Written between 1853 and 1915, the diaries chronicle social, political, and economic issues of the era.
Robert H. Cartmell (1828-1915), a Madison County, Tennessee farmer, documented the nature of his farm operation beginning in 1853. There are thirty-three volumes of diaries that contain full commentaries related to the running of his farm, the weather, and the fluctuations of the cotton market. They contain thoughtful comments on politics and candidates for office and opinions on matters of public interest, such as the price of cotton, slavery, abolition, railroads, agricultural meetings, state fairs, prohibition, religion, secession, the Union, and conditions in Madison County during and after the Civil War. The diaries during the war years are filled with accounts of battles and the movements of Federal armies stationed in west Tennessee. With the exception of a break from May 1867 to January 1879, the journals are faithfully kept and rich with information through the early years of the twentieth century. This collection is ongoing and more volumes will be added in the future.