This is the 1892-1893 diary of Elder Fredrick Komp. He was a German immigrant, American Civil War veteran, ordained elder in the Church of God, farmer, and family man. He was an active prohibitionist and helped start the local movement. This diary provides a look at his day-to-day life as a farmer and retired, but still active, preacher in rural Indiana.
Elder Fredrick Komp of Milford Township, La Grange County, Indiana, was 64 years old when he began this 1892-1893 diary. He was a farmer, a preacher, and a family man.
Fredrick was born to Henry and Elizabeth Komp on April 13, 1828 in Hesse-Darmstedt, Germany. He died at the age of 88 and is interred at Block Cemetery in Steuben County, IN, along with many members of his family and community.
When Fredrick was three years old, his family immigrated to America from Germany. They first lived in Pennsylvania and Ohio, and eventually settled as farmers in Whitley County, Indiana when Fredrick was 15.
His siblings were Catherine, Daniel, John, Caroline, and Sarah. Some of them are mentioned in the diary.
When Fredrick was about 20, he was ordained as an Elder in the Church of God. For years he rode on horseback from one congregation to another, preaching in Ohio and northeastern Indiana. A congregation in Whitley County was moved enough by Fredrick’s 1857 revival meeting to begin holding regular meetings at the schoolhouse, though it took them 22 years to build a church and get out of the schoolhouse. That congregation is now the Oak Grove Church in Columbia City, IN.
Fredrick was drafted into the Illinois Volunteer Infantry in his mid-30s and served in the Civil War from 1863 to 1864.
After his honorable discharge he continued his preaching career until he acquired his 81-acre farm in Milford Township at the age of 43. He lived there for the rest of his life. At some point he acquired another farm near Kendallville in Noble County, which was run by his grown children.
Though retired from his preaching career, he was frequently asked to officiate at services in the area around Milford, and did so, often.
Fredrick married Elizabeth Parker when he was 28 and she was 24. They managed to raise a family around his preaching travels and his army stint. The oldest, George Ellery, was 34 and a travelling preacher at the time this diary was begun, and the youngest, Freddie (who became a teacher), turned 21 in the summer of 1892.
The girls were Margaret (Mrs. George Pratt), Lodema (Mrs. Phillip Van Rasler), and Eva (Mrs. John Rasler).
Fredrick’s wife Elizabeth died in June 1891. A month later he married again, though it took the neighborhood 27 weeks to figure that out and harass the couple with a wedding chivaree. The new “Mrs. K” was from Whitley County and had children of her own: Julia (married to William O. Snyder), Franklin (aged 16) and Simon (aged 13). Their last name was Phillip(s)/Philip(s).
In the diary, it’s clear that this entire step-family got on very well. They spent time together, travelled together, and worked together.
Most of Fredrick’s diary is about day-to-day farming life in 1892-93 Indiana, not an easy life. Unlike most farms today, farms at that time were all-inclusive. Vegetables, grain crops, berries, fruits, and animals all had to be tended. Their produce was used for the farm, the household, or for trade.
For example, a butchered hog if sold had to be transported. If it was kept for the family, the farmer had to boil the hide off, preserve the pork, render the lard, and then jar the lard for sale or for making soap for the household.
Everything on a farm was a logistics struggle: Chickens might eat newly sown seeds or ripe grapes, rats might attack chickens, cows and horses might eat growing crops (and get sick), apples and seed potatoes buried in the ground for the winter might rot or freeze, weather might ruin crops or make planting or harvesting difficult, and produce hauled to town for trading might go untraded and have to be hauled back home again.
As late as the time of this diary, 80 percent of Indiana’s population was still rural and agricultural. Weather mattered and Fredrick mentioned it in most of his entries. He noted on February 2, 1892 that “the woodchuck did not see his shadow.” Weather affected crops, animals, the health of people, and the bottom line. Wheat with smut can’t be sold.
In the period encompassed by this diary, the “grippe” went around the community, as did a “bowel complaint.” People suffered from colds, chills, pleurisy, “lung fever,” neuralgia, rheumatism, and more. Babies died of “spotted fever” and scarlet fever.
Fredrick suffered from his own backaches, sick headaches, catarrh, vision problems, depression, and other complaints. Even with his health problems, he kept up with politics and national events through his newspaper subscriptions, was a very active force in getting a prohibition movement going, gave money to charitable causes, made land deals, and relentlessly admonished his daughters to be better children of God.
Through it all, Fredrick made a point of making a note in his diary when the sun shone again, even if it was just sundogs.
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Preview of Preacher, Farmer, Veteran: The 1892-1893 Diary of Elder Fredrick Komp
This preview of Preacher, Farmer, Veteran: The 1892-1893 Diary of Elder Fredrick Komp contains the entries for January 1892.
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