The Asa Waldo Wildes daybook contains an account of his 1857 trip from Detroit to Michigan's Upper Peninsula via Lake Huron and Lake Superior, as well as poetry, financial accounts, and a draft of an 1857 survey report.
The daybook opens with a note regarding the death of Wildes's young son Francis on September 17, 1849, accompanied by a pair of short poems; other poetry, dated 1857 and 1858, appears on the next 11 pages. The next segment consists of a 28-page draft of a survey made for the Marquette & Ontonagon Railroad.
A 38-page account concerns Wildes's journey to the Upper Peninsula on the steamer Illinois, beginning May 18, 1857. Wildes wrote about the 1812 Siege of Detroit, seen through the eyes of a War of 1812 veteran (pp. 11-12), but focused primarily on the sights and people encountered along Michigan's eastern and northern coasts. He described both American and Canadian cities along the lakeshore, and on one occasion detailed his interactions with local Indian traders, whom he met near Saginaw Bay. Despite its springtime start, the Illinois frequently encountered ice while on Lake Superior and became trapped on several occasions before reaching Fort Wilkins and Portage Charter Township. Once on land, Wildes focused on natural resources, paying special attention to the local copper and iron industries along Lake Superior's southern coast and around L'Anse, Michigan, where he concluded his narrative. The volume concludes with poetry and financial accounts related to the Grand Rapids & Indiana Railroad, dated as late as 1864.