December 30, 1852

Sunset

Thursday Dec 30th  Mrs A A & Mrs Edwin Gilmore & Abby

& self have passed the day at mothers.  We

got there at 1/4 past 10 Oclock very early I 

call that.  Abby has a very bad boil on her

shoulder  After I got home this evening

went into Olivers & Mrs A L Ames came

in and we stopt untill nearly ten Oclock

Miss Alger has given her 20th lesson

dined in the other part of the house

 

Evelina spent the day with her mother, eighty-year-old Hannah Lothrop Gilmore. Other Gilmore women were present, too: Hannah Lincoln Gilmore, Augusta Pool Gilmore, and Abigail Williams Torrey (a Gilmore niece). They assembled at the family farm for what appears to have been simply a sociable gathering. We might imagine, however, that at least one of the women held a piece of sewing or mending in her lap as they sat and talked. Back at the house in North Easton, meanwhile, Sarah Witherell had the responsibility of overseeing the girls’ piano lesson and hosting the piano teacher for dinner.

The year was drawing to a close, and this entry is the next-to-last one that Evelina will make in her diary. A sad closure – not for Evelina, but for us readers. Over the two years of posting Evelina’s diary, a virtual community has gathered in its own sociable way to watch life pass in North Easton in a time long gone. In addition to hundreds of readers from across the U.S., readers from around the globe – most notably Australia, Brazil, Germany, South Korea, the UK, Italy and Canada – have stopped in regularly to see how Evelina was faring. Not a few of you are direct descendants of Evelina and Oakes, or Old Oliver and Susannah. In the course of writing this blog, it has been clear that you and others, whatever your address, feel a strong bond with the early “Shovel Ameses” of North Easton, and with the town itself.

As she made her daily entries, Evelina could have had no way of knowing that hundreds of us – strangers to her – would one day read her diary. She couldn’t have imagined it, which is a good thing, for then she might have written for an audience instead of for herself. We would find more craft and less honesty in the daily dispatches. As it has happened, we’ve been allowed to interpret and imagine – but not invent – her life. We hope we’ve done it right. Perhaps in the future, the missing diaries will come to light and we’ll be able to learn more about the family. We might be able to clarify or enhance or even contradict the inferences we might have made. History is a fluid thing.

Thank you, readers, for following along and contributing to our understanding of Evelina and her time. Please join Evelina one more time tomorrow as we take a look at how the rest of her life unfolded.

 

November 10, 1852

Jar

Wedns Nov 10th Catharine […]

& Ann have both been ironing

all day and have got it all done  I have not

done a great deal but fuss round the

house  Have covered my jelly &c with

brandy paper  Alson called and brought 

a [illegible] to exchange  Abby spent

the evening  Miss Alger has given her 10th

lesson dined here

Evelina continued to be a bit cross today. Yesterday she was tired of cooking preserves, today she covered those jelly jars with brandy paper and continued to resent having to “fuss round the house.”At least the servant girls finished the ironing – that was a point of satisfaction. Perhaps Evelina was reacting to the shorter days and lower sunlight, although Old Oliver reported that on this particular day, the weather was “verry pleasant”* throughout the afternoon.

Miss Alger the piano teacher came to give Susie Ames and Emily Witherell their piano lessons, and stayed to dinner. Evelina doesn’t say how her daughter did, which may be a sign that Susie was finally getting the hang the instrument.  No doubt Miss Alger was doing her best to teach Susie and Emily, but she was getting paid and fed – often. For Evelina to be spending the money and effort and to have her daughter not succeed was simply not acceptable. Susie had to learn.

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

October 13, 1852

 

Blackstrapmolasses

Molasses

Wednesday Oct 13th  Baked this morning in the brick oven

Went with Mother & Lavinia over to Edwins

to get her receipt for making molasses ginger

snaps  left them to see over the house and came

home to have Susan ready to take her third

music lesson  Miss Alger came about nine.

Mother & Lavinia & self rode over to call on Mrs

E Keith. Augustus & wife  Mr Torrey & Abby spent the 

evening  Malvina spent the night with Susan

Ginger snaps came out of the old brick oven this morning and, although Evelina had baked them countless times before, she was trying out a new recipe borrowed from Augusta Pool Gilmore. No doubt the lovely fragrance of baking wafted into the parlor where Susan was taking her piano lesson from Miss Alger.

Although the recipe was different, the use of molasses was not. Molasses was a staple in most American kitchens and had been from colonial days onward. Molasses is the residue from the evaporated sap of sugar cane, available in varying degrees of sweetness and hue. In the days before refined sugar granules gained preference, molasses was the definitive sweetener in most homes.

