October 31, 1852

Abbott H. Thayer, Angel, 1887, oil Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of John Gellatly

Abbott H. Thayer, Angel, 1887, oil
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of John Gellatly

 

Sunday Oct 31st  Mr Swains child died at 20 minutes

past five this morning  Mrs Witherell

and self passed the night there & laid

him out  Mrs Witherell came home & I 

staid untill about four  Mrs S Ames

& Helen were here awhile this evening

and the rest of the time I read Ravenscliffe

John Howland Swain, Jr., aged one year and 14 days, died at dawn this morning. Cause of death was listed as Teething. What did that mean? He was dehydrated? He had a fever? An infection? Whatever it was, it was too much for the little boy – and for the medical treatments of the day.

In the 19th century, infant death was common, but its ubiquity made it no less easy for parents to bear. Sylvia D. Hoffert, a 20th century historian, has studied the subject. She writes:

“The number of children that couples were likely to bear was beginning to decline in the early nineteenth century. This factor combined with the cult of motherhood, which demanded that women invest considerable time, effort, and affection in their children and measured their contribution to society by their success in fulfilling their maternal obligations, made the death of an infant a particularly tragic occurrence. […] Although […parents] placed great value on their babies’ lives and did what they could to protect them, they were well aware that children commonly died in infancy and that there was little they could really do to ensure the survival of infants. They used the loss of infants as an occasion for demonstrating their willingness to submit to the will of God and found comfort in the belief that their children had gone to join him in heaven. For them, the death of an infant was a private, family matter.”*

The Ames women supported Ann and John Swain as they dealt with the loss of their firstborn son. Both Evelina and Sarah Witherell had themselves buried children of their own, and could comprehend the sorrow inflicted. While Evelina deals with the little boy’s death matter-of-factly, even escaping into her reading later in the day, she had to have been sad for the young Swain couple. She knew.

*Sylvia D. Hoffert, Private Matters, 1989, University of Illinois,  pp. 169-170

October 30, 1852

Nurse

Sat Oct 30th Mr Dawes & Miss A[l]ger left for

Boston this morning  Mrs S Ames watched 

last night with Mr Swains child and Mrs Witherell

is there to day  I have been very busy about

house to day and wish I was able to do

a great deal more as it is much out of order

Yesterday the Ames women visited Ann and John Swain’s house to see their ailing infant son. Today Sarah Lothrop Ames and Sarah Ames Witherell were back, taking turns watching. The outlook for the one-year old wasn’t good, evidently. Evelina would go over to the Swains for the night, being too busy during the day to help.

Evelina was straightening up her house after the departure of the latest houseguests, Mr. Dawes and Miss M. J. Alger. It was the first time in days that her home was back to normal, with only family in residence.  She found everything to be “much out of order,” and no doubt she and her servants bustled about choring and setting things to rights. She seemed too busy even to worry about whether or not her daughter Susie was practicing the piano.

In unrelated news from the Pacific Northwest, this 1852 date marks the first time that the name “Seattle” appeared in print, in a pair of advertisements in The Columbian, a nascent newspaper in Olympia. The city we know today, then just a small settlement, had been known informally as Duwamps, but had been recently renamed after Chief Seattle, a leader of the local Suquamish tribe. How remote and unconnected Evelina would have considered the beginnings of a city so far from her kin and beyond her ken.

 

 

October 29, 1852

255px-Daniel_Webster_-_circa_1847

Daniel Webster

(1782 – 1852)

1852 Friday Oct 29th  Mr Dawes came from Boston

about ten Oclock  Miss Alger expected

him before and began to feel uneasy

They went to the shops after dinner

Helen Susan & Emily went to the shop

& then rode to call at Mr Roachs

They were all in here this evening to

hear Mr Dawes play on the guitar  Mrs S

Ames & self called Swains, to see their child

Mrs Lothrop & Brett called with her babe

 

Old Oliver must have been an admirer of Daniel Webster, else why would he mention the man in his daily weather journal? He wrote, “the 29th was a verry plesant warm day. it clouded up some toward night – Daniel Webster was buried to day”.

