January 31, 1852


Jan 31st  1852

Saturday  have been choring about house & mending most

all day.  Made a robe for Mitchell Willis child with

Mrs S Ames assistance  Edwin & wife here to tea  Mrs S

Ames has been here about three hours with her work

Mrs Witherell here awhile this afternoon.  Mr Frank

Russell was buried this afternoon.  My three sons went

to the funeral.  Quite a hard snow storm  Mr Ames to Boston

Inclement weather didn’t keep the Ames men from moving around today. Oakes Ames traveled into Boston on business, as he usually did on Saturdays. His sons, Oakes Angier, Oliver (3) and Frank Morton, rode to Easton Center for the funeral of Frank Russell, a 67-year-old blacksmith and veteran of the War of 1812. Russell had died two days earlier from pleurisy, and, despite the “hard snow storm,” he was buried at the Seth Pratt Cemetery with friends and family in attendance.  What had been his connection to the Ames’s sons? Had he worked for the shovel company?

Evelina, too, was tending to a death outside the family.  She and her sister-in-law, Sarah Lothrop Ames, sewed a burial robe for Luella Willis, the two-year old daughter of Mitchell and Amanda Willis.  Like Frank Russell, little Luella would have to be buried in cold ground during snowy weather. Once the services were over, the living would carry on with their chores, their commitments and their lives.  Evelina would turn to “mending most all day.”

January 30, 1852


Jan 1852

Jan 30th  Friday  Have commenced making a flannel

skirt for self & finished Susans dark print apron.

Mother [and] self passed the afternoon at Edwins.  Mr

Ames came to tea. Mrs S Ames called there with Mrs

Holmes. Mrs Witherell and the others returned to 

night  She has not her teeth but is to send for them

Oliver & Fred went to James Mitchell and called at

several other places  had a fine time Oliver played

chess with Judge Mitchell

Oliver Ames (3), Evelina’s middle son and a future governor of Massachusetts, was still home from college, as was his first cousin, Frederick Lothrop Ames.  The two young men were having “a fine time” on their winter break.  Chess was just one of the games they might have played to while away the dark evenings, another being whist.

Chess had been around for centuries, having first developed in India and the Islamic world.  It had evolved over time; dark and light squares on a chessboard were first introduced in the 10th century, for instance, rules for a stalemate or draw in the 15th, and so on.

By the nineteenth century, chess was really coming into its own.  In 1802, one J. Humphreys published a book called Chess Made Easy.  In 1830, the first known female chess player was acknowledged (though probably not encouraged.)  The first international chess tournament was held in London in 1851, won by Adolf Anderssen, and in 1852, the year we find Oliver Ames (3) playing the game on a winter’s night in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, sandglasses were first used to time a game.

Before the decade was finished, an American prodigy name Paul Morphy came to fame, winning nearly every game he played and defeating most of the older expert players. In the United States, a chess “epidemic” was born.

January 29, 1852



Jan 29th Thursday  Mrs Witherell Oliver 3rd & Fred & George went

to Bridgewater this morning for Mrs Witherells temporary

set of teeth.  Father & Mrs S Ames & Emily here to dine

Mrs S Ames came about half past eleven and spent

the rest of the day.  Have written a letter to Harriet

Ames [of] Burlington.  Went after mother in a sleigh to night

Augustus & wife spent the evening Three evenings this week


Sarah Ames Witherell traveled to Bridgewater today to pick up a “temporary set of teeth” to replace the real ones that had been pulled out earlier this month. It turned out that they weren’t ready, so she had to return home without them. As before, she was accompanied by several family members including her son George Oliver Witherell and two of her nephews, first cousins and good friends Oliver (3) and Frederick Lothrop Ames, who were still home on a recess from college.

Evelina, meanwhile, fed midday dinner to all the family members who stayed behind in Easton.  Sarah’s daughter, Emily, didn’t go with her mother this time; unlike Oliver and Fred, she and Susie Ames may well have been back in school. Evelina may have been feeling the strain of so much company.  She notes that her nephew Augustus and his wife, Hannah Lincoln Gilmore, had come to call “Three evenings this week.” Augustus, who did a lot of work for Oakes and Oliver Jr., often made himself at home at the Ames’s.

