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Nellie Ritter Collection

Identifier: RH-A-153

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of diaries kept by Susan Layman Dickman between 1867 and 1910 in Berrien County, Michigan. The collection also includes two Berrien County school registers created between 1876 and 1888 and an account book used by the Flewallen family between 1849 and 1893, both from Berrien County.

The bulk of the collection consists of annual diaries kept by Susan “Susie” Layman Dickman (b. 1836 d. 1913) dating between 1867 and 1910. Her diary entries are very brief and detail her daily activities, including house and farm work, visiting friends and family, meals, financial transactions, letters, and phone calls.

The school registers detail student attendance, classes, and teachers in Berrien County School District #2 between 1876 and 1888. There is also a visitors log at the end of each register with notes about the condition of the school and quality of teaching. The account book contains notes from several members of the Flewallen (also spelled Flewelling, Flewalling) family between 1849 and 1893. The earliest notes were made by John Flewallen, justice of the peace, and include records of marriages and court decisions in Berrien County between 1849 and 1853. Other notes made by various family members include records of cash transactions and a detailed list of family birth and death dates.


  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1867-1910, 1876-1888, 1849-1893

Biographical / Historical

Susan "Susie" Layman Dickman was born in 1836 in Franklin County, Virginia. Her family moved to a farm in Berrien County, Michigan sometime before 1839. She married Edwin Thomas Dickman, a farmer, in 1874. The couple lived in Berrien Township and did not have any children. Susan worked in the home and died in 1913.


1 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials



Box 1 contains 28 diaries dating from 1867 to 1904 in 28 folders. Box 2 contains 5 folders. Two of the folders in Box 2 contain two diaries dated 1906 and 1910. Another folder contains two school registers from Berrien County school district #2 made by Oliver Adams and Co. Publishers. The final folder of Box 2 contains an account book owned by John Flewallen.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was donated by Nellie Ritter through Mrs. Joseph K. Ritter in 1963.

Physical Description

The collection is comprised of approximately 1.0 cubic feet of material stored in two boxes. The majority of the collection consists of softcover diaries, ranging from 2 ½” x 4” to 4” x 6”. Most of the diaries are of the Standard Diary brand, with others of the Excelsior brand. The diaries come in a range of colors, and some have designs on the edge of the pages lined with gold or red. The diaries are in good condition, although the 1890 and 1898 diaries have some water damage. The 1902 diary shows signs of wear. The 1906 diary maintains damage on its back cover. Entries are written with small handwriting in pencil, which has smudged and faded in some places. There is also some ink writing which has bled through the thin pages.

The school registers measure approximately 11 ¾” x 8 ½”. One register has a hard cover which has completely detached, but the pages are still bound together. This register also has loose pieces of paper in the front. Another register is a paperback with visible water damage and a large hole through the pages. Both registers show distinct signs of aging such as yellowed, creased, and stained pages. Ink and pencil writing is still legible. The account book is hardcover, measuring approximately 8” x 12 ½”. The front cover of the account book is worn and detached, with the pages still being bound together. The account shows minimal signs of age. The writing is mostly done with ink and is still legible, although there have been some pages torn out of the book.

Nellie Ritter Collection Finding aid
Moira Cooper, Jordan Cortez, Colby DeVries, Stephanie Chapman
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Western Michigan University Archives & Regional History Collections Repository

Charles C. and Lynn L. Zhang Legacy Collections Center
1650 Oakland Drive
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5307 US
(269) 387-8490