July 31, 1851

 

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Thursday 31st July  Was out shopping most all day but

did not purchase a great deal.  Got one of my cuff

pins & marked it at Bigelows  Returned home through

Jamaica plains & by the pond.  passed a number of 

fine place among other[s]  Mrs Greens is a beautiful

situation but Kate went so fast so I could 

not see much of it.  Im told she was a widow Emery

& that her first husband left her the property

 

Bigelow Bros. & Kennard was a successful store in Boston that ran from ca. 1824 until 1971. Evelina and Oakes were familiar with it, as many of their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren would be as well.  Evelina took a cuff pin – a women’s version of a cuff-link – to Bigelow’s to be marked.

As the crow flies, the distance from Boston to North Easton is approximately 21 miles. The distance on the available roads was closer to 23 miles. Given the speed at which a wagon might travel along a nineteenth century road with a predictable distribution of hills and curves, a journey in 1851 from one location to the other could conceivably take all day. As already proven yesterday, however, when Oakes and Evelina made the trip in from North Easton in time to shop before lunch, the Ames’s horse Kate could move right along.

Kate (also spelled Cate) was well-known in North Easton. She had a sense of purpose and style all her own.  Oakes had taught her to respond with speed when someone tried to rein her in, and he enjoyed tricking the occasional wagoneer who tried to slow Kate down with a normal tug on the reins. Kate would simply go faster, especially if she were headed for home.

Thus, Evelina wasn’t exaggerating when she wrote that Kate was going too fast for her to see everything.  Evelina wasn’t able to properly scrutinize the fine homes along the road in Jamaica Plains, some of which were quite big and beautiful.

 

 

 

 

July 30, 1851

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Wedns 30 July  Went to Boston with Cate & waggon had

a fine ride got to Mr Orrs about ten, went out

shopping untill dinner time  After dinner took Mrs

Orr with us to Mt Auburn and we rode & walked most

all over the grounds & went into the chapel  As we were

going through Brookline we stoped at the reservoir

and saw some fine situations in & about Brookline

Finally, Evelina got to go into Boston, a trip she had been trying to make for days now. She and Oakes rode into town in a wagon behind his horse Cate.  They trotted up today’s Route 138, past farms, fields and woods, through Stoughton, along Canton, into Milton and on into the city, approaching it by way of Washington Street. It was “a fine ride.”

After a little shopping and midday dinner with the Orrs, Evelina, Oakes and Melinda Orr drove to Mt. Auburn Cemetery, a new-style burial ground on the Cambridge side of the Charles River. Fashioned somewhat after the Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, the twenty-year old cemetery had been the brain child of, among others, a Boston physician named Jacob Bigelow who felt that the practice of burying the dead under and right next to churches and meeting houses was unhealthy.  With the encouragement of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society and a designation of 70 acres from the Massachusetts legislature, Mt. Auburn Cemetery was created.

By carriage and on foot, Oakes, Evelina and their friend Melinda were able to go “most all over the grounds,” seeing paths, plantings, monuments and the Bigelow Chapel. They saw other landscapes of greater Boston today as well, including the brand new Brookline Reservoir.

*Pilgrim’s Path, Mt. Auburn Cemetery, 1851.

 

 

 

July 29, 1851

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Tues 29 July  Mr Ames Susan & self were going to Boston

to day but it rains pouringly.  I am glad to see

it rain hard so that we know what to do about

going  I do not feel as disappointed as I did last 

week when it cleared off so pleasant  Have been

sewing and mending

Another trip to Boston called off by weather. Not only were Evelina’s plans put aside, but Old Oliver’s plans must have been challenged, too.  Haying had begun the day before and the rain not only obviated any further haying today, but also endangered the hay that had already been cut.

Evelina experienced an odd satisfaction today, pleased that the weather proved to be as bad as she had anticipated because it justified her choice not to go to town. Perhaps she wasn’t pleased so much as vindicated. As she had done last week, she turned to sewing and mending to fill the time that otherwise would have been spent in Boston.  Oakes Ames, meanwhile, presumably went on into the city to conduct business with various store owners who sold Ames shovels.

As the illustration above shows, Boston at this time had a much smaller perimeter than the city we know today. Back Bay was still a small bay of water, and the line of trees at the bottom of the illustration formed the western edge of the city, along the line that is now Arlington Street. The filling in of the water that would create the Back Bay grid of streets wouldn’t begin for another five or six years.

* Birds-eye view of Boston, 1851 

 

July 28, 1851

Bookcase

Monday July 28th  Was about house as usual this 

morning and have been mending some and fixing

some of Susans clothes  Oakes & Oliver (3) are

having a book case put up in their room by

Ira Ford  They have almost got books enough to

fill it  Julia is to work for Mrs Witherell

making her a purple morning dress

A young carpenter named Ira Ford built a bookcase at the Ames house today in the bedroom of Oakes Angier and Oliver (3).  The boys had acquired schoolbooks and other “books enough” and needed a place to store them all.

Like their mother and unlike their father, the Ames sons like to read. The middle son, Oliver (3), in particular, cherished reading. According to an unnamed eulogist in a memorial volume published in 1895,  Oliver (3) built up quite a collection of books in his lifetime: “In the company of books he found an absorbing pleasure, and to the library which he had begun to collect in his early age he made in later years large additions of rare and valuable volumes.”* After Oliver (3)’s demise, those books that weren’t kept by his family were auctioned off at Sotheby’s.

