Skip to main content

Isaac N. Wadleigh papers

Identifier: C-48

Scope and Contents

Four archival boxes of materials belonging to Isaac N. Wadleigh, born Sept. 4, 1827, died Oct. 13, 1899. Two boxes contain only annual journals; a third contains letters, both business and personal. Legal agreements, bills and receipts, insurance, Church and fraternal materials, town publications, deposit slips and so forth are found in Box #2. There are eight pocket notebooks with financial memoranda for 1848, 1868-1892, in addition to the pocket diaries for 1857-1899. These commercial diaries contain approximately 8,398 pages. The letters are mainly from family members, and reveal the relationships of the Davises (Abby Davis was Isaac’s wife) and the Wadleighs, of whom there were many, as Isaac was one of eight children. There are a good many Davises as well, living in New Hampshire. There are 218 pages of personal letters in addition to the 501 separate business papers, of which many are receipts, notes and scraps.


  • 1852 - 1899


Conditions Governing Access

Open for research without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

For permission to publish materials, contact: Special Collections & Archives Middlebury College Phone: (802) 443-2387 Email:

Biographical / Historical

Isaac N. Wadleigh was born of Nathaniel (died Dec. 1852, age 52) and Polly (Ray) (died Oct. 1870, age 72) Wadleigh in Laconia, NH. He was apparently the third of eight children, and one of two who moved to Ludlow, VT. He married (year unknown) Abby Davis of Wentworth, NH. Isaac served in the Civil War, and sustained a severe back injury which may have troubled him for the rest of his life. He was 34 when he went to fight in 1861, and he writes on May 30, “Myself and wife went to Proctorsville and had our Ambrotypes taken,” no doubt in preparation for their separation. A member of I Company, 2nd Vt. Vol. Inf., he fought at the battle of Bull Run, July, 1861. He returned home to “Old Ludlow” on Dec. 20, 1861, mustered out after injury.

Isaac and Abby had no children and they grew comparatively prosperous on the farm and with Isaac’s other work on his woodlots, hauling wood, dealing in cattle, his dairy herd, sheep, hogs, apple orchard, sugaring and oxen team. In 1892 the Lister’s Appraisal, as noted in one of Isaac’s many account books shows him in possession of 8 cows, 2 oxen, 4 horses, 3 heifers, 12 sheep, 3 shoats, and no doubt chickens and other useful fowl, as well as his 190 acres; a lot of work for a man of 65. Many of the diaries show that he employed occasional or season help on the farm, getting in hay and threshing and so forth, and that he, himself, helped Brother Horace, also farming in Ludlow.

Isaac was assiduous throughout his life in keeping daily diary entries and very specific notations of money earned or owed and money paid out. A typical notation for Mar. 16, 1868 reads as follows: “I sold Joseph Warren a cow today for $65.00 & he paid me $30.00 in cash & sold me 2 one years old (sic) for $22.50 leaving $12.50 my due on the cow.” He also retails all the farm activities in season, such as gathering and boiling sap, harvesting oats or pumpkins, mowing hay, cutting up seed potatoes, sending butter here and there, numbers of pounds of milk taken to the cheese factory, hiring out with his team of oxen and for what pay, hauling loads of wood and at what rate, and of course, Sunday church attendance and who preached. He also notes when he did not attend church.

On personal subjects Isaac is reticent. In 1859, for instance, out of 365 entries, only four refer to Abby, and then as “Mrs. W.” However, the anguish he feels at her final illness and death in 1894 is apparent even in his brief jottings: “Jan. 2. My wife is very bad. Dr. Lane has been here I paid him $1.00.” “Jan. 8 Mrs. Shippy sat up with my wife last night…I am watching with my wife.” And on Jan. 9, “I have been watching with my wife. It seems as if she is just gon. 2 PM. She revived and is in terrible pain. Dr. Lane called at about eleven o’clock AM. I sent for him again at 10 PM. We thought she was gon (sic) at midnight but she revived & goes on. I sleep from 12 M until 5 AM. She is not suffering much this morning.” Jan. 10: “We are just watching and waiting. My wife died at 10 o’clock & 20 minutes AM. Just fell asleep.” And finally on Jan 11: “Hattie Belle Mrs. Shippy & myself layed (sic) out my wife yesterday. She looks beautiful. It snows this evening.” Abby was 66 years old. And so ended a marriage about which we know very little but that it lasted about 45 yr. On Jan. 29, Horace came and took away furniture and books, a hair mattress and silver knives and forks. Isaac writes, “Had a man here to take my farm.” It seems that the man was Mr. Percy, who moved in with his family and household goods. Isaac seems, in the months that follow, to live in the house or perhaps he had a small cottage or other structure on the property. He had men dig him a well. Sometimes he stays at Horace’s house, but takes his dinner with friends or relatives or in Ludlow House, the local hotel. He travels for a couple of months visiting family in New Hampshire, and returns to Ludlow where, on April 11 he writes, “It is cold and windy & I feel so lonely. I have just been reading that they that mourn shall be comforted & I supose (sic) it is true, but when.” Later in April he sold his share of the cheese factory furniture. With his wife’s passing, Isaac seems to feel that he needs to divest and make provision for the end but he continues to plow and sow, to shear sheep, to churn, to mow and to settle what’s owed and what’s paid with Percy. Percy’s “boys” often accompany Isaac to church, so we must assume that the Percys and Isaac are living in harmony. Isaac continues to manage the Spaulding Estate, of which he is the Executor. In 1897, he is still “breaking roads” in the winter, still selling eggs and butter, carrying corn and oats to the mill, shearing sheep, working on the road with his hired man and oxen. Mrs. Walker enters the scene and is paid $5.00 per month, and we think she was being housekeeper and companion, as she often accompanies Isaac to church. In the last years Isaac had pretty consistent hired help. In May of 1899, Isaac begins to complain of feeling sick and having pain. In May and June, the only two receipts for the purchase of alcohol to be found in this collection appear. It would seem that rum alleviated some of the pain, and may, in fact have been recommended by the doctor. By late June, niece C. Belle Tebbets, unmarried daughter of Isaac’s sister, Catherine, has taken over the journal entries and his care. Visits from family and friends increase. By August, brothers and friends are relieving Belle in staying the night with Isaac. On October 13 at 6:20 PM Isaac passed away. He was 72.

Isaac N. Wadleigh was a generous man. He lent money often when asked, and was himself assiduous about repaying when he borrowed. He was trusted enough by others that he was named Executor of several estates. A churchgoing man, he sampled all the sects and finally settled on the Universalist church. He was a Mason. His early years found him employed by the railroad working on track. He was always energetic, enterprising, and hardworking. He was methodical and fastidious, as can be seen in his faithful journal entries and saving ways. By the end of his life he was a well respected personage of some substance and honorable reputation, as well as being regarded with respect and great affection by his family, his nieces and nephews taking the place of the children that he and Abby never had.


4 Boxes

Language of Materials



Box #1 contains letters arranged in chronological order, many envelopes and scraps, and a badly damaged tintype. Box #2 contains bills and receipts in date order, documents of various kinds, bank deposit slips, tax receipts, town publications and so forth. Boxes #3 & #4 contain the pocket journals and notebooks.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased from Carmen D. Valentino, 2956 Richmond Street, Philadelphia, PA 19134 in 2006 by Andrew Wentink, Head of Special Collections, Middlebury College Library, Middlebury College. The materials were received in file folders, generally by subject and category, the journals in date order.

Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Middlebury College Special Collections & Archives Repository

Middlebury College
Davis Family Library
110 Storrs Avenue
Middlebury Vermont 05753 United States