This is a timeline of the life of henry david thoreau.

0, 1817

  • Birth

11-16, 1828-1833

  • Attended Concord Academy

16-20, 1833-1837

  • Attended Harvard College

19, 1836

  • Taught school with Orestes Brownson

20, 1837

  • Taught briefly at Concord Center School (public)

21-24, 1838-1841

  • Conducted a private school, Concord Academy, with his elder brother John

22, 1839

  • Went on boating excursion on Concord and Merrimack rivers with his older brother John, which formed the basis of Thoreau’s first book, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

23, 1840

  • Published his first poems and essays in The Dial

24-26, 1841-1843

  • Lived with Ralph Waldo Emerson and his family

25, 1842

  • John cuts himself with a razor and died of lockjaw.
  • Waldo dies.
  • Natural History of Massachusetts published

26, 1843

  • Published “A Walk to Wachusett” and “A Winter Walk”.
  • Moves to Staten Island, New York for seven months to tutor William Emerson’s nephew and try to make it as a writer in New York.
  • Homesick, often ill, and unable to find regular literary employment, moves back to Concord

27, 1844

  • Accidentally starts a fire that burned down much of the Concord woods

28-30, 1845-1847

  • Lived at Walden Pond

29, 1846

  • Traveled to Maine woods
  • Spent one night in jail for refusing to pay poll tax, which formed the basis for his essay, “Civil Disobedience“

30-31, 1847-1848

  • Lived in Emerson household while Ralph Waldo Emerson lectured in England

31, 1848

  • Began lecturing professionally
  • “Ktaadn and the Maine Woods” published

32, 1849

  • Henry’ sister Helen dies of tuberculosis.
  • A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers published and failed.
  • Resistance to Civil Government published.
  • Traveled to Cape Cod.
  • Started work as a surveyor to pay off his debts.

33, 1850

  • Traveled to Cape Cod and Quebec.
  • Reconceives the project of his Journal.

34, 1851

  • Enraged by passage of Fugitive Slave Act and becomes increasingly involved in the Underground Railroad.

36, 1853

  • Traveled to Maine woods
  • Portions of A Yankee in Canada published

37, 1854

  • Walden published.
  • Slavery in Massachusetts published.

39, 1856

  • Surveyed Eagleswood Community near Perth Amboy, NJ

40, 1857

  • Traveled to Cape Cod and Maine Woods
  • Chesuncook published

41, 1858

  • Traveled to White Mountains in New Hampshire

42, 1859

  • Father died
  • A Plea for Capt. John Brown published

43, 1860

  • Read Darwin’s Origin of Species.
  • The Succession of Forest Trees published.

44, 1861

  • Traveled to Minnesota to regain health
  • Back in Concord, spends his last months indoors, cross-referencing the Journal, compiling over 750 pages of enormous lists and charts of a wide range of seasonal phenomena.
  • Pulls together his last essays, the books The Main Woods and Cape Cod and the work that would eventually be published as Faith in a Seed and Wild Fruits.

44 (almost 45), 1862

  • Died 6 May of tuberculosis


Thoreau, H. D., & Stilgoe, J. R. (2009). The Journal of Henry David Thoreau, 1837-1861 (D. Searls, Ed.; Illustrated edition). NYRB Classics.

Walls, L. D. (2017). Henry David Thoreau: A Life (First edition). University of Chicago Press.