October 1, 1851



Oct 1st Wednesday.  Put a quilt into the frame in the

sitting room got it in about ten marked it

and quilted awhile and went into the garden

to save some flower seeds.  have got some nice

Balsam seed and a few china pink seed among

others. Passed the afternoon at Olivers with

Mrs Drake & Torrey

Quilting, gardening, and socializing made up Evelina’s day.  She set up a quilt frame in the sitting room and worked on a quilt she had begun about ten days earlier. She couldn’t stay inside, though, as the day was “fair” and “pritty warm for the time of year.”* The sunshine drew her to the garden where she moved through her annuals, saving seeds for next year.

She got “some nice Balsam,” a flower that today we call impatiens. At the time, it was reckoned to be “one of the most prominent ornaments of the garden,”** according to Joseph Breck, a Boston horticulturalist.  Breck’s important guide, his eponymous Book of Flowers, had proved helpful to Evelina earlier in the year and must have been doing so again as she put her garden to bed. Breck particularly admired some of the variegated varieties of Balsam as “decidedly the most elegant.” He had specific advice about saving Balsam seed: “Old seed is considered by some to be the best, as more likely to produce double flowers. The seeds should be saved from double flowering plants only; all single flowering ones should be destroyed as soon as they appear.” Did Evelina follow his advice?

After gardening, Evelina probably changed her dress and went next door to see Sarah Lothrop Ames and her guests, Caroline Drake (Mrs. Lincoln Drake) and another woman, Mrs. Torrey. The two guests may have been related to one another (Caroline’s maiden name was Torrey.) They had no immediate connection to Col. John Torrey, however, who appeared often in Evelina’s journal. The women would have sat, had tea and chatted – a pleasant occupation on a pleasant day.


* Oliver Ames, Journal, Courtesy of Stonehill College Archives

** Joseph Breck, Book of Flowers, Boston, 1851, pp. 185 – 186

*** Heirloom impatiens balsamina, Courtesy of edenbrothers.com


6 thoughts on “October 1, 1851

  1. So here, when she say’s “Oliver’s,” you take it that she means old Oliver’s, the other side of the house? Usually, I take it to mean at her brother-in-law’s.

    I have a question regarding Old Oliver’s journal in the college archives. How do/did you access it? Do you have a printed copy of a transcript or a copy of the microfilm, or…? I copied a lot of it manually 2006-7 in somewhat seat-of-the-pants fashion and it it scattered through many notebooks, but I heard that it has since been transcribed.

  2. Checking back, I see that you wrote “next door” so probably you meant Oliver Jr’s.

  3. As best we can know, Evelina went “next door” to Sarah Lothrop Ames’s (Mrs. Oliver Ames, Jr.) for tea rather than to Sarah Ames Witherell’s and Old Oliver’s, which was “the other part of the house.” It took me a long time to understand the difference, and I suspect that it was distinction that even they had trouble making from time to time.
    Regarding Old Oliver’s diary at Stonehill, I have only worked from the original, which is kept at the archives there. I don’t have a copy of it, nor can I remember if it has been transcribed yet. You need an appointment to access it, regardless. I’ve found the staff there to be very professional and accommodating.

  4. Eleven years ago it was available on microfilm in the Martin building when Greg Galer was there, along with Captain John Ames Bridgewater day books/ledgers. and plenty of stuff from Oakes, Oliver Jr. etc. It was cool to see the FIRST references to Capt John’s younger son, the young, Old Oliver, and then entries written in by Oliver himself, eventually followed by Oliver’s journal in which he is writing as an older, older, and then old man. Evelina’s was also available in microfilm.

    • Dwight, I believe that the microfillm is still available. RE: Old Oliver’s journal, I don’t remember those early sections you mention, but I do know that after Old Oliver died on Sept. 11, 1863, his son Oliver Jr. finished out the year with entries for the daily weather, then took up keeping his own diary in 1864 and every year thereafter until his death in March, 1877.

      • The Captain John Ames ledgers were separate from Oliver diaries and records, but Oliver was mentioned in the late 1700’s and began to write entries in them in the very early 1800’s, just before he moved to Easton and set up his own business. It was in that Capt. John Ames ledger where one can see the production of shovels in the Bridgewater shop going from one at a time to dozens at a time, around 1796, maybe. As I recall, they seemed to subcontract part of the process, possibly the “plating” to another business, possibly Lazell? I assumed that the young Oliver was one of the driving forces in this evolution of the industrial process. Greg Galer and I also looked for references to Capt. John Ames gun manufacturing, but references to it in those ledgers were few and far between. He may have had some secret books, since it was probably an illegal operation at the time of the Revolution.

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