Molasses was also the substance from which rum was made and, as such, was a primary factor in the historic “Triangular Trade” that went on in England, Africa, and the West Indies. It involved slavery. England sold rum in Africa in return for slaves, whom they took to the West Indies to work on the sugar plantations to produce molasses and unrefined sugar. The sugar stuffs then came to America so the colonies could make rum. On top of that, England established a tax on the colonies for the imported sugar which was one of the many grievances that led to the American Revolution.

Botanic historian Judith Sumner writes:

[T]he early American economy was deeply tied to sugar production; in eighteenth and early nineteenth century New England, the sugar trade promoted shipbuilding and spawned a rum industry with serious social ramifications.  Colonies also traded lumber, grains, meat, livestock and horses to supply the sugar plantations in the West Indies, where the owners concentrated exclusively on sugar production.”*

The connection of sugar cane to slavery did not go unnoticed. By the nineteenth century, “sugar was avoided by those who abhorred slavery because of the complex trading triangle that revolved around slaves, molasses, and rum […] Antislavery pamphlets illustrated cruel sugar plantation practices, where slaves were tethered to weights to prevent their escape and prevented from eating sugar cane by wearing heavy head frames.”* Some abolitionist households boycotted the use of sugar.

As we see, sugar processing and molasses production have an often unhappy history in the United States. And we haven’t even touched on Boston’s Great Molasses Flood of 1919.

*Judith Sumner, American Household Botany, 2004, pp. 206-207

October 11, 1852

factory-steam-engine

Early factory steam engine

Monday Oct 11th  Catharine Middleton & Murphy washed

and I sat down quite early to my sewing

with Mother & Louisa  Mended stockings

This afternoon we spent at Augustus

Mother & Louisa are going to spend the 

night  Mr Torrey & Abby were there

Mr Ames & Oakes A went to West B

I have been sewing on the skirt of Susans

fall Delaine

This was a typical Monday as far as domestic matters were concerned. In the morning, the women washed clothes and mended stockings. In the afternoon, they went calling on relatives in the village. But it was a red-letter day at the shovel shop, as men arrived to install the a steam engine – the first – at the factory.

Old Oliver seemed excited: “this was a fair good day for the season the man came here to sett up the enjoin four of them.” The company’s first steam engine was placed in the new Long Shop by the Corliss Nightingale Company of Providence. It was a technological change that Oliver had resisted in the past, but had since come to accept. His son, Horatio, in particular, had urged the change for several years in order “to counter water supply limitations”* In January, 1847 he had written his father and his brother, Oliver Jr., on the topic.

To Old Oliver:

I shall think a steam engine […] of sufficient power to carry 3 hammers and carry all your polishing works shearing and punching and Bisbees works […] would be cheaper and better […] It is too bad that you do not keep nearer supplying the market with shovels when a comparatively small expense would do it in addition to your other works.”*

To Oliver Jr.:

I enclose you with […the] price and terms for a steam engine. It will do you no hurt to compare cost of this and water power. it will take about one ton of coal a day to drive it and the repairs will be no more than a water power if as much[…] You never need fail for water either too much or too little […] I am altogether in favor of this plan over water power in your situation.”*

Horatio was right, as it turned out. The new engine was the beginning of modernization for O. Ames and Sons.

Gregory Galer, Forging Ahead, MIT, 2002, p. 251.  Text of Horatio Ames correspondence from Stonehill College Archives, Arnold Tofias Collection

October 2, 1852

doc-2-dakotapaul

Oct 2d Saturday  Have had quite a party this after 

noon  Mrs Norris, Mrs Mower, Miss Foss, Linscott

& Lavinia here to dine & Hannah Augusta Abby

& Malvina here to tea  Carried Augusta out to

ride the first that she has been out for a long time

We have been to the shops and making calls

and I have done no sewing to day  Mrs Mower

went home with Lavinia  Made my peach preserves

Mr Ames came home from New York

 

 

Friends of Evelina descended on the house today, some for dinner and some for tea. Carriages full of females trotted along Main Street, coming or going to the Ames residence. Evelina’s friend, Orinthia Foss and her fellow school teacher, Frances Linscott, came from Bridgewater and spent the night. Niece Lavinia Gilmore arrived to help with house guests Melinda Norris and Louisa Mower, the latter from Maine. At tea time, Evelina’s sister-in-law Hannah Lincoln Gilmore and two nieces, Abby and Melvina Torrey, joined the group. For the second time this week, many women filled the parlor. We might imagine that Evelina was really enjoying herself.

What did the men of the family do to cope with all the socializing? Join the crowd or disappear into the office next door? What must Oakes Ames have thought when he walked in, home from his business trip?

