The Journal of Charles Rawn
July 31, 1851 to September 25, 1851 (Book 22)

Edited by Georgina Leon

The life and legal practice of Charles Coatesworth Rawn, Esq., of Harrisburg, have been well documented. We know that he was a prominent lawyer in mid-19th century Harrisburg and "indefatigable in attention to his professional business" (Egle, 277). We know that he was born in Washington (when it was a city and not yet a District) in 1802, attended West Chester Academy, later studied law under the mentorship of Francis R. Shunk, and was admitted to the bar in 1831. He married in May of 1833 and with his wife Frances (nee Clendenin) had seven children, only four of whom survived early childhood.

When the entries begin on July 31, 1851, Harrisburg is a city of over 8,000 inhabitants and, according to the Harrisburg City Directory of 1843, Charles Rawn is one of 31 men admitted to the Harrisburg bar with his practice listed at 7 South Second Street. He was near his own mid-century mark (his birthday given as July 30) and he had been in practice some 20 years, married for 18, and his entries for the next two months mention four of his children—Charles (14), J. Calvin (11), Mary (9) and Fanny (2). The child Mary would not live to see the end of 1852.

With the first several entries one wonders why he seldom mentions his wife—only "Son Chas."—until there is the realization that he is in the midst of a business trip begun on July 18. Perhaps to show young Charles a bit of the world and to acknowledge his new stature as a man, Rawn asked his teen-aged son to join him. As we can see from his entries, business and pleasure were intertwined in his daily activities so it was natural to do so in his diaries. (There are references, however, to other "receipt books" and such that contained only business notes and transactions.) It is hard to deduce Charles’ reactions to all the adventures his father was exposing him to, but it would appear that father Charles enjoyed himself tremendously. His entries while away are far longer and more detailed than those while at home. We know that he stays in touch with his wife because he reports receiving letters from her (sometimes in the bar at the hotel, sometimes at the post office) and dutifully replies to her. It would appear that mail between Harrisburg and Philadelphia was faster in 1851 than it is today with mail sometimes arriving the day it was posted, or at least by the following day.

Midway through his month-long business trip Rawn is making the rounds disbursing payments, collecting fees, and seeing clients about their legal affairs. Perhaps he is hoping that son Charles will become interested in pursuing the law as well, although no mention is made of this. This time his visit to Philadelphia is strictly business and pleasure—unlike the visit in 1842 when he sought the advice of a Dr. Jno. J. Sharpless because he was suffering from a "diseased upper end of [his] right lung"—something that called for "leaching and cupping" by a Mrs. Brown in his hotel room, as recommended by the doctor. Despite the treatment it was several weeks before he was well and he wrote constantly in his journal of weakness and coughing. But this time his visit to Philadelphia is pleasant with no hint of illness. One would hope that (based on others’ assessment of his stature that he was about six feet tall) he weighed considerably more than the 132 pounds he recorded weighing when he was so ill during his earlier visit to Philadelphia.

Although he seldom mentions dining places or food and drink (except the mention of an occasional sarsaparilla or whiskey on the road) and he doesn’t record what he eats when dining out, we have an idea of what they ate as a family while at home. Frequent purchases were butter, milk, beef, and rolls, with seasonal produce and occasional large purchases of items such as sugar. He frequently mentions clothing and purchases many items such as shoes and boots (lace, short, and long) for his children. He also buys fabric in Philadelphia and takes it to Gresimer’s ("My Taylor") who has orders to sew waistcoats, pants, and vests for Rawn, who undoubtedly had a fashion sense, out of the silk, satin, and other fabrics he has purchased.

One of the first adventures Rawn and his son two take was a day-trip or "excursion" to Trenton on the steamboat "Edwin Forest." Polka music was played by musicians on the lower level and the entire trip, including refreshments, cost $1 each. Another diversion that Rawn took his son to was the trotting course at Hunting Park. He doesn’t mention placing any money on the horses but records that he spent money for ground nuts for Charles and a good position to view the horses from the viewing stands.

The second adventure on his summer trip with Charles was a weekend trip to the beach at Cape May, New Jersey (called the "Capes") via the steamboat "Thomas Powell." Rawn describes the accident aboard the steamer not far into their journey, off Marcus Hook, New Jersey. A "part of the machinery of the boat broke" forcing them to abandon ship and board another boat that had come to their rescue. The new vessel was crowded and the crew attempted to please them by providing dinner, but there was more demand than food. Fortunately, Rawn had the foresight to "provide some bread & ham from our breakfast" and both were therefore well fortified.

