January 31, 1851


Jan 31st Friday  This morning sat down with mother quite early

mended several articles. & altered the waist of Delaine Dress

Augustus came in the stage & dined here & carried mother

to Mr Torreys.  I went about two & passed the afternoon

Called on Mrs Lothrop at Dr Wales, Engaged the

school house for O Foss to keep a private school.

Came home quite early & wrote her a letter.  Sewed

on Susans panteletts.  Very cold but not quite as cold as yesterday

Evelina and her mother, Hannah Lothrop Gilmore, sat together and sewed this morning.  After mending several items – there was always mending to be done – Evelina reworked the waist on a delaine dress, “delaine” meaning “of wool” in French.  It was a popular and durable fabric in this era.  But altering the waist begs the question, did she have to take it in or let it out?  And had she begun to wear her sleeves in the new “pagoda” style?

Augustus Gilmore, Evelina’s nephew and Hannah’s grandson, soon arrived and, once Oakes and his sons came home from the factory at noon, they all dined together. Augustus was close to his Ames cousins, and worked for the company from time to time.  After dinner,  Augustus accompanied his grandmother to the Torrey house in the village, where Hannah’s granddaughters, Abby and Malvina, lived.  Evelina joined them there a bit later, and paid another call as well, on Mrs. Lothrop.  There were many Lothrops in Easton, so we can’t know just which one Evelina visited.

We can know that Evelina was somehow involved in the setting up of a private classroom.  A young woman named Orinthia Foss, with whom Evelina corresponded, was due to arrive in North Easton to teach.  The genesis of this arrangement is a mystery. Was Evelina doing this because of concerns about Susies’ schooling?  Who else was involved? And who was Orinthia Foss? How was she hired?

Whatever the back story was on this new little school, Evelina took a bold step today when she committed to renting a schoolhouse.  She promptly returned home to write Orinthia with the good news.

January 30, 1851


Jan 30th  Thursday  Mended Mr Ames pants which

took me most of the forenoon, read some to Mother.

Spent this afternoon at Olivers with mother & Mr

Whitwell.  They sent the carriage for Mrs Whitwell

but it was so cold that she did not come.  Mr Ames

took tea with us & Mr Ames Oliver Jr C Lothrop & 

Helen played cards I commenced a stocking of the yarn

Mrs Foss gave me.  A bitter cold day & quite windy.

A great fire in Taunton

“A verry bad day to go out in,” noted Old Oliver in his journal today.  Eliza Whitwell refused to leave her home several miles away to join the Ames ladies in the afternoon, even though her husband was there.  The carriage – did it belong to Old Oliver, or Oliver Jr, or to the family in general?  Whoever owned it, its likely driver was Michael Burns, an employee of Old Oliver who looked after the horses and carriages.

While Michael drove to and from the parsonage in the howling cold, various family members gathered next door at Oliver and Sarah Lothrop Ames’s house for tea. Oakes and his son Oliver (or possibly his brother Oliver – unclear) played cards – probably whist – with Cyrus Lothrop and Helen Ames.  Cyrus was an unmarried brother of Sarah Lothrop Ames who lived with Sarah and Oliver, Jr. for many years. Helen was their only daughter; their son, Fred, was probably away at Phillips Exeter Academy on this occasion.  Evelina knitted and kept her mother company.

In nearby Taunton, Massachusetts, Evelina reported, the furious wind contributed to a “great fire.”  The histories of that period don’t mention this fire, so perhaps it was not as great as Evelina thought.  That, or it paled in comparison to the larger fires that Taunton suffered in 1838 and 1859.*  Fire, naturally, was the dread of every homeowner and municipality; towns and cities in the 19th century (and before) were pock-marked by periodic burnings, its citizens haunted by the loss of life and property that fires engendered. The fire on this day in Taunton would have been made especially difficult by the frigid air and icy wind.

*Information obtained from Old Colony Historical Society, Taunton, Massachusetts

January 29, 1851



Jan 29th  Finished my carpet bag this morning and afterwards made

a long call on S Witherell and then she came here and sit awhile

with Mother.  This afternoon cut Susan 4 prs of pantletts

and finished a pr that was cut out a long time since.

