May 31, 1851




May 31st Saturday  This morning baked in Mrs Witherells oven

brown bread & cake  Mrs S Ames went to Boston

Returned to night with Harriet & a Miss Eaton

from Pittsburgh.  Miss Linscot Orinthia & I […]

have been walking & riding about all day.  have

been to all the shops, ponds, Mr Manley & Claps

flower gardens, & called at Mr Torreys

It has been a beautiful day, rather cold.  A A not here

gone to Boston

Evelina used her sister-in-law’s brick oven early this morning and afterwards ventured outside to enjoy the “beautiful day” with her young house guests. She gave them the standard tour of much that North Easton offered: shovel shops, large ponds, full streams, two farms with extensive flower gardens, and a stop at Col. John Torrey’s, in the village. The latter was probably a sociable occasion that included tea with Abby Torrey.

Sarah Lothrop Ames, meanwhile, went into Boston for the day and returned with Harriett Ames Mitchell and a friend from Pittsburgh, where Harriett had lately been living. There was still no sign of Harriett’s husband, Asa Mitchell, who was, presumably, yet in Pennsylvania on business. Oakes Ames would have been in Boston today, too, perhaps with Augustus Gilmore.

The Ames boys wouldn’t have been pleasuring about – they were at the shovel shops, working.

* Building in modern-day North Easton that once belonged to Col. John Torrey


May 30, 1851




May 30th Friday  Have been sweeping & dusting the

chambers put things in order in the shed chamber 

again.  Jane has cleaned the boys chamber  Frank left

their room last night.  Have sewed a very little

Frances Linscott came to see Orinthia in the 

stage to night and Frank went to Mr Howards

after her  It was past nine when they got

here  It is very cold for the season

Mrs Johnson buried to day in the new Cemetery


The first burial in the new cemetery in South Easton took place today. Catherine Lothrop Johnson, the wife of Thomas J. Johnson of Newtonville, and their infant son were buried there.  Catherine was 35 years old.  She would not have had a service in a church; rather, there would have been a gathering of friends and relatives at the Johnson home, after which some or all would have ridden or walked to the burial site for the committal ceremony.  To bury a mother and her baby was a double sorrow, obviously, but not all that unusual in a period when childbirth carried such risk.

Orinthia, meanwhile, came back to the Ames’s for a visit, bringing along a friend from out of town, Miss Frances Linscott.  The two young women arranged to stay at the Ames’s house. Certainly part of the reason for this was Orinthia’s fondness for the Ames family, especially Evelina.  Is it possible, however, that the Ames sons were also an attraction?

The three Ames sons who had been sharing one bedroom returned to previous sleeping arrangements today.  Oakes Angier and Oliver (3) stayed in the room they shared and Frank Morton Ames returned to his own smaller quarters.  After tea, Frank took a carriage south to Elijah Howard’s home, where Orinthia had been staying, to carry her and her friend to North Easton.





May 29, 1851




May 29th Thursday  Worked in the garden upon weeds untill about

eleven Oclock & then put clean curtains up in the

sitting room & dining room.  have taken up the 

carpet & had the dining room cleaned

Early this afternoon changed my dress and sit down

to sewing which I have not done before for a long

while  worked on Susans dresses that Julia cut.

It has rained all the afternoon had fire in furnace


Today was an anniversary of sorts.  According to Old Oliver Ames, exactly one year earlier, Sarah Witherell and Sarah Ames had been injured in a carriage accident: “Sarah + Olivers wife went to Foxborough today and they got hove out of the carriage + hurt some.”  Fortunately, no lasting harm seems to have occurred to either woman.

What had happened?  Had their horse taken a fright and tried to run away? Carriage accidents were usually the result of horses bolting, spooking or crashing.*  Sudden noises – a dog barking, a wave crashing, a flock of birds lifting off, a train whistle – could startle a horse and make it run. Some statistics suggest that horse travel was more dangerous than today’s car travel. For a time, in cities like New York and Chicago, more people per capita were killed in horse-related accidents than are killed now in automobiles.  Travel, then as now, was risky.

