April 4, 1852




April 4th Sunday.  Orinthia and self went to the

Catholic meeting this forenoon after waiting more than

an hour the priest came and driveled over a mess

of nonsense in latin, they distributed palm as they called

it being nothing more than cedar & pine twigs.

Sat there three tedious hours, came home and

went to our church in the afternoon. since have

written a letter to Sister H. &c  Susan went over to Anna.

Evelina’s ill-tempered condescension continued today when she and her sidekick, Orinthia Foss, attended a morning service at the little Catholic church on Pond Street. It was Palm Sunday. Father Thomas was late – not unusual for an itinerant priest – and the service was in Latin, a language that Evelina didn’t understand, all for a holy day that Unitarians didn’t acknowledge. Most vexing of all, perhaps, was that the palms weren’t even real.

By her own account, Evelina was better satisfied by a service in the afternoon at her own church. The question is, why did Evelina attend the Catholic service to begin with? Out of curiosity? Out of respect for her own Catholic servant, Jane McHanna? Was this Orinthia’s idea?

Whatever her motive, Evelina came away from her “three tedious hours” as anti-Catholic as ever. Such feelings would not have been encouraged by her husband, Oakes, who was more welcoming of the Irish newcomers. But Evelina would have found reinforcement at home from her father-in-law, Old Oliver, who was no fan of the Irish Catholics in Easton, for all the work they did at the shovel shops.

In Easton, in Boston and all over New England, differences between the old Puritan customs and the transplanted Irish culture were pronounced and, for many, unyielding. In strictly religious terms, Unitarians couldn’t imagine a religion that kowtowed to a foreign leader, as they deemed the pope, while Catholics were incredulous that Protestants could just shake off the time-honored and revered practices of the original church. The melding of the two cultures would be a long time coming, and in some circles is still a work in progress.

5 thoughts on “April 4, 1852

  1. Evilina certainly seems to have an “edge” when she wants to use it.

  2. Here is a relevant anecdote from Chaffin’s portrait of Old Oliver: ” About this time, William Hayes built the house that stands on the corner of Main and Elm Streets. He was the foremost Irishman of the town, and he was requested by some Catholics in consultation with each other to go to Mr Ames, who took great interest in the management of the schools, and request him to have the reading of the Bible omitted in the schools here. Mr Ames glared at Hayes with anger and amazement. Removing his hat and putting it under his left arm, he said, “Wm Hayes, you used to come to me & put your hat under your arm like this and beg for a job. Now you come and demand a change in our laws and institutions to suit your religious prejudices. Damn you! Hayes, if you don’t like our laws and institutions, go back to your old country and stay there.” I transcribed this here-to-fore unpublished Chaffin sketch of Old Oliver several years ago with a grant from the Easton Cultural Council and have heard that the Historical Society has included it in one of their latest publications.

  3. Oh my goodness Dwight …. that is wonderful. Thank you so much for posting it.

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