Born in Somerset County, PA in 1856, Josephine Emerick migrated to Iowa in infancy with her parents Emanuel and Elizabeth (Boderfield) Emerick. Still single at the age of 25, she seized an opportunity in the fall of 1881 to make an extended visit with her grandparents and many uncles and aunts who lived on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line in Pennsylvania and Maryland. Fortunately, she kept a diary of her experiences, from late September 1881 to late March 1882, entitled Such Times: A Diary Kept by Josephine Emerick While Visiting Relatives in Pennsylvania and Maryland in 1881.
Josephine’s writings recount an extensive variety of rural social and community activities in which she took part. It seems that most every day she went somewhere with someone. She describes landmarks and towns she saw – Wills Mountain, Mt. Savage, Kennells Mills, Cumberland, Pompey Smash, Dans Rock, Wellersburg, Meyersdale, Salisbury, Pocahontas, the Casselman River, Palo Alto and Stringtown. She recounts seeing the old houses where she had been born and her mother raised, and touring a coal mine. Josephine attended camp meetings and church services, often where the preaching was entirely in German, and after one she wrote she “could not understand any.” Social activities included apple cuttings, singing school, spelling school, candy parties, boiling sugar and butcherings. She also spent time making dresses for cousins of whom she was especially fond.
Christmas Day was spent at church, then lunch at home, and then singing that evening in the Kennell’s Church House. New Year’s Day supper was held at her grandparents’ home, followed by evening Sunday School. To pay her respects to deceased relatives, she visited at least three cemeteries. She also transcribed a list of births and baptisms of her father, uncles and aunts, likely from an old family Bible.
Mountain travel in Pennsylvania was difficult, especially in the winter. She describes a ride in a buck wagon where “the mud flew right and left.” On walks through the rough mountain paths, a far cry from the Iowa flatness, she said “I thought my feet would come off stumbling over the rocks.” Sometimes the snows were so deep that she remained housebound for the day. Frequently homesick, she yearned for letters from her Iowa family. She finally left for home on March 28, 1882, embarking at the rail station in Cumberland, MD, having purchased a railroad ticket for $21.
Four-plus years after her return home, on Sept. 29, 1886, Josephine was united in matrimony with John L. Whelan, and they produced fouir children together. The family is seen in this studio portrait, with son Ralph and daughter Mary Eva. The image was published in the 1911 book History of Poweshiek County, Iowa, Vol. 2, authored by Leonard Fletcher Parker. Many years later, the diary was transcribed by her son Dr. Ralph Lewis “R.L.” Whelan, of Cedar Rapids, IA. A copy of the typescript in time was deposited in the Somerset (PA) Historical Center, where it was re-discovered in 2021 and then edited and published to this website.