Martha Farnsworth - Diary
"Hot! Oh! Such a hot day," wrote Topekan Martha Farnsworth in her diary September 1, 1912. She, her husband Fred, and a group of teenagers from Sunday school class, were preparing for their annual camping trip. The next morning, Martha awoke early and, after packing, the group used a variety of vehicles to get to their destination. Farnsworth's diary entries give an insight into life during the early 20th century in Kansas.
"Mr. Davis came in his automobile and took part of my baskets, and Laurent Schwartz took the rest with our bedding and gasoline stove. At 9:30 train on time, I left with all of my Class who could go. . .At Maple Hill, Robert McClelland met us with wagon and took us to the ford south of "Camp Rogers," where we soon made a very pretty camp and had dinner. Because of the production of wild cucumber vines, we named our Camp, "Camp Qkumburr"; the white blossoms, made camp sweet with perfume."
After battling with setting up a tent in a thunderstorm and seeking shelter in a hay shed, the Farnsworths and the group of teenagers passed the days swimming and fishing. These camping trips became an annual event and Martha kept a record of each outing in her diary.
August 30, 1913: "Off to Paxico, at 8:30 A.M. over the Rock Island. . .train late and almost 11 o'clock when reached Paxico, 28 miles west of Topeka. A transfer man. . .took our baggage and us "girls" to the Strowig farm (mile and quarter), the boys walking, and we soon had tents pitched in a most delightful grove, big and wide and roomy. . .the boys were off to find the best nooks for fishing, while I proceeded to settle down to housekeeping in Camp."
September 2, 1913: "We have decided to name our Camp for a fine, large, white Sycamore, near where our tents are pitched, and so its "Camp Sycamore La Blanca.". . .I do all the cooking and there are 14 of us: the girls wash dishes, the boys bring water and supplies and Fred takes care of the fires for me. We are having a most delightful time."
September 3, 1913: "Hot, outside, but cool in camp and we are having a most happy time."
September 4, 1913: "Mr Strowig reported boys had broken 19 windows out of his Mill and we are in a peck of trouble - it will cost them something."
September 5, 1913: "In spite of having to cook for so many, I'm having a real vacation and resting. While the Drouth is bad, the water here at this place, is still running and clear, cold and finest ever, for swimming, and we all regret exceedingly, that we must go home tomorrow. We have plenty of "Hoot Owl" music, up here. The Receiver of the Mill, came this evening to settle with the boys, for broken windows: he is an awfully ill natured fellow - old crank."
September 9, 1913: Topeka. "Another hot day and wish I was back in Camp Sycamore La Blanca. . .I sent the boys money to Mr. Oscar Schmitz, Alma, Ks. This morning, to pay damage done Paxico Mill, by windows they broke. . .bet the boys never break another window - cost them $15.55."
August 30, 1914: "In the Camp of the "Oo-la-la's", Camp Sycamore, Paxico. I awakened early this morning, or rather, did I go to sleep at all, last night? For the boys were all so hilariously happy, scarcely anyone slept. A bunch of them got up at 11:30 P.M. and went fishing - at 1 o'clock Walter Polly and Charlie Clements came to Camp, having come up from Topeka on the mid-night train, and they made things lively for a time, then at 2 o'clock A.M. another bunch got up to go swimming, then things got quiet and there was possibly two hours sleep in Camp."
August 31, 1914: "The girls have piled the straw in their tent, into "mattress" shape and with their comforts, have a fine bed - the boys, or about half of them, roll up in their blankets, on straw in their tent, Fred and the others, sleep "ditto" out under the trees. I also sleep like-wise, on my pile of straw over by the girls tent - no tent for me, when there is such joy in lying out in the blessed open, and looking up thro' the foliage of the trees and watching the stars come out, and then see the great, golden, Harvest Moon, rise out of the dark and go up and up into the myriad twinkling stars in the velvet blue of night and one by one put out their light with its own shining glory."
September 3, 1914: "Hoot owls furnish night and early morning music and I like to listen to them; I like, too, to listen to the insects of the night in their lazy buzzing, humming noise. Two black cats and a black and white, spotted one have come to Camp; also a nice Bird too has taken up with us, so we have "pets" and the boys are all kind to them."
September 7, 1915: "This afternoon, while the girls were changing clothes after swimming, they forgot to put down the flap of their tent, which was open toward the boys tent, and up, perhaps six inches and some one discovered (four boys) looking over at the girls dress....Now the boys "tent flap" was up, but a few inches and the boys thoughtlessly looking over, saw perhaps as much as a few inches of ankle, but it blew up a storm; a terrific hurricane; boys and girls did not speak and girls were going to "pack" and go home." Tensions remained high throughout the day, until Martha "held a council" with both the girls and boys, resolving it with a "Treaty of Peace" held ‘round a roaring campfire."
September 6, 1916: "While the boys were at the dam pool fishing, this morning, the girls put on the boys suits . . . and went swimming and I took their pictures. It was all done in a spirit of fun, but Ronald McCord got awfully mad about it."
September 1, 1917: "Up at 5 o'clock this morning, for it is the day looked forward to, for a year - the day of all days, in the year; the day to start for the "Camp of the white Sycamore."...After arriving at our beloved camp grounds, the boys "flew" about getting grounds in shape - had to cut weeds and rake off trash, then put up a large tent each, for the boys and girls . . . .We ate a cold lunch of graham biscuit and butter, cheese, chip beef and tomatoes, and "goo" (Martha's fine plum jam), then finished setting up camp - making table, ice-box, etc.; girls went swimming, boys finished all work first and had things in fine shape."
September 4, 1917: "Around on the big, East bank near the mouth of the Sno-ko-mo, the boys have made a big "slippery slide," more than 30 ft. high and very steep and both boys and girls have had a big time there today all day....The girls play all kinds of pranks on the boys, every day and the boys keep a pretty even score. We have never had a Camp with so much "Pep."
September 5, 1917: "On a wager, for Candy, the girls carried the water today - a ten gallon can, from Mr. Will Strowig's. We all swam, today, around near the mouth of the Sno-ko-mo, and we all went down the "slippery slide" but Teddy. It is very high and really too steep for any of us but just oceans of fun, one slide calling for another. Girls tied up some of the boys and tried to tie Johnny Miller but he was too quick for them and tied them instead....After the girls were asleep, Ronald came out, wrapped in a blanket, groaning "where is my head" and the girls "screeched" as if the devil himself was after them."
September 8, 1917: "Another beautiful day, brimful of fun....A most happy week - the most happy Camping trip we have ever had."
Farnsworth's diaries are preserved by the Kansas Historical Society and span 40 years from 1882-1922. The collection also includes seven photograph albums.
Read more of Martha Farnsworth's diaries:
Entry: Farnsworth, Martha - Diary
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: April 2009
Date Modified: May 2012
The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.