Daniel Webster, lawyer, diplomat, statesman, orator and Whig leader, was indeed buried on this day. He had died three days earlier after a fall from a horse and was buried with “impressive ceremonies”* at Marshfield, about 35 miles east of Easton. Considered by many to be one of the finest senators ever, Webster had also been a Secretary of State, U.S. representative, constitutional lawyer par excellence, and a devoted preservationist of the union. To the latter end, he co-authored and spoke eloquently on behalf of the Compromise of 1850, which included the controversial Fugitive Slave Act. As a result, he lost the support of many New Englanders; abolitionists washed their hands of him.

On this day in Boston, however, it would have been hard to find his enemies. According to a newspaper account the next day, a united citizenry mourned:

Boston never before presented – probably never will present – such a funeral aspect as was worn in her streets yesterday. Most of the stores and shops were closed, as well as the institutions, offices, and markets, and a large proportion of the city was dressed in the habiliments of wo. [sic] Though the work was only voluntarily the act of individuals, it was very general – Washington, Hanover, and many other streets being covered in black, interspersed with mottoes, flags, portraits, and other mementoes, as the taste of each led him to adopt and carry out.  It was one of the last acts which Boston can perform to express her sorrow for the loss of the great statesman, and it is praise enough to say that it was well and appropriately done. The streets were thronged nearly all the day, crowds of people being present from other places, – and our young men wore the insignia of mourning which had been adopted, and grieved countenances were observed at every turn of the street…*

 

*New York Times, October 28, 1852

 

October 28, 1852

 

Stage

Thursday Oct 28th  Miss Alger dined in the other

part of the house and myself and family

have been there to tea  Helen came home

in the stage and Oliver & family were there

also.  Oliver Miss A Susan and Augusta called

with me this evening at Mr Torreys & Augustus

Made half bushel more of barberries

A rather docile day, this was, “a pritty warm day for the season,”* according to Old Oliver. Evelina cooked more barberry preserves but otherwise was mostly occupied in social activity. She and the extended family took tea in the other part of the house at her father-in-law’s table, under the management of his daughter, Sarah Ames Witherell. Afterwards, Evelina and a group called on her brother-in-law, Col. Torrey, in the village.

Helen Angier Ames returned home from boarding school; her brother Fred had just come back, too, from Harvard.  He took the train to Stoughton while she rode in the stage coach. His mode of transportation was the way of the future, hers of the past.

Like the Erie Canal, the stagecoach was on its way out. A mode of transportation that had been imported from England, early American stagecoaches were not much more than sturdy passenger wagons. As the need for travel conveyances increased, the stagecoach evolved, improved in comfort and efficiency and became widespread. In 1827, in the middle of what is considered the “Golden Age” of the stagecoach, the Abbott and Downing Company of New Hampshire built the first of an eventual 700 Concord stagecoaches. A Concord stagecoach was considered to be the best of the breed, “a cradle on wheels,” as Mark Twain described it. Pulled by a good team of horses or mules, a Concord stagecoach could travel from 6 to 8 miles per hour.

In remote areas, especially in the less well settled areas of the Wild West, the stagecoach remained important, but it couldn’t beat the faster and far more efficient railroad. Passengers trains had arrived and were growing exponentially. In 1847, Abbott and Downing ceased operations, although its famous stagecoaches remained in use for a few decades yet.

 

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

 

 

October 27, 1852

381-1233891708GdW7

Wednesday Oct 27  Miss Alger has given the

girls the seventh lesson and Susan

makes hard work of practicing and 

I am sorry that she is so unwilling

Mrs S. Ames, Miss Alger Oakes A and

self have passed the afternoon at Mr

Nahum Williams  Mrs Rollins is at

her fathers  Mrs H & C Lothrop were there

 

“[T]his was a mild day & little hazy wind southerly.”* Once night fell, a full moon shone down on the rooftops, dooryards and unpaved streets of North Easton, lighting the byways even after curfew. The day itself was unremarkable, although Susan Ames grudgingly endured yet another piano lesson. Evelina bemoaned her daughter’s intransigence.

