Herrick Memorial Library at Alfred University

  • Archives & Special Collections
  • Herrick Memorial Library
  • Alfred University
  • 1 Saxon Drive
  • Alfred, NY 14802
  • 607-871-2385 (Phone)
  • 607-871-2299 (Fax)

Hannah A. Simpson

The Hannah Simpson diary was given to Alfred University by Mrs. Halsey B. Stevenson, granddaughter of its writer. Mrs. Stevenson writes, "Hannah Simpson was born in 1839 in Turtle Creek (near Bradford), Pennsylvania. Her direct ancestor, Andrew Simpson, was among the four early settlers of Jasper, New York. He was born in Salem, New York, where his grandfather settled after coming from Scotland."

Mrs. Stevenson continues, "She married Adiniram J. Spencer and lived in Jasper, New York. She was always interested in Alfred, naming my father Alfred. I remember her saying she started teaching in one-room schools when she was fifteen. She taught until she came to Alfred at about twenty-three, and again after she finished until she married. Her husband attended Alfred in 1866. I think they must have become acquainted when she visited in Jasper (apparently not at Alfred). Her sister, Mary Charlotte attended and graduated from Alfred in 1871. I had always understood that Mary also received an honorary Master's from Alfred but have not confirmed this. I believe from her diary that another sister, Sophy, also attended Alfred. Starting with slavery, prohibition and Women's Rights she was always active in Causes. She was an ardent Baptist."

Hannah A. Simpson began attending Alfred University in 1859, graduating in May of 1864. Her records list her as a resident of Sartwell, PA at the time. Hannah was very active in the student organization activities at AU. She mentions meeting with Whiting and others on the ‘Progr. Com.' to plan for the first ever ‘fused session' of a men's and women's literary society's event, called the Anniversary Session of the Orophilian Lyceum and Ladies' Athenaeum.

Hannah uses her diary as both record keeper and confidante, regaling it with daily minutiae and heartfelt emotions alike. It has been transcribed here exactly as it appears on its pages, strikethroughs, under-linings, capitalizations, and abbreviations all included. In places where the script has become illegible, you will see blanks: ___. Hannah's writing is an entertaining window into the life of a young college woman finding her way.

Hannah Simpson Spencer died in 1929.

Read the 1861 diary here