Augusta Pool Gilmore, who had been ailing for many weeks now, was on the mend. She, too, came for tea and later was taken out for a drive. Like yesterday, the weather was mild and sunny and Augusta must have felt reborn to finally get out of her sick room and back with the living.

Even with a big midday meal and many for tea, the servants – and perhaps Evelina herself – still managed to put up some peach preserves. What a busy kitchen!

 

September 17, 1852

Brig

*

Friday Sept 17  Mrs Stevens has done some ironing to

day and I have been busy about house ironing

and one thing and another & have seen but very

little of her since she came  It has been hurry

burly all the time  We were at tea at Olivers

Abby came here but as we were there she

stopt & in the evening Mr Torrey came

Mrs S Ames has gone to watch with Mrs Savage

With the help of Mrs. Stevens, a houseguest, ironing continued, along with Evelina’s usual choring and “one thing and another.” According to Evelina’s misspelled expression, the household was all hurly-burly, full of commotion and tumult.  Later in the day, the two women – and other family members, presumably – enjoyed tea next door with Sarah Lothrop and Oliver Ames Jr. And even later, Col. Torrey stopped in for another visit.

In a California newspaper, there was an article about a missing ship, the Schooner Penelope. The vessel bore no direct relation to the Ames family (although an Ames relative, Cyrus Lothrop, would eventually own ships, including one named for Helen Angier Ames), but the article’s conclusion that the ship had been lost at sea was very much indicative of the perils of travel at the time. The Penelope had last been seen the year before by a sister ship as both headed into a bad storm.

Newspapers in coastal cities like San Francisco or Boston often carried such reports of ships that set sail and were never heard of again, much as our modern television and internet news sources carry coverage of airline disasters like the Malaysian flight that went missing over the Pacific. We may have our own disasters in the air and at sea, but the latter hazards were naturally more common in the 19th century, and the means of discovering, much less communicating, the fates of the vessels that disappeared were limited. After a certain amount of time had passed with no word of a particular ship, people had to assume the worst, and know that their sailor sons or husbands, or passengers for whom they waited, had drowned. The following from the Daly Alta California in San Francisco conveys the demise of the Penelope:

The American schooner Penelope, Capt. Austin K. Dodge, cleared from this port on the 14th of October, 1851, for San Juan del Sud, with 40 passengers. It is believed that she sailed the next day. Capt. Mann, of the brig Lowell, which sailed from this port on the same day, reports having seen the Penelope about the 5th of November, off Cape St. Lucas, just previous to a terrific hurricane, which lasted but a quarter of an hour. After the driving mist which accompanied the gale had lighted up, the Penelope was not visible. Capt Mann felt confident at the time that the vessel had foundered.

After arriving at San Juan he remained there some weeks, but received no tidings as to her fate. As nothing has yet been heard of her there is every reason to apprehend that she was lost at that time, and every soul on board perished. […]

Both the Penelope and Lowell were fitted out and sailed from Pacitic Wharf. Captain A. K. Dodge, of Beverly, Mass.; 1st mate, F. H. Choate; 2d mate, Thomas J. Fisher; the first mate from Salem, Mass., and the second from Boston. W. H. Nicolsen’ cook, from New York, aud James Brickley, John Smith, Manuel Silva, Joseph Frank and George Covell, seamen.**

The relatives of anyone who went to sea always had to worry.

 

*A brigantine is a type of schooner, distinguished by its sail configuration.

 

**http://www.maritimeheritage.org/ships/Schooner-Penelope-1852

 

September 14, 1852

Grapes

Tuesday Sept 14th  Alson came this forenoon and carried

mother home  I have ironed 13 fine shirts made

grape jelly and have been hard at work all

day  Mr Torrey came and staid a long while

talking over the news of the neighborhood

Mrs Stevens & self called on Augustus & wife and

went over [to] Mr Carrs where they have commenced

mowing  Mr Torrey & Abby were away, door fastened

New carriage & Buggy chaise came to night

 

Evelina didn’t stop moving today. She saw her mother depart for home, ironed a baker’s dozen of shirts, made grape jelly, did her usual picking up around the house, entertained guests, and paid a call on her nephew and others. It’s hard to imagine that her kitchen could accommodate the ironing of white shirts and the boiling of purple jelly at the same time, yet we read that this was so.

We readers should also note that for once, it’s Evelina, and not her father-in-law, who tells us that there is mowing going on in the neighborhood. The men were working quickly, one imagines, as “there was Some frost last night.”* Officially, it was still summer, but winter was on the far horizon, and preparations were underway.

And there was new equipage! A carriage and a buggy or chaise arrived. Who had just bought them?  Old Oliver?  Oakes or Oliver, Jr., or one of the sons, or all of the above? How, exactly, might the ownership of the vehicles have worked?

 

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