Re-searching Shunk

September 15, 2014

I am transcribing an old journal from the Battle for Baltimore written by an young Francis R. Shunk. In 2001, a small manuscript containing the writing of Francis Rawn Shunk (1788-1848) was found along with various ephemera in the Marguerite Archer Collection housed in San Francisco State University’s J. Paul Leonard Library. This seventy-page manuscript contains Shunk’s observations from September 5 to November 3, 1814. And my work will likely follow that time frame two hundred years later. Born in the rural village of Trappe, in Montgomery County Pennsylvania, he was the son of a poor farmer and his wife. Shunk struggled to educate himself. His parents, although unable to spare his time contributed to farm work, provided him with a loving home. Shunk’s childhood and youth were mostly devoted to manual farm labor.


Shunk was kind, industrious, and devoted to self-improvement. He recognized the need to cultivate an advantageous patron in order to climb out of grinding poverty. He attended a common school in Trappe. When he was fifteen years old, Shunk was hired as an instructor at that common school. He worked as a teacher during the few months of the year that the school was in session, and the rest of the time he worked as a farm laborer. Books were rare. Francis read each book that his hands reached with deep interest, not lounging on a sofa or around a marble center-table brightly illumined with an astral lamp, but often in a chimney corner, by the light, which a wood-fire or its embers reflected. What he read he pondered until it became part of his mental being.

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