March 31, 1852

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1852

March 31st Wednesday  Have been to the sewing circle

at Mr Harrison Pools.  Mrs S Ames & Augusta

went and we took Orinthia with us from Mrs Howard

Mother Henrietta Lavinia Rachel Mrs Nahum & Horace Pool

& Ann Pool were there   It rained very fast as we were

coming home  I left two shirts to be made that I

put in the circle last fall

The Sewing Circle was back.  Female parishioners from the Unitarian Church had begun once again to meet on a monthly basis to sew. Like other sewing circles around the country, they met for fellowship, guidance from the local clergy, and the sewing of clothes and linens for one another or others. They hadn’t met – officially, anyway – since December.

On this weekday the group met at the home of Mary and Harrison Pool in southeastern Easton. From North Easton came Evelina, Sarah Lothrop Ames, and Augusta Pool Gilmore, the young bride who was returning to the area of town where she had grown up. The women stopped en route at Nancy and Elijah Howard’s to pick up Orinthia Foss. Hostess Mary Pool, who had three young children underfoot, welcomed them. Others who attended included Evelina’s mother, Hannah Lothrop Gilmore; Henrietta Williams Gilmore, Lavinia Gilmore, Rachel Gilmore Pool, Lidia Pool, Abby Pool and Ann Pool. It was a veritable family reunion.  Except for Orinthia Foss, every women present was related by blood or marriage to at least one other woman there.

Such a gathering must have been good amusement, with less formality than the social calls that some of the women had paid the day before. But spirits may have been dampened by the “very fast” rain that pummeled the carriages when the meeting ended and the women returned home.

March 30, 1852

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1852

March 30th  Tuesday  Spent the forenoon puttering about

the house doing nothing at all.  Have been to

carry Orinthia to Mrs John Howards.  Mrs S Ames

went with us and we called at Mrs Reed, Whitwell

J. Howard  Mrs Merrill and Mrs Hills  Mrs Ames

stoped here to tea and spent the evening.  Louisa

Swan was at home and Ann Johnson.  Augusta called

Hannah called for a moment this forenoon

Apparently, there was no sewing today; perhaps Evelina’s fingers were sore from working the heavy moreen fabric the day before. She hardly seemed to mind “doing nothing at all,” however, and gave the afternoon over entirely to calling, an occupation she enjoyed. She, her sister-in-law Sarah Lothrop Ames, and guest Orinthia Foss called on Caroline Howard, Abigail Reed, Eliza Whitwell, Mrs. Merrill and Mrs. Hills. They may have called on some younger fellow Unitarians, too: Louisa Swan (daughter of Dr. Caleb Swan) and Ann Johnson.

Calling was an essential component of social life in the 19th century, as we’ve noted before.  Some women thrived on it, others only tolerated it, but just about every woman exercised the obligation to call on their friends and neighbors, as due. In Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel, “Little Women,” an entire chapter is devoted to two of the March sisters, Amy and Jo, making calls. Amy enjoyed them, but had to persuade Jo to join her:

“Now put on all your best things, and I’ll tell you how to behave at each place, so that you will make a good impression.  I want people to like you, and they would if you’d only try to be a little more agreeable. Do your hair the pretty way, and put the pink rose in your bonnet; its becoming, and you look too sober in your plain suit.  Take your light kids and the embroidered handkerchief. […]

“Jo […] sighed as she rustled into her new organdie, frowned darkly as she tied her bonnet strings in an irreproachable bow, wrestled viciously with pins as she put on her collar, wrinkled up her features generally as she shook the handkerchief, whose embroidery was as irritating to her nose as the present mission was to her feelings; and when she had squeezed her hands into tight gloves with two buttons and a tassel, as the last touch of elegance, she turned to Amy with an imbecile expression of countenance, saying meekly, –

