Stoke, Jessie A. Caldwell

Manuscript Diaries of Jessie A. Caldwell Stoke, of Conneaut, Ashtabula County, Ohio, 1896-1899.

3 diaries, 12mo,  472 manuscript  pages, two bound in leather, one in cloth, some chipping and wear to bindings, otherwise text is good, written in ink, in a legible hand, several pages faded but readable, some pages left blank, as follows:

 1896: 183 pages, 2 entries (days) per page, includes 10 pages of memorandum and cash accounts.

1897: 177 pages, 2 entries (days) per page, includes 8 pages of memorandum and cash accounts.

1899: 112 pages, 2 entries (days) per page, includes 9 pages of memorandum and cash accounts.

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Jessie A. Caldwell Stoke was born in 1870 at Omaha, Douglas County, Nebraska the daughter of John and Delia Caldwell. The family is found in the 1880 Census at Conneaut, Ashtabula County, Ohio, where her father moved the family and worked as a grocer. Besides her parents, she had a sister Harriet A. Stoke (born 1877) who is listed in the household as well. A niece Jennie B. Caldwell rounded out the family household. Jessie was listed as being born in Nebraska, her father Pennsylvania and her mother New York. This would presumably mean that the Stokes spent time in Nebraska, at least from 1870 before moving to Ohio about 1877.

Jessie met and married Charles Stoke (1871-1895) on October 29, 1890 at Conneaut, Ohio. Charles was born about 1871 in Pennsylvania, the son of Frank P. Stoke (1853-1934) and Almeda D. Sheldon (1854-1914).  Charles was found on the 1880 Census living at Spring, Crawford County, Pennsylvania. His father was working in a saw mill (he also was listed as a carpenter at other times). Besides his parents, he had a sister Ann, born about 1876. Charles' father was born at Edinboro, Erie County, Pennsylvania, dying in Conneaut, Ohio. His mother was born in Springboro, Crawford County, Pennsylvania, and also died in Conneaut, Ohio. 

Jessie A. Caldwell and Charles Stoke had one daughter, Harriett Anna, who was born in April of 1896; several months after Charles Stoke had died in September of 1895.

When next Jessie is found in the census, it is 1900, and she is listed as a widow, living with her daughter and sister at her parent's home in Conneaut, Ohio. She continued to live with her father through at least 1910, when she shows up in the census working as a caterer. By 1920, she is the head of the house, her parents both having died. She lives with her sister. She still works as a caterer for a private house, catering social functions. She keeps this job through at least 1930. In the 1940 Census she shows up living with her daughter and her daughter's husband Henry R. Kale, an English teacher. Her daughter has three children and her mother-in-law living with her at Youngstown, Ohio.

Jessie A. Stoke died in 1959. She was buried at the family plot in the City Cemetery at Conneaut, Ohio. Harriett, Jessie's daughter, died in 1959 and was buried in the same cemetery.

The diaries are kept for the years 1896-1897 and 1899, when Jessie would have been between 26 and 29 years old and a recently widowed single mother. In fact the first diary, kept in 1896, starts out exactly five weeks to the day of her husband Charles' death of typhoid fever at the age of 24:


       "1896. January 1st. Just five weeks today since Charlie was buried"


         "1896. January 20th.  Just eight weeks today since Charlie died. Oh! I want him so."

 Charles is mentioned many times in the diaries. Jessie’s first and only child Harriet was born in April of 1896, starting out life without her father:


"1896. April 20th. Helped a little about the washing. Starched the clothes. A dread this A.M. and mistrusted they were labor pains about noon. Doctor came up and said I'd be sick before morning. Rained this afternoon. Etta and Min were here. Grandma and mother Stokes cam after supper and the doctor about 8 o'clock. Went to bed about 8:30 and the baby was born about 12:30. Standard time. A little girl. I am so glad. Doctor thinks she weighs 10 pounds."


"1896. April 21st. I go along nicely. Everybody tickled and I feel splendid. The baby has the Stoke cowlick and Charlie's hands and feet and eyes. PA weighed her. 9lb 5oz. She drank from last night. Anna came up early to see here and Bert came up at noon. A got a pretty bow for the baby from Lill Brown today. Grannie down this eve. Brought her a doll pin cushion and a bib. Grandma P. came up and brought her a dollar."


The 1896 diary is a rather heartbreaking account of the sadness of a woman who lost her husband while pregnant. The other two diaries help fill in the life of Jessie after the death of her husband. In the 1897 diary Jessie has penned in the memorandum section a piece titled "Important in constipation in infants and children," where she lists 5 ways to take care of this sort of problem, as well as a list of what "Harriet got for Christmas" and who made or gave the various items.