Probably oblivious to any recollection of last year’s accident, Evelina managed to spend several hours weeding in her flower garden before rain arrived. In the afternoon she bent to some sewing and worked on dresses for Susan.  Given how fast children grow, Susie’s dresses needed to be completed sooner rather than later.  No doubt Evelina put tucks into these newest clothes for her daughter, intending to make them last.


May 28, 1851



Wednesday May 28  Another busy day about house and what have

I done  I am sure I cannot tell how I do spend

my time  I have lengthened the valance for the 

new bedstead which took some time  Mrs Witherell

and Mrs S Ames have been to Dr Washburns to

have something done to their teeth.  Mrs Ames had

a new one put in  I have planted some Asters

Alousom & princes feathers &c.  Very pleasant

Either Evelina was getting absent-minded or her work load was so varied today that she just couldn’t keep track of all that she did. “What did I do all day?” she wondered when she sat down in the evening (or the next morning, perhaps) to record the day’s events in her diary.

For one thing, she worked on the textile that was to go with the new bedstead, a task that had to have been more pleasant than what her sisters-in-law, the two Sarahs, faced. They went to see a dentist, Dr. Nahum Washburn in Bridgewater. Dentistry in the nineteenth century was primitive compared to what it is today, and often involved extraction as a solution to toothache. A visit to the dentist was nothing to look forward to. Sarah Ames came home with a new tooth tucked somewhere in her mouth.

Working in her flower garden, of course, was another way Evelina spent her time. Today’s new plants included asters, alyssum, and prince’s feathers, a trio of choices that offered different texture and size.  Was she putting in seeds or seedlings?

May 27, 1851




Tues May 27th  My beadstead was brought this

forenoon  It is very pretty but much to large shall

have it made shorter.  Have had the center table

lowered & new castors put on it.  Put straw carpet in

Franks chamber and it is ready for him to come back

into.  Have not sewed any to day I seem to have been

busy but have not accomplished much for a long while

Pleasant weather  Mr Ames went to Canton this 


Redecorating continued.  Not only had things been cleaned and painted or papered, but new furniture was being brought in, and old furniture reconfigured.  Casters, beloved of Victorian housewives, were put in place so that furniture could be rolled for better cleaning.

What prompted Evelina’s burst of refurbishment? New wallpaper, new carpet, new furniture. Did she do some redecorating every spring or was this a departure from the norm? It may be that the new expenditures were relatively recent and stemmed from the increasing prosperity of the Ames shovel business as well as a contemporaneous, burgeoning access to material goods that had once been scarce. In other words, with American manufacturing on the rise,  Evelina and Oakes – and Sarah Lothrop and Oliver Jr. – could now afford and obtain desirable textiles, furnishings and decorative items for their homes.  They went to Bridgewater, Boston and New York, and bought.

One thing was certain. Evelina wouldn’t have proceeded with any of this without Oakes’s approval.  Implicit in her purchases was his consent, tacit or enthused.  For a man who spent nothing on his personal appearance, it’s interesting to understand that he would spend money on decorating his house. It’s also curious to wonder what Old Oliver might have thought about the upgrading at the old family homestead.


May 26, 1851


Monday May 26  After washing the dishes this morning sit

down to work on the carpet for the sitting

room chamber and had but just got seated

when Augustus & wife & her brother & wife from

east Boston came. Hannah staid here while 

the others went to the shop  They left about 

ten Oclock.  Have put the carpet down and 

room ready for the new bedstead.  School commenced


Housework and laundry, presumably, went on as usual today except for a social interruption in the morning.  Augustus Gilmore and his wife, Hannah, stopped in with Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln, Hannah’s brother and his wife. Evelina described them as coming from East Boston, although Hannah had grown up in Hingham. After some brief socializing with his aunt, Augustus took his in-laws across the street to show them the shovel factory.

