January 21, 1851

Potato

Jan 21  Tuesday.  This morning commenced working on

Susans sack but had some things to do about house so

that I could not accomplish much.  Mrs. Holmes called

to get some potatoes for Miss Eaton  says she (Miss E) is

failing and the Dr had told her that he could not help

her  Mr Robinson came this afternoon to varnish the

chimney pieces & spilled the varnish over my carpet

which prevented me from going to have Susans doll

dressed

Harriet Holmes, a neighbor, came to the Ames house to fetch potatoes for the ailing Miss Eaton, the same Miss Eaton on whom Evelina and Sarah Ames called during the cold spell earlier in the month. The spinster lived with Harriet and Bradford Holmes, their children, Harriet’s mother and a shovel worker named Oliver Eaton – a relative, possibly.  Mr. Holmes was a teamster who probably worked with Old Oliver’s oxen. Many folks who lived in North Easton were connected to the shovel works in some way.

The potatoes that Evelina gave away would have been grown either by Old Oliver or by Alson Gilmore, Evelina’s brother, who owned the Gilmore family farm.  Potatoes were common fare at the dinner table, and particularly a favorite for winter use.  The Irish called them “pratties.” The challenge for a housewife lay in how to serve potatoes: mashed, roasted, and boiled were familiar variations, then and today.  Sarah Josepha Hale underscored the dietary importance of potatoes in her book, The Good Housekeeper.  “To boil Potatoes in the best manner, is a very great perfection in cookery,” she said.

In the Ames sitting room, hapless Mr. Robinson had to contend with a displeased housewife after he spilled varnish on the carpet.  He was already in Evelina’s bad graces from having taken too long to paint around the fireplaces. How do you suppose Evelina got the varnish cleaned up?

January 20, 1851

olive-branch

Jan 20th Monday  This morning worked about the house as usual

on washing days & varnished Susans wooden doll.

Jane put her clothes out but soon had to take them

in again as it commenced raining.  This afternoon

I have been mending Oakes Angiers black pants

and finished cutting Susans plaid sack

This evening have been working on Susan’s plaid

apron and reading Mr Lovell’s paper

Keeping clothes clean is always a challenge, but it was especially so in the 19th century when doing laundry was an all-day, manual chore.  Small wonder, then, that little girls wore “sacks” or aprons over their dresses to keep their outfits from getting soiled.  Sacks had no buttons, so were easier to wash than dresses. They were rather shapeless, sleeveless tunics, often made from simple muslin; aprons were the same idea except fitted with a sash. There were no hard and fast rules about the design or material, however.  To imagine the approximate outline of what Evelina was making for Susie, think of the little girls in John Singer Sargent’s famous 1882 portrait, “The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit,” at the MFA.  Three of the four daughters are wearing something over their dresses. Later in the century, sacks and aprons  would evolve into pinafores, an iteration that became as much decorative as protective.  Aprons never went away, however.

After sewing for most of the day, Evelina took up “Mr. Lovell’s paper” to read. Reverend Stephen Lovell lived in Easton and was, for a few years, minister of the short-lived Protestant Methodist church.  Although Rev. Lovell “gave general satisfaction,” attendance at his church was “feeble,” according to town historian William Chaffin, so the congregation disbanded about this time.  Still, Lovell remained visible in town through his involvement with Olive Branch.

Olive Branch was a popular weekly newspaper published in Boston by Reverend Thomas F. Norris .  Although Chaffin writes that Lovell was editor of this paper, all other sources assign that honor to Norris.  Olive Branch proclaimed itself to be “Devoted to Christianity, Mutual Rights, Polite Literature, Liberal Intelligence, Agriculture, and the Arts.” *  It advocated peace in the increasingly divisive period leading up to the Civil War.  Norris, Lovell and others who worked for the paper – women among them – must have been disheartened by the elusiveness of their goal.  The paper ran from January 1837 through December 1860.

* Joanna River, “Eliza Ann Woodruff Hopkins and The Olive Branch,” josfamilyhistory.com

January 19, 1851

Ride

1851 Jan 19th Sunday.  It was rather earlier than common this morning

when we had our breakfast as Jane was going to

meeting   We have all been to meeting all day

Mr Whitwell gave us two good sermons, though not

as interesting as usual.  After hearing the class in

the Sunday school I called at Mr Whitwells

This evening have been into Mr Bucks to a prayer meeting

Three Ladies spoke & a number of men.  Very pleasant

Before the Ames family left for church, their servant Jane McHanna was on her way to a Catholic service.  Every few weeks, an itinerant priest would ride into town to conduct Sunday mass in the dining room of a boarding house owned by the Ames shovel company.  Although North Easton offered several Protestant options to its church-going citizens, it had no Catholic church for the influx of faithful who had recently immigrated from Ireland.

