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Nancy Dickinson Estabrook Diary

Identifier: MS-3368

Nancy Dickinson Estabrook began writing this diary on January 1, 1836. She mentions making two flannels for her brother, Perez Dickinson, a prominent Knoxville merchant and banker. She also discusses Dr. Joseph Churchill Strong, one of the first physicians to settle in Knoxville and a frequent visitor at the Estabrook home. Strong serves not only as Estabrook's doctor but also as a close friend and father figure. Estabrook writes about her Christian faith often, once mentioning the potential she sees in using the new technology of railroads: I thought the use of railroads would perhaps be one means of extending the knowledge of Christianity in different parts of the world. She admits, however, that she does not attend church or read her Bible frequently. On May 15, 1836, she records the news of General Santa Anna’s capture at the hands of Sam Houston’s Texans and states that many volunteered yesterday for Texas. Estabrook's daughter Charlotte dies later in the year, and she laments her loss and the loneliness it brings but rejoices that Charlotte's long suffering, caused by a chronic illness involving frequent seizures, has finally ceased. In other entries, she laments selling a house slave named Dolly to a negro trader and mentions the Knoxville Female Academy. In 1838, Estabrook writes about the cholera epidemic that has struck Knoxville, listing many of its victims by name and calculating that upwards of twenty have already died there were seven in one day.


  • 1836-1838


The material in this collection is in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Collections are stored offsite, and a minimum of 2 business days are needed to retrieve these items for use. Researchers interested in consulting any of the collections are advised to contact Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

The copyright interests in this collection remain with the creator. For more information, contact the Special Collections Library.


0.1 Linear Feet


This forty-page diary, written by Nancy Dickinson Estabrook, documents antebellum Knoxville, Tennessee from the perspective of an educated woman from New England. Estabrook is twenty-nine when the diary begins. She often records her religious and emotional thoughts, her feelings about her only daughter (Charlotte Ann Estabrook) and other relatives, and her own physical afflictions, which she feels will soon take her life. She mentions many notable Knoxvillians and local events, including the recruitment of local volunteers to aid Sam Houston in Texas and the cholera epidemic of 1838. Other entries discuss education, family life, slavery, and society in antebellum Knoxville.

Biographical/Historical Note

Nancy Dickinson was born to Perez (1763-1798) and Lucinda Dickinson (1789-1855) in Amherst, Massachusetts on April 3, 1806. She was educated in Amherst before moving to Virginia and later to Knoxville, Tennessee. Dickinson married Dr. Joseph Estabrook (who later became president of the University of Tennessee) in 1823. Nancy died in Knoxville on March 31, 1846 and is buried in the Old Gray Cemetery. Nancy was related to well-known poet Emily Dickinson as Perez Dickinson was the brother of Samuel F. Dickinson, paternal grandfather of Emily.


This collection consists of a single folder.

Related Archival Materials

Interested researchers may wish to consult MS.3494, Joseph Estabrook Letter.

Repository Details

Part of the Betsey B. Creekmore Special Collections and University Archives, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville Repository

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Knoxville TN 37996 USA