Harriet Ames of Burlington, Vermont, to whom Evelina wrote today, was a spinster cousin. Her mother was the widow of Old Oliver’s brother, John.*

*not the same John Ames who manufactured paper in Springfield

January 28, 1852



Jan 28 Wednesday  Mother went to Augustus this morning and I went

this afternoon. Mr Ames sent Frank after me in the sleigh

this evening  Mr Ames & Oliver went to West Bridgewater

this afternoon  I have been to work on Susans flannel

skirt have got most of it done.  Susan spent the afternoon

and evening with Malvina.  Mr Brown spent two

nights at Augustus, returned to Boston this morning.


The morning was fair, the afternoon cloudy and warm enough so that the snow on the ground “thawd some.”* Sleighing (or “slaying,” as Old Oliver occasionally spelled it) would have been good, the top crust of the snow-packed roads slick with ice and fast to travel.

Despite being out and about today in a sleigh, Evelina accomplished some sewing. The flannel skirt she was making for her daughter was probably a petticoat that Susie could wear under her dress, rather than an outer skirt. Full dresses and jackets were indeed made from wool flannel around this time, but the flannel underskirt was more common. Known for its insulating capability, the cloth would have kept Susie extra warm on the cold, cold days.

Flannel was also inexpensive. It would really come into its own during the Civil War, when soldiers wore undershirts and even simple coats made from the material. Flannel became the go-to cloth for long underwear. In 1889, a man named Hamilton Carhartt opened a factory in Detroit to manufacture flannel work clothes which became popular with railroad and construction workers.**


*Oliver Ames Journal, Stonehill College Archives, Arnold Tofias Collection

** http://www.gearpatrol.com, January 26, 2015



January 27, 1852



Jan 27  Tuesday.  Mrs S Ames & Frederick were to dinner  had a roast

goose.  This afternoon Mr & Mrs Whitwell, Mr & Mrs

John Howard & Miss Jarvis    Mrs Witherell Augustus

& Hannah came this evening    Frederick went after the

ladies. Oliver & George carried them all home this

evening.  Baked some tarts in the other house stove

Have sewed but very little  Mr Wm Brown was also here.

Quite a sociable day for the Ameses, full of company.  Midday dinner was attended by Sarah Lothrop Ames and her son Frederick. (The absence of Oliver Jr. and Helen Angier Ames suggests that the former might have been away on business while the latter had returned to school.) Fred, like Oliver (3), was home from the Ivy League; their conversation at the dinner table probably provided some fresh subject matter. Perhaps they entertained family members with a modified description of life on campus.

Evelina served a roast goose (that Jane McHanna had cooked), a dish that normally denoted a special occasion such as Christmas or New Year’s. Were they serving it in anticipation of Oliver (3)’s 21st birthday, or was it just a whim? Either way, serving roast goose on an odd weekday signified wealth behind the larder.

Sarah Josepha Hale offered a recipe for roast goose in her popular household guide, The Good Housekeeper, suggesting that it be stuffed and roasted on a spit over a “brisk” fire for at least two hours. Otherwise, she had a qualified opinion of the dish:

“Geese seem to bear the same relationship to poultry that pork does to the flesh of other domestic quadrupeds; that is, the flesh of goose is not suitable for, or agreeable to, the very delicate in constitution. One reason doubtless is, that it is the fashion to bring it to table very rare done; a detestable mode!”*

Mrs. Hale would likely have approved of the baked tarts, however, that Evelina served for tea later in the day to the Whitwells and others.  It’s a happy note that Sarah Witherell ventured over at the very end of the day; she must have been feeling better after the extraction of her teeth some days back.  She was comfortable enough to let Evelina’s nephew Augustus and his wife Hannah see her face, which had been swollen for days.