Upon his arrival at Cape May he uncharacteristically remarked with consternation: "Witnessed the most ludicrous scenes of bathing by some 2 or 300 persons men women children horses & dogs all in variously rigged." (August 9, 1851) One wonders if that was his first visit to a beach and his first view of the spectacle of public bathing. He spoke glowingly about their attic accommodations at Irving House and about the refreshing ocean breeze—at least until it came time to check out and he was charged for two entire days instead of the one and two-thirds days they were actually there. "Paid Bill for 1 2/3 days $4.00 being an imposition of 67 cts. as they agreed to charge us $2.00 a day and when I came to pay called the 2/3 a whole day...." (August 11, 1851)

He may have been frugal, but his advancing years do not seem to have diminished his ability to enjoy the youthful pleasure of bathing "in the buff" early in the morning on the beach "among some fifty others similarly robed or unrobed." One can only imagine the youthful male abandon he must have felt frolicking with son Charles in those early dawn hours! He must have been truly invigorated by his ocean bathing because he went back three more times that Sunday (supposedly not in the same state of attire) and managed to attend the local Presbyterian church as well, where he greatly enjoyed the service and the fact that, unlike his church, the entire congregation took part in the hymn singing. In fact, Rawn wanted to introduce such a custom in his "quasi Presby. Ch. Harrisburg."

Throughout the two months of the journal entries it is interesting to note that he mentions his wife some 31 times (not a great number, considering he mentions Gresimer his tailor 9 times) but only in the following four contexts: sending a letter to her or receiving one; attending church (where she usually attended with the children); riding in the carriage, usually with one or more of the children; and buying something for her (such as cloth or household goods). He also never mentions her name but does underscore "My Wife" in his journal when he receives a letter from her (which he customarily does only when a person’s name pertains to some business dealing). He rarely refers to himself as "I" but will only if he talks about himself in a solitary sense ("I spent eve. at home"); otherwise it’s usually "Son Chas. & Self," etc.

In addition to his barbed comments about the bathers at Cape May, his good-natured sense of humor comes through in an anecdote regarding the chambermaid while staying at their hotel (The White Swan) in Philadelphia: "Presented Chambermaid Mary (Irish girl) with Pair Silk Gloves worth 25 cts got at Gresimers - she claims that she had won them on a bet we had made about her having or not having towels in my room but I gave them to her for her cheerful faithfulness & disposition to oblige." (September 9, 1851) For one reason or another on the same trip he found himself visiting a former "intimate" of his: "About 22 Ms. from Phila. Called at Mr. Mulins to see his Wife who was a Sarah Peacock and very intimate in our family . . . some 30 yrs ago - found her fat - looking well but Much older and no traces striking my recollection of what she was when we liked each other some 30 yrs ago . . . ." (August 12, 1851 ) (One wonders what the rotund Mrs. Mulins thought of the aging Mr. Rawn.)

While he could be humorous (if not brutally honest) and generous, he was also fiercely determined to receive the money that was due him. When an Amos Fishborn owed him money and told Rawn "more lies than the money was worth even to him," Rawn persevered in his attempts to recoup the money from him, calling on Fishborn some three more times—to no avail. "I have seen enough of him to believe that he is a great [left blank by author] and not to be confided in." (August 4, 1851)

There were only two instances of Rawn underscoring several sentences in succession; one of those was after meeting a client’s son who had been a surgeon in the Navy and had traveled the world. Rawn was much impressed when he met the fellow and in particular with the mementos he brought home—ladies’ and children’s shoes from China. This must have made quite an impression for he wrote with uncharacteristic enthusiasm about the event. The other time was when Rawn went to the prison in Harrisburg to visit a Dr. Miller and was obviously distressed at what he saw. He underscored the words he wrote with more emotion than any others noted in this two-month period: "Found him in a miserable condition as to health labouring under chronic diarrhoea. . . and Scarcely able to Stand up - Much reduced in flesh since I saw him some 2 Mos or More ago." (August 26, 1851)

Although he says little about his children’s activities, he does mention their names frequently and seems most concerned about their daughter Fanny (age 2). Upon returning from his journey he mentions that she has whooping cough and enters purchases of cough medicine three times in his journal. By August 29 he writes the following in his journal: "Rode in carriage with wife & daughter Fanny for benefit of latters health. . . (she having the whooping cough badly)" and we can infer from their church schedule that he allows the rest of the family to go to church in the morning while he stays with Fanny, and then he attends the evening service, usually by himself.

