This book begins with a description of conditions in Ireland at the time of the potato famine, during which immigrant John McFarland left for a new beginning in a new world. His journey began in 1847 with a diary notation announcing his landing in Philadelphia and his beginning to live the American dream by starting a grocery business in Philadelphia. He eventually migrated to Northumberland, Pennsylvania, which is in heart of the anthracite coal region of Central Pennsylvania. This is a firsthand account of life in the middle of the nineteenth century. McFarland kept daily accounts of his experiences and travels while negotiating coal contracts to buy and sell large quantities of coal. Many of his writings have been reproduced and put into this book. An example,
Monday, February 27, 1865. “Spent the day in Philadelphia. Left there by 8:30 p.m. train for home. Accident on the Pennsylvania Railroad. Sleeping car which I was in burned up. Had a narrow escape. One mile from Lancaster.”
These recordings cover the period of 1859 until 1870. They contain dealings with mine owners, railroaders, wheelers, and dealers of the day as well as canal contracts. McFarland also recorded family life, day-to-day living, and many interesting anecdotes. This is a fascinating glimpse into the past, recorded by the man who lived it.