The number of Roman Catholics in North Easton, as elsewhere in Massachusetts, was rapidly expanding.  In 1849, Reverend William Chaffin tells us, there were 45 Catholics in town.  By 1852, there were 150; when the Civil War began, there were 400.   As the number of Irish immigrants grew, a dedicated facility was clearly needed.  Recognizing this, in 1850 the Ames family donated a piece of land on Pond Street to the Irish to build their own church.  It was under construction as the year 1851 opened.

Evelina’s day was full of religious activity.  Not only did she hear “two good sermons,” she visited the Sunday school and, in the evening, went out to a prayer meeting held by Benjamin and Mary “Polly” Buck, who lived in a house in the near neighborhood that they rented from Old Oliver.

January 18, 1851

Lid

/51 Jan 18 Saturday  I was very lazy this morning as usual after

being in Boston.  We tried out the suet & salted the 

quarter of beef & boiled the tripe  Jane has been

busy all day but I have not done much.  Have mended

the stockings painted Susans wooden dolls head & arms

Mr Robinson has at last finished painting our chimney

pieces.  it is 5 weeks since he commenced them & I could

not nail down the carpet  Mr Ames has been to Boston.  Pleasant.

It was back to domestic life today after an enjoyable trip to the city.  No more dining on oysters. The kitchen was humming with more familiar fare as Jane McHanna processed a huge gift of meat that Old Oliver had sent a few days back.  She may have kept it cold in the snow or in an ice house until today when they had time and table top to deal with it.

“Ox beef is considered the best,” noted Sarah Josepha Hale in her 1841 guide, The Good Housekeeper.  Lucky for Evelina’s family that Old Oliver raised his own oxen. Jane salted it, salting or “corning” being a time-honored way to preserve it. Typically, the beef was placed in a container – likely a barrel – and covered with a brine solution.  One recipe for brine in an 1858 cookbook* called for four gallons of water, two pounds of brown sugar and six pounds of salt.  Beef stored this way could keep for months.

The suet, which, strictly defined, is the fat from around the kidneys, was “tried,” meaning that it was boiled and rendered into lard.  The tripe, from the stomach, was boiled as well.  The odor from both these boilings was strong and would have been noticed throughout the house.

By her own confession, Evelina didn’t get too involved with anything going on in the kitchen today, leaving it to Jane’s good offices. Instead, she puttered here and there, unpacking, doing a little mending, painting her daughter’s wooden doll and standing over Mr. Robinson’s shoulder as he finally completed painting the mantels.   We might describe her day as “re-entry.”  Oakes, meanwhile, was in Boston on shovel business.

* Mary Peabody Mann, Christianity in the Kitchen

January 17, 1851

Map of Boston, ca. 1865, detail

1851

Jan 17 Friday  Spent last night at Mr Orrs.

S A at H Mitchells.  We met at Essex St

about ten Oclock and went shopping  I did not

purchase as much as I usually do when I go to Boston

We dined at Mr Orrs on Turkey & oysters.  Mrs Mary

Hyde was there under Dr Reynolds care.  Her eyes are

very painful but the Dr thinks he can cure them  On our

way to the cars we called at H Mitchells  Mr Orr is at

Plymouth building some kind of factory.  Beautiful 

weather.

Evelina and her sister-in-law, Sarah Lothrop Ames, stayed overnight in Boston after missing the train to Stoughton.  Sarah stayed with someone named H Mitchell  (probably not the youngest Ames sister , Harriett Ames Mitchell, who was reportedly in Pittsburgh at this period, but rather a cousin named Harriet Lavinia Angier Mitchell.  At this writing, difficult to know for sure.)  Evelina, however, stayed with the Orr family.

The Orrs and Ameses were friends of many years standing.  Like the Ameses, the Orrs originally hailed from Bridgewater, where they, too, had been involved in the making of tools.  Old Hugh Orr was a decade or so older than Old Oliver.  Hugh’s son, Robert, had moved into Boston with his wife, Melinda Wilbur Orr, of Raynham.  Melinda and Evelina were friends, and Evelina usually stayed with the Orrs when she spent the night in Boston.

More shopping today, at least for Sarah Ames; Evelina appeared to be shopped out.  Still, she was happy enough to trudge along Essex and Washington Streets with Sarah (on the map detail, Essex and Washington Streets meet near the “8”, to the right of the Boston Common) dipping in and out of shops. The “beautiful” weather boosted their spirits and more oysters – and turkey – bolstered their stamina.  This time, they caught the cars and returned home.