Evelina did pay a rare visit to Nahum Williams, “a farmer at Easton.”**Accompanying her were the ever-present piano teacher, Miss Alger, as well as Sarah Lothrop Ames and Oakes Angier Ames, the latter an unusual participant in the women’s sociable errand. They visited not only Nahum but his wife Amanda (nee Lothrop) and their daughter, Sarah Elizabeth Rollins. Also present were some Lothrop women – possibly Mrs. Henry Lothrop and Mrs. Clinton Lothrop. Sarah Lothrop Ames was probably related to Amanda.

We have met Nahum Williams before in Evelina’s pages; some time back, he lost his father, Seth, and various Ames family members had attended the funeral. Sarah Rollins was his recently married daughter; she and her husband had moved to Vermont and were expecting their first child. By 1860, she would return to her parents homes in Easton, possibly widowed, with three children: Ellen, George and Jennie.

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

**Hyde Family Geneaology

October 26, 1852

 

1860s blue striped muslin dress from St. Albans Museums

Dress with undersleeves, mid-19th c.*

Tuesday Oct 26  We have had a large washing

done to day and not finished untill

after dinner  Miss Alger & self spent

the afternoon in Olivers  Mr Ames

& all the children there to tea  Mr & Mrs 

Whitwell was there an hour or two

I made Susan a pair of undersleeves

and she is delighted with them

 

Because of all the company that had visited over the weekend, the servant girls were unable to launder clothes on Monday. Today, extra sheets and towels were added to the usual load and the washing went on into the afternoon. Not that Evelina rolled up her sleeves; after the midday meal, she and her remaining houseguest, Miss M. J. Alger, went next door to visit with Sarah Lothrop Ames and stayed for tea. All the family partook.

At various points during the day, Evelina had her work box open as she completed a pair of undersleeves for her daughter. Susie was “delighted” with them. Were they a peace offering from mother to daughter, perhaps to make up for Evelina’s insistence on Susan learning to play piano?

We’ve seen Evelina sewing undersleeves before. In the 1850’s and into the Civil War, undersleeves were an essential component of any woman’s dress, fitting independently but securely under the looser outer sleeve of the dress proper. Like the collars of the day, a good pair of undersleeves could be worn with different dresses. Susie must have felt rather grown-up with her new pair.

On the industrial side of American life, meanwhile, today was the 27th anniversary of the opening of the Erie Canal. The technological wonder of its day, it was already becoming obsolete. Railroads had arrived and, through their own capacity for moving freight, would soon obviate commercial use of the canal for many (though not all) industries. Shipping would change – was changing. The very word “shipping” derives from the fact that, initially, more goods moved by water than by land. This would no longer be true in this country or elsewhere in the developed world.

We should remember that Harriet Ames Mitchell, Old Oliver’s youngest daughter, was living in Erie at the time with her husband Asa and their three children.  Did they mark the day?

 

*Image of striped blue muslin dress with undersleeves courtesy of St. Albans Museum, England

 

 

 

October 25, 1852

Ames_machine_shop_1857

Monday Oct 25th We all walked down to the

shops this morning and Mr & Mrs D

left here about ten Oclock and since

Miss Alger & self have had a quiet day

Susan has practiced a good deal but

is rather impatient  We did not

have the washing done

 

Monday morning came around and the Davenports and their child were still in the house. By the time they left, it was too late to start the laundry. So Evelina and the remaining houseguest, Miss M. J. Alger, “had a quiet day.” Quiet except for the sound of Susan Ames practicing her scales on the new piano; she could hardly skip out on practicing when her piano teacher was right there under the same roof. Was this Evelina’s design?

It “was a fair warm day for the season”* wrote Old Oliver in his journal. When Evelina and her company walked across the way to visit the shovel shop, what did they see? Shovels being made, obviously, in the rebuilt section of the factory, down close to the pond. But they also must have stood inside the new Long Shop, where the first-ever steam engine had been installed, ready to be put to use. It may be that a construction crew was still active in the building, putting in the finishing touches. To the visitors – and perhaps to the family, too – the new space must have seemed wondrous: the height of modernity, a model of expansion and a promise of wealth. However much she usually distanced herself from the action at the factory, Evelina must have felt some pride in showing off the progress of the company to her guests.