The Journal of Charles Rawn
January 17, 1844 to May 11, 1844 (Book 15)

Edited by Kellan Lacks

In this portion of his journal, Rawn spent the majority of his time working on law cases in his office or the Courthouse in Harrisburg. However, he also spent a considerable amount of time during the month of February visiting public schools in the Harrisburg area and examining and transposing scholars. Although it is easy to assume it concerned a lawsuit, on March 16, he mentioned being re-elected "a school director for the south ward of Harrisburg." His responsibilities as a school director included examining teachers for a position in the "col’d school" on March 30.

Rawn also spent a considerable proportion of his time during April with the construction of a new privy on the property of F. R. Shunk, who was away in Pittsburgh. Frances R. Shunk was a fellow lawyer, whom Rawn studied law with when he first came to Harrisburg in 1826. He was a clerk at the House of Representatives, a board member of the Canal Commission and eventually the governor of the state of Pennsylvania. He is described in the History of Dauphin County as:

a superior penman and an excellent reader. Mr. Shunk was very tall, being two or 3 inches over six feet in height. This frame was large but not fleshy. His appearance was rather ungainly, but his address was so frank and genial that the defects of his form were little considered by those in his company.1

The most poignant portion of Rawn’s journal for 1844 begins innocently on April 30, when Rawn mentioned a letter sent to Dr. Sharpless in Philadelphia concerning his daughter Mary. This is the first mention of a daughter by Rawn, in spite of his son Charles’s appearance as early as five days into the record. Mary was Rawn’s second daughter. Their first daughter, Elizabeth, was born two years before Charles Jr. in 1835, and died at the age of three in 1838. Mary Scott was only two years old in 1844, and according to Rawn she was plagued with a "incipient affection of the spine." In an attempt to help her, Rawn wrote to Dr. Sharpless and the family traveled to Philadelphia a few days later for "medical or surgical aid." When they arrived, Dr. Sharpless introduced him to Dr. Chase, who had made spinal problems his specialty. Dr. Chase then took Rawn to see one of his patients undergoing the current treatment. The patient was a young boy, only four years of age, who had been undergoing treatment for over five months and still required surgical dressings. The description given by Rawn was bleak and Rawn appeared surprised at the boy’s condition when he states, "he has been under treatment some 5 mos. and is fast mending as it is said." Although he described the boy as "fast mending," his addition of "as it is said" contains an element of doubt.

The spinal treatment was never adequately described but it involved the application of an instrument to the body. This instrument had to be worn at all times following the surgery. Rawn mentioned the young boy’s instrument being removed in order to change the surgical dressing but immediately replaced. Nevertheless, Rawn agreed to the procedure for his daughter and arranged for the surgery and a measurement for the instrument. Surprisingly, he then left Philadelphia with his son Charles, leaving his wife and daughter to face the surgery alone.

Mary survived the spinal surgery of 1844, but died in 1852, at the age of ten. Rawn’s entry for May 6, 1852, records her death. "Our devotedly loved little daughter died peacefully and almost as if gently slumbering at 10 ½ P.M."

Surrounding the events of his daughter’s surgery in Philadelphia are references to a riot occurring at the same time. His account of May 8, 1844, reads:

Rioting contd and "St. Augustine’s" "Roman Catholic" church burned within ½ square of our Boarding House at 10 or 11 P.M. St. Michaels in Kensington burned by the Rioting & confusion till after midnight –we went to bed at 10 P.M. but got up to see fire

The rioting, described by Rawn, began in the Kensington district of Philadelphia on May 3 and ended the night of May 8. According to The Private City, the riots were a response to a large influx of Irish Catholics to the area during the 1840s. Clubs for native-born Americans, called American-Republican Associations, increased within the city as the tide of immigration continued. Largely political in nature, these clubs were concerned with restricting immigration, allowing only native-born Americans the right to hold public office, lengthening naturalization requirements, and keeping the Protestant Bible in the public schools.2