“‘I’m perfectly miserable; but if you consider me presentable, I die happy.'”*

*Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

March 29, 1852

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Moreen Fabric*

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March 29 Monday.  Orinthia returned with us from meeting

yesterday  She helped Susan wash the dishes and

I cleaned the sitting room and afterwards sat down

to our sewing  Have new bound my moreen skirt

Orinthia and self went into Edwins this evening

had a pretty lively call making fun of Orinthia’s spelling

Evelina may have “had a pretty lively call making fun of Orinthia’s spelling,” today, but her own orthography was far from perfect. Neither woman, evidently, could have won a spelling bee – and Orinthia was a school teacher!  To be fair, however, spelling in the 19th century was not as standardized as it became later. Spelling has long been a fluid practice, actually, however often periodic efforts were made by different groups and individuals – Teddy Roosevelt among them – to reform and standardize it. So the two women would have had plenty of company with their wayward pens. Just consider the various ways that Old Oliver Ames spelled (or spelt) slate: sleight, slaight and slayt.

Presumably unworried about her own grammatical shortcomings, Evelina pursued her usual agenda for a Monday. She cleaned part of the downstairs while daughter, Susie, washed the breakfast dishes and servant, Jane McHanna, started the weekly laundry and prepared midday dinner. After Evelina had finished dusting, sweeping and tidying, she and guest Orinthia Foss, the poor speller, sat down to “our sewing”.

Evelina was working on a skirt of moreen, a ribbed fabric of cotton or wool that today serves more often for upholstery or curtains. In the 19th century, however, its stiffness lent itself to the voluminous skirts that defined the era. It would have been a thick, tough fabric to work on by hand. But Evelina was nothing if not an excellent needlewoman.

*Image courtesy of http://www.eatonhilltextiles.com

 

March 28, 1852

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Ames Shovel Handle Factory, Oakland, Maine*

 

March 28 Sunday  Went to church this morning and

at noon called at Mrs Wm Reeds with Henrietta

Hannah came at noon but was faint and

I carried her home and got back to church about

the time the services were over  After went down

to the new shops with Mrs W, S Ames Augusta Orinthia

found Mr. Ames, Oliver & Cyrus L there returned by Edwins

and all called there  Mr Ames & self went to Augustus’ this evening

The new shops were up, and various family members rode by to see them after church. No more “dismal ruin”, as reported by Evelina only three weeks earlier. Risen like a phoenix from the ashes of the old shops, the shovel works were about to begin operations in new, if temporary, quarters.

It was a large group that gathered to consider the new buildings. Evelina, who had missed the afternoon service in attending to her ailing niece, Hannah Lincoln Gilmore, nonetheless rode back from church to the site. Accompanying her were her sisters-in-law, Sarah Witherell and Sarah Ames; another niece, Augusta Pool Gilmore; and sometime boarder and frequent companion, Orinthia Foss.  At the site, by accident or design, they found Oakes Ames and his brother, Oliver Ames Jr., and Cyrus Lothrop, a brother of Sarah Lothrop Ames who often resided with his sister. The group must have marveled at the swift reincarnation of the shovel works.

Perhaps a celebratory spirit inspired the crowd to assemble en masse at the nearby home of newlyweds Augusta and Edwin Gilmore.

*Image of Ames Shovel Handle Factory, Oakland, Maine courtesy of the Oakland Maine Area Historical Society. Included to illustrate what the rebuilt shovel factory could have resembled.

March 27, 1852

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March 27  Sat  Have been mending again to day and painted

some spots in the back entry chamber  Mrs Witherell

& Mrs Lovell from Bridgewater came to see Mrs Witherell

& spent the day.  Mrs Lovell called on Hannah.

