The Journal of Charles Rawn
February 20, 1838 to April 23, 1838 (Book 9)

Edited by David Ryan Maher

Although this section of Charles Rawn’s journal is only made up of two months of his life, it still gives readers a vivid window into the life of Rawn, his family, and his daily actions in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in late winter-early spring 1838. In an almost foreboding foreshadow of what was to come, Rawn, in the very first entry of this section, goes to pay his respects to William Keller’s 4 ½ year old daughter Emma who had died that morning. Probably not a good gauge of his character or his reaction, but the mention of this death between his daily business transactions and his days end tea at his office, seems to paint it as a "non-event". Little would Rawn know that almost exactly one month later, he would lose his young daughter Elizabeth to illness.

Reading Rawn’s entries over the few days of his daughter’s illness, one truly begins to see a more colorful picture of the man. No longer blocked by the black and white screen of arbitration, letters, meetings, and lawyer’s fees, Rawn flowed forth his deepest feelings of loss and anguish over his daughter’s death. He would start off March 19th, 1838 writing, "Dead! Dead! O Grief almost insupportable our Dear little Daughter is dead, her Angel Spirit took its everlasting flight at 15 minutes past 5 - this morning to the very bosom of her God Saviour - we can only exclaim in the agony of deepest sorrow". His usually cut and dry writing style begins to crack at this time, allowing us to see instances of sorrow and depression; feelings that Rawn does not generally willingly convey in his writing. His sad imagery puts us in the cold and dark of Rawn’s mindset the day after Elizabeth’s death. He writes, "we bore her, sad sorrowful, to the cold and lonely prison house of the Dead in the Presbyterian Burial Ground". Even at the funeral, he allows us a glimpse into his thoughts as he looks around and notices the friends and relatives buried nearby the fresh grave of his daughter, one of which was his first child who died the day it was born.

Charles Rawn’s reflection on the death of his first child illustrates that, even during a time when child mortality was very high, it was still not something that people were desensitized to. Rawn receives support from his friends and relatives who immediately visit Frances and him. At one point, seemingly in an attempt to figure out how to deal with this tragic death, Charles purchases the book, "Token for Mourners" by M. Flavel, presumably a guide on how to cope with death.

Days after the death of his daughter Elizabeth, Charles Rawn’s entries, as one would expect, are very short and seemingly uneventful. He appears to be more cut and dry then he was in the entries before Elizabeth’s death, possibly becoming more introverted by his grief. Eventually his writing picks up again as he seems to fall back into the rhythm of his usual daily activities. Finally on April 21st, he appears to fully emerge from his grieving period as he spends a Saturday afternoon with his wife and baby child taking a one horse carriage ride through the country side where he notes viewing an, "…abundance of icicles a foot long at an aqueduct canal." Overall, he would remark, "Afternoon quite pleasant."

Another noteworthy event, certainly not to the level that the death of his young daughter was, is the move the Rawn family undertakes from their rented home on Pine Street to a new location in Market Square. On April 7th, the Deed for his new home becomes officially transferred to Charles, and he becomes a homeowner. It is not clear what sparked this move from one home to another, or even how long the move had been planned. The change from renter to home owner may have something to say about Rawn’s possibly business growth and success. Market Square generally would have been the center of town, so the Rawns, in a way, were "moving on up". This new home also afforded Charles the luxury of housing his office in the rear of the building, making his commute to work a very relaxed one to say the least.

During this move Charles hires the services of several local people whom assist him by moving large quantities of his personal and professional belongings. It is here that a reader of Rawns entries notices that he clearly documents when he has come in contact with, or hired the services of an African American. "Paid Fleming Mitchell, 12 1/2 cents, black fellow, fortuned assistance yesterday, also William Posey, excellent working black fellow for assisting us all day yesterday and from 9 A.M. to 4 1/2 P.M."(April 3rd). Later, on the final entry of this transcribed section (April 23rd), Rawn notes, "Paid Jane Johnson black girl or woman who had lived with us one week and left before breakfast - 75 cents her week wages". Rawn is quite careful to note the hard work of African Americans, somewhat shedding light onto the roots of the growth of Harrisburg as a stop on the "Underground Railroad".

