April 20, 1852


Tues April 20th

1852  Storms again to day and nearly as hard

as yesterday.  rained poringly last night

Mr Packard came at half past three and Mr Ames

went to the hoe & knife shop to raise planks 

the water being very high  The highest that

has been known for years  Augusta spent

the afternoon  Worked all the forenoon cleaning

out grease from the buttery

The Nor’easter continued.  The Queset Brook, which ran behind the Ames compound, the Shovel Shop Pond and other local bodies of water threatened to overflow under the deluge of rain. The water came down “poringly” and, according to Old Oliver, “it raind about all day.”* To use a word that is not often encountered in the 21st century, a freshet was imminent.

A freshet is a sudden overflow of a creek or stream brought on by a heavy rain and/or the sudden melting of snow. It was a potential hazard that people who lived near waterways worried about every spring, and on this day the fears of such folks in Easton came close to being realized.

The water rose “the highest that has been known for years,” threatening to flood the hoe and knife shops. The men, led by Oakes Ames, responded quickly to adjust the wooden planks at the site of the dams on the pond. Local historians Dwight MacKerron and Frank Mennino corrected this editor’s initial misinterpretation that raising planks meant lifting machinery off the floor, the latter suggesting instead that:

“raising the planks referred to actually allowing water to leave the ponds under a controlled flow via a secondary sluiceway that was employed in most dams just for that purpose. In the case of the hoe shop there was a man made canal that would serve that purpose. It takes pressure off the dam, and might avert a catastrophic failure which would certainly have severe consequences.”

Sydney Packard may have been the man who came to assist Oakes. He was a 40 year-old father of eight and long-time employee of O. Ames & Sons.  Some twenty years later, Packard would be one of the pallbearers at the funeral of Oakes Ames.

So far in 1852, the Ames family had endured first fire and now flood, and their troubles were not over.

Thank you, Dwight MacKerron and Frank Mennino for your input on the workings of waterways of North Easton.

April 19, 1852

 March_2014_nor'easter_2014-03-26Satellite image of a Nor’easter


April 19th Monday  It rained very fast all day and 

about noon the rain beat in the side lights 

of the entry, and parlour windows   had to take

back the carpet a little from our window put

dishes under the windows and caught a good

deal of water.  Have cut down my Verbenas

and Petunias fixed a skirt of a dress for


A powerful Nor’easter storm beat into New England this day.  Both Evelina and her father-in-law described the rain as “fast,” Oliver further elaborating that the rain came in sheets, “not in drops.”*  Evelina (and Jane McHanna, most likely) had to deal with water coming in through the side light panels on either side of the outside door. They scurried, too, to pull back the carpet from the windows and put dishes on the floor to catch some of the water beating into the house.

The wind howled and “[t]he storm continued all day , a part of the time pritty fast,” reported Old Oliver. Everyone stayed indoors, no doubt, yet Evelina reports cutting back some of her plants, which suggests outdoor work. That couldn’t have happened on a day such as this, however, so perhaps the verbenas and petunias had wintered-over in pots inside the house, and it was those that she cut down.

Gardening was on her mind, of that much we can be sure. She prepared a skirt to wear outside when she was in her flower beds, probably “repurposing” an old dress for the task. Her handwriting was rushed and incomplete when she wrote the last sentence of today’s entry; she inadvertently omitted to cross the “x” in fixed, leading this editor to conclude that she had “fired” a skirt.  Not so, thanks to a sharp reader who came up with the correct version.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia, April 18, 2015

April 18, 1852




April 18 Sunday.  Another unpleasant sabbath but we have

all been to meeting.  Oliver & wife staid at home

this afternoon.  Mr Whitwell gave us two short but

good sermons of about 20 minutes  At intermission

went into Mrs J Howards with Mrs E Howard

Mrs L Howard & Mrs Dr. Deans    called a few moments

on Mrs Whitwell.  Have finished Night & Morning

As was their custom, the Ameses attended church today en masse, at least in the morning. They drove separate carriages to the meeting house through the “cloudy, cold + misty”* morning. Oliver Jr. and his wife Sarah Lothrop Ames rode home at noon, but Evelina and her family, presumably, busied themselves at intermission with various opportunities to socialize.