Mrs S Ames came in soon after dinner and staid

most of the afternoon  We called to see Mrs

Witherell & Lovell  Have read in the papers this

evening

Sarah Ames Witherell, Evelina’s sister-in-law, had visitors today from Bridgewater. Sarah’s mother-in-law, Lydia Witherell, and a Mrs. Lovell called. Mrs. Witherell was a recent widow, more recent even than her daughter-in-law, Sarah, who had been widowed three years earlier. Where Sarah’s late husband, Nathaniel Witherell, Jr. had died in October, 1848, his father, Nathaniel Witherell, Sr., had passed away in January of this year. Sarah and her two children, George and Emily, had traveled through a snowstorm to attend the funeral.

The Mrs. Lovell who came to call may have been Emeline Perry Creasy Lovell,  wife of Reverend Stephen Lovell, former resident of Easton and one-time pastor of the recently defunct Protestant Methodist church in Easton. But the clergyman and his wife possibly lived in Boston, too, so this Mrs. Lovell “from Bridgewater” may have been someone else. Yet her extra visit to see Hannah Lincoln Gilmore, who was still ailing, suggests that this Mrs. Lovell was familiar with at least some of the residents of North Easton.

While this visiting was going on, Evelina stayed on her side of the house with her other close sister-in-law, Sarah Lothrop Ames.  How did it work to have two separate social conversations going on under one roof, one on each side of divided parlor walls? One imagines that Evelina and Sarah Ames were curious about the nature of the call in “the other part of the house.”

March 26, 1852

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1852.

Friday March 26  Mrs S Ames returned from Boston last

night, had unpleasant weather for two days.  She called

at Mr Orrs found them all well. Julia is there

yet with her little one  Mrs S Ames & Witherell

called on Mrs Elizabeth Lothrop and invited me

to go with them but I felt it more my duty to call

on Mrs Swain, did so, and was prevailed upon to 

spend the afternoon & evening.  She has weaned her

babe, has been quite unwell but is now better

Two young women closely connected to Evelina recently weaned their babies. Hannah Lincoln Gilmore, wife of Evelina’s nephew Augustus, had just weaned her seven month old son, Willie. Ann Swain, wife of the head clerk of the shovel works, John Swain, had done the same with her five month old boy, John.

Weaning was an anxious time for both babies and mothers, although in this circumstance it appears the babies came through the ordeal better than their mothers, at least at first. Both Hannah and Ann had been unwell during the process. Evelina, in her attentive way, had spent time with the two young mothers while they ailed. As a practiced mother who had nursed and weaned five babies of her own, she may have offered advice and provided significant comfort to the younger women.

In Boston on this day in 1852, far from the concerns of the nursery, a new house of worship, the Temple Ohabei Shalom, the first synagogue in Boston, was consecrated. Although the temple, built on Warren Street, is no longer standing, we know that was architecturally handsome and well-appointed. It could seat 400 worshipers and also offered an area for a Hebrew School, a meeting room, and a bath, known as a mikveh.* A temple by the same names exists today on Beacon Street in Brookline.

Although Easton now has a synagogue, the Temple Chayai Shalom, it did not have one, nor did it have a visible Jewish community, in 1852.

 

* Jim Vrabel, When in Boston, Boston, 2004, p. 160

March 25, 1852

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1852

March 25  Thursday  Quite a heavy snowstorm this 

morning but it soon cleared and the sun came out

bright and for a short time the trees were clothed

with snow and were realy beautiful to behold

Have been mending quite a number of 

garments that were laid by from time to time

thinking I would mend them at a more convenient 

opportunity but that time seldom comes especialy

if it is what I dislike to do

Evelina had a quiet day, within and without. The snowstorm and its immediate aftermath produced a beautiful hush over the village. The trees in her backyard, along the Queset, were “clothed in snow,” and “beautiful to behold.”  This would be one of the last snowstorms of the season.

It was a lack of activity, perhaps, that made Evelina introspective today. She was more apt to describe her days in external terms, as in what she did and where she did it; but on this day she looked inward and faulted herself for not doing her duty. Because mending was so disagreeable to her, she was apt to procrastinate in tending to it. On this quiet day, she had no excuse not to do it.

 

*Photograph by John S Ames III