S Witherell passed an hour with us this afternoon and 

then again this evening  The boys went to the shop awhile

Mr Ames came home at 1/2 past seven (wonderful to relate)

and has been reading in Mr Lovells paper  Very heavy rainfall

Pleasant tonight but very windy

Sewing the carpet bag was speedy work for Evelina, given her skill with a needle.   Carpetbags were fashionable travel bags from as early as the 1820s, in America and England.  They gained notoriety after the Civil War when they became symbolic of certain ruthless opportunists – “carpetbaggers” – from the North who flooded into the South to take advantage of the post-war confusion and economic disarray.  The negative symbolism of this small piece of luggage was unknowable in 1851, obviously, so we can imagine that Evelina carried her new carpetbag with pride.  Perhaps she used it on her next trip to Boston.

Oakes Ames didn’t linger in the office tonight as usual but came home for a quiet evening of reading the Olive Branch.  Evelina was pleased to have his company, which must have provided some variety for her elderly mother, too.  Sarah Witherell’s company would have added to the ease and sociability of the evening.  More often, Sarah stayed in her part of the house in the evening in order to be company to her father. And the boys – Oakes Angier, Oliver (3) and Frank Morton – went back to the shop, although the nine o’clock curfew was nigh.

The Ames house was divided into two living areas, with Old Oliver, Sarah Witherell and her two children on the southern side and  Oakes and Evelina’s family on the northern.  Old Oliver made this division back in 1827 when Oakes and Evelina first married, indicating then that Oakes, as his eldest son, would inherit the family  homestead.  The two families had lived side by side ever since, the house expanding and contracting as children grew up, occupants died or moved out, and grandchildren came into the world.

Some Ames family members of today who can remember the old homestead (it was torn down in 1951) shake their heads in wonder at this living arrangement, curious as to how everyone fit in.

January 28, 1851



Jan 29th Tuesday  This morning sit down quite early to 

making a carpet bag of pieces that were left of the parlour

carpet.  This afternoon cut a place in the drugget for

the parlour register  Abby & Malvina passed the afternoon

here and this evening.  Mother Abby & myself have been

to a prayer meeting at Mr Bucks.  Mr Buck, wife &

their children all spoke & prayed  Charley best of all.

Abby made a few remarks & a number of others.  Cloudy.

It appears that the recent domestic mishap of spilled varnish on the parlor carpet was solved by the installation of new “drugget” or carpeting. The change of carpeting must have been in the works before Evelina’s purchase of drugget in Boston two weeks back.  After the rug was installed (by whom?,) Evelina scavenged enough scraps from the cutting to begin to assemble a carpetbag for herself.  Waste not, want not.

The mention of cutting the rug to fit around a register helps confirm the existence of a central furnace in the old house.  In fact, Old Oliver had installed coal furnaces only recently on his property, in the counting house or office as well as in the residence.  Coal as fuel was a marked change from earlier days when the family had relied on wood-burning fireplaces for heat.  Oakes Angier must have been pleased with the change.  According to his grandson Winthrop, Oakes Angier detested the old fireplaces, remembering that they  “broiled you on one side while you froze on the other.” *

Tonight Evelina took her mother and niece Abby Torrey to a prayer meeting at the Bucks’ house where they heard all the Buck family members pray.  Evelina’s take on young Charley Buck was prescient, for he would grow up to be the Reverend Dr. Charles Henry Buck, well-respected Methodist minister in a succession of churches in Connecticut, New York and, eventually, Easton.

*Winthrop Ames, The Ames Family, 1937, p. 125.