On May 3, during an outdoor meeting of the American-Republicans of Kensington, fighting between the party members and their Irish neighbors ended the meeting early. During their next meeting, May 6, the arguments continued with rounds of gunfire. George Shiffler, a nineteen-year-old boy was killed first, along with two other men, who were attacking a Catholic School latter that evening. Although the fighting ended on Tuesday, May 7, the church fires described by Rawn occurred on Wednesday. Alarmed by threats against the St Augustine, the mayor of Philadelphia and a large group of police officers gathered around the building in a feeble attempt to protect it from the rioters. But in spite of their presence, the church was destroyed. On the following day, the governor of Pennsylvania sent troops to guard the catholic churches, and the city responded by calling out all the county militia companies. This ended the violence within Philadelphia, and Rawn felt comfortable leaving his wife and young daughter in the city while he returned to Harrisburg.3

Although time does not afford me the opportunity to continue the transcription of the Rawn journal for 1844, I hope someone will continue. While it is easy to get discouraged by the constant purchases of butter, lamp oil and brown sugar, underlined and double underlined, between the lines of his everyday routine lies a fascinating document with information on life in Harrisburg during the nineteenth century; if only you have the patience to find it. In the words of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, author of A Midwife’s Tale, "it is in the very dailiness, the exhaustive, repetitious dailiness, that the real power of …the book lies."


1 - Kelker, Luther Reily. History of Dauphin County, Pennsylvania (New York: The Lewis Publishing Co. 1907).

2 - Warner, Sam Bass Jr. The Private City: Philadelphia in Three Periods of its Growth (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1968), 143-144.

3 - Warner, pp. 144-147.

The Journal

Transcriptions for this section of the journal begin January 17, 1844 and end May 11, 1844. Click on a date to begin reading.

