Papers of the farmer, member of New York State Assembly, early settler in Onondaga County (1781-1870). Collection includes correspondence (1812-1846); diaries (1806-1870); legal papers (1804-1872); and genealogical material.
0.8 linear ft.
Preferred citation for this material is as follows:
Asa Eastwood Papers,
Scope and Content:
The Asa Eastwood Papers are organized in four sections: Correspondence, Diaries, Genealogical material, and Legal records.
Correspondence (1812-1846) has been arranged chronologically. An index to correspondence by name appears at the end of this finding aid. Nearly all of the letters are between Asa Eastwood and other members of his immediate family, and most deal with typical farming topics such as weather, crops and family news. Of special interest are the five letters from Asa's son Elisha, who went to live in Louisiana in the 1840s. Elisha wrote to his father about southern ways which seemed strange to his northern eyes, including the use of passes by the slaves. Although the amount of material here is small, Elisha's letters contain significant information on the nature of some parts of the pre-Civil War South.
Diaries (1806-1870), rich in historical detail over the long span of Asa Eastwood's life, consist of four books and two small diary fragments. Eastwood began keeping his diary as a young man of 25 in New York City. Although only in his old age do the entries become lengthy or reflective, he wrote regularly (a few times a month) throughout his life. The last entry, still lucid and legible, was just five days before his death. While much of the diaries' content is a record of weather, crops and business ventures, Eastwood seldom failed to take note of larger events, and so the diaries also contain mention of many of the major events of 19th century America: the War of 1812, the hard times after the demise of the Second Bank of the U.S., the 1837-1838 uprisings in Canada, the outbreak of the Civil War and its course, and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Sometimes the entries go beyond mention of the "headline news" to provide narrative detail, as in the case of the Canadian uprisings. Frequently the historical merges with the personal, as when Eastwood lost money after speculating heavily in sugar during the wartime shortages of 1813, or when a neighbor's son was buried after starving to death at Andersonville Prison. Eastwood's lively interest in politics prompted him to record his opinions on the abolitionists, the movement to nominate John C. Fremont, and the like, as well as the electoral fortunes of Republicans and Democrats at both local and national levels. Of course, the diaries are as much personal as historical records, and they are helpful in understanding the strengths and values that made Asa Eastwood a successful man in 19th century America. A sense of enterprise, hard work, honesty and temperance as well as some humor appear in his laconic diary entries.
Genealogical material (ca. 1863) consists of one item apparently written by Asa Eastwood which covers the period 1781-1862 and contains the dates of his wife's birth and death and the birth dates of their eleven children.
Legal records (1804-1872) consists of a few bills of sale, mortgages, and deeds, some of which involve Asa Eastwood. There is also a roster of delegates to the New York State Constitutional Convention of 1821.
Biographical / Historical:
Asa Eastwood (1781-1870) was an early settler and a prominent citizen of Cicero in Onondaga County, New York. He grew up in New Jersey and New York City, and in 1800 he shipped out on the frigate Constellation to fight the French. Upon Eastwood's return in 1801 from the navy he undertook a variety of ventures in New York, including driving a horse and cart and keeping a grocery. He was married and began to have a growing family. Eastwood's income was frequently supplemented by his service as a constable, an employment that probably reflected his loyalties to the Democratic Party. He was also active in the Tammany Society, the Freemasons, and the local militia.
Despite the position of widening public importance in New York indicated by these associations, Asa Eastwood decided in 1817 to leave the city and buy a farm. He found one in Cicero, New York, and moved his family and belongings north on a wagon. There followed some lean years, clearing and cultivating the land with back-breaking work. Long afterwards, Eastwood wrote of that time, "How we got through, we cannot tell."
Eastwood did not, the evidence suggests, find farm life in itself satisfying to his energetic nature, and throughout his life he was also active in political and public affairs. He was the delegate for Onondaga and Oswego counties at the 1821 New York State Constitutional Convention and, while back in New York city briefly in 1822-1824 he was elected a sachem, the highest office of the Tammany Society. He was a member of the 1833 New York State Assembly, the Onondaga County Agricultural Society, the Cicero Temperance Society, and the Salina Literary Society. He achieved considerable prominence in local part politics and town meetings. He left the Democratic Party in the 1850s over the question of the extension of slavery, and remained a Republican the rest of his life.
Asa Eastwood married Mary Doxsey in 1801 with whom he had 11 children and shared sixty years of married life. Eastwood had outlived not only his wife and most of his contemporaries but also many of his children and grandchildren when he died in 1870 at the age of 89. A tentative genealogical chart is provided which shows Asa Eastwood and his most immediate relatives; the names of individuals whose papers comprise part of this collection are given in all capitals.
Gift of Kenneth N. Eastwood , 1966, 1967.
Material is arranged alphabetically by type. Within that, diaries and correspondence are arranged chronologically and the other series alphabetically.
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Preferred citation for this material is as follows: