March 21, 1852



March 21 Sunday  Have all been to meeting except

Susan who is not very well  George carried

Amelia home at noon  I had a very pleasant

visit from her of nearly two weeks.  Orinthia

called with me into Edwins after church & we

helped ourselves to apples from the cellar.  Augusta

sent us one filled with sand and cheese.

Called at Mr Whitwells at noon & at Mrs J Howard a moment

Spring had arrived; Amelia Gilmore left the Ames’s home and hospitality and headed back to her own quarters in southeastern Easton. George Oliver Witherell, 14-year old son of Sarah Ames Witherell, obligingly carried her home in a carriage during the intermission at church. Evelina, meanwhile, visited with the Whitwells and the Howards.

After church Evelina and Orinthia went to the home of Edwin and Augusta Gilmore and helped themselves to “apples from the cellar.” That the young couple still had apples from the previous fall suggests that the harvest had been good and the storage arrangements even better. We presume that Evelina and Orinthia took the apples with the permission of the Gilmores; Augusta sending over a barrel “filled with sand and cheese,” corroborates that. But why is a barrel with cheese also filled with sand? Any thoughts, readers?


March 20, 1852



from The Philosophy of Laughter and Smiling , 1877


March 20th Saturday  Have cut and basted a purple print

apron for Susan of a pattern that Lavinia

brought from Mary  Abby & Edwin & wife were

here to tea  Orinthia dressed in Franks clothes

and paraded around here awhile.  Send for Mrs

Witherell & Mrs S Ames to see her  We have had

a pretty lively time  Orinthia brought over

Edwin & wife.

The ladies laughed today.  After sewing for hours, breaking only for midday dinner, Evelina and her young friend Orinthia Foss laid down their needles to have tea. Orinthia got it into her head to put on nineteen-year-old Frank Morton Ames’s clothes “and paraded around.” She donned his shop pants, perhaps, and shop coat over one of his white muslin shirts. Evelina and her guests were so amused at the sight that they called in Sarah Ames and Sarah Witherell to see the fun. Cross-dressing was a novelty for these women, and Orinthia’s daring act generated hilarity.

All things considered, these women were probably due for some laughter.  It was the first day of spring, and everyone had been pretty well cooped up for months, excepting the occasional trip into town. More recently, they had suffered through a major fire. Some innocent amusement was a good release.

Evelina’s favorite author, Charles Dickens, knew all about laughter: “It is a fair, even-handed adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.”**

While the women amused themselves at home,  the best-selling novel of the 19th century was published in book form today, in Boston.  We’ll soon find Evelina reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin.


* Clockwise: “The Giggling Laugh, excited by Boisterous Fun and Nonsense.” “The Obstreperous Laugh, instigated by Practical Jokes or Extreme Absurdities.” “The Hearty Laugh of the Gentler Sex.” “The Stentorian Laugh of the Stronger Sex.” “The Superlative Laugh, or Highest Degree of Laughter.“ From The Philosophy of Laughter and Smiling, George Vesey, 1877. Courtesy New York Historical Society, courtesy of CABINET: The Art of Laughter, Issue 17, Spring 2005

**Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

March 19, 1852


March 19th Friday  Have heat the brick oven baked

mince & dried apple pies & Jenny Lind cake  Amelia

went to Mr Torreys this morning and Orinthia

afternoon & self this evening, when we returned

found Edwin & wife here.  Mr Whitwell called

had called at Edwins for the first time

Jenny Lind, international opera star, was so famous at mid-century that many things were named in her honor: A street in North Easton, for one, and more. The “Swedish Nightingale,” young, pretty and gifted, was promoted to the hilt by master showman P. T. Barnum. Happy fans and clever merchandisers attached her name to a bed, a bonnet, a steamer trunk, a pudding, a saloon in Brooklyn and a gold-rush town on the Calaveras River in California. She also had a cake named after her.

