Education and Outreach
American Heritage Center
Wyoming History Day: Skill-building for Journal Writing
State Board of Education Content & Performance Standard
- Language Arts--Reading
- Language Arts--Writing
- Social Studies--Time, Continuity, and Change
- Social Studies--Processes and Skills
- Students will review journal entries and describe details the writer
provides about her life and environment.
- From their observations students will be able to draw conclusions
and develop questions about the journal, its writer, and the historical
importance of personal written records.
Points of Discussion
Discuss ways that journals or diaries provide a "personal" insight
into the past.
- What are their limitations?
- How can other sources be used to supplement them?
Have students keep journals of their own activities and thoughts for a period
of time. You may want them to create fictional journals around a historical
period they are studying (e.g. a Civil War soldier or an immigrant woman).
Have students bring in the journal of a relative or copy journal excerpts
from an example found in a county or local historical society.
Have students compare and contrast Verba’s journal entries in 1962 with
her journal entries in 1965.
Verba Lawrence and her husband, W.C. "Slim" Lawrence lived
on the AMK Ranch in Teton County, Wyoming beginning in 1929. In 1929 Teton
County was still mainly a rural agricultural area but would later become
a major tourist spot with the development of Jackson Hole, Teton National
Park, and Yellowstone National Park. Verba kept an almost daily journal
from 1931 to 1968, which covers some of this shift from agriculture to
tourism. The following entries cover sections of February and July from
her journal in 1962. Although the entries were generally only a few lines
long, they reflect the daily schedule of a rural woman in 1962 and what
she considered important.
Here are some important themes that you should be able to identify:
- Weather: Several entries discuss the temperature and/or amount
- Work: Many entries mention Verba’s work or her husband, Slim’s,
- Entertainment/Recreation: Verba regularly writes about going
skiing or visiting with various friends.
- Transportation: Often times, transportation was dependent
upon the weather and road conditions.
Read the journal entries below. Answer the questions by combining what
you already know with what you learn from your reading.
- Feb. 9, 1962. Very warm - but packed the hill and had fine
skiing. Slim went to town. Worked income 2x [two times] this evening.
- Feb. 10. Pouring rain. No ski meet. We went to Jackson shopping.
The streets are a mess. Several stuck.
- Feb. 11. Rained all night and it is very warm. No skiing.
Threat of flood in Idaho.
- Feb. 12. Still raining; serious flood conditions in Idaho,
parts of Wyoming, and Nevada.
- Feb. 13. Quit raining but still warm. The flooding has reached
the disaster stage.
- Feb. 14. Still thawing. Manderson, Hudson, Ethete, parts of
Lander and Riverton are hard hit. Idaho is still flooding.
- Feb. 15. Has cooled off for which we can be thankful. The
floods are about over. Now they have to face cleaning up.
- Feb. 16. Had the Lodge folks in for hot rums and to hear Mrs.
Miller’s old Edison phonograph and our new one.
- Feb. 17. Big crown in town. But did have a fine afternoon
of skiing. Roads are bare most of the way to town.
- Feb. 18. Lovely day . Had fine skiing in town. The hill was
- July 14, 1962. Saturday. Worked until four. Never seem to
catch up. Slim went to Jackson. Ada’s mother is here. Stayed 9 week
- July 15. Sunday. Just worked. Ada’s mother, Betty and Jimmy
come up. John Bradford spent the afternoon here. Worked at the P.O.
- July 16. Worked at the P.O. Was sure a record today. The are
making a movie at the Haggaw place.
- July 17. Ada has done a marvelous job on the houses. Everything
- July 18. Slim is busy getting the Chrysler in order and all
the last minute details. Lots of people in the Museum.
- July 19. Slim and I went to meet Willie Gilbreath the cook.
She seems very nice. We bought a refrigerator for Mrs. B.
- July 20. Ann Marie arrived today. She is a sweet little girl.
Hope she will be happy. Slim, Ada, and Willie went to meet her.
- July 21. Saturday. Storms nearly everyday. Dear Shepperd arrived.
Help is hard to find. Chuck was over.
- What are the main topics Verba writes about in her journal? What are
her greatest concerns?
- Why is this journal an important historical record? What does it tell
you about rural Wyoming people in the 1960’s?
- What were some of Verba’s daily activities? Do you think her lifestyle
was similar to other people in Wyoming/ the west/ the United States
in the 1960’s? Why or why not?
- How could you find out more information about the people that Verba
mentions in her journal? Why doesn’t Verba describe them in more detail?
- Describe how a journal kept by Verba’s husband during this same time
might contain different information. What do you think he would write
about? Using information from Verba’s journal as a guide, write three
journal entries from Verba’s husband.
- List three questions raised by this journal that you need more information
- If you kept a daily journal, what would you write about? How would
it be similar/different from Verba’s journal?
- Feb. 9, 1965. The road to Jackson is a slick rutty mess everyone
reports. Slim went to town. Was glad when he got home.
- Feb. 10. Has turned cold, 15 degrees below this AM. Heavy
fighting in Viet Nam. Several planes shot down.
- Feb. 11. Slim went to Jackson. Visited with Monte Wright.
Carl Reggins is now the Ski Doo agent in Jackson. 26 degrees below.
- Feb. 12. Cross balance: stormy and cold. The war in Viet Nam
- Feb. 13. Saturday. Stormy so didn’t go up home. Went to Jackson.
Had supper in town.
- Feb. 14. Sunday. Took a Ski Doo trip across the Cattleman’s
Bridge, down the Snake River Pot Holes, Sig Mt., Stip Jim Williams,
Ed Holme, Slim, and I.
- Feb. 15. 28 degrees below this AM. I shoveled the car at the
P.O. [Post Office] and widened my trail.
- Feb. 16. So cold. 15 degrees below. Slim went to Jackson.
Cold wind this evening so didn’t go up home.
- Feb. 17. Beautiful day. Slim went to Dubois. I ran up home
this evening. Perfect traveling. Laurence Williamson died yesterday.
- Feb. 18. Packed a ski hill with Slim’s sled. Then Jimmy Pope
and I skied. Lovely evening. Slim got his Wyoming 75th Medal.
- July 14, 1965. The lake is more than full. Betty and Dell
have gone fishing, but I not much luck. So much high water.
- July 15. Pilgrim Flat is a dust bowl every evening and morning
from the campers.
- July 16. Betty has the houses looking very nice, has made
all the old floors look like new.
- July 17. Slim went to town. It is so crowded I didn’t go.
Kept busy at home this afternoon.
- July 18. Such a busy Sunday. I went fishing with Dale and
Betty this afternoon. Caught one.
- July 19. Monday is a rough day. Really busy, so many people.
- July 20. The Bug outfit has really ruined every place they
touch. Our pasture is surrounded by them.
- July 21. Put things in place at both houses. Doesn’t take
long when they are clean.