Tag Archives: Josephine Walker

A Slice of Summer

Virgie Talbert's watermelon party invitation

Virgie Talbert’s watermelon party invitation

On this August 3, National Watermelon Day, we wonder what Kentucky summers would be without this delectable treat, or the role that it has historically played in socializing and courtship.  We’re sure that in 1899, Virgie Talbert of Nicholasville didn’t pass up John Chambers’s invitation to a watermelon party in Wilmore, Kentucky.  Nor did 20-year-old Josephine Walker decline her share of sweet slices at the 1884 Adair County Fair.  Sometime in the 1890s, Lucye Wolcott of Muhlenberg County teased her young suitor about a competitor’s bid for her company.  “Mr. Morgan invited us over to share his lovely melon,” she coyly reported, and “naturally we did not decline.”

In 1863, 11-year-old Elizabeth Gaines moved with her family from Bowling Green to a farm near Hadley, Kentucky.  After getting used to her new rural surroundings, she grew to enjoy fishing, hunting for wild nuts and grapes, and horseback riding.  One day, she and her friend Mary rode by the farm of George Washington Cherry, the father of WKU’s first president, Henry Hardin Cherry, where they spied a large watermelon patch.  Mary decided she wanted one, and sent Elizabeth over the fence to retrieve it.  When she returned, the two girls “burst it open” and devoured it.  At first, Mary teased Elizabeth into believing that the elder Cherry would find out and complain about his purloined melon, but later assured her worried friend that he would not take offense at their impromptu feast.

Click on the links for finding aids to these collections that feature watermelons, part of the Manuscript & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  For more, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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Josie Walker’s Book

Josie Walker's diary inscription

Josie Walker’s diary inscription

For a look into the daily lives of a Kentucky farm family late in the 19th century, WKU’s Special Collections Library offers this newly acquired diary, kept by an observant young woman in Columbia, Kentucky.

Josephine “Josie” Walker was nineteen when she began the second volume of her diary in October 1883.  Like most single women living at home, Josie organized her life around family, household duties, school, church, and social events.  She and her sister had their share of chores: “Sophie and I ironed some, churned, baked a cake & some apples and did a hundred other things,” she wrote on October 27.  The following summer, she enjoyed a day out at the county fair, where she feasted on watermelon, watched mule races, and admired prize-winning livestock and quilts.  Josie and her family, however, had decided not to go into town one day in March in order to avoid witnessing a scheduled public execution.  “I don’t see how a humane person could go to a hanging,” she confided to her diary.

Josie was also attentive to events in the wider world.  “This is election day.  Hurrah!” she wrote in anticipation of a new president in November 1884, but her hopes were dashed when Republican James G. Blaine narrowly lost to Grover Cleveland.  The Democrats, she grumbled, were uncharitably shooting off guns and making a “racket” to celebrate their victory.

September 6, 1884 had found Josie in a reflective mood.  “This is my twentieth birthday,” she noted, and two years had elapsed since she began to keep a diary.  “I suppose I am considered a grown lady by some,” she wrote, “but I feel as an ignorant timid child afraid to stand alone.  Let us hope the records of this year will be pleasant to refer to in years to come.”  With her diary now a part of our permanent collection, her wish can be fulfilled.

A finding aid for Josephine Walker’s diary can be downloaded by clicking here.  To find other diaries from Kentucky and elsewhere, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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