Evelina baked a Jenny Lind cake today.  Perhaps she took the “receipt” from a popular cookbook by Mrs. A. L. Webster titled The Improved Housewife. The result was a real departure from the usual fruitcake:

Stir together 2 cups white sugar and 1 butter.  Add 10 egg-whites, well beaten. Just before setting in , add half a teaspoonful soda dissolved in cup of cold milk and 1 and half cream tartar mixed with 4 cups flour.  Flavor with vanilla, or to taste. Line pans with buttered paper, and bake in moderate oven fifteen or twenty minutes.  Frost it. – Or: the 10 yolks with the other ingredients as above, and the grated rind of 2 lemons for the flavoring, make a nice cake.”



March 18, 1852



March 18th  Thursday  A very heavy rain storm to day

Amelia Orinthia & self have had a quiet day

but mine has not been pleasant work, have

mended Mr Ames old shop coat have put new

cloth in the under part of the sleeves, mended

button holes so, think it will last some time.

Also mend Franks pants  Orinthia has been 

to work on her delaine dress

The women at the Ames residence stayed indoors today, held inside by “a cold driving rain storm.”* They sewed, naturally, but Evelina didn’t particularly enjoy herself. Orinthia got to work on a new dress, but Evelina had to mend her husband’s shop coat and her son Frank’s pants. Mending was never as much fun as sewing, but it was essential. As we have noticed before, Evelina was devoted to making things last. Like other Yankee housewives, she had been brought up to: “Eat it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”**

Yet as the family grew more wealthy, Evelina began to enjoy the luxury of not doing without. She shopped in Boston for fashion accessories and household items that she would never have had in her youth. As modern historian Jack Larkin has pointed out, a “household’s furnishings constituted a material world that defined the limits of comfort, heating and lighting, and filled functional needs for sitting, sleeping and eating, but they also spoke of Americans’ economic status and aspirations.”***

Old habits die hard, as we know. The Ameses had money, and Evelina didn’t have to mend her husband’s shop coat; she could have insisted that he buy a new one, or she could have sewn one for him, perhaps. Her ingrained sense of economy, however tempted by the changing world around her, wouldn’t allow it. William L. Chaffin, the town historian who knew the Ames family, described Evelina as “economical” in his late-life remembrance of Oakes Ames, and shared the tale that Oakes joked about Evelina at the dinner table, suggesting to guests that his wife wanted them to help themselves to preserves that were going bad so she could use them up.

On this day, rather than demand that her husband purchase a new work coat – which we can surmise he had no interest in doing – Evelina fixed up the old one, and sighed that she wasn’t sewing a new dress instead.

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

** A 20th century, World War II-era version of this maxim was “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

***Jack Larkin, The Reshaping of Everyday Life, 1988, p. 264


March 17, 1852

 IMG_0085Modern photograph of two private homes on Oliver Street in Easton, originally built in 1852 as part of the temporary structure for the shovel factory.*

March 17

1852  Wednesday.  Passed the day at Mothers with Amelia

and Susan   Carried Augusta to her fathers

and afternoon she and Rachel came down

to see us  Miss Foss closed her school Sat.

Came to Mothers this morning and to

night came home with us.  Carried cloth

and cut out a bleached shirt  Amelia worked

on the sleeves.

Evelina spent a pleasant day with her mother and several relatives. Her friend Orinthia Foss came to stay for a time. Evelina’s father-in-law, Old Oliver Ames, was completely focused on the rebuilding of the shovel shops. He seemed pleased to report:

“this was a cloudy day wind northeast. + in the afternoon it was cold + chilly. the roof is on the stone shop + the windows are in + the down stream end finisht- + the piece from that to the water shop is up + the roof shingled + the walls are boarded – one hundred + eight feet of the handeling shop is up and part of it clapboarded. the polishing shop is up and the roof shingled and the sides boarded + partly clapboarded the hammer shop is up + the sides + ends boarded and the roof and two thirds sleighted”**

This is one of the longest entries that Old Oliver ever wrote in his journal. He was clearly proud of the progress that had been made in the two weeks since the fire that destroyed almost all. The factory would soon be back on its feet, and planning for more permanent stone buildings could move forward. The wooden buildings that went up so fast would have another use after the stone buildings were erected, that of housing for some of the shovel workers. They would be moved from the original site by the pond and become residences. As you can see from the illustration, some of them are still used today.