*Sarah Josepha Hale, The Housekeeper’s Guide, 1841, p. 52




January 26, 1852



Ames Plantation, Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, ca. 1880’s

Jan 26/51 (sic)

Monday   commenced making Susan a flannel skirt

Mother & self went into Edwins with our work and staid

about 3 hours came home to tea.  Evening Augustus

Hannah and Mrs Witherell were here Oliver Jr

and Oakes A went to Mr Whitwells expecting to meet

Willard L there.  It has been a beautiful day.  Mrs Buck

and Sarah called at Edwins while we were there and

were very polite

It was Monday, which meant that Evelina probably did a little housework this morning before picking up her sewing. As usual, Jane McHanna managed the Monday washing and Evelina didn’t need to paint or fix or oversee anything but the flannel skirt she was making for her daughter. After midday dinner, she and her elderly mother, Hannah Lothrop Gilmore, walked to the home of Edwin Gilmore and sat with his bride, Augusta Pool Gilmore, each of them tending to their sewing. It seemed quiet on the home front.

In another decade, it would be anything but quiet – at least across most of the country.  The United States would be in the first upheavals of an impending civil war. “The Great Rebellion,” they would call it. On this particular day in January, 1861, Louisiana would secede from the Union, the sixth of eleven states to do so. When the war ended in 1865, the Confederacy defeated, Louisiana and her sister states would ultimately be accepted back into the Union through the arduous and hotly political process known as Reconstruction.

In another two decades, the economies of the southern states would still be struggling, enabling many northerners to acquire cheap land and cast-off businesses. In 1873, the three Ames brothers – Oakes Angier, Oliver (3) and Frank Morton – would purchase two old plantations, Estelle and South Side in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, right across the Mississippi from New Orleans. On 13,000 acres, they would grow and refine sugar. The business ran until the start of the 20th century, overseen eventually by one of Frank’s sons. The property, which”stretched for more than one mile on the river and ran about eight miles deep”* was eventually sold.  Today that land comprises much of the city of Marrero, Louisiana. Little is left of the Ames influence except an eponymous boulevard running through the city’s center.


* Betsy Swanson, Historic Jefferson Parish: From Shore to Shore, p. 97.


January 25, 1852



Jan 25  Sunday  Have had a lovely day although it is somewhat

cold.  The first pleasant sabbath we have had for

a long while  We have all been to church except

Mrs Witherell who still stays at home on account

of her teeth being out. Mother came with us

from church to night. We have had fine sleighing

for a long time  Mr Whitwell gave us a fine 

sermon this afternoon

Old Oliver, too, appreciated today’s weather: “this is a fair pleasant day wind south west + thaws some   it is the first fair Sunday we had for a long time…” He also noted with satisfaction that “we began to fill our new ice hous yesterday,”* much of it with the ice that his grandsons Oliver (3) and Fred Ames had harvested on Friday.

The ice house was built right next to the pond** from which the ice was harvested. It was probably lined with sawdust for insulation; when the ice was removed, block by block, the sawdust absorbed some of the moisture and kept the building cool.  Even if the temperature outside rose, the temperature inside stayed relatively low. The ice was crucial to the storage and preservation of food in those days before refrigeration.

Today’s fair weather enticed everyone to church except Sarah Ames Witherell, who preferred to remain somewhat hidden while she recovered from recent dentistry.  The group drove the sleigh (or sleighs) to the meeting house, which was a couple of miles south of their family compound. Evelina sat in the family pew and enjoyed herself; she always liked hearing what Reverend Whitwell had to say.  She and her family brought her mother, Hannah Lothrop Gilmore, home for a visit.

*Oliver Ames, Journal, Stonehill College Archives, Arnold Tofias Collection

** Thanks to information from James Carlino, Dwight MacKerron and John Ames, we believe the ice pond in question may be Monte Pond, on the north side of Elm Street, just east of Rte. 138 in the northeastern corner of Easton. John also remembers an ice house next to French Pond on Union Street, also just east of Rte. 138, north of and parallel to Elm Street.  He bought some old ice tools there in the 1970s that he used in making sculpture.

January 24, 1852





Jan 24th  Saturday   Worked all the forenoon mending

Olivers overcoat & pants. Have finished my worsted

hood in Olivers this afternoon.  Julia Pool

Augusta & Edwin were there to tea. Mr Ames

has been to Boston & has brought home Oliver a

gold watch  Fred & Oliver have fine time and 

are wide awake  They sleep together.  Fred came 

in here tonight.

