May 21, 1851



May 21

Wednesday  This day have been to Boston and had a hard days

work but accomplished very little  Had a green silk

bonnet made for me which fitted […] no better than the

other that I sent back. Mr Remick paid back the four

dollars and I was glad to get off so well after all my 

trouble.  Spent most of the time with Sarah [and] Oliver in

looking for her things.  Bought me a pair of cuff pins

Called at Martin Halls store about some sugar

The search for the perfect bonnet continued today. It was back to Boston, to Alfred Remick & Co. to pick up a bonnet that Evelina had ordered – green silk this time instead of blue plaid – and it still didn’t fit. She had left the instructions up to her husband, Oakes.  Had he gotten it wrong or was the milliner once again at fault? So much for “all my trouble.”

Like yesterday’s diary entry, the tone of this one is self-deprecatory, even grumpy. Gone is the light-hearted pleasure she had expressed earlier in the month when gadding about buying plants for the garden in the company of Orinthia Foss or her nieces. Evelina couldn’t seem to get things to go her way. Her inability to find a bonnet was proving irksome, and the best she could manage was to tag along with her sister-in-law, Sarah Ames, and brother-in-law, Oliver Ames Jr., while they did some shopping. She did buy a pair of cuff pins, however, which was consolation of a sort.

While they were at Faneuil Hall, Evelina purchased or ordered or, at the very least, inquired about some sugar from a grocer there. Faneuil Hall was – and is – a prominent, historic building in Boston. In the middle of the 19th century, it featured a spreading marketplace, called Market Square, where merchants such as Martin Hall sold their wares.  Upstairs there was a large hall for civic gatherings. The illustration above, by Winslow Homer, shows Faneuil Hall in 1861, at the very start of the Civil War, ten years after Evelina bought sugar there. The image of a regiment of Massachusetts volunteers famously marching off to Washington was published in Harper’s Weekly, a periodical to which Evelina and Oakes subscribed.


May 20, 1851



Tuesday 20th  Washed the front entry windows

& front chamber and put the room in order, have

not been idle but cannot see much that I have done.

Have ripped the pieces of the carpet that formerly

belonged in the parlour and have it already for the 

sitting rooms  Susan runs wild with the other 

children.  I do hope after house cleaning is over that

I shall attend to her better and make her sew.

Rain this evening

Spring cleaning continued today with window washing and carpet rearrangement, the latter a seemingly endless task. Evelina, thrifty housewife that she was, reused old pieces of carpet in new places. The parlor got the newest and best carpet while the less formal sitting room got the recycled floor covering. By ripping, cutting, cleaning and placing, she did the recycling herself.

If Evelina was all about working, her daughter Susan was all about playing. Running “wild with the other children” probably felt pretty good to the nine-year old girl, who was enjoying a week of no school.  Her mother might have wished to make her sit and sew, but the fresh air and companionship of friends from the village was too much fun for Susie to resist.

In this diary entry, Evelina expressed something close to dismay. She didn’t feel she was accomplishing much, either in her housekeeping or in her management of her daughter.  Part of this feeling might have stemmed from memories of her own childhood on a farm where everyone, young or old, had chores and responsibilities. There was always work to be done, and playing instead of working was a rare option. Perhaps Evelina looked at her carefree daughter with puzzlement and guilt.  Susie should be working and it was probably Evelina’s fault that she was playing instead.


May 19, 1851


May 1851

Monday 19th  Orinthia left here to commence her school in

No 2 district  I shall miss her very much

this morning had to wash the dishes and clean 

the sitting room &c which she has done for

some time.  Afterward worked in the garden

untill noon, planted some Pansy & Lupin seeds

Called in Olivers awhile  We have a gardener

commenced work to day.  Pleasant weather

Orinthia Foss left today to board with another family.  She had lived with the Ameses since February when she arrived from Maine to teach a small group of students in North Easton. Evidently, she had done her job well, and as a consequence had been hired by the school superintending committee to teach elsewhere in town. She would be missed by the Ames family, as she had made herself at home there, helping Evelina with sewing and chores and joining in various social activities with the Ames sons. Evelina especially would miss her, and not just because Orinthia had been so helpful in the house. The two had become good friends.

