June 2, 1852



Wednesday June 2d  Lazy this day as usual after being

in Boston   Have been with Mrs S Ames

to the sewing circle at Mr Wm Reeds.  Had

a very pleasant time as we always do there

not very many present. Mrs Patterson here

again to day.  yesterday she staid home to

do her washing  She & Jane have done very

little ironing this afternoon

The intense labor of spring cleaning was over, at least for Evelina.  She was “[l]azy this day” after yesterday’s trip into Boston with her sisters-in-law. Shopping wore her out more than washing windows or scrubbing floors, it would seem. She summoned enough energy to attend the Sewing Circle at Abigail Reed’s, though.

Sarah Witherell didn’t attend the Sewing Circle; she probably wasn’t socializing outside the family yet. So Sarah Ames and Evelina went without her and enjoyed themselves “as we always do.” Back at the house, however, Evelina’s servants didn’t attend to the ironing as Evelina had hoped they would. Evelina wasn’t pleased. When she worked, she worked very hard, and expected others to do the same. She felt that Mrs Patterson and Mrs McHanna should have been able to do more in her absence.

In the other part of the house, to which Sarah Witherell had retreated after yesterday’s outing, Old Oliver was watching the weather.  He noted the welcome arrival of “a little rain […] that wett the ground about an inch deep.”*  The spring had been dry.


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



March 30, 1852



March 30th  Tuesday  Spent the forenoon puttering about

the house doing nothing at all.  Have been to

carry Orinthia to Mrs John Howards.  Mrs S Ames

went with us and we called at Mrs Reed, Whitwell

J. Howard  Mrs Merrill and Mrs Hills  Mrs Ames

stoped here to tea and spent the evening.  Louisa

Swan was at home and Ann Johnson.  Augusta called

Hannah called for a moment this forenoon

Apparently, there was no sewing today; perhaps Evelina’s fingers were sore from working the heavy moreen fabric the day before. She hardly seemed to mind “doing nothing at all,” however, and gave the afternoon over entirely to calling, an occupation she enjoyed. She, her sister-in-law Sarah Lothrop Ames, and guest Orinthia Foss called on Caroline Howard, Abigail Reed, Eliza Whitwell, Mrs. Merrill and Mrs. Hills. They may have called on some younger fellow Unitarians, too: Louisa Swan (daughter of Dr. Caleb Swan) and Ann Johnson.

Calling was an essential component of social life in the 19th century, as we’ve noted before.  Some women thrived on it, others only tolerated it, but just about every woman exercised the obligation to call on their friends and neighbors, as due. In Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel, “Little Women,” an entire chapter is devoted to two of the March sisters, Amy and Jo, making calls. Amy enjoyed them, but had to persuade Jo to join her:

“Now put on all your best things, and I’ll tell you how to behave at each place, so that you will make a good impression.  I want people to like you, and they would if you’d only try to be a little more agreeable. Do your hair the pretty way, and put the pink rose in your bonnet; its becoming, and you look too sober in your plain suit.  Take your light kids and the embroidered handkerchief. […]

“Jo […] sighed as she rustled into her new organdie, frowned darkly as she tied her bonnet strings in an irreproachable bow, wrestled viciously with pins as she put on her collar, wrinkled up her features generally as she shook the handkerchief, whose embroidery was as irritating to her nose as the present mission was to her feelings; and when she had squeezed her hands into tight gloves with two buttons and a tassel, as the last touch of elegance, she turned to Amy with an imbecile expression of countenance, saying meekly, –

“‘I’m perfectly miserable; but if you consider me presentable, I die happy.'”*

*Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

March 28, 1852


Ames Shovel Handle Factory, Oakland, Maine*


March 28 Sunday  Went to church this morning and

at noon called at Mrs Wm Reeds with Henrietta

Hannah came at noon but was faint and

I carried her home and got back to church about

the time the services were over  After went down

to the new shops with Mrs W, S Ames Augusta Orinthia

found Mr. Ames, Oliver & Cyrus L there returned by Edwins

and all called there  Mr Ames & self went to Augustus’ this evening

The new shops were up, and various family members rode by to see them after church. No more “dismal ruin”, as reported by Evelina only three weeks earlier. Risen like a phoenix from the ashes of the old shops, the shovel works were about to begin operations in new, if temporary, quarters.