January 27, 1851


Jan 27th Monday.  As usual this morning have been washing dishes

and working about house all the forenoon.  could not sit

with mother at all.  It was cloudy and looked like rain

but Jane ventured to put her clothes out to night  They

are nearly dry.  This afternoon & evening have finished

Susans gingham apron.  Sarah W came in awhile this

evening and the boys have been reading.  After school

Susan went to see Mary Ann Randall.  Cloudy

Another Monday, meaning that Evelina did the housework while Jane McHanna tackled the laundry.  Evelina was too busy “choring,” as she often called it, to sit down in the morning and sew or read with her mother, Hannah Gilmore, who was visiting for the week.  The women sewed together in the afternoon, however, after the midday meal, and in the evening, they enjoyed a visit from Sarah Witherell.  Oakes was most likely over in the office; he and his brother Oliver Jr. often worked there in the evenings after tea.

The boys were around, of course.  The shovel factory closed at 6 P. M. whereupon Oakes Angier, Oliver (3) and Frank Morton walked home. There were no dances on a Monday night, so after tea, they amused themselves by reading.  All three boys read, yet Oliver (3) was reckoned to be the most scholarly.  Even as a child he enjoyed reading and, with Oakes Angier, began to collect books. Years later, a colleague would say of Oliver that “in the company of books he found an absorbing pleasure.”*

On this winter night, everyone indulged in the papers or books, reading by the light of various oil lamps.  Evelina was no doubt eagerly turning the pages of David Copperfield, perhaps reading aloud to her mother whose aging eyesight may have precluded the pastime.  Hannah Gilmore loved to read.   In fact, she had named Evelina after the heroine of a book popular in her youth: Evelina; Or the History of a Young Lady’s  Entrance into the World.  This comic novel by British author Fanny Burney came out in 1778, and continued to find an appreciative audience in both Britain and America.   Evelina had probably read it at some point, if only to see how Evelina Anville captivated Lord Orville.

*Memorial Volume for Governor Oliver Ames, ca. 1896

January 26, 1851

Gravestone of Hannah Gilmore

Gravestone of Hannah Gilmore

Jan 26  Sunday  Have been to meeting all day and heard two

excellent sermons from Mr Whitwell  Came home

between meetings.  Alson rode home with Mr Ames

Mother came with us from the afternoon meeting will

stop a few days.  Mr Whitwell walked up this morning

expecting to exchange with Mr Lovell but he (Mr Lovell)

was not prepared.  Mr W says a minister ought always to

be prepared.  Edwin called this evening.  It is a beautiful day.

A scheduling mix-up at church today caused consternation.  Most congregations had a practice of exchanging ministers.  On a regular basis, a minister from one church would swap one Sunday with a minister from another, allowing the congregations to listen to other voices and sermons.   On this Sunday, the scheduled switch between Reverend Whitwell of the Unitarian Church and Reverend Lovell of the soon-to-disband Protestant-Methodist assembly failed to take place.  Mr. Whitwell wasn’t pleased, but he seemed to recover just fine.  He delivered two more “excellent sermons.”

“Mother” was Hannah Lothrop Gilmore, or Mrs. Joshua Gilmore, as she would have been known, or perhaps  The Widow Gilmore, her husband having passed away in 1836.  One year shy of eighty, she was the mother of eight children, of whom only three were still alive.  Evelina was her only living daughter.

Mrs. Gilmore lived most of the time with her middle son, Alson, his wife, Henrietta, and their children at the family farm in the southeastern corner of Easton.  Just north of the town line with Raynham, the Gilmore property lay on what was known as the Turnpike Road.  In the distant past, Joshua Gilmore had maintained a tavern at that site, and had collected the fees from travelers on that road.  In 1851, the family still got income from the Turnpike, but the tavern was gone.  The land was all farm.

Occasionally, Mrs. Gilmore would visit with her daughter in North Easton.  Alson would carry her to church and after the service was over, Hannah would leave with Oakes and Evelina to stay at their home for the week.   While in North Easton, she’d be able to visit not only with her Ames grandchldren, but also with other grandchildren in the area, like Abby and Malvina Torrey.  And on this Sunday, her grandson Edwin Williams Gilmore, a grown son of Alson who no longer lived at the farm, paid a visit.  He would soon be building a home close to the Ameses.

