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Mary Jordan Diaries

Identifier: SC 0162
  • Not requestable

  • Staff Only

Scope and Content

The collection is comprised of two bound diaries kept by Mary Jordan of Harrisonburg.

The first diary dates from May 9, 1862 through August 22, 1864. Jordan's entries describe the death of Turner Ashby ("Col. Ashby was killed this evening. Poor Ashby poor fellow"), the Battle of New Market and other battles of note, troop and prisoner movements through Harrisonburg, death and burials of local soldiers, and Union soldiers movements. Additional entries of note include May 7, 1863: "The Yankee's advanceing great excitement in Town and Country people moveing cattle and negroes and all the commisary stores there was never so much confusion in this place before."

Names of Charles Frank Echard (1870-1941) family members are penciled in the diary and post-date Mary Jordan's entries. Echard was married to Maude Jordan Dillard, Mary Jordan's great granddaughter.

The second diary dates from January 1, 1879 until October 1879, and also includes scattered entries through 1883. The diary entries are brief and record the weather, daily activities such as church attendance, visits from relatives and friends, travel of relatives to Baltimore, and getting loads of wood and barrels of flour. Occasional items of local news are also mentioned, such as court dates, trials, births, marriages, and deaths, including the deaths of several African Americans living in Harrisonburg in 1879 ("Sunday January the 26th 1879 A coulered woman buried this evening").

On the first page is written: "Mary Jordan born in 17 hundred and 98 and this is 1879 I am still here." Family names mentioned in the diary include Sprinkel, Dillard, Bowman, Rohr, Wilton, and Dwyer, among others.


  • 1862-1883


Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection. Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the James Madison University Special Collections Library to use this collection.

Use Restrictions

The copyright interests in this collection have been transferred to the James Madison University Special Collection Library. For more information, contact the Special Collections Library Reference Desk (

Bio/Historical Information

Mary Jordan (1798-1883) lived in Harrisonburg, Virginia, with her daughter, Julia Ann Jordan Sprinkel, and Julia's husband, Arthur St. Clair in Harrisonburg. The Sprinkel family homestead was located on the corner of Main and Rock streets. The local African-American church and school were located in this the same section of town, suggesting why Jordan mentions the deaths of several local African Americans in her 1879 diary. The 1879 diary also contains mentions of her grandaughters, "Mag" (Margaret) and Mary. Jordan is buried at Woodbine Cemetery in Harrisonburg.


0.2 cubic feet (2 folders)

Language of Materials



The collection is comprised of two bound diaries kept by Mary Jordan of Harrisonburg between 1862 and 1883, with short entries pertaining to the Civil War in the Shenandoah Valley, the weather, local births, deaths and marriages, and daily activities such as church attendance, visits from relatives and friends, and travel.


The diaries remain bound and housed in two folders.


The 1862-1864 diary was part of the private collection of Maxine and E.R. Grymes Heneberger of Harrisonburg, Virginia. Grymes Heneberger found the diary in 1960 and had it transcribed. He self-published a small run of copies which he offered for sale and distributed to local libraries.

The 1879-1883 diary was part of the Harrison family estate of Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Acquisition Information

The diary dated 1879-1883 was purchased from Green Valley Auctions in January 2002.

The diary dated 1862-1864 was purchased from Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates in August 2018.

Alternate Format

A transcribed copy of the 1862-1864 diary, Harrisonburg, Virginia: Diary of a Citizen from May 9, 1862-August 22, 1864, Local Events During the Civil War (1961), is cataloged and available in Special Collections.


  • Wayland, John. Historic Harrisonburg. Harrisonburg, VA: C. J. Carrier Company, 1990: 282.
  • Find A Grave. “Mary Jordan (1798-1883).” Find a Grave Memorial no. 16632274. Accessed May 21, 2018.
  • Lathrop, J.M. and B.N. Griffing. An atlas of Rockingham County, Virginia from actual surveys by J. M. Lathrop and B. N. Griffing. Philadelphia, Pa. : D. J. Lake & Co., 1885.
  • Firebaugh, Marshall A. Rockingham County personals : published 1884 in Hardesty's Encyclopedia, republished 1984. Harrisonburg, Va. : Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society, 1984.

Processing Information

While the 1862-1864 diary does not include any explicit identifying information about the creator, contextual information confirms it was written by Mary Jordan of Harrisonburg, Virginia. Both December 5 entries in the diary (1862 and 1863) record Jordan's exact birthday and year. This corresponds to the birth year recorded in the 1879-1883 diary. Additionally, the handwriting in present in both diaries matches as does the scribbling used to separate diary entries.

In order to streamline the process of applying collection numbers, Special Collections staff completed a large-scale renumbering campaign in 2017-2018. This collection was previously cataloged as SC 4025.



A Guide to the Mary Jordan Diaries, 1862-1883
Chris Bolgiano, Sarah Roth-Mullet, Tiffany Cole
January 2002, May 2018, August 2018
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the James Madison University Libraries Special Collections Repository

820 Madison Drive
MSC 1706
Harrisonburg Virginia 22807
(540) 568-3612