Customs House gets state grant for diary project
Serepta Jordan’s writings recorded Clarksville life from 1857-64
CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – A large measure of teamwork is going into the restoration and publication of the diary of Serepta Jordan, who recorded her life in Clarskville from 1857 to 1864 in crisp hardwriting in a repurposed leather-bound ledger book.
The diary is part of the collection of the Clarksville’s Customs House Museum and Cultural Center, which welcomed a $3,000 Archive Development Grant on Thursday delivered by Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett. The grant will be used to continue the diary project.
Kali Mason, Customs House Curator of Collections, donned white gloves to unbox and unwrap the large, weathered, three-inch thick book. Hargett, Clarksville Mayor Kim McMillan and Millie Armstrong, Jordan’s great-great-great granddaughter, hovered close over the pages and marveled at line after line of Jordan’s small but impeccable handwriting.
“This is not just a local person’s diary, it’s a document of women’s history,” Customs House Executive Director Jim Zimmer noted. “We appreciate this grant from the state, which will help us continue to stabilize this important but fragile historical treasure.”
Nearby, the quartet of local women who is transcribing the text of the diary – county historian Eleanor Williams, Ellen Kanervo, Minoa Uffleman and Phyllis Smith – gathered to describe some of the information that Serepta “Rep” Jordon dutifully recorded in her daily record. The pages are filled with the writer’s observations, feelings and experiences from the Civil War era in Clarksville. The daily entries fill page after page, with some sections divided into passages dated and labeled “morning,” “midday” and “evening.”
“The state, the museum and all these talented people are working together to preserve this unique piece of local history,” Mayor McMillan said. “This speaks to the high interest in our heritage, and to the quality of our Customs House Museum and Cultural Center. It’s an exciting and important project.”
Once the transcription is completed and edited, the diary will be published in a format that can be easily read and shared. The diary project is the second for the team, who earlier edited a local work, “The Diary of Nannie Haskins Willians, A Southern Woman's Story of Rebellion and Reconstruction, 1863-1890,” which was published in 2014 by the University of Tennessee Press.