So, all by herself, Evelina worked in the garden this morning, planting pansy and lupin seeds. Pansy, also known in the 19th century as “heart’s ease,” was relatively easy to plant and grow. Lupin, on the other hand, was (and still is) trickier.  Though “found, frequently, in large masses,” “this fine perennial”, according to Joseph Breck in his 1851 Book of Flowers, is “very difficult, even impossible, to transplant, with success.” Seed, and seed alone, must be used. Evelina needed her green thumb today.

That said, Evelina wrote in her diary that a gardener had “commenced work to day.” Who hired him, and what was his job?  Was he hired just for the flower beds? Did he also work for Sarah Witherell, or next door for Oliver Jr. and Sarah Lothrop Ames? Whatever his job, he wasn’t going to be as much fun to work with as Orinthia had been.





May 18, 1851

DCF 1.0 *


Sun 18st  Went to church this morning and heard our

new Organ for the first time  Mr Roach

does not understand playing on it very well,

but it is a fine toned one I should think.  Came

home at noon with Mr Ames got some violet

roots for my garden […] Went

back to meeting this afternoon  Since have been

reading & visiting   Orinthia & OAA called on S E Williams


Albert A. Roach, later spelled “Rotch,” was pretty well known throughout Easton.  A resident of the Furnace Village section of town and a manufacturer of cotton thread, Rotch held several civic offices and even moderated at Town Meeting.  But his pride must have been particularly gratified when, back in 1841, he had been chosen as the very first leader of Easton’s very first military band. According to historian William Chaffin, the band’s first performance – or gig, as we might say today –  was playing for the Norton Artillery in May, 1842, where “their remuneration was one dollar each, the band members paying their own expenses.”**  First known as the Easton Brass Band, they later became known at the Second Brigade Brass Band.

Unfortunately, Mr. Rotch’s talent on the horn or trumpet evidently didn’t turn him into an effective organist.  Evelina’s polite assessment of his inaugural performance on the new church organ suggests that Mr. Rotch’s notes did not hit their target.  The tone, evidently, was fine but the pitch, perhaps, was uncertain.  The congregation, including Evelina, soldiered on, however, and returned to church for the afternoon service, despite the discordant sound from the new instrument.

The thought of pretty little violets eventually growing in her garden must have offered strong consolation.



**William Chaffin, History of Easton, 1886, pp. 607 -608.



May 17, 1851



May 17  About eight Oclock this morning

Orinthia & I rode to Mr Manlys to get some plants for

our garden  He kept us there a long while talking

about them and calling over the long names untill we

almost despaired of getting any  At last we got a few

and come home & set them out & called at Mr

Savages, got a few there  This afternoon we have had

a shower.  I mended the stockings &c &c


With help from her boarder and young friend, Orinthia, Evelina was making headway everyday in her garden. Early this Saturday morning, the two women rode once again to Edwin Manley’s for plants. Mr. Manley, a knowledgeable and somewhat eccentric fellow, kept the ladies “there a long while” discussing the selection of plants, going over their Latin names and properties. Let’s hope that Evelina’s impatience to be on her way didn’t spoil his clear appreciation of the flowers he could offer her.

From Mr. Manley’s, the eager gardeners went on to yet another source for plants. William Savage was an employee at the shovel shop. Unlike Mr. Manley and Mr. Clapp, he lived in the neighborhood of North Easton. He grew petunias, which were a fairly new flower for the home gardener, among other plants. Evelina was collecting all kinds of specimens for her parlor garden.

Other growers were less sanguine than Evelina about the prospect of the coming growing season.  Old Oliver, Evelina’s crusty father-in-law, noted in his daily journal that  “this was a fair day in the forenoon with a strong south west wind it was cloudy in the afternoon + a verry little rain and rather cool. the ground is verry wett + the season backward about doing the planting”.  Backward season or not, the planting – and gardening – had to go forward.

May 16, 1851



May Friday 16th  We have been working in the chambers again

to day  I have put a straw carpet down in the 

dark bedroom chamber and moved the bed from

the sitting room chamber into it.  Have taken

the carpet from the sitting room chamber and

cleaned the room.  Orinthia & I have been working

in the garden awhile this afternoon Susan past

the afternoon at Mr Torreys

The tail end of spring cleaning was going on as carpets were laid back down and furniture rearranged. Imagine the energy it took for Evelina, Jane McHanna and, maybe, Orinthia Foss to move furniture, take up carpet, beat carpet, clean floors, put carpet back down and move furniture back into place.  The men didn’t help them with this, as the men all had their own work.  The women did this housework themselves.

