April 10th Thursday This day is Fast but no one would
think it by the way I have spent it. I have
moved the bed from the dark bedroom and
put it in Franks chamber and moved his
cot into Oakes & Olivers chamber for a few
weeks Oakes A Lavinia Orinthia & Susan went
over to the Methodist meeting house to a sing & called
on Ellen H took her with them. Weather Pleasant
For nearly 275 years, Fast Day was a published holiday in Massachusetts and other New England states (like New Hampshire, above, which celebrated Fast Day on April 3.) A religious practice brought over from England by the Puritans, the original Fast Days were pious rites of repentance and supplication marked by abstinence and day-long prayer in church, “a day set apart that all might join in the prayer to the Almighty for strength and wisdom”.* Any calamity, misfortune, drought or disease, regardless of season, might prompt a church leader to call for fasting.
Dating from about 1622, the earliest Fast Days were under the purview of the local clergy, but the practice eventually became widespread enough to become the domain of the state governments. And where once they were observed on an ad hoc basis as the need for divine intervention arose, Fast Days gradually became a single, annual holiday, usually observed in early April right before spring planting. Over the years, it became a more secular observance and by the latter part of the 19th century, “Not much fasting is done and less praying.”* In 1894, the governor of Masschusetts abolished the practice of Fast Day and substituted a new holiday, “Patriots’ Day,” in honor of the 1775 Battles of Lexington and Concord and the anniversary of the first bloodshed of the Civil War at a skirmish in which four Massachusetts militiamen died.
Evelina’s entry in her diary proves that Fast Day was anything but a day of prayer and supplication at the Ames’s. Instead, this temperate day in early April marked the start of spring cleaning. Evelina and Jane and perhaps others began upstairs, moving furniture around in order to clean and refurbish two or three of the bedrooms. Much would be disrupted before they were through.
The temporary upshot was that Frank Morton Ames moved into the bedroom shared by his two older brothers. This rearrangement of their sleeping quarters brought the three brothers together in dormitory fashion, yet each maintained his own personal agenda. Tonight, Oakes Angier headed out to a sing at the Methodist meeting house right in the village, taking along a small coterie of females: Cousin Lavinia, sister Susie, the boarding teacher, Orinthia and their mutual friend, Ellen Howard. Spring was in full swing.
*New York Times, April 20, 1896