Rawn frequently mentions places or people but fails to elaborate. For example, one carriage ride took the entire family to the Insane Asylum, but we are left wondering if it was just a pleasure outing or whether the purpose was to visit a friend or perhaps a relative. We know a bit more about his trip to the new cotton factory in Harrisburg, however. Not only was Charles Rawn—as a respected public figure of some prosperity—one of the incorporators of the Harrisburg Savings Institution (in 1834), which became Dauphin Deposit Bank, he also was part of the discussion swirling about Harrisburg in 1851 about the possibility of chartering a new cotton company—the Harrisburg Cotton Manufacturing Co. Gerald Eggert writes in his book, Harrisburg Industrializes: The Coming of Factories to an American Community: "Chas. C. Rawn, a lawyer and minor investor in the company, declared that without concern for profit or loss but on ‘the ground chiefly of benefitting the town and country and people employed’ he favored ‘at once going to work and keeping at it.’" (54) Charles T. James, avid proponent of steam who traveled the country encouraging its use, was granted a 20-year charter from the state beginning May 1, 1851 for a mill to be built at the "northern limits of the borough" at North and Front streets. James brought not only machinery of his own design, he also brought nine Rhode-Island born machinists to install the machines and fifty women from the Northeast, known as "female operatives." Things got off to a slow start and the problems were many: fluctuating cotton prices, debt, fire, strikes, changes in the market for the use of the product, and machines that tended to break down. Rawn first visited the site on August 28 of that year: "Visited our cotton Factory from 11-3/4 to 12 noon with our children being my first visit since it was put in operation." There is no reaction to the progress of the building or the manufacturing; however, on September 21 he is visited by Nathaniel Morton, the son of the former governor of Massachusetts "in reference to claims against Chas. T. James (now Senator of U.S. from Rhode Island) who constructed etc our Cotton Factory. . . .") What the issue was is hard to discern from his scant writings on the subject, but Morton apparently was determined to seek redress, and if it could not be had locally, was going to press on to Lancaster and Reading.

There is so much to be gleaned even from a record of two months in the life of Charles Rawn. Though sober in style and leaving us open to great wonderment on what he was truly feeling on most occasions, we have been afforded a glimpse into the life of a man—sincere in his faith, diligent in his profession, and delighting in his family—who opens up a window on life in mid-century Harrisburg.

The Journal

Transcriptions for this section of the journal begin July 31, 1851 and end September 25, 1851. Click on a date to begin reading.

