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.