List of Names Mentioned

  • Alricks, Herman
  • Alricks, Margaret
  • Atz, Geo.
  • Baab, Jacob - Received votes to be school director for the South Ward of Harrisburg
  • Bach, Mr. - Formerly well known in Harrisburg, Rawn meets him in Lancaster
  • Bear, Sarah - Seamstress
  • Biall, S. L. - Gave lecture in Court House which was attended by Rawn
  • Biegler, Jno. H. - Rawn bought straw from him
  • Bill - Works at John H. Brants
  • Boas, Wm. D.
  • Bogar, Jacob - Rawn bought wheat flour from him
  • Boon, Gawin
  • Boyd, Wm. - Paid rent for the Hanover farm
  • Boyer, Nicolas - Rawn visits him in Halifax
  • Brants, Jno. H. - Runs/owns Brants store which Rawn frequents
  • Bratten, J. B. - Client
  • Brazier, Mrs.
  • Brenizer, Elizabeth - Client
  • Briggs, J. W.
  • Briggs, Mo [Jno.?]. H.
  • Brightbill, Adam
  • Brinton, Caleb - Rawn bought hay from him
  • Brown, Chas.
  • Bruckaer, Jno. - Client
  • Brubaker, Margaret Ann
  • Bucher, Judge - Present at Public School while Rawn was examining scholars
  • Buck, Daniel - Pays retaining fee to present petition for road in So. Hanover Township
  • Cake, Jus. W. - Client
  • Carson, Chas.
  • Carson, Frank - Walked with Rawn sometimes
  • Cassell, David - Client
  • Casson, Mike
  • Chase, Dr. - Recommended by Dr. Sharpless for Rawn to see about his daughter Mary
  • Chayn, Mo. [Jno.?] H. - Witness in Bratten vs. Cake
  • Cheyney, Thomas
  • Clendenin, Mary Scott - Rawn’s sister-in-law
  • Clendenin, Mother [Mother C] - Rawn’s mother-in-law
  • Clendenin, Mrs.
  • Cowan [also spelled Cowen], Mary
  • Darlie, Mr.
  • Drain, W. A.
  • Drane, J. A. - Rawn pays him for shoemending
  • Dubbs, John - Rawn writes to him
  • Durben, Rev. Dr. - Preacher in Carlisle
  • Earnest, Dairo
  • Edwards, Saml.
  • Elder, Graydon
  • Elder, Jonah
  • Eldred, Judge
  • Ely, Geo.
  • Farland, Mo. [Jno.?]
  • Farrelly, J. W. - Of the Pennsylvania Senate
  • Farquar, Wm.
  • Faunce, Saml.
  • Faunie, Saul
  • Feaser, Peter - Rawn bought beef from him
  • Fesler, Mo. [Jno.] - Client
  • Findlay, J. K.
  • Finler, Jacob - Rawn bought hay from him
  • Finney, Geo. W.
  • Fishburn, Saml. - Client
  • Fiske, J. A. - Counsel along with Rawn during Holman & Updegrove vs. Fesler
  • Forney, Sam - Witness in the agreement of trading horses between Rawn and Leitzel
  • Fox, Conrad - Son of Elizabeth, delivered fees to Rawn for her
  • Fox, Elizabeth - Client
  • Franken, Jos.
  • Frederick, Geo. - Runs the "Eagle Hotel" in Lancaster
  • Fry, Emanuel
  • Fuas, Mr. (colored) - Was paid to haul for Robinson
  • Garman, Saml. - Does business with Rawn
  • Garverich, Geo. - Rawn buys hay from him
  • Goad, Mr. P.
  • Goodwin, Wm.
  • Graman [also spelled Garman], Geo. - Client
  • Graman [also spelled Garman], Jacob - Client
  • Hacker, Henry M.
  • Haine [also spelled Hain], Geo.
  • Haldermans, Jacob and Mrs. - Attended a party with Rawn
  • Harris, Geo. W.
  • Hatch, Chas. Walsingham - Called on Rawn on his way to learn a trade in Hollidaysburg
  • Hatters, H.
  • Hayers, Issac N.
  • Hickman, Mr.
  • Hickoks, Mike
  • Hoffman, Jno. - Rawn bought wheat flour from him
  • Hoffman, Jno., Jr. (Stewart) - Rawn paid him for making a Bbl. Flour for him
  • Hoffman, Mrs. - Rawn bought milk and cream from her
  • Hoffman, Wm. - Rawn bought milk and cream from him
  • Hooper, Perry - Rawn pays him to haul one load of loom sand to Shunks
  • Hudy, Mr. Paine - Travels to Lancaster with Rawn
  • Hummel, F. - Witness in Smith vs Reaser
  • Innis, Ann - Colored woman who lived with Rawn and his family
  • Innis, Jas. - Does work for Rawn around the house
  • Jeanes, Dr. - Rawn calls on him in Lancaster
  • Johnson, Sarah (colored) - Took the place of Ann Innis
  • Johnson, Lyndon B. - Running for Vice President
  • Karnes, Saml. - Brought items from the river to Shoops
  • Kelker, Mo. [Jno.?] (colored)
  • Keller, Michael - Client of Hanover
  • Keller, Mrs. Mary M. - Runs a boarding house that Rawn and his family stay at
  • Kelly, Mrs. - Rawn called on Mr. Peacocks to say goodbye to her and her children
  • Kinzle, Bingham
