Our Portsmouth history research often focuses on people who accomplished great things or were notorious in some way.  The focus of this blog is on an ordinary person who represents the lives of many of our unheralded Portsmouth citizens.  David Durfee Sherman (Shearman) recorded his daily life in a diary.  Several volumes of his diary are in the collection of the Portsmouth Historical Society.   His writing has been a valuable glimpse into daily life in Portsmouth before the Civil War.  He records people, places and activities in Portsmouth life.  Through the diary entries we learn about the steps in rebuilding the dam at Glen Farm and how the Sherman mill was moved from Fall River and re-assembled in Portsmouth.  (That mill still stands today at Prescott Farm.)  He commented on the weather, religious meetings, barn raising, the amusements at the Portsmouth Grove, and even raiding a local brothel.

About David Durfee Sherman:  He was born in 1830 and died at the age of thirty-seven in 1868.  As a young man he married  Cynthia Dixie and they had seven children.  Only three of them lived to adult life – George, Charles and Clarence.  Like most men in Portsmouth, David spent most of his time farming, but he worked at construction projects as well.  He did his public duty as a town marshal and he served in the Union Army in Company D of the Rhode Island 12th Infantry Regiment.  At age twenty-nine he served as a traveling book salesman.  It is hard to imagine walking from Portsmouth to Somerset or Swansea to peddle his books, but David would do that.

His writing is clear and enjoyable to read.  He comes across as an intelligent and inquisitive person who takes every opportunity to develop his intellect.  He didn’t have much money, so he was very creative in using his own skills to improvise and craft what he needed.

David’s diary entries will be included in some blogs to come and his entries will be a focal point for the 2018 Exhibit at the Portsmouth Historical Society. Marge Webster, a past curator and member of the Curator’s committee, has done extensive work with the diaries and has compiled an index of names and places in them.

Parts of his diary have been digitized and are available online through the Portsmouth History Center Digital Archives:  Click on the link to the right.  Digital Archives