Friday, April 23, 2010

The "Saga" of Oliver's Diary

In my very first blog post I said I would tell about the saga of the original Diary of Oliver Morton Wallen, my paternal great Grandfather. Rather than tell the story myself I will relate the story that my Dad's first cousin told me, in his own words. Charlie gave me permission back in 1999 to post the following as I saw fit. It is a revision of Charlie's first efforts. He and I worked on it together to make it more readable. This "History" in it's entirety was to be included with the newly completed transcription of the Diary when I was finished with it. I have omitted here most of the full names to help protect the privacy of the living.

As told by Charles Homer Wallen Jr.

"When Oliver died in January 1907 his diary remained in the possession of his Widow Sarah until her death in August 1939. I don’t know the details of why, but when Sarah died the diary went to her youngest son Hobart, where it remained until his death in June 1987.

When Hobart died his second son David acted as the executor of his father’s estate. For reasons known only to him, David gave the diary to Debra, the oldest child of Darrell. Darrell is Hobart's fourth and youngest son.

I first became acquainted with the existence of Oliver’s diary in 1982 when I received a condensed version of it from my aunt, Sula. Sula had transcribed this copy from the original diary, omitting parts of it at her discretion. (I credit this copy of the diary from Sula as the beginning of two things: my interest in the genealogy of my family and my interest in locating the whereabouts of the original, handwritten diary.) Hobart, I was to discover later, made a second, fully complete transcription of the diary.

So, I began my hunt. Sula told me the diary was still in Hobart's possession so I made requests by mail and telephone asking him if he would mail it to me that I might copy and return it. These requests were refused, no reason given. Years passed and so did Hobart.

During a telephone conversation with David in March 1999 I learned how he had given the diary to Debra after his father died. At my request David gave me Debra’s address and telephone number. In the meantime Dale, Hobarts’s third son graciously sent me the transcription of the diary done by his dad to copy and return at my leisure.

I called Debra and talked to her about giving me the opportunity to make a photocopy of the diary. Debbie made it very clear that she would not allow the diary to leave her possession. After a number of telephone calls, covering a period of about three months, Debbie agreed to go to a professional copying business and have a copy made provided I would send her the money to cover all expenses. I agreed and on June 22, 1999 my quest was ended with a photocopy of the original, handwritten diary in the mail from Debra."

Charles Homer Wallen, Jr.
June 25, 1999

The original diary was contained in four separate “books”. These books consisted of three English composition books and a small ledger style book. 

As family research colleague of Charlie Wallen (now deceased), I am presently working on a new transcription of Oliver's diary. Nothing will be omitted. All wording and spelling will be left as they were written and it will be fully indexed. The first three "books" are completed and were done with Charlie's help. I have the fourth book, the book that includes Oliver's move to Texas to complete and the index will be done after that. This has been a slow and painstaking effort. Each new person mentioned has been fully investigated to see what connections might be found, friend or family. This practice has led to many discoveries of family connections that I might not have made otherwise. It is my hope to finish this diary in 2010 and to publish it in some way so that other researchers will have free access to it. The Diary contains hundreds of names from the Rockcastle and Pulaski county areas of Kentucky and the fourth book has many references to people from the Cooke, Denton and Sutton counties of Texas. 

I have been encouraged by some that I should make money from my work, but in the spirit of genealogists everywhere, and in the spirit of "what goes around comes around", I will resist that temptation even though times are hard. I feel certain Oliver would have wanted it that way.


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