Diary of Caleb Wickersham

We have an intriguing insight into life in early Pocopson because of diaries maintained by some young Pocopson residents shortly after the township was formed. There was a good deal of writing around the time of the Civil War.  The following is a summary of a diary of Township resident Caleb Wickersham.


What we have of Caleb Wickersham’s diary runs from September 9, 1859 to February 22, 1862.  At the beginning, he was a 25- year old widower.  Caleb spent a lot of time before he re-married visiting the homes of his friends in the locality, and he also took a lot of “dinners” and “suppers” with them.  There was seeming abundance of other places to visit and activities to partake in.  The following list suggests that Caleb led a busy social and community life:  temperance meetings; picnics; parties; quarterly church meetings; Sunday school celebrations; circus at Kennett Square; searching for missing friends, absent employees and farm animals; attending funerals ( in a 2 ½ year span, he mentions 31 people having died, less than a half-dozen marriages and only one birth – his daughter); lectures at Marlboro, Longwood and Unionville on astronomy; playing the violin; attending classes in music, geography and spelling; fishing and shooting; traveling to Harrisburg and Philadelphia; participating in the Brandywine Literary Association; and joining the Red Lion Horse Company. 


Although he made a living as a coach-maker, he also recorded other kinds of work such as planting and digging potatoes, buying cows and getting hay in.  As a good neighbor, he helped raise a straw house and barn overshoot, bind oats, move a corn crib and butcher beef.


Based upon his diary, it would appear that Caleb also took a great interest in the larger world, attending “wide awake” meetings and torchlight parades.  On January 13, 1861, he noted “great excitement…throughout the United States” because of South Carolina’s secession.  Later, he noted Lincoln’s inauguration, the bombardment of “Fort Sumper (sic)”, the troubles in Maryland and the Union taking Alexandria and the “terrible battle” at Manassas.


He also noted the wartime activity locally, with friends volunteering and soldiers drilling in West Chester.  Perhaps because of his Quaker heritage, he makes no mention of his own intentions toward participating actively in the struggle.