July 21, 1851



July 21st Monday  Worked about house all the forenoon 

This afternoon have been to work on the

lounge.  Put some tufts on the side of the

matress & nailed some haircloth on the inside 

of the lounge  Augustus has another son

born to day  He called here about four

Oclock to tell me the news.


Hannah Lincoln Gilmore, wife of Alson Augustus Gilmore, gave birth today to her second child, a baby boy soon to be known as Willie. This was good news.

We shouldn’t be surprised that Evelina noted only the arrival of the little boy and said nothing of Hannah’s labor and delivery. Most middle- and upper-class people at that period would have avoided explicitly describing childbirth. At most, if mentioned in public, the delivery would have been referred to simply as the mother’s “sickness.” Elizabeth Cady Stanton, describing the easy birth of her fourth child in 1851, wrote “I was sick but a few hours.”*

Most women, especially in small towns and the countryside, delivered their babies with the help of a midwife, who was often assisted by female relatives; this was still true in Easton.  A new trend, however, especially in urban areas among the wealthier population, was to request the attendance of a physician at delivery. As a modern historian notes, “Fear of pain, permanent injury, or death, willingness to defer to the demands of fashion, the belief that birth posed special dangers to affluent, well-bred women, and the availability of doctors, private nurses, and new medical technology all contributed to changing attitudes.”*  Doctors began to appear bedside as women – especially rich women – gave birth.

We don’t know if Hannah got through her “illness” with the help of a physician. But as reported by her husband Augustus,  she and little Willie were resting by the end of the day.


*Sylvia D Hoffert, Private Matters: American Attitudes toward Childbearing and Infant Nurture in the Urban North, 1800 – 1860, Chicago, 1989, p. 69 and 63

July 20, 1851




Sunday July 20th  Have been to church all day  Mr Whitwell

preached felt very sleepy and heard but a

little of the sermon  After meeting went over

to the Methodist meetinghouse to a sing.  There are

some fine singers there.  Oakes A & Orinthia called

for Louisa Swan and brought her to the sing & Orinthia

went back to Mr. Howards

The Ames family was Unitarian. Three generations of them, from Old Oliver to little Susie, dutifully attended church almost every Sunday, just as Evelina did today. Their attachment to the Unitarian service, however, didn’t preclude tolerance of other Protestant congregations in town. The Ameses and others were generally friendly with the Methodists who, like the Unitarians, had broken with the “dark and hopeless Calvinism”* that once prevailed in the meeting houses of New England.

The Methodists had a long history in Easton, the first near-one-hundred years of which were recounted in chatty detail by Unitarian minister and town historian, William Chaffin, in his 1886 History of Easton.*  As the Methodists, founded by Wesley brothers John and Charles, gained adherents in the late 18th and early 19th century, the sect took hold in Easton, too, shortly after the demise of the local Baptist Society. In addition to their welcoming services and missionary zeal, Methodists offered something special to congregations everywhere: Music.

The “sing” that Evelina went to today at the Methodist meeting house was a gathering to sing hymns, many of which were written by the Wesley brothers themselves. Also in attendance was at least one Ames son, and probably the other two as well.  The boys enjoyed the sings, both for the music and for the chance to socialize with other young people.  Oliver (3), who was very musical, was particularly fond of the gatherings.

* William Chaffin, History of Easton, 1886.


July 19, 1851




July 19 Saturday  To day I have been sitting with mother

sewing on muslin & cambric insertion mending &c

It has been very showery accompanied with heavy

thunder and very sharp lightning  Oakes Angier

went to Mr Algers after some butter to night and

carried Mother home  Orinthia is here to day

called this afternoon to see Abby Torrey 

Yesterday’s hot, sticky weather gave way to thunderstorms today, with “very sharp lightning.”

Hannah Lothrop Gilmore returned to the family farm, driven there by her grandson Oakes Angier Ames.  He went on to pick up some butter at the farm of Bernard and Vesta Alger, who lived not far from the Gilmores on the turnpike road.  It’s curious that Evelina was buying butter this summer, because earlier in the year she had been selling it.

Orinthia Foss was back at the Ames’s for a visit, up from the home of Elijah and Nancy Howard where she was boarding. She went into the village to pay a call on Evelina’s niece, Abigail Williams Torrey. Evelina, meanwhile, spent her Saturday mending everyone’s clothes, and working on an “insertion” for one of her dresses.

