Submitted by Donna Henderson
Sarah Isabel Leslie Torrence began writing this diary in Florence, Iowa in January 1874, when she was 33 years old. She had four children: Mary Ella (“Ella”), 11; James (“Jimmie”) Edwin, 7; Nettie Maria, 6; and William (“Willie”) Leslie, 2. Sarah and the Rev. James Templeton Torrence (“Papa” or “Mr. T.”), a licensed United Presbyterian minister, had been married for 13 years. Sarah’s mother, Mary Mathews Manoher Leslie, 67, lived nearby. Her father, Jacob, had died in 1863 in Ohio.
Sarah was apparently well educated, for her spelling and grammar were nearly impeccable. Except for a few peoples’ names and places that are hard to make out, for which I made a guess or just used a question mark, these are her exact words, transcribed with almost no editing or corrections, as she wrote them in her diary. It is not an easy task to read her scribbling at times. On most pages her handwriting is very cramped and difficult to decipher because, probably trying to save paper, she often wrote two lines in a one-line space. She usually filled every inch of each page, writing in the margins as well.
I omitted some of her more mundane daily entries for the sake of brevity, but otherwise this is most of her diary, as well as I could transcribe it while working from snapshots of its pages sent to me by Les and Mickey Henderson. Underlined words are as she underlined them. I rarely guessed at any illegible words, rather, I tried to stick to the old newspaper-editing adage, “When in doubt, leave it out.” Someday I’d like to have a look at the original book, but it is believed to be in the possession of the Heeter family. -- D.L.H.