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Anna C. Dering Sleight Collection

Collection Number
SC 464

OCLC Number

Anna Charlotte Dering Sleight, 1810-1905

Acquired from The Manuscript Company of Springfield (Virginia) in 1987. 

Extent, Scope, and Content Note
The diary of Anna Charlotte Dering Sleight (1810-1905) of Sag Harbor, New York contains her entries for 1877 through 1880 discussing family and friends in Sag Harbor and on Shelter Island, New York, including her son Brinley Dering Sleight (1835-1913) and grandson Cornelius Sleight (1867-1957); family business affairs, social visits, fires in Sag Harbor, church activities, and reflections on her age.
She was the daughter of Henry Packer Dering (1734-1822) and Anna Fosdick. She married William Rysam Sleight (1802-1876) on January 2, 1833. They had ten children.
Dimensions: 1 volume; 20 cm x 33 cm

Arrangement and Processing Note
Finding aid updated and revised by Kristen J. Nyitray in July 2019.
Last updated in April 2020.


Restrictions on Access
The collection is open to researchers without restriction.

Rights and Permissions 
Stony Brook University Libraries' consent to access as the physical owner of the collection does not address copyright issues that may affect publication rights. It is the sole responsibility of the user of Special Collections and University Archives materials to investigate the copyright status of any given work and to seek and obtain permission where needed prior to publication.  

Anna C. Dering Sleight Collection, Special Collections and University Archives, Stony Brook University Libraries.

Historical Note
Description prepared by Terry Alford, Director, The Manuscript Company of Springfield, Springfield, Virginia, 1977.

The journals for the two years are kept, somewhat irregularly, but concomitantly, in The Standard Diary printed for 1876. Entries on more than 100 pages, 12 ½ x 8 inches, on lined paper in warped cloth boards with loose, worn leather back strip. Anna writes in a rather neat hand in purple or blank ink; in making the less frequent 1880 entries, she sometimes crossed out the 1877 comment, but left them still legible.

Throughout the diary, the major concerns of Anna Sleight are the comings and goings of her relatives, drawn from old Sag Harbor and Shelter Island families. Anna is Executor of the estate (a whaling fortune - see below) that provides income for herself and several others; dwindling capital, pay to servants and the costs of domestic life are a secondary theme. She governs the purse strings of several others, including Brinley and Cornelius (son and grandson) and their actions in selling this or that railroad stock or milling property.

Most days Anna spends at home - at work in the library, nursery, or on the piazza. She takes one trip to New York and to Sing Sing, but otherwise her world is the family manse, the church, the shops and homes of Sag Harbor, and, once a year, a trip to the Hampton Fair.

The world does come to Anna, however. Two "ladies" of the Brooklyn Missionary Society (June 1880) are among the many visitors she records coming for a night's stay or more. Relatives (Derings, Horsfords, etc.) come often from Shelter Island and Anna reports frequently on return visits made to the Island by others in her household. (In October, 1877, a delegation to the Island sees to it that her grandmother's gravestone, repaired at Sag Harbor, is properly replaced in an Island graveyard.) Travelers arrive by train, boat and mail stage from New York; one stops off to visit en route between Europe and California.

Of events in town that warrant notice, fires are the most dramatic. February of 1877 Anna writes vividly of the "terrible fire" that breaks out at the dock and, with gale winds, spreads into town, leaving neighbors homeless. (Mrs. Huntington and others from Mr. Rogers' house take refuge at Anna's.) September of 1877 another fire -- this one at Mr. Glover's -- "most unceremoniously" interrupts a church sermon.

Anna is involved with many community members. She actively solicits funds for the Education Society and a German class meets at her house. Yet her point of view is greatly tempered by her age and the diary is replete with the observations of the elderly. "One by one the lights go out," she writes of the death of yet another friend. When two old trees are cut: "Tis easy to destroy the growth of years," and so on. Although there are scores of guests, there are also days when everyone else in the house is out and away and she writes a melancholy note on loneliness. Once in a while she forbids the departure of a person as his absence will leave her alone in the house.

She is also much concerned with the progress and position of the men in the family, particularly Cornelius, whose travels, job problems, ill health and marriage all gain comment.

Sense of place pervades the diary, along with a sense of family roots. Sept. 21, 1877, an entry suggests this well: "Mrs. Fosdick [a relative, with a politician-husband in Washington] goes to Shelter Island with Dr. N[icholl]- encounters a terrible squall. Cousin Iona very sick & not appreciating the violence of the wind. I watched them from the hill with much anxiety."

In addition, 20 pages of financial accounts follow the diary.

Anna C. Sleight was the wife of William Rysam Sleight, who died in 1876, and it is her husband's estate which she is managing (see entries for 1881 "Account of Moneys... received...." at end of diary).

The youngest daughter of Henry P. Dering, Postmaster and Collector of the port of Sag Harbor, she had spent her childhood at Sylvester Manor, a historic homestead on Shelter Island (Sept. 10, 1877, she writes of her daughter, Anna F. Sleight, going "to spend a day & night with the Horsford family at the old home of my forefathers....").

Anna's husband, William, was a partner in the firm of Mulford & Sleight, whaling ship owners and agents in Sag Harbor. Her son Brinley Dering Sleight, born 1835, was the publisher of the oldest newspaper in Suffolk County ( The Corrector) and served as a state legislator as well as town official. Brinley's oldest son, Cornelius, also often mentioned in the diary, served as Collector of the Port, like his grandfather.

In short, this is the diary of a woman with deep and significant roots in Sag Harbor and Shelter Island revealing her view of the world in her early years of widowhood.

Sleight, Anna Charlotte Dering, -- 1810-1905.
Sleight, Anna Charlotte Dering, -- 1810-1905 -- Archives.
Sleight, William Rysam, -- 1802-1876.
Sleight, Brinley Dering, -- 1835-1913.
Sleight, Cornelius Rysam, -- 1867-1957.
Sleight family.
Women -- New York (State) -- Sag Harbor -- Diaries.
Long Island (N.Y.) -- Social life and customs.
Sag Harbor (N.Y.) -- Social life and customs.
Shelter Island (N.Y.) -- Social life and customs.
Manners and customs.
New York (State) -- Long Island.
New York (State) -- Sag Harbor.
New York (State) -- Shelter Island.