* Image taken by Gregory Galer, Forging Ahead, MIT, 2001, Figure 50

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

March 16, 1852


Defensive breastworks dug by Army Corps of Engineers outside of Petersburg, Virginia during the Civil War – probably using Ames shovels

March 16th

1852 Tuesday  Sewed on my waist very quietly

with Amelia this forenoon and this afternoon

have been into Edwins  Julia Pool came

there & tomorrow is going into Boston  Mrs S

Ames was there and this evening Mrs Witherell

Amelia is in fine spirits and am having

a very pleasant visit from her.

A quiet day was this, and “not verry cold.”*  Evelina and her sister-in-law, Amelia Gilmore, sat and sewed for hours and visited with Augusta Pool Gilmore, Sarah Lothrop Ames and Sarah Ames Witherell.  The reconstruction of the shovel shops continued.

Although Evelina was unlikely to have known it, today happened to be the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Army Corps of Engineers. Officially organized  by President Thomas Jefferson on this date in 1802, the Corps was headquartered at West Point, where it established and led the military academy until after the Civil War. For many years, West Point was the major engineering school in the country.

In addition to its oversight of West Point, the Corps was tasked for much of the 19th century with exploration of America’s vast lands and waterways. As the country moved westward, the Corps surveyed road and canal routes.  During the Civil War, it built bridges, railways, forts, batteries and roads – often using Ames shovels.

In 1852, in particular, the Corps was focused on waterways.  In Detroit, one group of engineers conducted and published a survey of the Great Lakes. In Utah, an engineer named Lieutenant James W. Gunnison, for whom the Gunnison River is named, explored the Salt Lake area and spent time with the Mormons. He published a report entitled, “The Mormons or Latter-Day Saints, in the Valley of The Great Salt Lake. A History of their Rise and Progress, Peculiar Doctrines, Present Condition, and Prospects, Derived from Personal Observation During a Residence Among Them.”

A year later, Gunnison and several members of his team would be massacred by Indians from the Pahvant Ute tribe.  Gunnison’s widow, Martha, always believed that the Mormons were the actual perpetrators. The Army Corps of Engineers kept right on going, continuing its work and eventually expanding its original mission to include flood control, dam construction, and environmental cleanup.


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

March 15, 1852





March 15th Monday  Gave the sitting room & entry

a thourough sweeping & dusting and then

went to sewing.  Susan washed the dishes

Amelia & self carried our work into Edwins but did 

not stop to tea, are invited there tomorrow.  We called

at Mrs Bucks  She has 41 schollars and 5 or 6 boarders


After “considerable rain” over night, Monday broke “cloudy in the morning but fair + warm in the afternoon and in the evening there was some rain + it grew colder [.] Mr Arnold came to day to sleight the hammer shop”* Thus wrote Old Oliver.

After Sunday’s respite, work on the rebuilding of the shovel shops picked right back up.  A slate roof was going up on the hammer shop, thanks to the expertise of John Arnold, a local man who had done roofing for the Ameses before.  Old Oliver seemed pleased.

At the Ames home, Amelia Gilmore continued her visit with Evelina. Once the morning chores were complete, with Susie washing dishes and trusted Jane McHanna doing the laundry, and midday dinner consumed, Evelina and Amelia walked across the way to visit Augusta Pool Gilmore, carrying their sewing with them. They must have spent several hours there, but didn’t stay for tea. Instead they headed home, stopping off to see another neighbor, Polly Buck.  Evidently, Mrs. Buck was running a private school with day students and boarders. One imagines that the ruckus there might have been equivalent to the bustle of workers at the building site.


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

March 14, 1852




March 14th Sunday  Amelia & self went to hear

Willard Lothrop preach as he calls it

at this methodist meeting house but he

was not able to make out much  We called

at Mr Torreys & Augustus’ at noon

Edwin & wife were here to supper but

went home before dark.  Have read the

white Rover in Gleasons pictorial


With the factory shut or, in this case, with the carpenters away, Sunday was a quiet day in North Easton. This particular Sunday “was cloudy all day + in the evening + night there was considerable rain – wind north east.”* The Ames family usually went to church at a meeting house in Easton Center, but on this Sunday Evelina did something different.