Many will recognize the household “appliance” pictured in the illustration.  It’s a rug beater, used to thwack the dust out of carpet as it hung out-of-doors being aired.  Until Bissell’s carpet sweeper appeared in the 1880’s, and the electric vacuum cleaner came around the turn of the century, this is how rugs were cleaned.

The garden probably looked pretty good to Evelina and Orinthia after the dust and dirt of the morning. A different kind of soil. The women must have planted some things that Evelina picked up yesterday on her trip to Mr. Manley and Mr. Clapp in Stoughton.  Her garden was taking shape.

May 15, 1851


Ames Long Pond

May 15

Thursday  I was intending to go to Boston with Mrs S Ames

this morning but she has the ague in her face

which prevented and lucky for me that I did

not go for about twelve Oclock Lavinia, Ann Pool,

and Francis, came and this afternoon Abby.  We all

rode to Edwins and Mr Clapps garden and to the ponds

Jane cleaned the […] buttery, and I was working

in the chambers when they came


Sarah Ames was sick once again, this time with what was probably a head cold, so a planned outing to Boston was called off. Sarah had been quite ill for much of the spring; perhaps she hadn’t given herself enough time to recover and was now suffering a relapse.

Normally, Evelina would have been disappointed to miss a trip to Boston, especially as she still needed to buy a bonnet, but a visit from a set of young relatives made for a happy alternative.  Her nieces Lavinia Gilmore and Abby Torrey, nephew Francis Gilmore, and a young friend of theirs, Ann Pool, arrived and rescued her from choring. With Francis holding the reins, presumably, the group rode north toward Stoughton, where they stopped at two farms to look at garden plants, one farm belonging to Edwin Manley, the other to Lucius Clapp.

They also rode by the ponds, including Ames Long Pond, which sits on the boundary between Easton and Stoughton. Most likely they also rode by Flyaway Pond which had been created only six years earlier, in 1845, to supply more water power from the Queset River to the shovel factory. Queset, according to historian Ed Hands, was “the most heavily used of all the drainage systems” in the watersheds of Easton.*  The shovel business would never have started in Easton had it not been for the Queset (Brook) River; O. Ames & Sons absolutely relied on it for decades.

Flyaway Pond is no longer configured the way Evelina and her companions would have seen it during their pleasant afternoon ride. It collapsed during a huge flood in March, 1968, wreaking havoc and causing considerable property damage.   As Hands points out, that 20th century flood washed away an important symbol of the Ames period in Easton, that of the control of the Queset River for commercial purposes.  Evelina couldn’t imagine that future for Flyaway Pond, of course; she could only enjoy riding past it and Ames Long Pond – and others, perhaps? –  in the spring air.

*Edmund C. Hands, Easton’s Neighborhoods, 1995



May 14, 1851


Evelina, Oakes and Susan Ames, ca. 1860 Archives at Stonehill College, Easton, Massachusetts

Evelina, Oakes and Susan Ames, ca. 1860
Archives at Stonehill College, Easton, Massachusetts

Wednesday May 14  Susans birth day and she has had a little

party.  Julia has been here to work on Orinthias

dresses.  Ellen Howard called this evening

came from Jasons. Mrs Holmes called a 

few moments this morning.  I have swept

and dusted the front chamber and taken the 

carpet from the stairs and painted them It

has been a confused day. Pleasant this afternoon

Augustus gone to Boston


Another interruptious day, filled by “confused” and overlapping events: Susie Ames’s birthday party, Julia Mahoney’s work on dresses for Orinthia Foss, calls from Ellen Howard and Harriet Holmes, the usual choring in the downstairs rooms, not to mention Evelina’s removing the carpet from the stairs and painting the treads. What commotion.

Susan Eveline Ames, the only daughter and youngest child of Evelina and Oakes Ames, turned nine years old today and was treated to a little party. Did she have friends over or was the party strictly en famille? Did she have cake? Ginger snaps? Presents? What was a nine-year-old’s birthday party like in 1851?