 

*Anonymous, Oliver Ames Memorial, ca. 1895, p. 38 

July 27, 1851

 

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Saturday July 27th  Mr Ballou of Stoughton preached to day

Two young men natives of Nova Scotia were drowned

last night in the Hockemock Meadow  They were […]

working for brother Alson and at night went to the

river to bathe and it is supposed got into deep water

and could not swim  Oliver went to Stoughton for Mr Whitwell

to be in season for the funeral at 5 Oclock  We all went

to the funeral and carried Mr Whitwell

The Hockomock Swamp is a vital wetland of some 17,000 acres in southeastern Massachusetts, a minor portion of which occupies a southernmost section of land in Easton – land not far from the Gilmore farm.  It’s an ill-omened, storied spot, known today as part of the”Bridgewater Triangle,” so-named in the 20th century as a location for UFO sightings, ghost lights, foxfire, animal mutilations and the like. A “place where spirits dwell,” the Wampanoag Indians called it, and they would know. Much of King Philip’s War, in the late 17th century, was fought in the environs of the Hockomock. Metacomet hid there.

In the late 18th and 19th century, when it was known by many as The Great Cedar Swamp, some people were less superstitious about the area, eyeing it for its potential as arable land. The towns of Raynham and Easton butted heads over the construction of a road through it. According to historian William Chaffin, Evelina’s own father, Joshua Gilmore, “was going on a footpath through the swamp one day with his wife, carrying a little child in his arms[.] Mrs Gilmore was speaking of the difficulty of the passage, and her husband replied that some day the child would ride through the swamp in a carriage; and the idea struck her as so essentially preposterous that she had a hearty laugh over it.”** (It would be wonderful if the child in the story were Evelina, but the likelihood is that the child was an older sibling.)

It’s ironic that in 1851, two young farm hands who were working for Evelina’s own brother, Alson Gilmore, went for a swim in the “Hockemok Meadow” after work and drowned, adding their tragic story to the swamp’s paranormal reputation.

 

* Engraving of the Great Swamp Fight in 1675, the colonists versus the Narragansett Indians

** William Chaffin, History of Easton, 1866, pp. 454-455.

 

 

 

July 26, 1851

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Saturday July 26th  This day is very pleasant and we should

have had fine weather to be in Boston  Mr

Ames has gone as usual  I feel quite disappointed

that we did not go but I presume it is for the 

best  The school does not keep to day & […Susan]

is sewing some but she does not like it & I fear

she will never learn at this rate

Stuck at home when she had planned to be in Boston, Evelina was clearly sorry to have misjudged the weather and missed the trip. Oakes was in town and she wasn’t, and she had little choice but to turn to her sewing.  She coped with her disappointment by handing it over to providence and accepting the change of plans as “for the best.” God knew better than she did.

Susan Ames was possibly less philosophical about the change of plans.  Her mother put her to work sewing, for which Susie had neither inclination nor aptitude.  In an era when society decreed that a “woman who does not know how to sew is as deficient in her education as a man who cannot write,”* Susie was expected to acquire at least the fundamentals of needle and thread whether she liked it or not.

Neither Susan nor her mother could know that mechanical machines for sewing would soon be introduced that would obviate hand-sewing. The illustration above, from 1877, a quarter-century later, suggests how readily the sewing machine would replace hand-sewing and how quickly the production of clothing would become an industry.  Although bespoke clothing would never disappear, and many women for personal or economic reasons would continue to sew their own clothes, ready-to-wear clothing would become more and more available in Susie’s lifetime. No one in the Ames sitting room could envision that development on this sunny summer Saturday ten years before the Civil War.

 

* Eliza Ware Farrar, The Young Lady’s Friend, Boston, 1836 (from Judith Sumner, American Household Botany, Portland, Oregon, 2004)

 

 

 

July 25, 1851

Wine glass

Friday 25th July  Was expecting to go to Boston with

Mr Ames & Susan in the wagon but it was

misty & cloudy and we gave up going.  It cleared

up very pleasant about nine  I pick[ed] some 

currants for some wine.  Jane strained them

About ten Oclock Augustus carried me up to

see his new heir, found mother & babe comfortable

Evelina was disappointed not to travel into Boston today; the possibility of bad weather put her off the jaunt. However, she got to see William Gilmore, her new great-nephew.  Her niece-in-law, Hannah Lincoln Gilmore, and the baby seemed to be doing well, which must have been a relief. In an era when childbirth could be dangerous for mother and infant, Hannah and Willie were doing fine.

But what was going on in the kitchen at the Ames house? Evelina and servant Jane McHanna were making wine from the currants off the bushes in the back yard. Why did they do this? Alcohol was never served at the Ames house. As Sarah Josepha Hale, author of The Good Housekeeper, a popular cook book, stated emphatically, “t]here is one rule for drinks which no woman should violate – never make any preparation of which alcohol forms a part for family use!”

Yet here was alcohol being prepared in Evelina’s own kitchen.  Rather than being made to be served as a beverage, however, it was being prepared for culinary and medicinal purposes and, for such cases, it was evidently permissible. In cooking, wine or cider could be used as a preservative in mincemeat pies, for instance.  An even more viable use was as medicine for the sick.  In Little Women, Mr. March stores away some wine bottles for his invalid daughter, Beth. In Evelina’s kitchen, the homemade wine would probably be served to someone who became ill and needed a tonic. A drink called wine whey, made from strained wine and milk, was a common treatment for fever and other ailments. Wine had its uses; distilled liquors did not.

* Sarah Josepha Hale, The Good Housekeeper, 1841