HomeLand Use in Western North Carolina Lesson Plans from the Southern Appalachian ArchivesOs Deaver Diary: WNC Agriculture in the late 1800’s

Os Deaver Diary: WNC Agriculture in the late 1800’s

Purpose: This activity allows students to explore primary source archival material describing different farming techniques some of which are still used today.

Time: 30-50 minutes; recommended full 50 minute class time

Terms: Os Deaver Diary, chain carriers, martin box, harrowing, suckering, cradle, cutworms, potato hills, fodder

Objective(s): During this activity, students will read photocopied portions of the Os Deaver Diary and attempt to match them to farming, land, and agriculture terms already identified and depicted in pictures either from internet websites or photos from the MHU Southern Appalchain Archives. After students have matched pictures with terms they will do research on the terms and answer the following questions about each technique or tool.

  1. What is the purpose of this technique or tool? and the importance?
  2. Is it beneficial and if so, for what/whom; if not, any ideas of how to make it beneficial?
  3. Is this practice sustainable or if possible, how could it be?
  4. Is there a modern day equivalent or an ugraded technique?

Background: Squire Osborn “Os” Deaver lived in Madison County and kept a diary almost daily from January 8, 1886 to January 4, 1896. His family owned a store in the Forks of Ivy area (not far from campus, toward Asheville) and he farmed his mountainous land with help from family and friends. He discusses everything from the weather, to his daily to-do list, to any issues that arose on his property. Os Deaver’s diary is included in the Mars Hill University Southern Appalachian Archives thanks to  Bascom Lamar Lunsford, the famed musician and ballad collector and by Cecil McElroy, both were longtime residents of Buncombe County.


  1. Print copies of excerpts from the typed version  of the Os Deaver diary to give to each group. See R: drive for excerpts.
  2. Access the powerpoint with the numbered pictures of the depictions of the terms mentioned above. Optional: Arrange a time to visit the Ramsey Center to view the original copy of the diary.


Notes if you’re going to try it:

Other student objectives

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