“Journal of Surveying Expedition to Raquette Lake. August 1851.”
This is what is written on the first page of Capt. Abel Leavenworth’s diary. The diary now makes its home at Castleton University, along with the scabbard and sword belonging to Leavenworth that was used in the Civil War.
“This was in the possession of Dr. Bill (William) Leavenworth, who is a descendant of Abel Leavenworth,” said history Professor Andre Fleche, “he donated it to the college because he believed that Castleton was the most appropriate home for Leavenworth’s effects since he played such a big role in the university’s history.”
Leavenworth’s mark in Castleton history is memorialized by a building that bears his name. According to the university’s website, both Leavenworth and his son, Phillip, were the principals of the State Normal School at Castleton until 1912 when the state of Vermont purchased the property.
Though Leavenworth is perhaps best known on campus as a Civil War hero, the diary predates his service. The first entry in the book details how Leavenworth left Burlington to head for the town of Westport, N.Y., then on to Elizabethtown.
Another passage in the diary details one of the towns that Leavenworth visited along the way.
“There is a nice courthouse here, also a meeting house- a school where the mistress receives $15.”
Much of the diary is illegible, and requires effort to decipher. According to Fleche, however, it will be accessible for student researchers to look at it.
“I haven’t read the whole diary,” Fleche said, “but from what I’ve seen, beyond giving us a narration of an important episode of his life, it has a lot of valuable historical descriptions of the area in the 1850s.”
The diary is housed in the library archives with other important pieces from Castleton’s history. Leavenworth’s sword and scabbard are also on display in the library, where they have been since 2015.