Dec 25th Thursday The Irish are expecting to have a great
time to day Jane went to the meeting house about
eight but the priest did not come she stoped an
hour. Carried my knitting into Olivers awhile this
forenoon. This afternoon have been to mothers
with Mr Ames & Frank as they were going to West
Bridgewater. Finished knitting the front & back of
my hood Made a present to Lavinia of Turnpike Dividend $800
Christmas Day! But as Evelina points out, the Irish Catholics in town would be celebrating, but the Ames family wouldn’t. Jane McHanna left the house to attend a Christmas mass for which, unfortunately, the priest was either late or didn’t show up at all. Jane returned home to prepare dinner. Evelina, meanwhile, visited Sarah Lothrop Ames next door, knitting in hand.
After dinner Evelina rode along with her husband and youngest son as they went on an errand to West Bridgewater. They dropped her off to see her mother at the family farm. There may have been some recognition of the holiday in this gesture, although Evelina makes no mention of gift-giving, with one significant exception. Evelina gave an $800 dividend to her niece Lavinia Gilmore.
The dividend came, somehow, from proceeds from the Taunton and South Boston Turnpike, a road that had run through part of Easton since the early 1800s, between “‘Taunton Green, so called, to the Blue Hill Turnpike,'” according to town historian William Chaffin.* Its origin was controversial and involved a long-standing disagreement with the Town of Raynham, but its impact on the Gilmore family was generally positive, as various Gilmores, including Evelina’s father and brother, served as toll-gate keepers. As Chaffin points out, however, “[t]he toll-gate naturally became unpopular.” It was closed in October of 1851.
How Evelina came to possess $800 from the road is unclear. Was this a regular dividend that Evelina received, or was the family compensated for the road’s discontinuance? That Evelina passed this money on to her niece, however, is a clear demonstration that for all her economical instincts, Evelina was capable of great generosity.
*William L. Chaffin, History of Easton, Mass, 1866, pp. 454 – 458.
3 thoughts on “December 25, 1851”
$800!!! My goodness that is a lot of money in the 1850s.
I am sure that Old Oliver supported the building of the Turnpike in 1806, when he was not old, but not yet rich, either. ;-). I know that I have seen his signature on a Stoughton document petitioning for better upkeep on the Turnpike. It makes sense that the Ames would have bought shares in the Turnpike over the years, probably being the largest investor given the location and size of their business, and their need to transport raw materials in and shovels out. By 1851, the railroad is already in Canton and Stoughton and will be in North Easton in four years, so the Turnpike business is even less profitable than ever before.
Dwight, thank you for that additional information. It makes sense that Evelina’s windfall – if that’s what it was – came from the Ames side of the ledger. Her generosity to her niece still stands, too.