January 25, 1851

Charles Dickens, David Copperfield


Jan 25 Saturday.  Have been sweeping and dusting the house and 

have done a little of everything and not much of anything.  Have got

the chambers in pretty good order for once in my life.  Have

mended Mr Ames coat & vest.  Took the time when he was 

from home because he has but one suit beside his go to meeting

poor man!  Called at Mr Torreys just at night.  This eve

have been mending & have had no time to read.  Commenced

reading David Copperfield.  Mr Ames at Boston.  Very warm & fine

Evelina could be critical of others, but she was most critical of herself.  Her self-deprecation often took a humorous tone, as in having done “a little of everything and not much of anything.”  She really tried to get things organized at home today, tackling perhaps one of her biggest challenges: keeping her husband Oakes in decent clothes.

Family lore would have it that Evelina was miserly, lore that is reinforced by Reverend William Chaffin.  Chaffin blamed Evelina for Oakes’ shabby “pantaloons,” believing that Evelina  “being economical kept them well mended instead of encouraging him to buy new ones.”  Yet Chaffin also acknowledged Oakes’s indifference to outfit, telling us that while on a trip into Boston with a friend, Reuben Meader, Oakes responded to Meader’s suggestion that he should wear better clothes by saying: “Oh, I can wear poor clothes if I want to, but some men can’t.”

Oakes spent money on gifts; he was well-known and well-liked for his charitable instincts.  However, unlike his brother, Oliver Jr., who shopped for bespoke outfits in Boston, Oakes didn’t spend a dime on his apparel; he simply didn’t care, so  Chaffin was unjustified to blame Oakes’s appearance on Evelina.  She tried to keep him mended, and we know that she was willing to spend money on clothes; certainly she kept the dressmakers in Easton occupied.  But she must have met resistance if and when she tried to improve her husband’s wardrobe.

Today’s hard work had a reward: opening the pages of David Copperfield, the newest book by Charles Dickens.

January 24, 1851


Jan 24 Friday.  Was very busy this morning about house  Sent

for Abby to go to Augustus’s.  Mr Torrey called to say that

she could not go & made a long call and was as plausible

and good as ever.  Went to Augustus about ten

and alone, but had the pleasure of Mr Whitwells

company back as far as his house  This evening have

called at Mr Holmes but did not see Miss Eaton

Have finished both of the dolls frocks of pink, blue lace  Fine day

The doll that Evelina has been working on since the beginning of the year was finished today.  Wooden with painted features and lace dresses, it was fashioned as a miniature adult.  Baby dolls didn’t come in until almost the 20th century. Isn’t it interesting that the doll was handmade and not store-bought?  It was just a few years too early for Evelina to be able to buy a porcelain doll out of Germany and France, the ones with the big glass eyes, leather hands and silk dresses that speak to us today of Victorian taste. Those manufactured dolls began to enter the American market in the 1860s. With Yankee ingenuity, and not a little help from others, Evelina made her own doll for her daughter. How did Susie like the it?  We don’t get to find out, nor do we know when Evelina gave it to her daughter, but we can guess it was a pleasant surprise.

John Torrey called at the Ames house today.  A former colonel in the local militia, Torrey was also Evelina’s brother-in-law.  He had been married to Evelina’s late sister, Hannah, who died in December, 1848, leaving behind two daughters, Abigail and Mary “Malvina”.  The Torrey family lived right in the village of North Easton, so Evelina was able to see her nieces often.  Abby is 20 years old as the diary opens, Malvina only ten.

Reverend Whitwell featured in Evelina’s diary again today; she certainly seemed to enjoy his company.  She may have been someone who placed ministers up on a pedestal; they were the spiritual leaders of the day and she was a woman of sincere faith.  But, despite his being described by Chaffin as a serious, scholarly type, he may also have been an attractive novelty at a gray time of year.  He was new to the neighborhood and sought the acquaintance of Oakes and Evelina. Did Evelina have a little crush on him?

