April 30, 1852



Friday April 30th  Worked in the garden awhile this

morning  Mr Scott has grained the cook

room  Rachel dined here & was intending to 

spend the day but Mrs Packard came to Edwins

and she went back there  Mrs Lincoln

passed the afternoon & Augustus to tea  Abby

spent the day, was away awhile with Mrs

Clapp after some flowers.  Hannah gone to Boston


The last day of the month was “a fair day + the warmest we have had this spring …,”* according to Old Oliver Ames, who also noted that he “killed 4 shoats to day.”

A shoat is a newly weaned pig that typically  weighs in at about thirty pounds. It wasn’t unusual to find a farmer thinning a litter of pigs (also known as a drift of pigs) at this time of year, for different reasons. Many farmers bought shoats at this time of year to fatten up over the summer and slaughter in the fall. For reasons known only to himself, Old Oliver chose to slaughter four of his young pigs rather than sell them. Perhaps the shoats in question were unpromising specimens, or perhaps the Ames family was ready for a little fresh pork.

In the first part of the 19th century, the word “shoat” was also used as a pejorative slang term, intended to describe someone as fairly useless. To call someone a shoat was to say that he or she was dispensable and unimportant.

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

April 29, 1852


Peter Mark Roget

(1779 – 1869)


Thurs April 29 Baked twice in the brick oven.

Mince pies, cake bread &c   Mr & Mrs 

Kinsley with their family made quite a long

call  They are very pleasant.  After they left went

to Mr Torreys  Augustus, wife & her sister  Augusta

& Rachel there, brought home some rose slips

The aroma of baking filled the Ames house today as Evelina produced pies, cakes, bread and more. Or should we say that the smell, or the scent, or the fragrance, or the odor of baking bread was apparent to anyone who stepped into the house? Roget’s Thesaurus would offer us any one of those synonyms for the word aroma.

The first edition of Roget’s Thesaurus was published on this date in 1852. Peter Mark Roget, a British physician, inventor and theologian, began to compile synonyms as a young man as one way of combatting the depression that plagued him for much of his life.  Beginning the work in 1805, not long after he had completed his medical studies, he spent nearly fifty years bringing the publication to fruition.  The first edition had approximately 15,000 words; it has been continually expanded, updated regularly ever since.

The Kinsleys of Canton came to visit in the afternoon and, no doubt, they could smell the fresh baked bread. Lyman Kinsley was an iron trader who had many dealings with the Ames family; within the decade, his business would be owned by the Ameses and overseen by Frank Morton Ames. That was in the future, however. On this day, he, his wife, Louisa, daughter Lucy and younger sons, perhaps, all came for “quite a long call.”  Evelina enjoyed their company, but after they left she bounced right out of the house to go into the village to visit relatives and bring home rose slips. The garden!


April 28, 1852

Unitarian Church, Bridgewater, Mass


Wednesday April 28  Have been to the ordination of

Mr Ballou of W Bridgewater with Oakes A & 

Sister Sarah, Mr H Ballou, Briggs of Plymouth

Brigham [illegible] Ballou of Stoughton &c

Mrs Witherell dined at old Mrs Ames, the

rest of us at Mr Thomas Ames.  On my return 

stoped at Augustus’.  Oakes A came to tea

Miss S Lincoln Rachel Augusta & Abby here

It was the middle of a work week, but the Unitarian ministry was busy. In Bridgewater, (or West Bridgewater) a Mr. Ballou was ordained as minister. The name Ballou was associated with many late 18th and 19th century men of the cloth, particularly with Hosea Ballou, an early leader of the Universalist Church. Today’s Mr. Ballou wasn’t he, but may have been a relative.

Why were the Ameses invited to this ordination? Why did they attend? What was the connection? Were they related to the Ballous? They were distantly related to various Ameses in the area, including Thomas Ames, a 52 years-old farmer, who kindly had them to dine.

On this special occasion, as the Unitarians in Bridgewater were honoring ritual and perpetuating their ilk, a forward-looking and entirely new event took place in Boston. The first electric fire alarm in the world “was rung from what is now Box 1212 for a fire on Causeway Street. Created by Dr. William Channing and Moses Farmer, the system consists of forty miles of wire, forty-five signal boxes, and sixteen alarm bells. Police officers and members of the Boston Night Watch are given keys to the locked boxes to enable them to turn in alarms.”* What’s particularly amazing is that “[p]art of the system is still in use today.”*

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

April 27, 1852


Tues April 27

1852  Mr Scott & Holbrook have painted the 

cook room worked all the forenoon getting 

it ready and this afternoon in the garden

The gardener came up from the shop and

set out the currant bushes farther from 

the brook and some Honeysuckle from Mr Swain 

and Lakes   Rachel came to Edwins I called to

see her and carried Augusta some plants.


Evelina shuttled around the house and grounds today, keeping track of indoor painting and outdoor gardening and, most likely, everything in between. A gardener arrived on assignment from the shovel factory to plant some honeysuckle bushes that Evelina had acquired from two obliging neighbors, the Swains and the Lakes. The gardener also help her move some currant bushes back from Queset River, the little brook behind the Ames property.