Her family may have gone to the usual Unitarian service with Reverend Whitwell, but Evelina and her sister-in-law, Amelia Gilmore, stayed in the village and attended a service at the Methodist meeting house. This tiny church, since moved to another location, sat in an intersection of North Easton now known at The Rockery. So small was it that one visiting preacher declared he could “spit into the gallery from the pulpit.** Its intimate dimensions were just right for another session of Spiritualism with Willard Lothrop, who preached in his own personal way.

Evelina and Amelia may have been motivated to try to communicate with departed family members, but they came away disappointed. Lothrop failed “to make out much.”  Although Lothrop and others in Easton continued to advocate for their belief, Evelina pulled away from it. This is her final entry on the topic of Spiritualism.


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

**William L. Chaffin, Oakes Ames, Easton, early 20th c., p.3

March 13, 1852


                    Frank Bellew                            “Raising the Wind; or, Both Sides of the Story”*    


1852 March 13th  Saturday  Have been mending &

sewing on my waists  Have passed the afternoon

in the other part of the house with

Amelia  Mr Ames came to tea  There has been fifty or 

more carpenters to work on the shops the past week

and it has been pleasant weather.

Good weather was a boon to the rapid rebuilding of the shovel shops after the devastating fire of March 2d. Although she remained in the house sewing for much of the day, Evelina and her visiting sister-in-law, Amelia Gilmore, would have been able to hear the hammering and shouting from scores of carpenters hustling to rebuild O. Ames & Sons.

In New York City today, a political cartoon appeared in a weekly newspaper, The New York Lantern. The subject of the cartoon had to do with a request before Congress to augment funding for overseas mail delivery.  Two shipping lines, one American, one British, were competing for the mail trade. The American Collins Line, which was losing money, was subsidized by the U.S. Post Office; the British Cunard Line was also assisted by its own government and was way ahead; its faster, larger fleet was eating into the American market.

In the cartoon, figures representing the two lines faced off over toy ships in a tub. Cunard is represented by John Bull helping a small boy work a bellows. The Collins Line is represented by a small boy, cheeks puffed, blowing at the water by himself. Behind him stands an aloof, apparently disinterested “Uncle Sam.”

Today was Uncle Sam’s first appearance as an illustration. He had existed in name since about 1810, but on this day, a young cartoonist named Frank Bellew turned Uncle Sam into a recognizable American icon. Bellew, whose parents were English, worked his trade as an illustrator and cartoonist in New York City for publications such as Frank Leslie’s Illustrated, but eventually resettled in New Orleans. Charles Dickens knew his work and admired it: “Frank Bellew’s pencil is extraordinary. He probably originated more, of a purely comic nature, than all the rest of the artistic brethren put together.”**

Uncle Sam lives today, thanks to Frank Bellew. The Cunard Line is alive and well, too, now owned by The Carnival Corporation.  The Collins Line, however, ever faltering, failed to survive the Financial Panic of 1857 and went bankrupt the following year.


The New York Lantern, March 13, 1852, Courtesy of the Library of Congress

** Wikipedia, accessed March 6, 2015

March 12, 1852



March 12th Friday.  Spent most of the forenoon about

the house gave the sitting room a thorough

sweeping  This afternoon & evening have

spent at Mr Torreys  Amelia came home

with me.  Called to see Hannah in bed

almost sick with the canker & has weaned her babe.


Poor Hannah Lincoln Gilmore, wife of Alson Augustus Gilmore and mother of two little boys, 3-year old Eddie and 7-month old Willie, had been feeling poorly for more than a week.  Her complaint was canker sores, a common enough ailment but one that struck her unusually hard. As Evelina points out, Hannah was “in bed almost sick.”

As most of us know, a canker sore is a benign but painful sore located inside the mouth and lips or at the base of the gums. Known medically as aphthous stomatitis, a canker is not contagious and has no cure. It is often caused by stress; perhaps Hannah’s recent efforts to wean Willie had set them off. A canker sore can last from seven to ten days, and can be painful enough to make talking and eating difficult. Hannah must really have felt crummy.

Meanwhile, at the shovel shop, reconstruction was continuing.  Old Oliver noted that “the 12th + 13th were both good fair days for our work.”*

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