A 19th Century Iowa Hunting Journal

First page of the narrative portion of the journal. The previous pages contain lists of supplies and people.

Recently our department acquired a hunting journal from the 19th century.  The previous post was written by one of our summer student assistants who was assigned the task of transcribing the penciled, and often very smudged, journal of a hunting trip through northern Iowa, probably in the year 1871. I highly recommend that you read her great description.

The finding aid, which gives a more in-depth description of the journal and its contents, can be found on our website.  We have also uploaded the transcript and scanned journal.  If you try going back and forth from the transcript to the scanned entries, you will see that the page numbers used for the scanned pages do not coincide with those used for the transcript pages.  This is because we scanned the two open pages as one scan, but used each individual page for the transcription so that it would better coincide with the pages of the original journal.  Hopefully this does not cause too much trouble, and you will not mind brushing up on your multiplication and division skills!

When I recently started the processing work to make the journal available for the public, I was very excited to discover that the author and his traveling companions followed a similar route to  part of this year’s RAGBRAI, an annual non-competitive bicycle ride across Iowa. As a first time RAGBRAI participant this year, the journal became that much more alive to me since the author of the journal describes the hunting group as starting out in their hometown of Charles City, Iowa and they continue on their way through Clear Lake and Algona – all of which are RAGBRAI stops.  They continue slightly northwest to Lost Island Lake, Iowa before turning back.  However, unlike RAGBRAI which takes place in the sweltering heat of August, the hunting group traveled in the sometimes rather cold and snowy weather of March and early spring.  They obviously did not travel by bicycle, but by horse and possibly wagon since he describes at several points a boat which was also used to haul supplies.  Hopefully this year’s bicyclists will not come across any wolves, prairie fires, or blizzards and will be able to find enough sustenance along the way so they will not have to resort to eating “rats” (most likely muskrats).  The journal is a fascinating read, and hopefully everyone who tackles it will find some aspect they enjoy.

As you will see when reading the finding aid and journal, not much is known about the author. A fellow archivist who grew up in Charles City, Iowa and has connections with the local Floyd County Historical Society, has graciously agreed to do some research to see if he can find anything about the journal’s author or any of his companions. We look forward to learning about what he can find, and if anything is found I will report it back here!