Athens, 1873: Maggie Boyd’s World

Ed note: This winter and spring we’re tweeting the daily diary of Margaret Boyd (@MaggieBoyd1873), Ohio University’s first alumna. On the blog, we’ll be featuring posts describing the issues that Boyd discusses in her diary. This post by PACE students Karah Finan and Matt Wesley describes the Athens that Boyd would have known in 1873.

Leader of the Ohio Company Rufus Putnam and eleven men settled the Athens, Ohio area more than 200 years ago (Daniel). Athens has a long and rich history spanning wars, depressions and revolutions. Margaret Boyd was a native of Athens County, born in Carthage Township on April 7, 1845, according to a eulogy of Boyd published in the 1917 Ohio University Bulletin (Davis). Athens during the Victorian Era was a changing city that set the groundwork for Athens today.

Maggie Boyd was the daughter of Daniel Boyd, a Northern Irish Immigrant who came to the United States in 1819, and Jane Elliot. She had eight siblings, including two older brothers who were Ohio University graduates a couple years before her, according to the finding aid for the Boydfamilymanuscripts. The finding aid also tells us that Maggie spent most of her adolescence living and working on a farm in Carthage Township in Athens County, helping her father repay debts he incurred from a failing business some years before.

Athens in the 1870s was on the “threshold of the industrial revolution,” at the time the city housed several industrial businesses in the agricultural, clothing production, flour and meal production and livestock sectors (Daniel). The United States was experiencing an economic recession in the early 1870s, though Athens was able to stay relatively isolated from economic downturn due to self-sustaining industry (Daniel).

Irish immigrants started moving to Athens County in the 1860s, and in the Village of Athens there were at least 21 Irish immigrant households (Daniel). After the death of Maggie’s father in 1867, the Boyd family moved to the Village of Athens. According to the 1875AthensAtlas (Lake), Maggie’s home, which no longer stands, was located near 136 North Congress Street.

A year after the Boyd family moved to Athens, Maggie enrolled in Ohio University at age 23. She enrolled under the name “M. Boyd” for the 1868-1869 school years;  she did not enroll under the name “Margaret” for fear of being rejected for being a female (Hollow).

Maggie enjoyed spending her time on Court Street, just as students do today. OnJune 13, 1873, Maggiewrote:

“Coming home we stop at the saloon and get ice cream and strawberries. We have a nice time.”

The saloon Maggie writes about visiting was located at 1527 Court Street, which would be the East end of Court Street where the Court Street Diner is currently located.  The shop was owned by A. Love and also served confections, food and oysters (Sanborn Map Company).

Court Street was still the main area of commerce in town, as it is today. On Court there were several druggists, a hair salon, tannery, grocers, butchers, blacksmiths and Cornwell Company, which manufactures jewelry still today (Sanborn Map Company).

For photographs and drawings of what Maggie’s world was like living in Athens in the Victorian Era, please check out our Pinterest board, MaggiesWorldin 1873. Please follow Maggie’s Twitter account, @MaggieBoyd1873 – we will be chronicling her day-to-day entries from her pocket diary. Also, keep following theLibraryBlog, the @AldenLibrary Twitter account or the AldenLibraryFacebook page to read more about the university’s history during Maggie’s time and other aspects of Victorian life.

Photo: A map of Athens circa 1875 from the Atlas of Athens Co.


Boyd, Margaret. “PocketDiaryfor 1873.” Digital Initiatives. Ohio University. 1873. Web. 31 Jan. 2012.

Daniel, Robert. Athens, Ohio: TheVillageYears. 1st ed. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1997. 168-227. Print.

Davis, John Merrill. “Margaret Boyd.” Ohio University Bulletin 12.2 (1917): 8-11. Web. 1 Feb. 2012.

Hollow, Betty. OhioUniversity, 1804-2004: HistoryofaSingularPlace. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2003. Print.

Lake, D.J. AtlasofAthens, Co., Ohio, from Actual Surveys By and Under the Directions of D.J. Lake. 1875. Philadelphia: Simmons & Titus, 1973. Print.

McCabe, Doug. “BoydFamilyCollection.” Ohio University Libraries. Ohio University Libraries. Web. 31 Jan. 2012.

Sanborn Map Company. Athens, Ohio (1865). Map. Sanborn Map Company. Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, 1867-1967, Ohio. Web. 31 Jan. 2012.