Evelina must have written this entry at night, perhaps in her bedroom where she could hear her son Oliver (3) and nephew Fred Ames conversing and laughing elsewhere in the house.  The first cousins, college men both, enjoyed one another’s company and were spending the night together. Up to now, they were the only family members in recent memory to go to university and must have had some stories to compare.

The fond regard that Oliver (3) and Fred held for one another would last throughout their lives, although it would be sorely tested on occasion. As grown men caught up in the high stakes of the railroad business, they found themselves holding opposing views more than once.  And after the sudden death of Oakes Ames and the attendant financial woes that followed, Oliver (3) defended his father’s legacy, while Fred supported his own father’s efforts to recoup funds that Oliver, Jr. believed were his.  In other words, Oliver (3) and Fred faced off over money. Yet they moved in similar circles, invested in similar capitalist ventures and, in 1893, when Fred himself died quite suddenly, Oliver (3) grieved, “completely broken down by [the] sad news.”*

Those difficult times lay ahead, but on this day, Oliver (3) had something to celebrate.  His father, Oakes, had given him a gold watch, perhaps in honor of his 21st birthday, which was right around the corner. Perhaps, too, Oakes was honoring his middle son for his successful studies at Brown University, studies that Oakes had initially resisted. The watch was certainly a sign that Oakes was proud.

*Oliver Ames Third, Diary, September 13, 1893, Collection of Stonehill College Archives



January 23, 1852




Currier & Ives, Winter in the Country: Getting the Ice1864


Jan 23d Friday  Have had a hard days work.  Heat the

brick oven 4 times.  Baked mince & dried apple

pies brown bread cup cake & ginger snaps.

Had quite a fright about Oliver & Fred being

away at tea time was affraid they had got into the

pond where they had been cutting ice for the ice house

found them at Edwins.  Mrs S Ames went with me

about 8 Oclock into Edwins


There are few things scarier for a parent than having a child – whatever the age – not come home when expected. Evelina and her sister-in-law Sarah Lothrop Ames had “quite a fright” when their sons, Oliver (3) and Fred Ames, respectively, didn’t return home from a day spent outside, harvesting ice at a family pond. The pond was some distance from the family compound, out of earshot. At tea time, no one was able to report on their whereabouts. The boys might have fallen in.

The worried mothers went out after dark to search for their sons and found them practically next door. They were fine. Oliver and Fred had stopped to call on Oliver’s cousin, Edwin Gilmore, and were presumably unaware that their absence had alarmed anyone. How relieved Evelina and Sarah must have been.

For the young men, the day spent working outdoors in the cold sunshine must have been an invigorating change from their college studies, and for their grandfather, Old Oliver, their participation in the important annual harvest of ice must have been gratifying.

January 22, 1852




Jan 22  Thursday  Have been cutting some apples & chopping

meat for mince pies, have it ready for baking

was about it all the forenoon, boiled tripe

This afternoon have been quilting the lining

for my hood. Julia Pool & Augusta spent the

afternoon. Augusta went home to get tea for Edwin &

in the evening they both came in and staid until

nearly ten Oclock. Mrs S Ames was here about an hour

Evelina was the recipient of the tripe from the two oxen that Old Oliver had butchered a few days earlier. Tripe is the stomach.

Lydia Maria Child offered advice on its preparation: “Tripe should be kept in cold water, or it will become too dry for cooking. The water in which it is kept should be changed more or less frequently, according to the warmth of the weather. Broiled like a steak, buttered, peppered, &c., some people like it prepared like souse.”*

Souse, also known as head-cheese, is a terrine made with meat from the head of a cow, calf or pig, often pickled, and set in a meat jelly or aspic. Mrs. Child was suggesting that the tripe be served in aspic, which Evelina might have done once she boiled it.  It’s not a dish one sees anymore on the American dinner table.

Out of the kitchen, Evelina welcomed visitors from the Pool family. The bride, Augusta Pool Gilmore, and her sister, Julia Pool, spent the afternoon at the Ames house and in the evening, the newlyweds themselves visited until ten o’clock.


Lydia Maria Child, The American Frugal Housewife, p. 38