Shaking Hands Across Time

Wednesday March 20th 2019: My friend Lucius Conner and I went to the Ball State Library Archives today to see the Thomas S. Neely Diaries. Lucius has photographed the Neely House since the first day of its renovation. Our intent was to take a photograph of the diaries. We wanted to show what they looked like on the exterior to give context to the look and feel of the books that hold the marvelous history that is so important to the City of Muncie and The Neely House Restaurant.


 I was holding the diaries in my bare hands, heart racing. I had a lump in my throat as I read:

“December 25th 1888: It is six degrees today, we dissected a Turkey…….” It was Christmas day, I know where he was sitting as he carved that turkey. I buried my nose in the musty pages and searched, hoping for traces of the aroma of roasted turkey, maybe sweet potato or pine from a nearby Christmas tree. It smelled only of musty crumbling paper. But, there between the pages were poems cut from the daily newspaper and a tissue used to blot his quill pen. A ledger recorded tools purchased for the neighbor Mrs. Willard (her home was demolished in 2018). There were no smells of wonderful family dinners or cherry pies cooling on window sills. His beautiful script filled the pages edge to edge, day by day he told his simple story. I held his diaries choking back the lump in my throat. I imagined his hands holding these books as mine now did. I would like to think we may be similar men but I will never know. I feel as if I had a chance, though, for a moment to shake hands across time.”

Diary entries are able to be seen at:

Rusell Irving