Jemima Condict

Jemima Condict

Jemima Condict was born in a rural setting in the mountains of northwestern New Jersey on 24 August 1754. She spent her entire short life in the vicinity of Pleasantdale (now in West Orange), New Jersey, dying on 14 November 1779 at the age of twenty-five. Nonetheless, she managed to obtain sufficient education to be able to write with some facility, and obviously felt driven to do so. At the age of seventeen, in the spring of 1772, she began a diary, and made sporadic entries into it for the rest of her life.

Condict provided a title for her diary: "J2M3M1 C59D3CT H2R B44K 19D P29". This seems rather puzzling, but one can quickly determine that this is a simple substitution code which a teenager might find appropriate to hide one’s “true identity”. A number of lines of verse using the same code make it clear that she has used the numbers 1-9 to replace the letters a, e, i, o, u, y, t, s, and n, in that order. Thus, the title reads: "JEMIMA CUNDICT HER BOOK AND PEN". [Condit, Norman I. (1980), The Condits and Their Cousins in America, vol. 6, Blooming Grove NY: The Condit Family Association, pp. 403] It should be noted that Jemima Condict variously spelled the family's name in her writings as "Cundict", "Condict", and "Condit". [Condit, Norman I. (1980)]

The only published full text of the diary is titled "Her Book, Being a transcript of the diary of an Essex County maid during the Revolutionary War". [Condict, Jemima (1930), Her Book, Being a transcript of the diary of an Essex County maid during the Revolutionary War, Newark NJ: The Carteret Book Club, pp. 74] This beautiful but rare volume was published in a collectors' edition of only 200 copies by the typographer Frederic Goudy and his wife Bertha Goudy. Two other books, one by Elizabeth Evans [Evans, Elizabeth (1975), Weathering the Storm; Women of the American Revolution, New York NY: Charles Scribner's Sons, pp. 372] and the other by June Sprigg, [Sprigg, June (1984), Domestick Beings, New York NY: Alfred A. Knopf, pp. 143] contain many of Jemima Condict's more interesting entries.

Jemima Condict was clearly devoted to her religious beliefs, and the majority of the diary is devoted to listings of religious teachings that she has heard, and sometimes comments about them. Occasionally, though, this fairly dull recital is broken by words of greater historical interest. Not only did she provide a clear window into the intimate doings of her family and of her small community, but the Revolutionary War swept around her, with soldiers and battles in her near vicinity. Happenings great and small were all fodder for her pen.

News of the Boston Tea Party had clearly reached rural New Jersey, as Jemima Condict writes some ten months after that event. :"Saturday October first 1774. It seams we :have troublesome times a Coming for there : is great Disturbance a Broad in the earth & :they say it is tea that caused it. So then if they :will Quarel about such a trifling thing as that :What must we expect But war & I think or :at least fear it will be so." [Condict, Jemima (1930), p. 36-37]

Condict's brief mention of the inoculation of her cousins, presumably against smallpox using a weak strain of the disease, long before Edward Jenner developed cowpox-based vaccination, is of some scientific interest. :"Monday February 5, 1775, Was my Cou- :sins Knockulated I am apt to think they will :repent there Undertaking before they Done :with it for I am Shure tis a great venter. But :Sence they are gone I wish them Sucses And :I think they have Had good luck So far for :they have all Got home Alive But I fear Cou- :sin N Dod Wont get over it well." [Condict, Jemima (1930), p. 43]

In about March, 1775, Jemima Condict tells of a local party for some newly-weds. Note that "horse neck kites" are natives of Horseneck NJ. :"Tuesday went up to my Sister ogdens and :there was a house full of people & we had a :great Sing indeed for the horse neck kites & :the newarkites were Both assembled Togeth- :er & there was the new maried Couple L W. :Juner & you may be Shure they cut a fine :figer for She is a Bounser Joan And he a little :Cross Snipper Snapper snipe. they tell me he :Cryd When he was maried at which I Dont :a bit Wonder for I think twas anuf to make :the poor fellow bellow if he had his wits :about him, for I am shure She Can Beat him..." [Condict, Jemima (1930), p. 46-47]

She notes the beginnings of the Revolutionary War in her entry for April 23, 1775, in which she is relating events of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, or at least their immediate aftermath. The "Regulors" or "regulers" are “regular” British soldiers. : “April 23. 1775. as every Day Brings New : Troubels So this Day Brings News that yes- : terday very early in the morning They Began : to fight at Boston, the regulers. We hear : Shot first there; they killd 30 of our men A : hundred & 50 of the Regulors.” [Condict, Jemima (1930), p. 51-52]

A local violent death catches her attention in 1775. :"September the 28 1775. Was thomas :Crane very Sudenly & in An aufull manner :taken out of time into enternity; He was Plow- :ing in the field his father Was cutting of a :tree that was turned up by the roots & that :instand he had Cut it off, his Son Past By & :the root flew Back & Took him under Which :killd him immediately..." [Condict, Jemima (1930), p. 55-56]

Jemima Condit's attention was momentarily directed at local Revolutionary War fighting during the "Battle of Elizabethtown", in what is now Elizabeth, New Jersey. :"September ye 12 1777 On friday there :was an Alarm our Milita was Calld; The Reg- :elars come over into elesebeth town Where :they had a Brush With a Small Party of our :People; then marched Quietly up to Newark; :& took all the Cattle they Could, there was :five of the Milita at Newark. they killd Sam- :uel Crane & took Zadock; and Allen heady; :& Samuel freman Prisoners. one out of five :run & escapt..." [Condict, Jemima (1930), p. 66-67]

It may be especially informative to take note of the entries one would expect to find in the diary but which are lacking. Notable, for example, is the absence of any notice of July 4, 1776, or of the new, independent nation being formed. It could be argued that Jemima Condict was not interested in such worldly issues, but, in truth, she had a lively interest in anything and everything. Even more perplexing, no mention can be found of her marriage or of the birth of her son!

The manuscript diary, itself, is in the collections of the New Jersey Historical Society, "Manuscript Group 123". [New Jersey Historical Society, Manuscript Group 123 [] ]


Further reading

*Rutgers University, New Jersey Women's History. [ "Image of a single page from the original diary."] . Accessed September 29 2007.

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  • Condict — is a surname which may refer to: Jemima Condict (1754 1779), American Revolutionary War era diarist Lewis Condict (1772 1862), politician Silas Condict (1738 – 1801), a New Jersey delegate to the Continental Congress Ira Condict (1764 – 1811),… …   Wikipedia

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