July 14, 1851



July 14 Monday  Mr Norris left in the stage this

morning  Mr & Mrs Harris & Mrs Norris for

Bridgewater.  Jane has not done her washing as she

usually does but we have put the house in order

Scoured all the knives &c &c.  Have passed most 

of the afternoon in the other part of the house

the whole family took tea there

The Harrises and Norrises left this morning, releasing Evelina from her hostessing obligations. The house was in disarray; probably, one of the couples slept in a bed in the parlour, the other stayed who-knows-where.  Furniture had to be put back, linens stripped and so on.  Jane McHanna had so much to do in the aftermath of the houseguests that she couldn’t do the Monday washing.  That was unheard of.

Jane and Evelina picked up in the kitchen, too.  One of them scoured the knives. In 1851, knives were made of mild steel, typically high in iron. Stainless steel, which has an alloy of low iron and high chromium, had not yet been developed, and wouldn’t appear until the turn of the 20th century. Knives in the 19th century corroded easily and needed to be cleaned periodically, often by being rubbed with fine sand.  Evelina or Jane might have sharpened them, too.

In the afternoon, Evelina and her whole family had tea at her father-in-law’s, served by her sister-in-law Sarah Witherell.  After a weekend of catering to houseguests, being served tea must have been a pleasure.



5 thoughts on “July 14, 1851

  1. Old Oliver’s older brother John came to Easton in the 1830″s and sold knives. In 1834 : “8/1 charges John Ames for knife handles, 8/8 to John by cash for knives which you sold at Randolph when you went apeddling $33 to a dozen knives which you sold for a pair of a and lot more knives sold.” The next year: “1835 January- James Adams poem on the church controversy published. W & A open Backus and Ames in Albany Repaired the shop where the old Fergeson saw mill used to stand by adding some to the buildings and putting in a new flume and wheel and a small hammer for drawing straps and plating knives and put in grindstones and polishing wheels for making knives. Acct in Oakes hand for Knife shop begins Aug 29.” I think that John makes his knives in this shop, before eventually setting up his own shop in Sharon, which passes to his son, George, who, alas, dies young. I believe “the shop where the old Fergeson saw mill used to stand” is at the outlet end of Picker Pond, and we pass the site on our way in from Canton St. and Picker Lane. That is also the same site where the cotton picking mill factory was, but I can’t remember when, possibly after Ferguson, but before Oliver..

    • More great information – thank you, Dwight. Most likely the knives in Evelina’s kitchen came from this source. You may also have solved a puzzle for me, as I’ve been looking for information about George Ames, whose widow, Almira, often visits Evelina and her sisters-in-law. Do you know when George Ames died, and under what circumstances?

  2. And while looking for something on the knife shop, I found this for 1845, the year which Thoreau went to Walden on the 4th of July
    1845. It has the reference to Mr Peckham going to Salisbury to show (is it Horatio, or William?) how to do double entry book-keeping. It also gives a decent sense of one very hot summer’s haying season. With heat as mentioned, is is not difficult to see why Thoreau wanted to get his beans hoed early, early in the morning. Erastus Smith is a Stoughton guy, who started keeping a journal at age 12 in 1845. He is no Thoreau or Oliver, but a decent man for whom we have various journals into the 1850’s and a picture of him singing at age 90+ in a Stoughton (supposedly the world’s oldest) quartet.
    July 4 HDT goes to live at Walden.
    (Old Oliver’s entries) “July 7 was quite a warm day we began our haying this day and mow’d the piece back of the Fergeson house 12th I think the warmest day I ever knew the thermometer was at 97 on the north side of the house. Oakes went to Boston this day. Mr Peckham started for Salisbury to put them on the way of keeping their books by double entry. 14th we had a small shower which wett about 4 or 5 ton of hay for me that had been raket up the pews in our meeting house were prised this day17th there was a small shower we mow’d the piece in back of my brother John’s & got it —-up before the shower 19th we got all our hay into the barn and two loads are now on the carts that are not quite made enough. I had some of my oats mow’d today on the Lincoln Spring lot Our hay has turned out better than I expected. I think I got about 30 tons of good hay”
    July 20th Erastus Smith Journal begins
    “July 20 wind fair southwest I went to meeting of/and? Mr Barnes of Boston

    21-Wind southwest, fair I had the toothache…..not go to school

    22Wind northwest a she wet in the morning? I went to school”

    (OA) “21st dry the great pond is down about two feet 22nd finished mowing oats 24 finished giting in oats 5-6 ton of them 26th Mr Peckham got home from Salisbury””

  3. It looks to me as if Oliver’s wife, his nephew George and his oldest brother David all die in 1847, the year Thoreau leaves Walden: 1847- Jan 21 “I went to George Ames shop in Sharon and from there to Canton with Mr Phillips to view the Messenger priviledge. (died on 3/27) March 30-This was a cold chilly morning and some cloudy. The is a verry little snow on the ground that feel yesterday. It was fair in the afternoon and the snow all went of. My wife was buried today. The 31st there was about three inches of snow on the ground…etc” June 26, George L Ames dies Aug 7, 1847 I had a letter today informing me that my brother David died this morning about 3,O, clock. Aug 12-we began to raise the roof on the shop at Canton today. 9/2 leak at the GP made its appearance again, they start to drain it off and make temporary repairs around Nov 20th.
    Sept-Oct he is going to Canton and B-water four or five times a week, especially Canton. In Oct. Oakes goes to NJ for two weeks, a few weeks after Horatio had made a brief visit. Oliver is not mentioning any sermons on the Sundays. Canton work 11/4- arms put in wildcat by Mr Bump, 11/13 second hammer gotten up, 11/18 “Mr Phillips finished his work at Canton (underlined.) 11/22 “I went to Canton and carried down hands to begin welding backstrap shovels.”
    HDT leaves Walden somewhere around this time. A few years earlier, maybe more, there was an entry about Oliver and John going out to Chicopee to visit David. I don’t know the cause of George’s death, but as you can see from the entry above, Oliver had visited him a few months earlier.

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