July 17th Sat Hannah & Mary picked some currants
yesterday and to day I have made some
currant wine had four quarts of juice
Have done but very little sewing. Have
mended some. Oliver returned from
school to night He is not looking very well
He brought home his pictures & all his things
is in hopes to go back again but it is uncertain
Evelina’s diary entry today poses two questions for us readers. First, why was she, wife of a strict tee-totaler, making wine? The answer is that from time to time, even a temperance household needed wine for medicinal purposes. It may be, also, that the occasional dish, such as mincemeat, required some alcohol as an ingredient. Even Lydia Maria Child, who abhorred liquor, nonetheless included a recipe for currant wine in her household guide:
Break and squeeze the currants, put three pounds and a half of sugar to two quarts of juice and two quarts of water. Put in a keg or barrel. Do not close the bung tight for three or four days, that the air may escape while it is fermenting. After it is done fermenting, close it up tight…It should not be used under a year or two. Age improves it.*
The second question is almost unanswerable. Why wasn’t Oliver (3) able to return to Brown University? He wanted to, but clearly the decision wasn’t his to make, nor did it appear to be the school’s choice. Rather, the decision to cease attendance lay with Oliver (3)’s father, Oakes Ames, who had been against his son attending college in the first place. Oakes was once described as having “inherited some measure of that Puritanical contempt for the liberal arts…”**. He had first put his foot down against Oliver going, finally relented for one year, and now was again saying no.
If we can move past Oakes’s prejudice against higher education, we can imagine that he wanted his middle son back at the factory. So much had happened at the shovel works during Oliver (3)’s absence. The old factory had burned down and a temporary one had been quickly rebuilt. A new, state-of-the-art stone factory was being raised, requiring extra supervision. And the manufacture and sale of shovels had had to continue as if nothing had happened. Quite likely, Oakes needed his son’s help. Studying was over.
It’s also possible that an additional factor may have influenced Oakes’s decision, a factor that he couldn’t yet share – at least not with Evelina. Oakes may have been privy to a concern about his son Oakes Angier’s health, a condition that would soon be apparent to all.
*Lydia Maria Child, The American Frugal Housewife, p. 59
** Hon. Hosea M. Knowlton, Address at the Dedication Ceremony for the Oliver Ames High School, December 12, 1896, published Boston, 1898, p.98