January 23, 1851


23 Jan  Thursday.  Went again to Elisa Quinns this

morning to get another dolls dress cut & staid untill

about noon to work on it & left it to be finished.  This

afternoon have been to Mr Whitwells to the sewing

circle.  There were but few members present a part over

there yesterday  We carried a piece of striped shirting

and I cut out a part of it.  Abby came to pass the

afternoon but did not stop.  The boys all went to Canton

for an assembly.  Very pleasant

Evelina, and probably her sisters-in-law, made their way to the Whitwells’ home today for the monthly meeting of the Sewing Circle.  The gathering was smaller than usual, as some members had attended the original meeting, held the day before, despite the snow storm.

The Sewing Circle was a regular meeting of about twenty women from the congregation of the Unitarian Church.  Led by Reverend Whitwell, it moved each month from house to house, giving each member a chance to host the event.  The program itself consisted of sewing, each woman bringing her own work, or helping a friend with a project, or perhaps sewing together in concert for a purpose; Evelina is unclear on this.  Mr. Whitwell probably opened the meeting with a prayer, and may even have read to the women as they worked or rendered his  thoughts on topics either scriptural or secular.  The meeting may have been less formal than that, but the minister’s presence made it a sanctioned event.  Ordinarily, women didn’t gather regularly outside their homes for recreation. No book clubs!

In fact, Easton’s sewing circle was an iteration of a female benevolent society, such as ladies in towns and cities in many parts of the country were forming in the first fifty years of the 19th century.  The purposes of the societies varied.  Some, like the Fragment Society in Boston (which formed in 1812 and is still active today) provided clothing and bedding for poor women and children.  Some, like the Worcester Anti-Slavery Sewing Circle, were abolitionist,  while others focused on missionary work, or simply helped raise money for their local parish.  And though their purposes were quite specific, the consequences of the sewing circles were broader than their participants imagined.  These gatherings were a tiny but important early step toward allowing women to contribute to society outside their own homes.

By the time the Ames women returned home from their meeting, Evelina’s boys were on their way to Canton to another assembly.  Oakes Angier, Oliver (3) (even with his chillblains) and Frank Morton rarely missed an opportunity to go to a dance or a “sing” or a party.  They were lively young men.  All in all, a sociable day for the Ames family.

January 22, 1851



1851 Jan 22 Wednesday  Commenced working on the sack again this

morning quite early.  Went to Elisas about ten

to get her to make a dress for Susans doll staid

untill twelve and left her to finish it

Got ready to go to the sewing Circle at Mr Whitwells

But it commenced snowing very fast which prevented

our going.  This evening have finished Susans sack

Oliver poor fellow sits here almost crying with the chillblains

Evelina finished sewing a sack (a kind of apron) for her daughter that she’d been working on for several days, and turned to another ongoing project, doll clothes.  At mid-morning she left the house and went to Elisa and Patric Quinn’s home along Stoughton Road (today’s Elm Street).  Elisa was a dressmaker while Patric was employed at the shovel factory.  Like so many employees in that period, they had emigrated from Ireland.  Elisa was going to help Evelina finish two dresses for Susie’s new doll.

Leaving the little dresses in Elisa’s capable hands, Evelina returned home for midday dinner, just before snow began to fall.  She and her sisters-in-law had planned to go to the monthly meeting of the Sewing Circle, held this afternoon at the parsonage where the Whitwells lived, but poor visibility put an end to their travel.  The ladies stayed home.

Oliver Ames (3), Evelina and Oakes’ middle son, was suffering from chillblains, an unsightly and uncomfortable affliction of extremities: toes, fingers and ears.  Cousin to frostbite, chillblains are an itchy, painful inflammation brought on by exposure to moist cold air.  Some say it’s caused by too-rapid warming of skin and tissue after exposure to cold.  Different treatments were offered: poultices, soaking or rubbing with salt.  Lydia Maria Child, author of The American Frugal Housewife, offered a specific remedy:

“The thin white skin, which comes from suet, is excellent to bind upon the feet for chillblains.  Rubbing with Castille soap, and afterwards with honey, is likewise highly recommended.  But, to cure the chillblains effectually, they must be attended to often, and for a long time.”

It appears that Oliver (3) was in for several days of discomfort.