January 16, 1851

Muff & Tippet B & W

1851

Jan 16 Thursday  Went to Boston with S Ames.  Oakes A carried 

us over to the stage.  We found it very bad walking 

could scarcely cross the street without going over

shoe in snow & water but otherwise a delightful day

We bought some druggett & Sarah a muff & tippet

for herself & cuff & tippet for Helen.  We got us some

oysters at Vintons.  Called at Mr Orrs about four thirty

that we should have time to reach the cars but we were left.

Boys went to an assembly at Canton

Alson & Augustus dined here.

O, joy, a trip to Boston, an event that Evelina typically finds “delightful” no matter what the weather.  After two days of sadness about the death of Lewis Carr, Evelina and Sarah Lothrop Ames headed into the city via stage coach on a shopping excursion.  The railroad, which they called “the cars,” did not yet reach North Easton, but did stop in Stoughton.  The women intended to return by train at nightfall, and be carried home from Stoughton by one son or other, but missed the train and had to stay overnight.  They may not have been disappointed to have to stay in town.

Sloppy weather didn’t prevent the successful acquisition of goods.  Evelina bought some drugget, or carpeting, while Sarah found accessories for herself and her daughter.  Muffs and tippets, naturally, were very much in fashion for winter wear.  Dining on oysters was another highlight, as was a visit to an old family connection, Mr. Orr.

The homefront in Easton was busy, too.  Evelina’s brother, Alson, and his oldest son, Augustus, took midday dinner with Oakes and his children.  Little Susie would have been the only girl at the table.  In the evening, Oakes Angier, Oliver (3) and Frank Morton headed to Canton to a dance.  Everyone’s spirits seemed brighter today.

Photo of muff and tippet, ca. 1840,  from Minnesota Historical Society

January 15, 1851

Corpse

1851

Jan 15 Wednesday  This morning after doing my usual

morning work went to Mr Carrs  to put the robe on the

corpse.  in the afternoon attended the funeral.  Mr

Whitwell spoke very well to the mourners & made a good

prayer  Mr Whitwell and Mr Reed were over to tea.  After

they went away I passed the evening at Olivers with Mr

& Mrs Peckham  Made a hair cloth cover for one of the

rocking chairs cushions and sewed in the evening on a

shirt

Today Evelina attended the first of several funerals she will go to over the course of her diary.  The death of young Lewis Carr won’t be the only case of consumption, either.  In this case, she helped the Carr family by sewing a robe for the body and dressing the corpse.  Death was familiar to women like Evelina; tending to its aftermath was one of their responsibilities.

And then life went on.  After the service, Evelina (with Jane McHanna’s help, certainly) served tea to Rev. Whitwell and Mr. Reed, another man from Easton.  There were several Reed families in town, so we can’t know for sure which Mr. Reed came to tea.  In her diary, Evelina mentions Daniel Reed most frequently.  Daniel was a carpenter, according to the census; today we might call him a builder.  In any case, he was well known to the Ameses.  His wife, Mary Reed, was a member of a sewing circle to which the Ames sisters-in-law belonged and the family attended the Unitarian church.

After dark, Evelina walked next door to Oliver Jr. and Sarah Lothrop Ames’s house to visit with Joseph and Susan Peckham.  She may have taken her work box with her to sew while they visited.  No doubt, they discussed the death of Lewis Carr.

January 14, 1851

Abbott H. Thayer, Angel, 1887, oil Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of John Gellatly

Abbott H. Thayer, Angel, 1887, oil
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of John Gellatly

/51

Jan 14  Tuesday.  This morning after taking care of my room went

to the store and into Mr Carrs to offer my assistance there.

Lewis Carr died last night very suddenly bleeding at the 

lungs.  Has been in a decline since last July but was about

the house as usual yesterday and conversed with O A and 

his friends in the evening & told what he was going to do when

he got well.  about ten or eleven Oclock called to his mother

to come quick which was the last word & died almost instantly

This afternoon carried Mr & Mrs Whitwell to A A Gilmores.

The “white plague,” consumption, was a killer; today we know it as tuberculosis and, in parts of the world, it’s still killing.  In 19th century America, it was a leading cause of death, the scourge of young lives, particularly.  Its contagious properties were unknown, which helped it spread.  Although different treatments, such as prolonged rest in warm climates, were tried (when possible), no cure for the disease would be found until the middle of the 20th century.  Some people did recover from TB; most did not.

Lewis Carr, a friend of Oakes Angier Ames, was barely 20 years old. He was the son of Caleb and Chloe Carr of North Easton where the family had lived for generations.  His father, known as “Uncle Caleb” in his later years, was a life-long employee of the shovel works and close to the Ames family.  So close, in fact, that two decades later, Caleb would serve as a pall-bearer at Oakes Ames’s funeral.

