June 30, 1851



June 30 Monday  Jane has been washing to day but I

have done but very little of any thing. having a

very sore finger & thumb it is quite painful

have to let out the matter quite often  It has been

quite painful since Friday.  It is a very warm

uncomfortable day  I have worked some in the 

flower garden

Today was another Monday, another washday ably managed by the Ames’s servant, Jane McHanna. Evelina, who usually undertook other household chores on a Monday, wasn’t up for choring. She had a bad infection on her thumb and finger that prevented her washing the breakfast dishes, sweeping, or helping to prepare dinner. She was in pain and somewhat handicapped.

Perhaps she had cut her hand, or had worked up a few blisters, or had a bad scrape.  She could have done something in the kitchen or garden, or while sewing the tough horsehair cover for the new lounge. However she hurt herself, a skin infection was nothing to make light of in 1851.  In that age before antibiotics, Evelina had few remedies at hand beyond keeping her hand clean and perhaps applying a homemade linament or poultice. Her wound was the kind of injury that could turn septic; that she was squeezing “the matter” – or pus – out of it shows that she was conscious of a certain level of risk.

And yet, she found a way to work in the garden, so she couldn’t have been too frightened.



June 29, 1851

portrait of yoiung man yawning



June 29th Sunday  Went this forenoon to meeting

came home again did not feel like going

back again as it [was] very warm and I was very

sleepy and thought I might as well sleep at 

home as at church  After meeting at night

Mr Ames & I walked to Mr Peckhams to see

Mrs Swain.  She is a very pleasant woman I

should judge.

Small wonder that Evelina nearly fell asleep in church this morning. Reverend Whitwell’s sermons usually held her attention, but she was tired. She’d been busy all week, augmenting her usual chores and interests with a visit from her brother, John. On top of the emotional excitement of that rare reunion, she went to Boston yesterday, an excursion that typically delighted and exhausted her at the same time. She needed a nap.

Late in the day, evidently refreshed, Evelina and Oakes walked to the home of John and Susan Peckham. Mr. Peckham served as clerk for the Ames Shovel works, but was preparing to move away with his young family.  Replacing him, apparently, was the new clerk, John H. Swain. Evelina had already met Mr. Swain when he dined with them back in May. Tonight she met his wife, Ann, who made a favorable impression. The two families would become close over the years.

 * Photographer Unknown; portrait of a young man, yawning; ambrotype; ca. 1854; George Eastman House, Donald Weber Collection


June 28, 1851


June 28th Sat  Have been to Boston to day met Alson

& wife at the depot  Went into the horticultural

exhibition  Saw many fine roses and […]

quite a variety of other flowers a very fine

dish of peaches and beautiful bunches of grapes

Henrietta & I dined at Mr Orrs.  We walked

a great deal   went into Hanover St  Whites bonnet

rooms & Mellons Merchants Row

Evelina traveled into Boston today and met her brother Alson and his wife Henrietta. She may have ridden in with Oakes, who usually went to Boston on business on Saturdays. If he was present, however, he didn’t spend the day with her; he would have had his customers to meet.  She, on the other hand, along with Alson and Henrietta, attended a horticultural exhibition. They saw plantings and all sorts of flowers, including “fine roses,” and displays of fruit that were also “very fine.”

It’s possible that this particular exhibition was that year’s annual presentation by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society. Established in 1829, and going strong today, the society, then as now, offered lectures and presented an annual exhibition in order to further their mission to educate the public about “the science and practice of horticulture.”

After midday dinner at the home of friends, Robert and Melinda Orr, Evelina and Henrietta walked around the city.  They looked into the shops along Hanover Street and Merchants Row, the latter a street that bisected Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market. The two women window-shopped for bonnets at White’s store and, given the horticultural theme of the day, they may have poked their heads in Joseph Breck’s floral emporium, too. They had much to think about on their ride back to Easton that evening.

June 27, 1851

weedy flower bed


June 27 Friday  John left here this morning

Worked a long time in the garden

this morning for the weeds were very plenty

afterwards finished picking over the hair and

a long job it has been.  This afternoon put the hair

into the hair cloth cover and just commenced tying

it when Mrs Clark and Mrs Stetson came from

Sharon and of course had to leave it and go

into the other house house to see them. Mother & I stoped to tea

Pigweed, thistle, crabgrass, and purslane: Such weeds – and more – are the collective bane of the flower gardener. Evelina tackled some of them this morning as she addressed the “very plenty” weeds that were pushing into her flower beds. Perhaps she ruminated about her brother John and his short visit while her fingers dug into the soil.

