1935-1940 Diary

zelpha-2In 1935, Zelpha Morehouse Johncock, a farmer’s widow and mother of four, recently remarried, was diagnosed by her family doctor as having cancer and given less than 5 years to live. Faced with the end, she began writing this diary to document the last few years of her life.

This unique family and historical legacy is a window into the world of post-depression farm life in the American Midwest (Southcentral Michigan). Along with excerpts from Zelpha’s diary, you will find family photos, historical facts, personal stories and commentaries from Zelpha’s grandchildren, all which enhance her writings.

zelphas-diaryThough Zelpha went on to live another 11 years beyond what was predicted, her personal, daily journal remains a historical treasure, documenting her travels, farming strategies, and family connections she made during this unique period in American history.

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This is how the entry appears in Zelpha’s actual handwriting:


This is how the entry appears in the Family Diary of Zelpha Morehouse Johncock:

May 9, 1937

Sunday. A nice day. Mother’s day. Chester came over and stayed until Mable came from church. Lynden came. Ernie & Eva came after May. Kenith & Barbara came down. (So did) Silas & family.

Ford, Firestone, Kellogg & Uncle Silas

Lynden Jr. (Zepha’s grandson) tells a story about Harvey Firestone, Henry Ford, W.K. Kellogg and Si (Silas, Zelpha’s brother)…

STORY:  SILAS MARTIN (Zelpha’s Brother) By Lynden R. Johncock, Jr. (grandson)

“Si (Silas) lived at Pine Lake and worked in Battle Creek. He worked for Norman’s Studio.  They sold cameras.  He made movies.  He and Harvey Firestone and Henry Ford would go with W.K. Kellogg (the guy who made billions from inventing Corn Flakes).  They were all fairly wealthy except Si.  He was a camera man, a photographer.  They would take trips. Henry and Harvey liked to go different places. They’d go to Yellowstone National Park or other places.  Si would go along and take pictures on the trip.

One time, Uncle Si was there.  W.K. said, ‘Si, eat some of this bran.’  They had bran muffins, bran bread, bran cereal, bran this and bran that.  ‘Eat that bran.  It’s good for ‘ya.  It’ll make you live a lot longer.’ Uncle Si tried it and said, ‘I don’t like it.  I’m not gonna eat that stuff.’  He ate whatever he wanted.  W.K. told him, ‘You might want to eat that, because it will make you live a long time.’

Uncle Si also smoked cigarettes.  ‘A doctor once told me,’ he said, ‘You might have to quit smoking them cigarettes.’  ‘Finally I did,’ he said.  But, you know what else he also said?  ‘You know what, that doctor is dead.’  Si lived to be 97 years old. (Laughs) Everybody told him how to live.  Yet, he lived to be 97. He liked sweets. He liked pies, cakes and beans.  Everybody told him, ‘You should eat this’ or ‘You can’t eat that.’  He said, ‘I eat what I want to eat.  I’ll probably live as  long as anyone else.’”


Check out this entry from the Family Diary of Zelpha Morehouse Johncock:


June 20, 1936

I went over and took care of little Lynden (Junior) so Lynden (Senior) & Esther could go to the Beattie funeral (Note: See “Story: Beattie Funeral” below).  Had 7 weeders all day.  3 wheat hoers all day and 3 1/2 days & 3 1/2 days haying.

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Here is an unbelievable story from her grandson Jerry Johncock about the Beattie funeral :

June 20, 1936
By Jerry W. Johncock (grandson)

“A storm came through, and the wind blew down some high (electric) wires behind their house. It started a fire. I think there were two or three boys, or men. They tried to put out the fire. They didn’t realize the lines were down. One of the sons was electrocuted quickly.

Then, another son, Luis, got hit by a high voltage wire. It knocked him right down to the ground, unconscious. He laid there. Along came one of his brothers, who saw that the wire was lying on Luis. He took a stick and picked the wire up off Luis. The wire slipped off the stick, fell and hit him. When it hit him, he jerked. They figured that’s when his heart started beating again. The shock of that wire probably started his heart beating again.

A while later somebody saw that he was moving. They rushed him to the hospital. He had scars on his hands and face because he was burned real bad. (But, her survived!) Two Beattie men were killed at that time, and almost a third. So that’s what the (Beattie) funeral was about.”

Book: Family Diary of Zelpha Morehouse Johncock

Price: $22.95 + shipping