It was a large group that gathered to consider the new buildings. Evelina, who had missed the afternoon service in attending to her ailing niece, Hannah Lincoln Gilmore, nonetheless rode back from church to the site. Accompanying her were her sisters-in-law, Sarah Witherell and Sarah Ames; another niece, Augusta Pool Gilmore; and sometime boarder and frequent companion, Orinthia Foss.  At the site, by accident or design, they found Oakes Ames and his brother, Oliver Ames Jr., and Cyrus Lothrop, a brother of Sarah Lothrop Ames who often resided with his sister. The group must have marveled at the swift reincarnation of the shovel works.

Perhaps a celebratory spirit inspired the crowd to assemble en masse at the nearby home of newlyweds Augusta and Edwin Gilmore.

*Image of Ames Shovel Handle Factory, Oakland, Maine courtesy of the Oakland Maine Area Historical Society. Included to illustrate what the rebuilt shovel factory could have resembled.

March 7, 1852




March 7th Sunday  It has been a beautiful day and we 

have all been to meeting except Frank

When we came from meeting we rode down to

the ruins. They have cleared away a great deal 

but it looks dismal enough  Mr & Mrs William

Reed spent the evening  Mrs Witherell & Mrs

S Ames came in awhile & Father Ames

No work was done today at the site of the shovel factory fire, for it was Sunday, a day of rest – a day of rest that everyone in town must have welcomed after the shock of the fire and the subsequent hard work of clearing the debris.

The Ames family rode down Centre Street to church, the weather “beautiful.” At the intermission between sermons, they must have been approached by fellow parishioners expressing concern and curiosity about the fire. In a town of 2,500 citizens, such a huge event would have been on everyone’s mind. Is it too far-fetched to imagine that Reverend Whitwell might have alluded to it from the pulpit?

After the services, the family drove by the factory site on their way home. The wintry sunlight hid nothing; the “ruins” were “dismal.” Later in the day, several family members gathered at Evelina’s and Oakes’; even Old Oliver came over from the other part of the house, which he seldom did, perhaps to greet guests William and Abigail Reed or to discuss the plans for rebuilding, to begin the next day.

January 16, 1852




Jan 16th Friday  Made the bed in the front chamber and 

put the room in order swept the stairs &c &c

worked on Susans morino hood  Mrs Wm Reed &

Mrs Hall called  Augusta & Edwin here to tea and

spent most of the evening  Edwin put the casters

on my hourglass table and I nearly finished putting

on the cover  Mrs S Ames called a few moments.

In between the day’s activities of choring, sewing and finishing up a project for newlyweds Edwin and Augusta Gilmore, Evelina received several callers, including Abigail Reed, wife of the elderly William Reed, and a Mrs. Hall. Evelina had called on Mrs Reed the day before; Mrs Reed returned the courtesy today. Paying calls was an intrinsic part of social life in the nineteenth century, especially among women and especially in cities, but also in smaller country towns such as Easton. Social exchange, which in the country had been a somewhat relaxed occurrence based on an informal combination of need, opportunity and desire, was becoming ritualized.

As of 1850, social visits were beginning to follow a proscribed pattern, like the one described in The Art of Pleasing,* written about this time. On the topic of “Receiving Visitors”:

“To receive visitors with ease and elegance, and in such a manner that everything in you, and about you, shall partake of propriety and grace, – to endeavor that people may always be satisfied when they leave you, and be desirous to come again, – such are the obligations of the master, and especially of the mistress of a house.

“Everything in the house ought, as far as possible, to offer comfort and grace. Perfect, exquisite neatness and elegance, which easily dispense with being sumptuous, ought to mark the entrance of the house, the furniture, and the dress of the lady.”

In a cautionary paragraph, the author goes on to advise against sewing when company calls: “If a lady who receives a half ceremonious visit is sewing, she ought to leave off immediately, and not resume it except at the request of the visitor.”  That stricture may have been a difficult one for Evelina to follow, given how incessantly she sewed. But she and her sisters-in-law would have striven to be au courant with the etiquette of the day.

Before many more years went by, the phenomena of calling cards would be introduced, creating “an increasingly complex etiquette which determined the length and frequency of calls, whether a call should be returned or not and the sorts of people to whom a family was, or was not, ‘at home.’ Families connected by kinship, business and politics interchanged calls and invitations, but ranked and classified their acquaintances in ever more precise grades of social acceptability.”** These new rules would apply particularly to the next generation of Ameses.