After midday dinner she turned to her sewing, as usual, going right to her haircloth slipcover project, but abandoned it with alacrity when an opportunity for socializing turned up.  “Had to leave it and go..” she noted, when two friends from nearby Sharon arrived next door.  She and her mother, Hannah Lothrop Gilmore, went over for tea.

Frank Ames Mitchell, a nephew of Oakes and Evelina, turned ten years old today.  One of two grandsons of Old Oliver named Frank (the other being Frank Morton Ames,) he was the eldest son of Oakes’ sister, Harriett Ames Mitchell. He, his mother, and two younger siblings were living temporarily in Bridgewater while their father, Asa Mitchell, was working in coal in western Pennsylvania.

Our knowledge about Frank Mitchell is limited, as he never married or had any known issue. We do know that he was the only Ames grandson to fight in the Civil War.  He served in both the 44th and the 56th Massachusetts Regiments, and ultimately made captain.  In 1864, he was wounded at Cold Harbor.  Hospitalized in Washington DC, where his mother rushed to his side, he eventually recovered but remained in indifferent health for the rest of his life.

After the war, Frank bought a plantation in Tallullah, Louisiana, an effort that was underwritten and ultimately bought out by his Uncle Oliver Ames, Jr.  Family records show that Frank subsequently depended on financial support from his cousin Fred Ames. The remainder of his life consisted of traveling from one healthful climate or resort to another in search of good health.


* A modern flower garden, full of weeds, from canoecorner.blogspot

June 26, 1851




June 26th Thursday  This morning went to washing the windows

on the outside the first thing after breakfast and

got the chambers in order  Heat the brick oven and 

baked cake bread &c for tea and a custard pudding

for dinner  John & wife Miss Wait Alson & wife

and mother here to spend the day.  John is making

a short visit will leave in the morning for

home.  Have been to West Point

Evelina put her chambers in apple pie order this morning and baked up an array of food. She must have been outdoors as early as seven washing her windows. No gardening today. She had important company coming. Her mother, brothers John and Alson, their wives Huldah and Henrietta, respectively, and another woman, Miss Waite, came to spend the day with her. The family reunion continued.

The occasion was so special that Evelina baked a custard pudding to serve at dinner.  This was not usual fare for her, perhaps because it used so many eggs, and the Ameses didn’t keep chickens.

Evelina again mentioned West Point in her diary entry, which suggests that it was much in the conversation, probably in the manner of a place John, Huldah and Miss Waite had just visited. Why did they go there? Did they know someone who was just graduating? The United States Military Academy graduated 42 men in June, 1851, most of whom would go on to fight in the Civil War, 26 for the Union and 9 for the Confederacy. Many would also serve in the Third Seminole War in Florida or hold posts on the western frontier.


June 25, 1851

14 Fanny Palmer (American artist, 1812-1876) Published by N Currier American Farm Scenes 3 1853



June 25th Wednesday  Worked awhile in the garden and 

then sit down to sewing with mother

After dinner Francis came after mother […]

John & wife and Miss Wait (Otis Howards lady)

arrived there about nine  I went home with

mother and Mr Ames came after me Had

a very pleasant visit  By what they say I 

should judge the west point students had rather

a hard time


Beyond today’s normal work load of gardening and sewing lay a very special event. Evelina traveled south to the family farm where she had grown up, something she often did.  The farm was now owned and worked by her older brother, Alson; it was there that her mother usually resided.  But today, another brother, John, came to visit and joined her there.  The three siblings, John, Alson, and Evelina, were the only survivors of a brood of eight. It was a rare family reunion for them and their mother.

Most historical accounts place John and his wife, Huldah Alger Gilmore, in South Leeds, Maine.  This was probably accurate, as no evidence exists otherwise. Gilmore is not an uncommon name, however, and the postmaster John Gilmore in Leeds, Maine may not be Evelina’s brother.  Evelina’s reference to a discussion about West Point suggests a possibility that John and his wife could have lived there.

Regardless, Evelina seemed very happy to see her two brothers.  Her husband, Oakes, came along eventually to see his in-laws and fetch his wife back home to North Easton.

* Currier & Ives, Farm Yard, ca. 1853



June 24, 1851



June 24th  Tuesday  Emily is very much better this morning and

is quite rational  I was at work in the garden

awhile weeding and transplanting and then I

went to sewing on the hair cloth again.  Mother

is knitting a pair of coloured stockings for Susan

of yarn I bought at the factory yesterday

Mrs Sarah Ames stoped awhile here  I get along

very slowly with my work  Spent the afternoon picking hair

Everyone exhaled with relief today as young Emily Witherell recovered from her congestion of the brain. What exactly had been wrong with her? Had she fallen or spiked a fever or had an allergic reaction to something?

