Fearless Females Challenge: March 8 – Diaries, Letters, and Journals

The following post continues the month long Fearless Females Challenge by Lisa Alzo, author of The Accidental Genealogist blog, which is focused on “celebrating and honoring ‘fearless females’ in our family trees” to mark National Women’s History Month, which is the month of March, with a post responding to unique prompts for each day of the month.

Prompt for March 8 — Did one of your female ancestors leave a diary, journal, or collection of letters? Share an entry or excerpt.

To date, I have not uncovered any diaries, journals, or collections of letters from a biological female ancestor. The closest I come is, perhaps, the vast collection of greetings cards for any occasion that my great grandmother Irene (Balla) Sebok (1913-2006) kept. After she passed away we discovered bundles of them going back decades. She loved greeting cards and kept every single one she ever received (it seems).

Although I don’t have any diaries, journals, or collections of letters from a biological female ancestor, Iva Mae (McKeehan) Graber (1879-1950), the mother of my step-great grandfather, Willard Pershing Graber (1918-1988), who married my paternal great grandmother Alice Lucretia (Wellin-Lapham) Graber (1916-1985), kept an extensive diary for about fifty years of her life. Although the diary is in the possession of one of her granddaughters, Dolores (Graber) Shirts, a copy of a portion of the diary was past along to my father from one of Willard’s granddaughters. This potion of the diary deals with the family’s journey to Oregon by car from North Dakota in 1936. The entries detail the route, what they faced, the cost of gas, and the sights along the way.

One of the interesting entries was dated April 15, and read: “Just visited all day & are getting ready to start on in the morning. Went to Schafer in the evening; went through the jail & into the cell that held Bannon the murderer of the Haven family. Got 2 qt of oil $0.51.”

Handwritten Copy from Iva (McKeehan) Graber's Diary, 1936
Handwritten Copy from Iva (McKeehan) Graber’s Diary, 1936

The Bannon refereed to in this entry is Charles Bannon (1909-1930), a mass murderer who killed six members of the Haven family in Schafer, North Dakota, the oldest being 50 years old and the youngest being 2 months old. Apart from the horrific nature of the crime, the story caught media attention because Bannon was hanged by a lynch mob on January 29, 1931. It was North Dakota’s last lynching. Clearly, the public interest in this case made the sites involved tourist attractions for many in the state.

Kit & Iva Graber on their 54th Wedding Anniversary (1948).
Kit & Iva Graber on their 54th Wedding Anniversary (1948).

2 thoughts on “Fearless Females Challenge: March 8 – Diaries, Letters, and Journals

  1. Thanks for including additional background information. It’s really interesting how the jail and cell of the murderer apparently were a type of tourist attraction.

    1. I thought was interesting that she would make note of the visit, and that they went to see the sight of a lynching of a murderer. I suppose their interest isn’t that different than people today that watch murder trials or watch crime dramas.

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