New Metadata Project: Lincoln Ellison

The first thing I find out about Lincoln Ellison is he died in 1958 when a bunch of snow pushed him off a mountain.


The rest I expected to be a rather dry account of Forest Service paperwork, similar to the first collection I added metadata too. But nope! Ellison is actually a fascinating dude. One part naturalist, one part philosopher. And this was in 1923 when he was 16.

This is the cover from his journal at that age. In the same way Mary confused me because I thought she was much, much younger, Ellison confused me because while reading this journal I thought he was already working for the Forest Service.

While I’m not lucky enough to be transcribing his journals, I have to dig through them quite a bit to find out relevant information like places, people and dates. For instance, yesterday I spent a good chunk of my day trying to map his route hiking across Arizona. Until I realized that he was actually hiking across California. The southwest is not very creative when it comes to naming mountains and rivers and valleys, it turns out.

So until I’m done with Ellison (and it may be a while if yesterday is any indication) I’m going to pull quotes that stand out to me and tweet them once in a while. It won’t be as often as I did with Mary, but it’ll be something.

To start with, here’s a passage I pulled from 1928 when Lincoln Ellison was 20, newly employed and bouncing around different Forest Service stations. (Also, Boone’s Mill here is somewhere in Idaho I think, despite not being able to find ANY Boone’s Mill aside from the one in Virginia. Becoming a common issue with this guy’s travels.)

Boone’s Mill August 12, 1928

I sit in the woods. These are woods of an open, shady type, without brush, having a sphagnum carpeted floor ornamented with those dear, familiar shade-loving plants of the Northwoods- Cornus, Coptis, and [Linner? Zinner?]

But what a distasteful mood to be in!

The clear current of the spirit, so essential to a childlike sympathy with Nature, is easily muddied by too much of men and affairs. Coarse as the sediment is, it takes a long, long time to settle. It permeates so far into the mind and spirit that they are deadened, like trout in a muddy stream. They were not made to live in such a place.

The meanest part of my own character has been an unwillingness to forego the sympathy of men for the sympathy of trees. Stick to my own species? Bah! There are millions who do that only too well. As yet I do not know a single tree.

Whenever I walk into the woods, I seem to have just interrupted the trees in their business, which they stop until the foreign creature is by. I wait: they sigh impatiently to have me gone, but no matter how impatient, they will never reveal their secrets……Is holy water muddy? Their business is with nothing baser than dew drops. Whomever heard of dew drops being formed in the society of men?

So I find myself today – an intruder. Tho I disdain one society, I am refused entrance to the other.

But a little red squirrel has bolstered my hope. He fearlessly played about a few feet away, dug out his supper from under a log and ate close by; and whenever he chanced to regard me it was in no unfriendly fashion.

To read his journals on your own (I know I will when I have spare time) you can find them here.


2 thoughts on “New Metadata Project: Lincoln Ellison

  1. nikarella says:

    I have a question. Do you have to wear white gloves while transcribing these journals? (These are the things I think of)

    • Nope, because what I’m looking at is all online. But in most cases with physical materials white gloves aren’t necessary or even beneficial, as it turns out.

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