John Downs was a weaver, school teacher, and a member of the militia who fought with Connecticut forces on Long Island (Battle of Brooklyn Heights), Harlem Heights, New Haven and Fairfield and served as a Milford Minuteman (a form of home guard).
His biggest claim to fame is that he kept a diary for 47 years, from 1763 to 1810, recording every day weather observations and telling, in very few words, what he did that day. The diary provides picture of life in Milford during and after the American Revolution.
John Downs was born in Milford in June 1745, and he died in Milford on February 19, 1819, at age 74. He is buried in Milford Cemetery. He was the son of John Downs and Ann Hine. He married Hannah Stone on December 14, 1769. She was born in 1752 and died on December 27, 1819 at the age 67 and is buried next to her husband.
John and Hannah had seven children, six of whom survived to adulthood.
In Families of Early Milford, Conn., Susan Woodruff Abbott, Downs’ great-great-great-great granddaughter, describes the diary as follows (p. 230), “This diary is contained in one book, possibly done in sections and sewed together with linen thread, about 7 by 5 inches. The pages are carefully and neatly ruled and written in excellent hand and shows little degeneration in his later years. A line done every day includes always the weather, his attendance at church every Sunday and his activities in the town, which were many.”
The diary was passed down through the generations and is now at the library of the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque. This is because the woman who inherited the diary moved there and decided to present it to the university for safe keeping. A microfilm copy of the diary is in the Milford Public Library.