July 18, 1851



Friday July 18  This forenoon finished my Silk Muslin dress

made a chimisette for it  Mother is not at all well

and is not easy cannot stay in one place a great while

Oliver went with Mrs S Ames after Helen.  Got to

Dorchester about 5 Oclock and home about half past nine

The weather is hot and uncomfortable.  Fred returned

to night having passed a good examination


Fred Ames was accepted at Harvard!  He shared the good news with his relatives when he returned to North Easton this evening. He did well on his examination, which perhaps constituted some combination of interview and oral or written test of the depth of his knowledge. How proud his parents must have been, and what relief he must have felt to have the entrance hurdle behind him.

Fred’s life was now moving in a fresh direction but otherwise, things in North Easton were much the same as he had left them the day before. Under a hot and humid sky, Evelina was sewing and looking after her mother, Hannah Lothrop Gilmore, who wasn’t feeling well.  Fred’s parents, Oliver Jr. and Sarah Lothrop Ames, meanwhile, had driven off to fetch his sister, Helen, from school in Dorchester.

Today’s sewing project was a chemisette for Evelina’s newest dress, the silk muslin that she and dressmaker Julia Mahoney had been working on this week.  The chemisette was a light blouse designed to be worn under the jacket bodice of the dress.  Hers probably wasn’t as elaborate as the chemisette in the illustration.


July 17, 1851




July 17  Mother & myself have had a very quiet forenoon

Some expected Cassander Gilmore here but they

have set so many times that Im thinking they will 

not come at all.  About 4 Oclock I went to N. Bridge

water with Mrs Sarah Ames & Mrs Mitchell to carry

Fred to the cars for Cambridge to be examined for

the Sophomore year

Cassander Gilmore, the relative who was mentioned as a “no-show” visitor today, was a prominent shoe manufacturer in Raynham, Massachusetts.  His failed visit was incidental to the bigger news of the day: Frederick Lothrop Ames’s departure for Cambridge.

Barely sixteen years old, Fred Ames visited Harvard College today “to be examined” for acceptance. He had just completed a year (or more) at Phillips Exeter Academy and, despite his young age, was seeking entrance to college.  Harvard was the place for just such a bright fellow.

Fred seemed both prepared and motivated for college, and his parents, Sarah Lothrop Ames and Oliver Ames Jr., supported the idea of higher education for him, perhaps for a variety of reasons. This was an age, according to Henry Adams, when parents “began sending their children to Harvard for the sake of its social advantages.”* Sarah and Oliver Jr. were ambitious for their only son, but the question remains why they – or he – requested entry for the sophomore rather than the freshman year.

With his future riding on the examination ahead of him, Fred must have been at least a little anxious about the trip. His mother and  Aunts Evelina and Harriett may have sensed some apprehension on his part, and tried to bolster his spirits as they rode along to the train station in North Bridgewater. They may also have simply been exercising their right to behave as many fond relatives behave when their young ones leave for school: with overt affection. Fred may have been relieved, actually, to wave goodbye to them at the depot.

* Ronald Story, The Forging of an Aristocracy: Harvard and the Boston Upper Class, 1800-1870, Wesleyan University Press, 1980.



July 16, 1851


Shovel Storage_1 Nov 2010



July 16th  Wednesday  Mrs H Ames left this morning.  Will stop

a day or two at Mr Hinckleys and then venture

home  Gustavus was to meet her in Boston

Have been to work on my silk muslin dress

Julia has been here cutting the waist and it

is so near done that it will not take long 

to finish it.  Edwin & Oliver went to S. Bridgewater

to get patterns for shovel press & Back strap Machine

Evelina seldom referred to the shovel business in her diary.  The factory, the employees, the machines, the products, the day-long sounds that emanated from the shovel shops right across the street from her home went essentially unmentioned. Despite the fact that six days a week, life in North Easton revolved around O. Ames and Sons, the factory that her husband, father-in-law, and brother-in-law owned, and at which her three sons worked, Evelina was mum about the business.

Instead, she kept her attention on the domestic and social events of her own life, recording the tame goings-on of the household, which was, naturally, her sphere of interest and influence. Her focus begs the question, however, of how much of her record was consciously restricted to the quotidian. Did she hear about events at the shovel shop and choose not to include them, or were business details never discussed at the dinner table?  Were shovels excluded from pillow talk at day’s end? Or was she so familiar with the many facets of the shovel business that she took them for granted, dismissed them and looked solely at her own concerns? Was she disinterested or discrete?

That aside, shovel-making slipped into Evelina’s record today.  Her middle son, Oliver (3), and his cousin, Edwin Williams Gilmore, headed to South Bridgewater to fetch patterns and a back-strap machine for the shovel factory. The patterns were probably “dies used in a drop hammer/press that give the curved shape to the previously flat, partially formed blade.”**  The back strap was an object that facilitated the process of attaching the handle to the blade. Oliver and Edwin must have used a wagon to tote the goods back to North Easton.