The Queset, which historian William Chaffin found to be “a pleasant-sounding name,”* is only the most recent name for the stream that runs from north to south through Easton. It was first identified by that name around 1825.  In earlier days it was known as the Mill River, and, before then, the portion particular to North Easton was called Trout Hole Brook.  One would have to go back to the early 18th century, before water privileges had been claimed and dams built, to find trout in the stream.

The waterways of Easton have frequently changed over the years, as needs have altered and other sources of power been identified.  In 1852, water power was still essential to the shovel shops, and many dams – including the one that had almost breeched the dam during the heavy rainstorm of the previous week – were depended upon to produce the water flow needed to keep the factory going – and the currant bushes growing.

William L. Chaffin, History of Easton, Massachusetts, 1886, pp. 10 – 11.

**Douglas Watts, at losteaston.blogspot.com, is a conservation writer who would like to turn the Queset back into an active trout stream.


April 26, 1852


Ragged robin

Monday April 26

1852  Was about house and to work about the

garden all the forenoon  Mr Manly brought

me a Japan Quince Syringa P Lilac Compfre

Ragged robbin Cowslip Fleur de Luce &c  charged

90 cts.  Went this afternoon to Alsons with

Augustus & wife & her sister.  Came home

quite early and set out some plants that

I got there

Edwin Manley, Easton’s resident green thumb, brought Evelina her lilac bush this morning, along with a quince tree, some comfrey, ragged robin, cowslip and “fleur de luce,” which probably was Evelina’s spelling for fleur-de-lis, also known as  iris.  For less than a dollar, she acquired flora that promised to add fragrance and color to her garden. Later in the day she got more plants – for free, most likely – from her brother Alson Gilmore.

The countryside itself was still wanting in color at this mid-spring juncture, something Evelina and her fellow passengers might have noticed on their way to and from the Gilmore farm. Henry David Thoreau wrote about the pale fields and expectant woods in his journal on this date: “The landscape wears a subdued tone, quite soothing to the feelings; no glaring colors.”* Perhaps Evelina’s rush to add more vibrant colors to her yard would have jarred his sensibility.

Even with all the gardening, the day’s housework went on as usual with dusting, sweeping, dishes and laundry. Evelina and Jane McHanna both worked at various tasks, while Thoreau – not that many miles away – responded otherwise:  “It is a dull, rain dropping and threatening afternoon, inclining to drowsiness. I feel as if I could go to sleep under a hedge.”*

The two diarists reacted differently to the awakening pulse of spring.


**Henry David Thoreau, Journal

April 25, 1852.


Sunday April 25th  A very pleasant day and have

all been to meeting.  Came home at noon

with Hannah & sister and Susan, all returned

in the afternoon.  After meeting called at

Olivers to see Mr & Mrs A Lothrop and rode to

Mr Manley to speak for some plants

Augustus & Hannah rode with us as far as

Mr Swains  Emily & Susan went also to Mr Manlys

Lilacs, a fragrant favorite for gardeners and civilians alike, were among the plants that Evelina selected at Edwin Manley’s today. In the 19th century, many a New England farmhouse featured lilacs close to the door, as American poet Walt Whitman famously describes in When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard bloom’d, his elegy for Abraham Lincoln:

…In the dooryard fronting an old farm-house near the white-wash’d palings,

Stands the lilac bush tall-growing with heart-shaped leaves of rich green,

With many a pointed blossom rising delicate, with the perfume strong I love,

With every leaf a miracle – and from this bush in the dooryard,

With delicate-color’d blossoms and heart-shaped leaves of rich green,

A sprig with its flower I break…

Today after church, the sermons and small social obligations dispensed with, Evelina thought about her flower beds. The day was “fair” and “some warmer,”* so with niece Sarah Emily Witherell and daughter Susan Eveline Ames, she rode up to visit her go-to gardener “to speak for some plants.”  Mr. Manley indicated he would bring the plants by the next day.  Evelina wouldn’t have been able to plant anything today, it being the Sabbath, but she could imagine where she would put the plants, and how they would look, the anticipation of which added to her delight.

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






April 24, 1852


Sat 1852

April 24  Mrs Ames returned last night I came

from Boston to night.  Like my things pretty well

have bought me some bronze candelabras

drugget a lot of gentlemans hose &c &c

Got through with my shopping about three

and went to Mr Orrs.  Lucia Harris is

there Mrs Witherell & Ames came to see my

things in the evening

The bronze candleabras that Evelina bought in Boston today were purchased, in all likelihood, for the parlor. They were a formal throwback to the time when candles were used for lighting, which was the period that began when the Pilgrims first arrived and lasted to the early part of the 19th century.  By 1852, however, oil lamps and very soon, kerosene lamps, were becoming standard fare for lighting. They were more economical than candles.

