What is a diary as a rule? A document useful to the person who keeps it. Dull to the
contemporary who reads it and invaluable to the student, centuries afterwards, who treasures it.
Sir Walter Scott
January 1, 2015
If you’re like me, you have treasured the 1851 diary of Evelina Gilmore Ames. Some of you have even participated with comments that have added depth to the consideration of a time gone by. Your additions have enhanced the small tale of a Yankee housewife who marked her modest days with regular notations of dresses sewn, flowers planted and fruits preserved, who wrote of short trips into Boston, visits to the family farm, and errands of mercy into the homes of sick neighbors.
Without meaning to, Evelina preserved a picture of life from antebellum New England, a life that has disappeared and evolved into a world she’d be hard-put to recognize. Her children, grand-children, and great-grandchildren have lived and died. Her house itself is gone, though the grander dwelling of her in-laws, Oliver, Jr. and Sarah Lothrop Ames, still stands proudly next door. Automobiles drive where oxen carts and horse carriages moved, and the significant architecture of certain stone buildings in the center of the village memorializes relatives she loved. The very factory whose noisy production of world-famous shovels led the local economy for decades moved away more than sixty years ago. She couldn’t have imagined it.
Yet some things remain the same. People are still people, solicitous or mean, content or down-hearted, eager or indifferent. The true characters we read about in the pages of her diary are recognizable and familiar to us in their essential humanity. We can find ourselves and our own families somewhere in these pages; we all behave so similarly. In Easton, Massachusetts, many descendants of the people Evelina wrote about still live. Last names like Ames, Gilmore, Randall, Tisdale and others can be found in the local telephone book (which itself is in danger of becoming as obsolete as Evelina’s tin stove.)
Evelina continued to keep a diary after 1851, but only the 1852 diary is extant. Her journals from the Civil War period have been lost. We’ll just have to treasure the one that remains. And so, ahead of us is the last available year of Evelina’s tiny aperture on the Ames family of old.
Thank you for reading!
Sarah Lowry Ames
(wife of John S. Ames III, great-great-great-grandson of Oliver and Susanna Angier Ames)
8 thoughts on “The New Year”
Thank you Sarah so much for doing this. It’s been a real pleasure reading this journal at 3 in the morning when I’m thrashing around. Very well done – a real treasure. What’s next? I’ve kept a journal for various stretches of my life – maybe you could analyze that!
Thanks, Bill. What’s next? How about a video?
Wonderful Sarah! Your daily posts have been a treasure to read. I’m grateful as each day progresses making that particular day for me just a little bit richer in thought and gratitude. I commend you for all the research, in itself, complements each post and gives a reader reflection on the past and present. With high esteem for your endeavor, I look forward to another year!
Peggy, thank you for your kind words. In turn, I start my day with your calendar, enjoying a wonderful range of intelligent observations and insights into our rich and strange world. Thank you for gathering all the apples that have fallen from wise pens and putting them into a bushel of days for us to ingest, one bite at a time. To the future (and the past!)
Sarah, thank you again for doing this. It is a shame that all the other diaries are “lost,” but as with everything, we must do our best to cherish what we have not yet lost.
Thank you, Dwight. I always welcome your contributions to the discussion; you know more than I do about that time and place. And yes, I sigh when I think of the diaries that disappeared. What a loss.
As others, I have so enjoyed reading about the life of my 3x grandmother … and what you have done to fill in the history surrounding the time has just made it that much more a joy. Thank you so much and may God bless you richly this coming year.
Thank you, Tad. I’m grateful every day that your 3x grandmother kept a diary. Bless her, too.