* Ames shovels, Stonehill College Archives, with thanks to Nicole Casper, CRM, Director of Archives and Historical Collections

** Per Gregory Galer, PhD.

July 15, 1851



July 15 Tuesday  Jane washed this forenoon and about

nine or ten Mother Henrietta Rachel and her

babe came  They went home about 11 Oclock

mother will stop a few days  Gustavus left

yesterday morning  The afternoon Mrs H Ames

passed here  Mrs S Ames had a dress maker & did

not come in

Laundry was done today, a day later than normal because of the extra work involved in tidying up after a weekend of houseguests.  It’s not hard to imagine that such a disruption in the routine made Evelina or Jane McHanna or other members of the household think today was Monday instead of Tuesday.

Just as things were getting back to normal, however, more visitors arrived. Evelina’s sister-in-law, Henrietta Gilmore (Mrs. Alson Gilmore), arrived with Evelina’s mother, Hannah Lothrop Gilmore. As often happened, the senior Mrs. Gilmore came to spend “a few days” with Evelina, her only living daughter.  With them was Henrietta’s daughter, Rachel Howard (Gilmore) Pool (Mrs. John M. Pool or Poole) and her little girl, Ella. Ella, barely one year old, was Hannah Gilmore’s great-granddaughter. Four generations of Gilmore women visited together in the Ames parlor.

In the afternoon, Evelina had yet another sister-in-law pay a call, this one from the Ames side of the family.  Sally Hewes Ames came to visit one last time before leaving; she planned to return to Connecticut the next day. The women likely sat and sewed together; Evelina almost always had sewing or mending in her hands when socializing at home.  As was her wont, she probably gave something to Sally to work on while they talked. Perhaps even old Mrs. Gilmore sewed with them.

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.



July 13, 1851


July 13 Sunday  We all went to church this forenoon

but my company did not wish to go this

afternoon and I staid with them

About 4 Oclock had a very heavy shower of

rain & hail which prevented us from going to Mr

Manlys garden as we intended.  Oakes A carried

Orinthia home & stoped awhile at Dr Swans

Mrs S Ames & Mrs Mitchell & Witherell called


After noting yesterday’s accommodating weather, Old Oliver made a very different report today:

“it was fair to day but rather cool wind north west untill about 5, O,clock when there was a smart shower and a considerable quantity of hail but it was not large enough to do much damage. there was some thunder the hail cut the corn leves in strings – and at Daniel Wheatons and in Taunton it broke a good deal of glass”

Damage to the corn crop was no small matter, although Old Oliver seemed to make light of it.

Evelina, meanwhile, along with Oakes and their sons had to entertain the young houseguests, Melinda and Caleb Norris and Julianne and Benjamin Harris, once they all came home from church. The expedition to Edwin Manley’s garden, a regular and favorite destination for guests, was cancelled because of the bad weather. Instead, the company must have sat inside and listened to the pelting hail.

Eventually, the weather passed and some family members ventured forth.  Oakes Angier carried Orinthia Foss back to the Elijah Howard house, where she was boarding, and stopped to visit Dr. Swan and his two daughters, presumably, on his way home.  Evelina’s sisters-in-law came to call, and tea was likely served to a crowd.

July 12 1851



July 12 Saturday  Have been very much engaged to day

in putting my house in order & have been to work

on the cushion to the lounge, and put the cover

on to the arm.  called in Olivers awhile.  Mrs

H Ames and Mrs Mitchell spent the day there

Mr Norris came in the stage to night & Mr & Mrs

Harris Mrs Norris from Bridgewater, Miss Foss

came with Oakes A who had been that way on an errand

Company! From Boston by way of Bridgewater came the Orr daughters and their husbands. Melinda Orr Norris with her husband Caleb, who had visited Easton just the other day, and Julianne Orr Harris and her husband, Benjamin Winslow Harris, arrived for an overnight stay with the Ameses.  Evelina spent much of the day “very much engaged” in getting the house ready for the two young couples, although she did manage to slip next door to sit with her sisters-in-law. The whole Ames property was full to the rafters.

Everyone had tasks to do today, which wasn’t unusual in that hard-working family. Old Oliver and a crew were outdoors:

“it was cloudy half the fore noon but the afternoon was pritty fair wind north part of the time + south west a part we mowd the high land back of the Factory pond and that on this side of the old pair trees. to day”  Was this mowing a forerunner of haying season?

* Pear tree