Oakes Ames most likely slept through the sermons, even though they were “short.” Evelina, however, liked Reverend Whitwell’s sermons today, as she often did. Would he have made any allusion to the historic date?  April 18 was the anniversary of the 1775 ride of Paul Revere and William Dawes to warn “every Middlesex village and farm” of the approach of British forces.  It was a date that American schoolchildren once had to memorize.

Less than a decade later, poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow would immortalize the historic date in Paul Revere’s Ride:

Listen my children and you shall hear

Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,

On the eighteenth of April in Seventy-Five;

Hardly a man is now alive

Who remembers that famous day and year…

Longfellow, one of the most popular American poets of the 19th century, wrote Paul Revere’s Ride some eighty-five years after the dramatic events in Concord and Lexington that opened the Revolutionary War. It was published in The Atlantic Monthly in January, 1861, on the eve of the Civil War.  Many believe that the poet, an adamant abolitionist, wrote the piece to remind American citizens of the historic principles and great bravery that shaped the formation of the United States.


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


April 17, 1852



April 17  Saturday  Julia was at work here a year ago to day

has improved very much in dress making since then

I have my black silk nearly finished.  The Delaine

all done except the sleeves & buttons, am waiting

to go to Boston to get the trimmings.  This afternoon 

have been altering some old dresses for Susan

Hannah called to get me to go up by the school

house and select a place for a house for them

Mrs Witherell went with me  A beautiful pleasant day

Sewing continued today, with Julia Mahoney again on hand to assist with Evelina’s new dresses, one of black silk, the other of a light wool they called delaine. The finished projects would have to wait for trimmings to be fetched from Boston. Evelina meanwhile refashioned some old dresses for her daughter, for “[e]very season there was a great remaking of old garments to bring them up to date.”*

The bad weather of the past two days disappeared and was replaced by fair skies. Despite continued cold temperatures, Evelina was finally drawn outside on a fun errand. Invited by her niece, Hannah Lincoln Gilmore, and accompanied by her sister-in-law, Sarah Ames Witherell, she went to the local school house to look at some property that her nephew, Alson Augustus Gilmore, and Hannah, his wife, were considering.  They had been renting rooms from Col. John Torrey, but now were planning to build a house.

Everyone in North Easton lately seemed to be wielding a hammer. It was spring.


*Winthrop Ames, The Ames Family of Easton, Massachusetts, p. 127



April 16, 1852

 women sewing*


April 16th Friday.  Julia here again to day and we have

been to work on my dresses  Mrs S Ames & Witherell

helped some time this afternoon and we have

got along nicely  Hannah & Augusta called

Augusta brought her work and Hannah finished

Susans stocking.  Susan has the other stocking about

half done.  The first pair that she ever attempted to knit.

Stormy again to day.

The day before had rained “pritty fast” all day long, and today opened in much the same vein, with “snow squals + rain + a high wind.”***  The women stayed indoors and focused on fashion.  Dressmaker Julia Mahoney came over to work on new outfits for Evelina. Sisters-in-law Sarah Ames and Sarah Witherell helped for a time, too, both of them as accomplished at sewing as Evelina. They all “got along nicely,” a phrase that suggests good progress was made on Evelina’s dresses, although the women’s sociability quotient was also probably pretty high.

Others joined the hum.  Nieces-in-law Hannah Gilmore and Augusta Gilmore, a younger set of eyes and hands, arrived with work in hand. Hannah helped her little cousin, Susie Ames, knit a pair of stockings.

