in the 1870s. He records visits to family by buggy and train, checking the potato crop, chores, going to meeting, singing with the choir and giving temperance talks.
“We have worked in the shop bending rims and have worked quite hard all day,” was a typical entry.
John Willis Fowler at Camp
On Monday, Aug. 13, he prepared for a trip to a religious camp meeting in South Framingham, Mass. He and his brothers Arthur, Elmer and Charles took a buggy to Concord, then a train to Manchester, where he did some business. They then spent nearly a week attending prayer meetings and sermons. He was interested in the meetings and felt it was good to be there despite the ‘immense’ numbers of unbelievers who showed up.
Monday, August 13, 1877
This morning I repaired a clock for John Spalding and went over and put it in place and running, then came home and got ready to go away to be gone a week or more. At about 2 P.M. Charles, Arthur, Elmer and I took “Lill” and our 2 seat buggie and started for Concord arriving there at 7-40 P.M. and all went to Uncle Albert’s and put up for the night.
With thanks to ‘Social Genealogy, charting a people’s history of New England through our family tree. This story was updated in 2021.