  • Kinzel, Christ. - Client
  • Kline, Wm.
  • Koons, Fred K. - Rawn writes him a letter
  • Knepley, Mo. [Jno.?] - Tenant of James Trimble
  • Knox, Sarah - Widow, moved into Rawn’s new house on the end of the lot
  • Kunkle, Mo. [Jno.?]
  • Lady, Dr. T. - Rawn sees her at Dr. Jeanes’
  • Leitzel, Abm. - Rawn trades horses with him
  • Light, Henry - New client of Rawn
  • Lingle, Danl. - Carpenter
  • Lingle, Thos. - Guardian of Margaret Ann Brubaker
  • Louck, Geo. - Owns a blacksmith shop
  • McClure, Mr.
  • McCormick
  • McDonald
  • McFaden, Mo. [Jno.?]
  • McGinley
  • Mdison [Madison?], Dr.
  • Millerson, Jacob - Does business with Rawn in his office
  • Mist, Jacob - Rawn received letter from him
  • Mumma, Chastn. - Does business with Rawn
  • Myers, Hamilton
  • Mytinger, Geo. L.
  • Norfass, Jacob
  • Obington, Jas. - Rawn pays him for building foundation of Privy of bricks at Shunks
  • Packer, Mrs. T - Runs a boarding house
  • Pearson, Mrs. Mary (late Briggs) - Travels to Lancaster with Rawn
  • Peiffer - Rawn buys potatoes from him
  • Penniman, W. B. - Brother of Edward A. Penniman, Provided Counsel
  • Periniman [Penniman], E. A. - Brother of W. B. Penniman, delivered payment to his brother for Rawn
  • Perkin, Mrs. - A sister of Dr. Sharpless who lives at his house
  • Peters, Jas.
  • Petriken, H.
  • Prince, Geo. - Rawn sees him on Chestnut St. in Lancaster
  • Polk, James
  • Power, C. B.
  • Ramsey, Alex S. - Of Washtington D. C.
  • Rawn, Charles, Jr. - Rawn’s son
  • Rawn, D. W. - Rawn’s brother
  • Rawn, Frances - Rawn’s wife
  • Rawn, Hannah - Rawn’s aunt
  • Renninger, Martha - Rawn buys oats from her
  • Rhan, Geo. - Rawn wrote a letter to him about certain claims for clients
  • Rhoades, Chas. - Client
  • Rinehart, Chas. W. - Rawn pays him for digging Shunks Privy hole
  • Roberts, Col. - Present at Public School while Rawn was examining scholars
  • Root, Wm. - Rawn buys a stove drawer from him
  • Rop, Robt. J. - Paid to move Mr. Shunks privy for his benefit
  • Rowine, David W. - Wrote a letter to Rawn
  • Rutherford, Dr. W. W.
  • Sallede, Adam - Rawn wrote to him about his cause on trial list
  • Schreiner, Chas. - Public School teacher, Rawn went to his son’s funeral
  • Sealy, Mr.
  • Seiler [also spelled Seipet], Christian - A school director for the South Ward of Harrisburg along with Rawn
  • Sharp, Mo. [Jno.?] - Rawn bought butter from him
  • Sharpless [also spelled Sharfless], Dr. J. F. [also J. T.] - Rawn writes to him about his daughter Mary
  • Shoop, Mr. - Rawn bought butter from him
  • Short, Mo. [Jno.?] Geo. - Witness in Bratten vs. Cake
  • Shunk, F. R.
  • Shunk, Hamilton
  • Shunk, Kiblon
  • Smaltzried, Conrad
  • Sneily, Jno.
  • Snowden, J. R. - House of Representatives in Harrisburg
  • Snyder, C. A. - Rawn visits his office
  • Stake, Jno.
  • Stevens, Fanny
  • Stewart, Wm. - Of the Pennsylvania Senate
  • Stone, Rev. Mr. - Preached at Rawn’s church
  • Strasbaugh, Susan - Does washing for Rawn and family
  • Swaine, [?]
  • Thompsons, Mike
  • Trimble, James - Deceased
  • Trimble, Jas.
  • Trimbles, The
  • Van Buren, Martin - Running for President
  • Wagner, Henry - Counsel
  • Waldenman, J. M.
  • Wallace, Wm.
  • Weir, J. A.
  • Williams, David - Client
  • Wister, Casper - Son of Chas. Wister
  • Wister, Chas. J. - Rawn settled accounts with him for his son Casper
  • Yeats, Mrs. - Rawn helps her with her baggage when they arrive in Harrisburg from Lancaster
  • Zacharias, Saml. - Guardian of Garman business
  • Zerfass, Jacob - Of Hummelstown
  • Zerker, David
  • Zollingers, Elias

Works Cited

Kelker, Luther Reily. History of Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. New York: The Lewis Publishing Co. 1907.

Ulrich, Laurel Thatcher. A Midwive’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary 1785-1812. New York: Vintage Book, 1991.

Warner, Sam Bass Jr. The Private City: Philadelphia in Three Periods of its Growth. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1968.

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PDF Icon Book 15: 1844-01-17 to 1844-05-11