The sewing of new dresses – as opposed, say, to the mending of men’s shirt fronts – was the favorite expression of the women’s collective talent with needle and thread. As Winthrop Ames noted, “An immense amount of sewing went on in every family.”** We’ve certainly learned that from Evelina’s diary.  In 1852, they still made their own dresses. “[T]he materials and trimmings, after much consultation about their style and quality, were made up in the house with the help of the town seamstress and pictures from the fashion magazines.”

Things would change. By the start of the Civil War, the Ames women began to have their dresses made up in Boston. But on this day in North Easton, needles flew.


*Image courtesy of nhdsewingmachine.weebly.com

** Winthrop Ames, The Ames Family of Easton, Massachusetts, p.126

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


April 15, 1852


April 15 Thursday.  Oakes Angier 23 years old to day.

This day 23 years ago not a cloud to be seen to day

a heavy rain storm  Julia Mahoney here making

my Delaine and altering my black silk having

a new waist and sleeves.  She has both waists fitted

but did not get much ready for me to work upon

till just at night  I have made the button holes

in the delaine

In both years of her diary Evelina takes note of Oakes Angier’s birthday. She also mentions him by name approximately 117 times as he comes and goes, works, reads, rides, eats or ails. By comparison, her other sons, Oliver [3] and Frank Morton, are each cited with similar purpose only 74 times, or one third less often, and neither of their birthdays draws any mention at all. This numerical disparity, coupled with the soft tone of Evelina’s rare reminiscence about her first child’s birth, when “not a cloud” could be seen, hints at maternal favoritism for the eldest son.

Not only was Oakes Angier the firstborn child of Oakes and Evelina, he was, on his father’s side, the eldest of 24 grandchildren of Old Oliver and Susannah. On his mother’s side of the family, he placed in the middle of a pack of a dozen grandchildren of Joshua and Hannah Gilmore, many of whom, like cousin Edwin W. Gilmore, lived in the vicinity.

Oakes Angier Ames would have known all four of his grandparents, although he was only seven years old when his grandfather Gilmore died. He was just turning 18 when his grandmother Ames passed away and in his thirties, with children of his own, when his grandfather Ames and his grandmother Gilmore (who lived to be nearly 92) died. Throughout his life, Oakes Angier was surrounded by multiple generations of relatives; he grew up amid a swirl of siblings and first cousins, among most of whom he held primogenitary status. He was the standard bearer. His siblings and cousins called him simply “Oakes,” leaving it to Evelina (and his descendants and historians) to append his middle name when spoken of.


April 14, 1852



April 14th Wednesday  Jane washed yesterday and put

her clothes out to day […] and it is very pleasant and

most like spring of any day we have had.  Made two

toilet cushions and covers for them of plaid muslin

Mrs Sarah Ames brought in her work this afternoon

awhile and I put a bosom into a shirt for

Mr Ames.  Read this evening in Night & Morning

The rain and snow of the preceding two days had disrupted domestic routine, meaning that servant Jane McHanna washed the weekly laundry on Tuesday instead of Monday and hung clothes out today. Evelina didn’t seem to mind, given how “most like spring” the day turned out to be. She seemed to have recovered from having gone without much sleep the day before.

Sarah Lothrop Ames came over from next door and the two sisters-in-law sat and sewed. Evelina sewed a shirt front for her husband and made two toilet cushions. The word “toilet” in the nineteenth century referred to personal grooming, as in getting dressed or cleaning one’s teeth or sitting at a dressing table.  A toilet cushion, then, was most likely a seat for a stool or small chair for a bedroom or dressing area. Evelina made both the pillow itself and its cover of “plain muslin.”

Night and Morning was, presumably, a work of fiction. Evelina must have found it in one of the periodicals she liked to read, such as Gleason’s Pictorial, or in a book she or Oakes had purchased in Boston.  Any readers out there familiar with this work?