H. M. Rulison, The Art of Pleasing, Cincinnati, 1853, pp. 27-28

** Jack Larkin, The Reshaping of Everyday Life, 1988, p. 265


December 31, 1851



Wednesday Dec 31st  This morning sit down early to knitting

my hood  Have it all finished ready for the lining.  About ten 

Oclock went into the school with Mrs. Witherell.  Mr Brown

has closed his school to day.  Passed the afternoon & evening at Olivers

Mr & Mrs Wm Reed  Mr & Mrs J Howard, Whitwell & A Gilmore were there.

Susie Ames and Emily Witherell may have been happy today to reach the end of their school term. Class, dismissed!  1851, dismissed!

Just how the Ames family celebrated the departure of the old year and arrival of the new, we don’t know. Old Oliver, with his usual terse assessment of the day, merely noted that “this was a cloudy day and some cooler + misty + foggy.” The cool mist he saw would develop into a huge rain storm over night, preventing folks from moving around much.

A group of friends and relatives gathered for tea next door at the home of Oliver Ames, Jr. and his wife Sarah Lothrop Ames. Besides Evelina and Oakes, at the party were Reverend William Whitwell and his wife Eliza, Reverend William Reed and his wife Abigail, Jason Guild Howard and his wife Martha, and Evelina’s brother Alson Gilmore and his wife Henrietta.  In just a few more years, a group like this might have sung the beloved  Auld Lang Syne to mark the occasion. In fact, a version of Auld Lang Syne, written in 1855 and called Song of the Old Folks would become “the tradition of the Stoughton Musical Society to sing […] in memory of those who had died that year.”*

Out with old, in with the new. What a year it would be for the Ames clan.


December 16, 1851



From Godey’s Lady’s Book, October, 1851, Outfits for the Fair 

Tuesday Dec 16  Have finished the hood for the fair

Mrs Witherell has made a Dolls hood & half

dozen linen collars.  Mrs Ames a hood & childs apron

Mr & Mrs Reed called on Mrs Witherell for the 

things and made a long call  Mrs S Ames

& self went to see her.  She brought some

things she made such as dolls comforters bonnets &c

Mrs Howard & Miss Jarvis made eight straw hats

How productive the Unitarian women had been lately.  Sarah Witherell, Sarah Ames, Abigail Reed and others had sewn or knitted many small items like collars and doll clothes to sell at what must have been a church fair. Both Sarahs were planning to work, or perhaps preside, at the event.  Why wasn’t Evelina going to work at it? Had she been asked? Had she declined? Did she care particularly?

For whatever reason, Evelina was less involved in the church fair than either Sarah.  Her sisters-in-law had sewn a number of articles between them to donate, while she herself only made one small hood.  Was her small contribution a reflection of disinterest in the event?  Was she too busy at her domestic responsibilities to take the time?  Was it against her inclination to make things to give away?

Evelina admired the pieces that others had made, but it would seem that either the fair itself didn’t interest her or she felt left out of the goings-on. She never mentioned the fair again, which suggests that she didn’t even attend it.


June 17, 1851


1851 June 17th  Worked untill about nine Oclock in

the flower garden  Then cut the tick to the mattress

a[nd] basted it ready to make  Jane was ironing and 

I assisted about dinner  After dinner made three button

holes in Mrs S Ames dress.  Went to Mr

Wm Reeds to tea with Mr Ames, Oliver & wife

Mrs W, Mitchell & Mr & Mrs Whitwell & Alson & wife


Gardening, sewing, ironing and cooking made up today’s housework at the Ames’s home on Main Street.  Buttonholes, too, which could be challenging, were a particular specialty of Evelina; many people brought her their buttonholes.  The fact that Sarah Lothrop Ames took her buttonholes to Evelina rather than to a hired dressmaker underscores Evelina’s talent in this department.

William and Abigail Reed must have enjoyed Evelina’s company on Sunday between services, for they invited her back to a small tea party.  The whole Ames family was invited, in fact, and then some. Minus Old Oliver, and the young people, naturally, siblings Oakes, Oliver Jr., Sarah Witherell, and Harriett Mitchell, with wives Evelina and Sarah Ames, gathered at the old professor’s home for a “cuppa.” Reverend William Whitwell and his wife, Eliza, went too, as did Alson and Henrietta Gilmore. That was a good crowd for a 19th century parlor.

Tea was generally the most sociable meal of the day.