/51 Jan 11 Saturday. Made a haircloth back & cushion for one
of my rocking chairs. Mrs Witherell brought in her work
and staid about two hours. Willard Lothrop made
quite a long call. Told Mrs W that he did think at one
time of coming to see her but she looked so dignified &c that
he could hardly muster courage &c &c This evening have been
mending stockings & reading the papers. Mr Ames has been
to Boston bought him a pr of Robbins. Brought home watch
Very warm, pleasant but sloppy. Bought 5 3/4 lbs Beef of C Lothrop
While Oakes made his usual Saturday trip into Boston, Evelina and Sarah Witherell sat together in the Ames’s front room, sewing. Evelina was completing a horsehair back and cushion for a rocking chair. Horsehair upholstery was common in the 19th century, the haircloth being both durable and lustrous, plus relatively inexpensive. Evelina, accomplished housewife that she was, would naturally have undertaken to do this work herself.
With their work boxes at hand, the two sisters-in-law sat, sewed and conversed until the arrival of a visitor, Willard Lothrop. Mr. Lothrop, an employee at the shovel shop, was something of a character. He was a self-declared medium and an impassioned advocate of spiritualism. (He may also have been related to both Evelina and her other sister-in-law, Sarah Lothrop Ames, through the Lothrop family line. There were many Lothrops in the area.)
Spiritualism was a practice that claimed, in Reverend William Chaffin’s words, “that there is a vital connection between the seen and the unseen worlds by which communication between the two can be maintained.” Though hardly a new concept, this American iteration took root in the mid-19th century and gained strength for a time after the Civil War. Many in North Easton, especially those living along the Bay Road, were interested in it.
Lothrop, the purpose of whose call at the Ames house is not disclosed, focused his attention on Sarah Witherell, confessing that he found her unapproachable. No mention of Evelina being inaccessible! Lothrop offers us a rare, backdoor insight into the character, or the bearing at least, of the Ames sister of whom we know the least. Except for her presence in Evelina’s diary, Sarah Witherell left almost no trace behind, no diary, no stories, no grandchildren, no legacy. In a powerful, visible, active family, she may simply have been its most private member.
After Lothrop left, what did the ladies talk about? And what are the “Robbins” that Oakes Ames bought in Boston?