It is typical that Evelina would help the Carr family at this time.  She and her sisters-in-law were often called upon to sew the shrouds that corpses were wrapped in, which is what she did on this day for the family.

January 13, 1851

Washing

/51 Jan 13  Washing day of course, and I have been

about house in the morning as usual.  A Augustus dined

with us, come up in the stage.  Made a hair cloth back to

another rocking chair  Went to Mr Whitwells with Mr

Ames this evening, met with Alson & wife.  It is a

beautiful moonshiny evening and we have had a

pleasant ride and have enjoyed myself very much.  Mr &

Mrs Whitwell I like very much  Father killed another

yoke of oxen to day and we have a quarter & the tripe.

Boiled that we had last week to day.

Monday is Wash Day.  This might be a Yankee commandment, were there a written code.  History has it that the first day the Pilgrims got off the Mayflower was a Monday, and the first thing the women did after all those weeks at sea was to wash their clothes.  The timing stuck, and remained a custom for centuries.  On Mondays at the Ames house, Jane McHanna washed the family clothes and linens while Evelina did almost everything else in terms of housework and cooking.  Evelina was not fond of putting her hands into soapy water.

The roads around town must have improved.  This evening, Evelina and Oakes finally got over to the Whitwells’ house, presumbly for a delayed acknowledgment of Mr. Ames and Mr. Whitwell’s shared birthday.  Evelina clearly enjoyed herself.  Another couple was there: Alson and Henrietta Gilmore. Alson is Evelina’s older brother.  He owns the old family farm in the southeast corner of Easton, just north of the town of Raynham.  He and his wife have six children together, as well as a son from Alson’s first marriage.  This is Alson “Augustus” Gilmore, who had midday dinner at the Ames house today.  Augustus lives in Boston as the year opens but will soon move back to North Easton.  He does courier work for the Ames brothers.

Evelina is close to her nieces and nephews; their presence in her life, and her affection for them, is evident throughout the diary.  Less certain is the regard that other members of the Ames family held for the Gilmores; family lore has it that the two families moved in different social circles and that even into the 20th century, the Gilmore clan was looked down on by members of the Ames clan. From Evelina’s happy description of the day, however, we can surmise that she was unaware, on this lovely, “moonshiny” night, anyway, of any discrimination.

January 12, 1851

Preach

/51 Jan 12 Sunday  Have been to church all day and heard two

excellent sermons from Mr Whitwell.  The afternoon text was

“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old

he will not depart from it”  Passed this evening at Mr Willard

Lothrop with Mr Ames & met with Minister Norris & Mr Torrey

This noon I stopped to hear Mr Whitwells class in the Sabbath

School afterwards went into Mr Daniel Reeds with Mother

Very warm + pleasant for the time of the year

The Ames family, Unitarians all, attended meeting today and stayed for both services, which encompassed a morning program, an intermission, and an afternoon program.  In their family pew, Evelina, Oakes, Oakes Angier, Oliver (3), Frank Morton and Susan sat with or near Old Oliver, Sarah Witherell and her children, George and Emily.  Also nearby, if not in the same pew, sat Oliver Jr, Sarah Lothrop Ames and their children, Fred and Helen, faces upturned to hear Reverend Whitwell deliver the day’s two sermons.  Eight-year old Susie may have squirmed in her seat; she wasn’t inclined to sit still for the second service.  And Oakes Ames was known to fall asleep, however inspiring Mr. Whitwell’s words were to Evelina.

In 1851, the Unitarians congregated at a church in Easton Centre, a few miles south of the village of North Easton (but still within the boundaries of the Town of Easton, Massachusetts.)  Like many families, the Ameses had to travel by carriage or sleigh to attend Sunday service.  The adults would have ridden, or “been carried,” as the expression went,  but the children may have had to walk the distance.  Children walking to church, regardless of distance, was common.  If this was true for the Ames family, we might imagine that cousins Oliver (3) and Fred walked together, as they were close friends.

At intermission, children went into Sunday School and the adults socialized.  Winthrop Ames, a grandson-to-be, described the scene in his family history (from 1937):

“They tethered their horses in a long, open shed and stayed through both morning and afternoon services, eating the luncheons they had brought and gossiping with the townsfolk during the intermission.”

On this winter Sunday Evelina and her mother, Hannah Lothrop Gilmore visited at the nearby home of Daniel and Mary Reed.  Socializing continued in the evening as Evelina and Oakes called on Willard Lothrop.