List of Names Mentioned

  • Alricks, Herman - Frequent visitor of Rawn
  • Baldwin, J. H. - Agent of Jacob Peters
  • Bellman, Oliver
  • Bitterman, Jno.
  • Black, George - Managed the "Irving House" with his father
  • Black, Mr. Mo. - Ran the "Irving House" where Rawn stayed in Cape May
  • Bowd, Mr. - Rawn met him on the steamboat Thomas Powel
  • Caldwell, Edmund B. - Runs a cloth store in Philadelphia
  • Casson, F. C. - Attorney who Rawn writes to on subject of rehearing
  • Cheyney, Chas. H.
  • Craft, James S. - Of Pittsburg
  • Croft, Mr. T. J. - Music teacher, Rawn handles W.G. Milliston’s claim against him
  • Crop, Geo. P. - Of firm Blanche & Crop
  • DeWitt, Mr. - Preached at Rawn’s church in Harrisburg
  • Edward - Irish porter at White Swan Hotel in Philadelphia
  • Eichelberger, Jacob - Client
  • Elder, Thos.
  • Elfatrich, Jme.
  • Elliot, Saml. A. - Part of William Mason & Co.
  • Filbert, Mrs. Matilda - Widow, daughter of Judge R.
  • Fishborn, Amos - Owes Rawn some money, Rawn visits him a few times to collect
  • Fitch, J. W. - Rawn offered to sell his horse to him
  • Floyd, Sarah A. - Dr. Thos. Mills’ sister
  • Fox, James - Attorney in Harrisburg
  • Frazer, Col. Reah - Speaker at Dem. Meeting in the courthouse
  • Freeman, James
  • Fruauf - Daughter of the Principal of the school Oscar Rahn attended, Instructress
  • Geist, J. M. Willis - Client
  • Gelp, Chas.
  • Gibson, Mr. and Mrs. - Rawn met them in Cape May
  • Gilbert, Mrs.
  • Glentworth, Theodore - Clerk of Carlisle and Gaskill
  • Graff, Paul
  • Grahams - Rawn bought sugar from them
  • Gresimer, Jonah - Tailor
  • Harman, Mrs. - Deceased, Buried at 4pm on August 21, 1851
  • Heberton, Rev. Mr. - Gave the sermon at Presby. Church in Cape May
  • Hieskill, W. B. - Of Philadelphia, Rawn receives a letter from him when he returns to Harrisburg
  • Hintze, Dr. Wm.
  • Hopkins, Benjn.
  • Hubbell, Mrs. Rebecca
  • Hutter, Rev. E. W. - Rawn went to his church while in Philadelphia
  • Irvine, Wm.
  • Jackson, Betsy - Does the washing and ironing for the Rawn family
  • James, Chas. T. - Senator of U.S. from Rhode Island
  • Jarvis, Mr. - Rents to the Millhouses
  • Keller, H. F. - Rents a house from Rawn
  • Kerr, J. W. - Runs a grocery store
  • Lamberton, Robert A. - Attorney in Harrisburg
  • Lee, Mary - Formerly Peacock, daughter of James P.
  • Lesley, Ed. A.
  • Lumberton, Mrs. - Client, represented by Rawn in trial for her application for divorce
  • Lutz, Dr. - Of Philadelphia, Rawn met him in Cape May
  • Manley, Chas. D.
  • Martin, Dr.
  • Mary - Chambermaid in Rawn’s hotel (Irish)
  • Mason, Chas.
  • McAllister, Judge Matts [Watts] - Rawn argues before him for a new trial in Briggs vs. The Am. Tel. Co.
  • McClure, Wm.
  • McKean, Hannah
  • McWilliams, P. H. - Rents a store room from Rawn
  • Miles, Mr.
  • Miller, Dr. - [Mills?]
  • Millhouse, Amos - Rents the Jacob and Boyd property, pays the rent to Rawn
  • Milliston, W. G. - Client
  • Mills, Chas. H. - Part of William Mason & Co.
  • Mills, Dr. Thos. B. - Client who is in prison
  • Mills, James K. - Part of William Mason & Co.
  • Mister, Chas. S. - Client
  • Mitchell, A.
  • Morton, Nathaniel - Son of the former governor of Massachusetts, Attorney in MA
  • Moyer, Sam.
  • Muench, Mr. - Interpreter
  • Mulins, Mr. - Husband of former Sarah Peacock
  • Myder, Solm. - Witness in Thompson vs. Cunkle case
  • Neal, Mrs. Elizabeth M. - Client
  • Neidig, Mrs. Elizabeth - Client
  • Neidy, Mrs. Saml. - Visitor of Rawns
  • Oglesby, Jonah - Rawn bought milk and cream from him
  • Park, B.
  • Parke [Parker], Gilbert L. [S] - Rawn and Charles met him in Cape May
  • Peacock, Sarah - Now wife of Mr. Mulins, Intimate in Rawn’s family 30 years before
  • Pearson, Judge
  • Petersperthel, Geo. - Client
  • Pollock, E. M. - In The Key Stone Club
  • Porter, David R. - Rawn used to make speeches at political meetings for him
  • Potts, Abigail
  • Rahn, Judge - Joined Rawn and Charles on the steamboat Edwin Forrest
  • Rahn, Oscar - Son of Judge Rahn, Rawn calls on him in Lititz
  • Rawn, Charles Jr. - Rawn’s son
  • Rawn, Fanny - Rawn’s daughter
  • Rawn, Frances - Rawn’s wife
  • Rawn, Geo.
  • Rawn, John Calvin - Rawn’s son
  • Rawn, Mary - Rawn’s daughter
  • Ried, Thos. C. - Client
  • Russell, Mr. - Former clerk in Dauphin Deposit Bank
  • Seiler, Dr. - The prison physician
  • Shells, C. M.
  • Single, Thos.
  • Thompson, J. A. - Waiter
  • Trimbles, Thos. R. - Rawn and Charles stayed with them for a night
  • Warford, A. B. - Rawn met him in Elizabethtown
  • Wyeth, Mrs. Jon. - Rawn takes her home from church

Works Cited

Eggert, Gerald G. Harrisburg Industrializes: The Coming of Factories to an American Community. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1993.

Egle, William Henry. History of the Counties of Dauphin and Lebanon in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania: Biographical and Genealogical. Philadelphia: Everts & Peck, 1883.

Harrisburg City Directory, Harrisburg, PA, 1843.

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