Burning candles, then, was something of a “retro” effort that honored the grace and warmth of the familiar candlestick, and suggested that the homeowner had enough money to burn candles if he so chose. No smudgy little whale oil lamp for the parlor or the dinner table, though oil lamps of varying styles and efficiency might operate in the rest of the house. In the room in which company was entertained, the candleabras would glow, and brag.

Both sisters-in-law came over at the end of the day to see what Evelina had bought, and it’s hard to imagine they were interested in the “gentlemans hose &c.” They came over to check out the new candleabras.

April 23, 1852

Boston, early 1850s, partial panoramic view

 Partial view of Boston and Cambridge from the Bunker Hill Monument, early 1850s*


Friday April 23d  Went to Boston with Mrs S Ames

Called on Mrs Stevens did not stop with

her more than 15 minutes. Went to Mr Orrs

at night  Julia is there with her babe she

grows nicely and Julia is quite smart

I was about a great deal and was very

much fatigued but had a good […]

comfortable day

Evelina had not been out of Easton for more than two months.  Her last trip to Boston had been in the middle of February, when she’d traveled in with her son Oliver (3) and shopped for prints for the parlor.  That was before the fire at the shovel shop. With so much time having elapsed, she must have been eager to get to the city again.

She traveled into town with her sister-in-law, Sarah Lothrop Ames. They may have called together on family friend Mrs. Stevens, but they likely went their own ways afterwards. As usual, Evelina stayed with the family of Robert and Melinda Orr, where she visited their daughter Julianne Orr Harris (Mrs. Benjamin Winslow Harris) and her new baby, Mary, at whose birth Evelina had been present. Both mother and daughter seemed healthy.

Boston was probably bustling at this time of year, trees at the bud and the air cold but promising. The partial view of the city in the illustration above, made about this time, shows a city that was growing west and south. Between 1840 and 1850, its population had grown from 93,383 people to 136,881. By 1860, the count had reached 177,840. In this vista, railroads are visible, and a Back Bay sits ready to be completely filled..

The view was captured from the top of the Bunker Hill Monument, itself a recent feature of the landscape. Replacing an earlier monument also dedicated to the Revolutionary War battle in Charlestown, it was completed in 1842 and dedicated in 1843. Antiquarian Samuel Gardner Drake (and one of the founders of the New England Geneaological Society) published the panorama in his The History and Antiquities of Boston  in 1856 .


*Partial image of Panorama of Boston and Cambridge from top of Bunker Hill Monument, from The History and Antiquities of Boston, published in 1856 by Samuel Gardner Drake

April 22, 1852



Thursday April 22  Worked a very little in the garden

not very pleasant but looks more like fair weather

Sewed a little on my black silk dress

Called with Augusta on Hannah & her sister

Sarah, Abby and at Willard Lothrop, Sampsons

A Pratts Holmes and at the store.  afterwards at

Olivers & Edwins carried a pr shoes to mend

A little sewing, a little gardening, and a great deal of socializing filled the hours of Evelina’s day today. After being pretty well pent up by several days of stormy weather, Evelina was ready to go out.

With her niece-in-law, Augusta Pool Gilmore, she called on another niece-in-law, Hannah Williams Gilmore. There they met Hannah’s sister, Sarah Lincoln, who was visiting from Hingham. They went on to see yet another niece, Abby Torrey, then to the homes of Willard Lothrop (one of Easton’s most active spiritualists), Joel and Martha Sampson, and others.

The Sampsons were a younger couple from Maine with five little children aged eight and under, including three-year-old twins. Joel Sampson worked at the shovel shop and was evidently devoted to Oakes Ames. Twenty years later, on hearing of Oakes’ death, “Joel Sampson, teamster and farmer of the company came home when he heard the sad news, threw himself upon his sofa and announced to his wife that the head and soul of the business was dead, that every thing would go to smash now, and told her to make ready to go back to their old farm and home in Maine, as it was no use to live here any more.”**

Throughout her travels today, Evelina carried a pair of shoes to be mended. In an area of the country well known for its shoe manufacturing, there must have been a good cobbler somewhere in town.


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

**William Chaffin, “Oakes Ames,” p. 2

April 21, 1852


Examples of 19th c. lunch pails*


Wednesday April 21st  It still continues to rain through not as

hard as yesterday  Have been to work on

Susans dresses altering them  Went with

Mrs S Ames to the store  Susan has carried

her dinner to school three days and thinks

it something nice  Swept my chamber and put

it in order

The heavy rain of the past two days wasn’t giving up easily. Old Oliver wrote that “it raind considerable last night + the wind blew hard and it is cloudy + rainy this morning + the water is verry high.”**

Despite the weather, the Ames women continued many of their usual routines: sewing, of course, and housework, but errands, too. Evelina and her sister-in-law Sarah Lothrop Ames went to the company store in the village. Little Susie Ames went to school, as she had even during the worst part of the storm. Instead of coming home for dinner in the middle of those rainy days, however, she carried her meal to school and ate there.  No school cafeteria or hot lunch program in those days! She thought it “something nice” to stay at school for the midday meal.

Courtesy of the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian

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