June 14 Saturday
This is my birth day and it is very pleasant
weather. Worked in the garden awhile in the
morning then baked in the brick oven. Made
brown bread sponge & cup cake pies &c.
This afternoon have been to North Bridgewater
and paid Howard & Clark 16 dollars for bed
stead & lounge 50 cts for Castors. Emily gave
me a box & Harriett a pr of Elastics
The diarist herself celebrated a birthday today, number 42. She was born in 1809 on a farm in the southeastern quadrant of Easton, not far from the Raynham town line. She was the seventh of eight children. Her parents, Joshua and Hannah Lothrop Gilmore, named her Evelina Orville after the heroine of Fanny Burney’s popular novel, Evelina, or the History of a Young Lady’s Entrance Into the World. In the book, pretty, fictional Evelina, after various comic travails, wins the heart of handsome, rich Lord Orville; did the real Evelina’s parents hope for similar material success for their youngest daughter?
In birth order, Evelina’s brothers and sisters were John, Arza, Daniel, Alson, Hannah, Rhoda, and Joshua Jr. By the time Evelina reached 40, only John and Alson, and their mother, were still living. Evelina’s siblings carried mostly family names, meaning that Evelina’s name was a departure. Her grandson, Winthrop Ames, noted in 1937 that “Evelina, in its later form of Evelyn, has been a favorite female first name since Evelina Orville Ames first introduced it into the family when she married Oakes Ames in 1827.”*
As a eighteen-year old bride, Evelina moved to North Easton, right into the Ames homestead, a portion of which had been made over to accommodate the newlyweds. Still living at home at that point were most of her siblings-in-law: Oliver Jr., William Leonard, Sarah Angier Ames (aged 13 and, obviously, not yet married to Nathaniel Witherell), John Ames and Harriett Ames (who was only eight years old.) What a full dinner table they must have had!
The next quarter century flew by, as the years do, full of arrivals and departures. Her children came into the world, even as family members on both sides departed it. Only now, it seems, did Evelina lift her head from the home-making tasks that were always at her elbow to consider ways to fill the rare discretionary time that began to open up to her. Flower gardening became one pleasant elective; writing in a diary was possibly another.
*Winthrop Ames, The Ames Family, 1937