Born Adelia Sturtevant but known as Addie all her life, Addie was born in 1844 to transplanted New Englanders Isaac Sturtevant and Harriet (Bell) Sturtevant, who had moved from New England to northern Ohio. Isaac had transitioned from working in construction to owning a lumber and planing business with his brother Cyril Sturtevant in the Cleveland area; the business was known as Sturtevant Brothers Planing. They were extremely financially successful in this venture, and after Cyril retired, Isaac and his only son, Carlos Merrill Sturtevant, worked in the business together, changing the name to Sturtevant & Son. Addie’s mother had died when she was young, and Addie’s father Isaac and stepmother Amarilla (Moffett) Sturtevant (listed on some records as Amanda Sturtevant) were anti-slavery and entertained abolitionists in the family home. Isaac and Amarilla sent Addie to a radical college, Oberlin, in the early 1860’s; both women and African-Americans attended along with white men, and it was one of the most strongly anti-slavery colleges in the country. Students at Oberlin at the time received Christian religious education along with secular subjects, and were also required to do practical work projects in addition to abstract studies.

Addie married Civil War veteran Charles Collins Burnett on Valentine’s Day 1867 in a double wedding with Addie’s brother Carlos, and Addie and Charles went on to have five surviving children, two sons and three daughters: Carl Charles Burnett, Stephen Sturtevant Burnett (“Steve”), Jennie Estelle Burnett (“Jen” and “Jane” later in life), Lillian Burnett (“Lillie”/”Lilly”), and Winifred Harriet Burnett (“Winnie”/”Win”). Charles had much less formal education than his wife.  Charles became involved in the family lumbering business while his father-in-law Isaac was operating it, and Charles and Addie lived increasingly comfortably, eventually moving into a large house on Euclid Avenue in Cleveland. Addie’s stepmother Amarilla had died in 1862, while their abhorred institution of slavery was still legal in the States, and her father Isaac died in 1874. Isaac had married a third time, to Hortense (Kent) Sturtevant, and Hortense died in 1880, leaving an orphaned teenage daughter Winifred Kent Sturtevant (“Winnie”/”Win”) with whom Addie kept in touch, though Winifred had been born when Addie was already an adult.

Envelope Addie sent to Charles from Paris, postmarked 27 November 1889.

Envelope Addie sent to Charles from Paris, postmarked 27 November 1889.

In 1889, Addie moved from the U. S. to France with their three daughters, leaving Charles and their sons behind in the States. Addie’s diary only implies a variety of reasons why she chose to do this, rather than explicitly stating any of them. To me, the transcriber of these entries and runner of this blog, Addie comes across through her entries as very smart, observant, curious, and a life-long learner, but also as spoiled and ethnocentric.  Addie saw her travels and experiences as confirmation of her belief that American and European cultures were superior to other societies and that the credit for this went specifically to Christianity. Her diary notes that her husband Charles strongly disagreed with her, and quite the opposite of a frequently expressed opinion today, she believed that if he travelled to more countries and was exposed to more cultures, he would come to see that she was correct. Though Addie had been a fairly rare young woman who had attended college in the early 1860’s while her husband Charles had not attended college, Addie and Charles subsequently chose to send their sons but not their daughters to college. I am not sure what their reasons were for this decision.

I inherited a typed copy of Addie’s diary. I believe it is likely a transcription, both because it is typed and because there are some seeming spelling mistakes that are common in transcriptions of handwriting (such as misreading the letters “g” and “y” as each other), but it does not explicitly state so, much less who did the transcription. If it is a transcription, the type and aging strongly suggest that it was done either right when they returned from Europe or shortly thereafter. I also inherited Addie’s oldest daughter Jennie’s handwritten diary from the same time period, and hope to turn that into a sister blog for this one. Jennie was a teenager and travelled with Addie rather than attending a French school as Addie’s two younger daughters did. To start reading this blog from the first journal entry, please go to this post.

The “I” in this “About” page is Liz Loveland. I am a descendant of Addie and I am also a genealogist and historian. My personal blog about genealogy and history is My Adventures in Genealogy; I can be reached via a comment here or an email to loveland which is at world dot oberlin dot net. Hearty thanks to Thomas MacEntee (@geneabloggers) for first suggesting I turn my inherited diaries into blogs; to Connie Forbis Yen (@SoulSister48) for repeatedly encouraging me to follow Thomas’s advice and for providing feedback on this blog’s content and design before I made it public; and to Jennifer Dunn (@JennealogyStory) for also reading this blog before I made it public.


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