Edward B. Hartshorn's began his journal while teaching in Pana, Illinois. He discussed daily life, including remarks on people with whom he socialized and gifts he received for teaching. He described his work at the school and Sunday school where he taught, including organized singing. He hoped to purchase his own house and land, and remarked on his homesickness. He attended a meeting of the Illinois Teachers' Association where officers were elected and a constitution drafted. Hartshorn was also a member of the Golden Rule Society and the Temperance Society. His cousins David and Thomas came to visit, with Thomas staying for the year. He also discussed his vegetarian diet, his hopes to found a manual labor school, and census-taking.
Hartshorn moved back home to Amherst, New Hampshire in November 1859. There, he joined with siblings in buying the family farm from their father. He discussed plans to start a school and his devout religious beliefs. A cousin "ruin[ed] the prospects" of "sister Annie." After some content on the early days of Hillside Manual Labor School, the journal skips from May 1860 to September 1862. By this point, Edward's health was poor and many of his friends "distrust" him. He stated that he had trouble recruiting students willing to participate in manual labor and many persons believed the school would fail. On August 23, 1862, he married Ann Elizabeth Baltzley and he noted that she did not agree with all aspects of his mode of living. He hoped to convince her otherwise. At the end of December 1862, Hartshorn traveled to Reed's Ferry, New Hampshire, where an agreement was made to combine schools and utilize the Reed's Ferry facilities. Following continued poor health, Hartshorn left the school in the first part of 1863 and then pursued farming. His sister Hannah stayed at the school after the move to Reed's Ferry. According to the diary, she became difficult and viewed Hartshorn and his wife as enemies. Subsequently, the Hartshorn couple moved away and, in September 1863, arrived in Ohio.
Several pages after the end of the Hartshorn's journal begins a section of travel entries by an anonymous author. The notes are brief snippets regarding locations in and around Jerusalem in 1869, expanding into Palestine and various biblical sites. The trip then proceeded to Syria, the Mediterranean, Greece, Constantinople, and into Europe (London, France, and Rome).
The anonymous travel accounts is followed by 1872-1873 accounts, including regular household expenses such as stamps, sewing supplies, rent, payments to "Arnold," and Christmas presents. Additional payments were to church and charity.
The final two pages of the book contain "Arithmetic examples" and a short poem musing on death.