Evelina went back to her summer routine of morning work in the garden, midday dinner for the whole family, and sewing in the afternoon. The horse hair upholstery for the new lounge was taking a long time to make. She may have been skilled with a needle, but this project was proving difficult.  She had the company of her mother, however, who was visiting them in North Easton this week.

The elderly Hannah Gilmore was knitting some stockings for her granddaughter, Susie.  She was using yarn that Evelina most likely bought at the Morse factory shown in the photograph. Located in South Easton and owned at the time by E. J. W. Morse, the business produced high quality thread and yarn.

* Photo borrowed from Edmund C. Hands, Easton’s Neighborhoods, 1995, p. 28

June 23, 1851



Monday 23  Emily is no better.  The Dr calls her

disease congestion of the brain  About ten Oclock she

was in great distress & I sent for the Doctor.  He was

just stepping into his chaise to go to Taunton

He came up immediately  found her asleep and easier.

Mrs James Mitchell & Miss Sarah Mitchell from

Freeport came to spend the day.  they passed the 

afternoon in Olivers.


Twelve year old Emily Witherell, only daughter of widowed Sarah Witherell, had been taken suddenly and seriously ill. Her symptoms seemed to worsen this morning, so much so that Evelina sent someone for the doctor, perhaps Dr. Samuel Deans who had stopped in yesterday. He or Dr. Caleb Swan, the two doctors who usually tended to the Ames family, diagnosed the illness as “congestion of the brain.”

Congestion of the brain was, by some modern accounts, a 19th century catch-all phrase for any number of illnesses that caused swelling of the brain. Known in the medical world as encephalaemia, it could be caused by a head injury or an infection.  Symptoms would include headache, fever and confusion.  Emily certainly seemed to be confused.

Why did Evelina send for the doctor, and not Sarah Witherell herself? Who went for the doctor on a Monday morning, when everyone was at work? Perhaps Michael Burns, who worked for Old Oliver? Good that the doctor was caught before he had left in his chaise for Taunton, and even better that he found Emily marginally better.

June 22, 1851




Sunday 22nd June  Have been to meeting to day Heard two

very good sermons from Mr Whitwell  Mother came

home with us to spend a few days.  Since meeting

mother Mr Ames & myself rode to the ponds and to 

Mr Manlys garden  Mother was delighted with her ride

seemed to enjoy it as much as a child  When we

returned we found Emily sick  She is very much

out of her head  Dr Deans called but did not come in

Went to Mr Horace Pools at noon for strawberries


“Doubtless, God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did,” was a well-known remark about strawberries made in the 17th century by William Butler. Unlike today, when modern agriculture has developed a system that brings us strawberries any time of year, in 1851, the fruit was still strictly seasonal and short-lived. Strawberry season was much looked forward to.

Horace and Abby Pool evidently had a good strawberry patch at their home in south Easton, to which they invited a few fellow parishioners during the intermission at church.  Had the strawberries already been picked, or did folks wander through a strawberry patch in their Sunday finest, a la Emma Woodhouse at Donwell Abbey? Was the fruit served with cream and sugar, or taken home to be eaten later?

The fine day continued after church when Oakes and Evelina took old Mrs. Gilmore for a ride north to see the ponds and visit Edwin Manley’s garden. On a less delightful note, Sarah Witherell’s daughter, Emily Witherell, suddenly took sick. “Out of her head,” Evelina described her, suggesting perhaps that Emily had a high fever. The doctor was called.

June 21, 1851


21 June Saturday  Early this morning Mrs. Seba Howard

brought Orinthia up and found me in the

garden weeding. We worked there an hour or two

and then went to sewing.  Orinthia on her dress

and I on the hair cloth.  Harriet came and sat

with us awhile in the afternoon and while she

was in I worked on the sleeves to my plaid stone

colour borage  Orinthia called on Abby   Pleasant

Weeding continued to be the dominant occupation of Evelina’s early morning hours. On this Saturday morning her young friend, Orinthia Foss, arrived for the day and immediately stepped to the garden to help weed. Orinthia was carried up from the southern part of town by a contemporary of Evelina named Eleutheria Howard, wife of Major Seba Howard.

Today was summer solstice, the official start of summer and the high water mark of daylight; the women probably would have enjoyed being outside in the garden all day long, but sewing and other duties called. Each woman had a dress she was working on, and Evelina was still piecing together a horsehair cover for her new lounge. Just as they had sat on so many days during the late winter, so the two sat today, on chairs near the windows for light, with folds of cloth in their laps. Harriett Ames Mitchell, Evelina’s sister-in-law, joined them in the afternoon.

Later in the day Orinthia went to call on Abby Torrey, Evelina’s niece who lived right in the village of North Easton.