April 13, 1852



Tuesday April 13th  Watched with Mrs Brett last night

She is quite low seemed to like my being there and

urged my coming to see her often and said she meant

to come to see me and be more friendly if she ever

gets well  said her Mother told her in her last hours

to come to me for advice and regretted that she

had not done so but meant to in future  The rain of 

the morning has turned into a heavy snowstorm  Susan & self

carried our work and stopt a couple of hours with Mrs W

A young neighborhood wife named Eveline Brett was ill, probably with childbed fever. Evelina went to stay with her during the night, taking her turn with family members and other neighbors to watch, suggesting that some must have thought that the new mother wouldn’t survive.

Modern historian Jack Larkin has described this neighborly service as “one of the commonest of rituals.”* In towns across New England, when someone was seriously ill, or “dangerously sick,” as Evelina noted a few days ago, “neighbors took turns staying through the night at the sick bed to allow exhausted family members to sleep. Watchers could administer medicine when needed, but, far more important, they provided a continuous comforting presence – as well as witnesses who could quickly gather the family around if death seemed imminent.” *

Evelina’s personal experience on this occasion was especially rewarding. The young mother confided that Evelina’s presence was truly comforting and that if she recovered, she hoped she could go to Evelina for advice. Happily, Eveline Brett would indeed survive her illness and, in the future, bring her baby by to visit the understanding woman who had given her such comfort.


*Jack Larkin, The Reshaping of Everyday Life, New York, 1988, p. 93

April 12, 1852


Tin Dipper

Monday April 12th  have been making sausages.  Tried

lard salted pork &c &c  Went to the store and bought

large tins mixing pan two small and one larger pan and 

tin dipper.  Susan washed the dishes  She does not like

to work very well, though she improves some

I had 38 lbs sausage meat seasoned them with 3/4 lbs salt

4 1/2 oz sage & savory 3 1/2 oz pepper  Am going to

watch with Mrs Brett tonight.  Not very pleasant

Evelina gave us one of her own recipes today, for sausage seasoned with salt, sage, savory and pepper.  She “tried the lard,” too, meaning that she boiled it down somewhat. And she probably used some of her new cookware in the process, while young Susie Ames helped grudgingly with the dishes.

As usual, Evelina cooked on a grand scale, inviting speculation as to just how much food her family ate. With a husband, three grown sons and a still-growing little girl all at the dinner table, we can imagine that 38 pounds of sausage didn’t last long. A month, maybe?

Old Oliver, meanwhile, was in forward gear.  After noting the “cool” and “chilly” temperature, he seemed please to write that “we were a digging a cellar to day for a cariage hous –“  Perhaps the planning for the new stone shops had inspired him to add another building – a carriage house – to the list of new constructions.

April 11, 1852



Sunday April 11th  Mr Whitman of E Bridgewater preached

He gave us two good sermons but he is very dull and

I was very sleepy. Came home at noon  Alson & wife

came to Augustus’ After meeting went into Edwins

Augustus & E Andrews came there.  Susan staid

at home from everything  It has been very pleasant

In the tradition of their Puritan ancestors, Evelina and her family did not celebrate Easter. No hidden eggs or little bunnies or even new bonnets appeared in the Unitarian homes of Easton on Easter Sunday, 1852. Many of the Catholic families in town, however, would have celebrated this significant Christian holiday, further underscoring the strong cultural differences between the new Irish and the old Yankees of Massachusetts.

Other parts of the country celebrated this holiest of Christian remembrances. It was the German community of the mid-Atlantic states, better known as the Pennsylvania Dutch who, some say, introduced the Easter bunny to America in the 1700s. The rabbit and the egg were symbols of the Germanic fertility goddess Eostre, whose pagan festival was eventually taken over by early Christians as a celebration of Christ’s death and resurrection.

It being Sunday, the Ameses went to meeting, at least, for both an afternoon and a morning service. Reverend Whitwell, the usual minister, was replaced today by Mr. Whitman from East Bridgewater who was, unfortunately, “very dull.” Evelina struggled to stay awake.