Hannah Gilmore didn’t accompany her husband, probably because she was about seven months pregnant. She and Evelina sat together in the parlor or sitting room, perhaps using the opportunity to discuss female matters, perhaps not. Such conversations were not considered polite, but surely two mothers together in a room could share information without being intrusive or indelicate. Given that Hannah was already the mother of a two-year old boy, Eddie, Evelina may have shared some tips on raising sons. Certainly, Evelina was a woman to whom younger women turned for advice and companionship.

The day must have been a fine one; school recommenced, carriages were out and about and, most exciting of all, Old Oliver reported that he “began to plant our corn.”  It was a time to sow.



May 25, 1851




25 May Sunday  Have been to church all day. Went to Mr

Whitwells at noon with Mother and Mrs Whitwell

made us take a cup of tea Also Mrs Elijah Howard & Miss

Louisa H.  Had quite a spirited chat about Mr

Wm Reed & Mr Dean. After meeting Mr Ames & Oliver

& wife rode to the burying grounds  Cannot 

feel reconciled to having it where it is. Oakes A Susan

& Orinthia went to a sing & Oakes carried Orinthia home.


A cup of tea and good, “spirited chat” among the women during intermission brightened Evelina’s Sunday.  Who were Mr. Reed and Mr. Dean that they evoked such consideration from the female population?  There were several men of either name who lived in Easton at the time.

When church was over, Evelina, Oakes, Oliver Jr. and Sarah Lothrop Ames drove together to look at the new cemetery in South Easton. Created by the Easton Cemetery Corporation, it was one of almost thirty graveyards in the town.  For reasons lost to history, this newest burial-ground had been deemed desirable and consequently established by men well-known to the Ameses, including Elijah Howard and Dr. Caleb Swan.  Perhaps their intention had been to create at burial place that would be tended to as time passed, as many smaller, family graveyards throughout the town were not. Perhaps they were responding to personal inclinations to group Unitarians together for eternity.

Whatever the thinking behind the new burial-ground, Evelina was dubious.  Did she look at it and think she and Oakes might be buried there someday?  Did she wish instead to be buried near her son Henry, wherever that was? Or did she think of another graveyard where her father and certain siblings were buried? Little could she imagine that twenty-five years hence, the Village Cemetery of North Easton would be created behind a Unitarian Church that hadn’t yet been built, both projects funded by Oliver Jr, and that there she, her husband, and all her children would eventually be laid to rest.


May 24, 1851



May 24th Saturday.  Have been about the house at work

most of day.  After dinner carried my old sitting

room carpet out on the grass to wash the spots

and worked awhile in the garden  About two

Oclock Orinthia came.  She walked to Mr Elijah

Howards before breakfast and he brought her up 

She stoped to dine with Abby.  We called at the

store and at Mr Holmes.  Cow calved.

Housework and gardening informed most of Evelina’s day until a visit from Orinthia in the afternoon, at which point Evelina put down the stained carpet pieces or sat up from weeding to welcome back her young friend. The two women went shopping in the village at the Ames company store, and called on Harriet Holmes.  They must have been glad to be back together, even though Orinthia had only left a week earlier. Perhaps Abby Torrey joined them on their errands and calls.

Evelina’s work on the old carpet took place out of doors, somewhere in the yard of the house on Main Street. It only made sense to wash a large piece of rug outside in good light with a place for the water to run off.  The job was messy by definition, but needed to be done and to Evelina, how the project might have looked to passersby was perhaps less important than how effectively the spots were removed. Front yards were becoming more formal, so perhaps Evelina worked on the carpet in the back of the house where the laundry, presumably, was hung, out of sight of the street. We might imagine that Sarah Lothrop Ames, next door, would certainly be discreet in her management of a similar task, a task, in fact, she would most likely delegate to others.

Old Oliver had to have been pleased today. One of his cows calved, adding to his herd. It’s curious that Evelina, who rarely mentions the agricultural side of their lives, made mention of what must have been a predictable springtime event. She wasn’t often engaged by the external activities of either the farm or the factory.  She stayed focused on her house and her yard, but today something about the new calf drew her attention.

