The Fannie A. Fain Diaries consist of photocopies of two handwritten diaries, plus a typed transcription of the first diary. The first one covers the period of the Civil War and dates from November 26, 1863 through March 19, 1865; and the second one covers the latter part of her life dating from March 6, 1867 to March 6, 1898.
The first diary gives a glimpse of daily life in upper East Tennessee during the Civil War. She specifically mentions events at Zollicoffer (now Bluff City, Tennessee), Longstreet's occupation of the area, and the activities of bushwhackers. In April 1862 the Confederate Congress passed a conscription act which declared that every able-bodied white man between the ages of 18 and 35 be subject to military service. Exempt from the provisions of the first conscription act, John Fain apparently hired a substitute when the age limit was extended to 45 in September of that year. After the passage of acts abolishing substitution and ordering those who had hired substitutes to report for service without delay, he left Blountville on January 28, 1864, to avoid military conscription and did not return for at least fifteen months. In this diary, Fannie describes the difficulties she faced while her husband was away from home and the grief of losing her brother in the war. She also records the hardships farmers faced when the planting of crops was delayed due to military activity in the surrounding area or when horses were taken by both the Federal and Confederate forces.
The second diary covers a span of 30 years but focuses on three major phases of her life with long periods of silence between each entry. The first section deals with her husband's success in his store and the birth of her fifth child Mamie. The second phase describes the death of her husband, and the third part concerns the events surrounding the death of Mamie. The diary concludes with an overview of her faith and ends with a list of scriptures relating to specific needs.