Several times throughout his entries, Rawn illustrates his compassion for the downtrodden, and his willingness towards charity. On March 7th, while purchasing sundries near the Capital, he notes that he had given 5 cents to a poor woman who frequents the area. As a man who kept diligent records on monies coming and going, it is fair to say that Rawn knew the value of money, however, this instance shows that he was not at all frugal or bashful at giving to those in need. Charles did not simply stop at obliging to an outstretched hand in need, he also stepped forward to assist. On April 19th, he notes that after visiting a poor, sick man by the name of McKinley, who is being looked after by his wife, he tells his supplier of firewood to deliver a load of oak wood to them, and to put the expense on his tab. Seemingly simple, but it is almost certain that it made a world of difference for the McKinley’s during the cool, early spring.

One can scourer through Rawn’s journal entries and see line after line of letters sent and received, cases argued, lawyer’s fees paid, and so on, but it is between the lines where one can get a better sense of who Charles Rawn was. Yes he was an almost tyrannical penny counter, but at the same time, he was a mourning father, loving husband, and giving citizen. It is here that Rawn’s journal entries give us a more personal figure to connect to in the foreign land known as the past. So get out your passports and enjoy the trip with your gracious host, Charles Coatesworth Pinckney Rawn.

The Journal

Transcriptions for this section of the journal begin February 20, 1838 and end April 23, 1838. Click on a date to begin reading.



21-Feb beef $0.30
butter $0.03
24-Feb 1lb. butter $0.25
27-Feb oranges $0.12
28-Feb 1lb. butter $0.25
2-Mar 5lbs. 7oz. Woolen carpet $2.72
and chain for Frances
3-Mar 1lb. butter $0.23
beef $0.64
3 pecks cornmeal $0.47 1/2
sundries $0.06
7-Mar sundries $0.45
10-Mar 1lb. butter $0.25
7 1/2lbs. Beef $0.60
13-Mar sundries
37 yds. of carpeting $46.25
pair of shoes for Frances $1.50
15-Mar sundries $0.06 1/4
16-Mar sundries $0.06 1/2
17-Mar bullions $0.25
beef $0.50
21-Mar apples $0.37 1/2
23-Mar sundries $0.12 1/2
24-Mar 1lb. butter $0.25
sideboard $30
31-Mar marketing (market) $1.07
SUB-TOTAL $85.87 1/4
3-Apr hickory broom $0.12 1/2
4-Apr 1lb. butter $0.25
paper $0.12 1/2
5-Apr nails $0.08 1/2
1 box wheat flour $6.62 1/2
black cloth $28.09
6-Apr 35 lbs. of hard soap $1.56 1/4
7-Apr 1lb. butter $0.25
11-Apr 1 doz. Eggs $0.12
spinnage (spinach?) $0.12 1/2
1lb. butter $0.25
shad (fish) $0.25
12-Apr book - "Token for Mourners" $0.12 1/2
by M. Flavel
18-Apr 2lb. Butter $0.50
beef $0.25
eggs $0.25
potatoes $0.05
20-Apr 2 bushels potatoes $0.75
1/2 bushel cornmeal $0.37 1/2
1/4 [?] Rye flour $.62 1/2
21-Apr marketing $0.64
SUB-TOTAL $41.42 1/4
TOTAL $128.24 1/2


21-Feb 12.5
23-Feb 18.75
2-Mar 12.5
3-Mar 0.12
9-Mar 0.12
10-Mar 0.06
15-Mar 18.75
16-Mar 0.12
25-Mar 0.25
4-Apr 12.5
16-Apr 0.1
TOTAL $1.52

Services Paid For

Date Name Service Rendered Amount
24-Mar Henry Walters – sexton dig Elizabeth's grave $1.25
29-Mar William Willis moved 2 cart loads $0.37 1/2
to Rawn's office
William Jones helped move things $0.18 3/4
3-Apr Fleming Mitchell - "black fellow" assistance $0.12 1/2
William Posey assistance $1.25
"excellent working black fellow"
Charles McMullen loading/unloading stove $0.12 1/2
Robert Smith loading/unloading stove $0.12 1/2
William Willis moved 10 loads $2.00
5-Apr Dinah Matters "our black woman on account" $5.00
7-Apr Dr. William Wilson Rutherford medicine/attendance $24.50
May 22, 1837 - April 6, 1838
Polly Fox white washing parlor $0.25
20-Apr George Kelly sawing wood $0.35
21-Apr Jane Johnson - "black woman" weeks wages $0.75
TOTAL $36.27

Instances of Charity

Date Name Donation Amount
7-Mar "poor woman at the Capital" handout $0.05
19-Apr "poor sick man McKinley" load of fire wood $1.25
TOTAL $1.30

List of Names Mentioned

A list of names for this section of the journal has not yet been compiled.

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PDF Icon Book 9: 1838-02-20 to 1838-04-23