May 23, 1851


May 23d Friday  Have finished putting the sitting room in

order and it looks very much better with my new

carpet  About 11 Oclock Mrs S Ames & I started

for North Bridgewater & returned at four.  Called

at Susan Copeland to get her to sew over my straw

bonnet.  It looks like a fright but I shall have

to wear it two weeks more as she cannot do it any

sooner  Mr Whitwell called.  Last night it rained very hard

Various members of the Ames family were on the road today.  Evelina and her sister-in-law, Sarah Lothrop Ames, rode to North Bridgewater on errands.  Sarah seemed to be feeling better after being sick for much of the spring, and Evelina seemed still to be focused on finding a summer bonnet.  She’d have to content herself with looking “like a fright” for a while longer.

Old Oliver Ames, meanwhile, rode home from Plymouth, where he had been since Wednesday on a court matter.  He wrote, “I went as evidence, in a case betwen thomas Ames and Dwelly [illegible]*.” Thomas Ames was a distant cousin, but what the case was about and what Oliver’s role in it isn’t known. Whatever Oliver’s testimony, people on both sides of the case would have paid attention to him. Old Oliver wasn’t known to prevaricate or equivocate.  What he saw or thought, he said.

The rain of which Evelina spoke was probably part of a front that had moved across from the midwest, depositing heavy rain in its path.  Des Moines, Iowa, in fact, was suffering from “The Great Flood of 1851,” an historic deluge that would go on for days. Today anyone can turn on a television or check an app to see what the weather is, but citizens in 1851 could only learn about flooding as it arrived in their area or, if it happened elsewhere, by reading about it a few days later in the newspapers.  We might think we are still at the mercy of the weather, and we are, but at least nowadays we can generally anticipate what might be coming our way in the immediate future.  Not so in 1851.

* Possibly “Goward”

May 22, 1851



Thursday May 22d  The first thing after breakfast set out

a plant that Orinthia sent me last night.  Then

went to work in the sitting room taking up the 

carpet cleaning the closets &c  have finished cleaning

the room and the carpet partly down.  Aunt Orr

& Harriet, James Mitchell came to visit Mrs

Witherell about two Oclock and I left my work to

see them  Quite pleasant

Ordinarily, Evelina was tired and listless after a day in Boston, but not today. Orinthia Foss sent her a plant, a sweet token of friendship and thanks, and “the first thing” Evelina did was head to the garden to plant it. Before doing her chores! The plant meant a lot to her and the gesture from her young friend buoyed the day.

Carpet cleaning, closet cleaning, &c, &c, as Evelina would say, took up the morning and some of the afternoon. Guests arrived in the other part of the house, making a welcome interruption from housework.

The Orrs and Mitchells were old connections from Bridgewater, and their families had long been intertwined with the Ameses. Some of the earliest Ameses had settled in Bridgewater and, as a young man, Old Oliver had lived there. As we’ve noted before, Evelina boarded with one branch of the Orr family whenever she stayed over in Boston.  Aunt Orr was probably Susan Orr, a close friend who could remember when Oakes Ames was a baby.

There were many Mitchells in Bridgewater. James Mitchell, who ended up as a merchant in Philadelphia, was one of them.  He was married to a woman from Belfast, Maine named Harriett Lavinia Angier (possibly a distant relative in the Angier line.) He and his wife didn’t appear often in the Ames written records, but they were among the few non-family members who, years after this, would attend the funeral of Horatio Ames.  Perhaps James Mitchell and Horatio Ames had been friends growing up.

Mrs. James Mitchell’s married name was Harriett Angier Mitchell, almost the same as Harriett Ames Mitchell, Oakes’s youngest sister who was married to Asa Mitchell. The Harriett who accompanied James Mitchell today was most likely his wife, not Oakes’s sister. Confusing to us, certainly, but straightforward to them. Otherwise, a pleasant day in all respects.