Born in 1842, Susie Ames came along several years after all her big brothers were born. From the beginning, she was raised differently from them. While they were slated to work, earn and provide, her education and training were oriented toward a future of domestic responsibilities. Like most girls of the time, she was brought up assuming that she would marry and raise a family. If she failed to marry, she would have to make her way as a spinster aunt living with one or more of her brothers, or become a schoolteacher like Orinthia Foss. Which route was hers?  Marriage.

On January 1, 1861, Susan married Henry W. French, a wool merchant. She was 18 years old; he was 27. For many years, the couple lived in the Ames house with her parents, and possibly looked after the house during the periods when congressman Oakes and Evelina were in Washington. For a time, Susan and Henry lived in their own home on Main Street, on the site where the Oakes Ames Memorial Hall came to be built circa 1880.

As Evelina moved into widowhood and grappled with illness and age, Susan looked after her. She and Henry never had any children, so the particulars of her story weren’t passed on to interested offspring. She only comes to life in her mother and brother Oliver’s journals.





May 13, 1851



Tues May 13  Mrs Witherell heat her oven and I baked

a loaf of brown bread & some cake & tarts with

her  Orinthia made some sifted dried apple pies

Mr Robinson here to paper the dark bedroom

chamber. Mr Pratt called this morning for Orinthia

to go to meet him & Brown for an examination

We went to Mr Pratts this afternoon and

called at Mr Whitwells


Mr. Robinson, all-purpose painter-and-paperer, was back at Evelina and Oakes’s house today to paper one of the bedrooms. It may be the one that Frank Morton Ames had to move out of some days ago while it was being refurbished.

Orinthia Foss, meanwhile, underwent some kind of scholastic examination.  Evidently, she was being considered to teach at the town’s public school system for which she had to undergo at least an interview.  Her interviewer was Amos Pratt, a former school teacher himself, and member of the Easton school superintending committee (the one on which Oakes Angier had hoped to serve, but had missed by one vote.)  Her other interviewer was Erastus Brown, a butcher by trade who also served on the school committee and taught. Not unlike today, some folks from 160 years ago had to pursue more than one trade to make ends meet. Pratt, who lived in the Furnace Village area of Easton, some miles south and west of North Easton, eventually gave up his teaching career to run a mill.

Before being escorted by Mr. Pratt to her interview, Orinthia helped Evelina and Sarah Witherell with baking.  Evelina made brown bread, cake and tarts; Orinthia made an unseasonal apple pie from dried apples. The apples were remnants of last fall’s harvest, and ordinarily Orinthia would have had to plump them up with hot water or cider or some other liquid in order to form the pie.  How the apples would have been “sifted” is a puzzle; did this mean that the apples were in powder form?  All you cooks out there: what is a sifted dried apple pie?



May 12, 1851


Monday May 12th  Was about house all the forenoon but

cannot tell what doing  Jane has done the washing.

Orinthia washed the dishes for her. This afternoon

Orinthia and I have been out to plant the flower seeds

and I got some Shad berry & Burgundy Rose bushes

from Olivers & flowering Almonds from Alsons We 

were at work in the garden three or four hours

A sure sign of spring in New England is the blooming of the shadbush.  Because its little white flowers are among the earliest to be seen, its blossoms were often used at springtime funerals in the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Thus shadbush is also called the “serviceberry” bush for its appearance at funeral services; in some other locations it’s known as the “Juneberry” bush.  Wherever and whenever it grew, its presentation of blossoms was as welcome as the first robin.  The red berries it produced could be used in pies or, if not harvested, would be consumed by those same robins and other birds like cedar waxwings.

The shadberry bushes at Evelina’s were most likely planted out back behind the house near the Queset Brook, where they would tolerate the partial shade and indifferent soil.  However, the Burgundy Rose bushes that Evelina also obtained from her obliging brother-in-law, Oliver Jr., would have required a more selective location in the sun.  Were those roses planted right in Evelina’s flower beds?  Were they as red as their name sounds?

Her brother, Alson Gilmore, provided Evelina with flowering Almond bushes (Latin name is Prunus triloba.)  In contrast to the white serviceberry and the red roses, the flowering almonds produced pink blossoms.  Evelina was evidently aiming for a rosy spectrum in her yard. The flowering almonds like sun, so where might she have planted them?

The work of planting the various bushes took Evelina and Orinthia several hours to complete, and must have given them a real sense of accomplishment – not to mention sore backs.