August 7, 1852

Wagon

Sat Aug 7th  Was sewing part of the forenoon made

some pies & cake  Went into Olivers about four,

Started to go to Augustus in a waggon and

got caught in a shower turned back at the

school house got completely wet  My sons & Mr Ames

were at tea at Olivers  Edwin & wife Lavinia & Abby

there Catharine & I have done some sewing this week

two nightgowns for self one for Susan & one cotton & 

moire skirt & c &c  Susans waists are finished

 

“[T]he 5, 6 + 7th were pritty warm day[s] + there was some rain,”* wrote Old Oliver in his journal. Evelina was out in that rain and “got completely wet.” Late afternoon showers are part and parcel of August weather in New England. The showers can come up quickly, too, so it’s small wonder that folks moving around the countryside in horse-drawn wagons could get caught in the rain.

While Evelina was getting soaked, her husband Oakes and sons Oakes Angier, Oliver (3) and Frank Morton Ames had tea next door with the Oliver Ames Jr family. How was Oakes Angier feeling, now that he was coughing so much? Perhaps he and his brothers got to hear their cousin Helen play piano again, or perhaps they just ate and conversed. Various Gilmore relatives, including Edwin and Augusta Gilmore, Lavinia Gilmore and Abby Torrey were there as well.  As previously noted, Lavinia and Helen were particularly friendly.

And speaking of friends, fans of Sherlock Holmes might enjoy knowing that August 7, 1852 is the purported birthdate of the fictional Holmes’ steady, tolerant and equally fictional sidekick, Dr. John Watson.

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

 

July 23, 1852

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19th century tailor’s shears*

July 23d  Friday  Have cut the skirt & sleeves

& cape to my traveling dress and 

have set Mary to work on the skirt

and I have taken the sleeves

Mrs Stevens has sent me the lining

but not the trimming  Julia Mahoney

is at work at Olivers  Mr Torrey

and Abby called this morning

Evelina was back in good humor today. The thermometer was going down and she had a new project to work on. Shears in hand, she cut out the pieces for her new traveling dress, and probably the lining, too. Designed with a cape to fit over the shoulders, it would be a very fashionable outfit. She didn’t yet have the trimming she needed, and the dress would take longer to sew than she wished, but it would be finished in time for a trip she didn’t even know she would have to make.

Col. John Torrey, the widower of Evelina’s late sister Hannah, came to call.  As we have noted in earlier posts, Mr. Torrey lived in the village of North Easton in a building – a boarding house of sorts – whose spare rooms he rented out. Through Rev. William Chaffin’s history of the town, we learn that Mr. Torrey was a controversial character. Listed as a trader in the town census, and a one-time colonel of the local militia, he was considered laughable by some. Another local character, an erudite shovel-worker named James Adams, wrote a mock-heroic poem about him, the “derisive and scathing”* verses of which are lost. Yet Evelina appeared to enjoy her brother-in-law’s company and brand of humor, and she was devoted to his daughters Abby and Melvina.

*William Chaffin, History of Easton, Massachusetts, 1886, pp. 764-765

 

 

*Image courtesy of etsy.com

June 18, 1852

servants

 

 

June 18 Friday Have to be around with the new girl

to show her which hinders a great deal about

my sewing  Mrs Holmes & Richardson came this morning

to get some plants and I worked a long while

in the garden and did not sew but very little 

before dinner  Abby & Miss Gurney passed

the afternoon here and carried home plants

 

It’s hard to tell if Hannah Murphy or Catharine Middleton, both new to the household, is “the new girl” whom Evelina accuses of hindering her sewing. After firing Jane McHanna, Evelina had to train someone new, a process for which she evidently had limited patience. She would have preferred to be working on her own projects; such was one consequence of letting Jane go.

The plus side was that Evelina had the opportunity to establish expectations and guidelines for the new servants. If she would take the time to train them, she might get excellent help around the house. She certainly hoped that the new girls would work out better than Jane had.

If the continued hot weather didn’t help her mood, at least it didn’t keep Evelina out of her flower beds. Her garden had seemed neglected of late, but the plants were growing just fine and she had many to give away. Her niece Abby Torrey and a friend, Miss Gurney, visited for a few hours and went home with a few flowers, as did Mrs. Holmes and Mrs. Richardson earlier in the day.

June 11, 1852

Coffeepot

 

 

June 11th Friday  This morning had quite a fuss with

Jane about her coffee & beef &c and cannot put

up with such work and to night have engaged

a new girl  Helen & self carried Mr & Mrs

Orr to the Stoughton cars this afternoon […]

We went to the shops this morning & called

on Augustus Abby & Mrs Witherell

 

A red letter day for Evelina: She fired Jane McHanna. In Evelina’s mind, Jane’s work had fallen off – particularly when compared to the accomplishments of Mrs. Patterson – and today, after a “fuss” about breakfast, Jane had to go. Their relationship had ever had its ups and downs; today it ended.

The kerfuffle between Evelina and Jane must have been observed, or overheard, by houseguests Robert and Melinda Orr. Perhaps their presence influenced Evelina’s decision to dismiss Jane, Evelina wanting to exhibit higher standards of domestic efficiency than Jane was used to producing. However it came about, the result was that Jane would go. Evelina found a replacement by nightfall, but would Jane be equally lucky?  A lone woman without means, could she find a new position quickly?

The morning’s upset may have lingered in Evelina’s mind throughout the day, but she continued to entertain her Boston guests according to the means at her disposal. Besides calling on various family members, they walked around the shovel works, a tour which would have interested Robert Orr.  He lived in Boston, but his family in Bridgewater and elsewhere had worked with iron for many years.

In the afternoon, Evelina and her niece Helen Angier Ames “carried” the Orrs to the railroad stop in Stoughton and bid them goodbye. It was one month ago today that George Witherell died.

May 25, 1852

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Tuesday May 25th   Hannah Maccomber spent the day

Miss Kinsley  Billings & Scovill called about eleven

a very short call.  Hannah & sister called for a 

few moments  We have cleaned the sitting room

& bedroom  Mrs Patterson did the greater part

Mr Scott has finished painting the dining room

and put a coat of green paint between the

shelves in the sitting closet  Abby came after tea

Evelina managed to entertain visitors today even as spring cleaning cantered along in her half of the house. Her sister-in-law Hannah Lincoln Gilmore, and Hannah’s sister Elizabeth Lincoln, dropped by “for a few moments” to say hello. Hannah, being a housewife herself, knew enough to keep the visit short. Hannah and Elizabeth were “old shoe,” as the saying goes, and Evelina probably felt no compunction to impress them or be other than what she was: a housewife in the throes of cleaning.

The other surprise visit would have been less easy to accommodate. No doubt Evelina was pleased to see Miss Lucy Kinsley of Canton and her two young friends, especially after being so well entertained by the Kinsley family only a week earlier. Yet Evelina might have wished that the young ladies had come to call at another time when her home had been been more presentable.  Perhaps, too, the young ladies might have wished to catch a glimpse of the handsome Ames sons, who were more than likely at the shovel works. The awkward timing and mutual, if slight, disappointment of the call may explain its “very short” nature.

Mrs. Patterson did the lioness’s share of labor in cleaning the sitting room and bedroom, even as Mr. Scott finished the dining room and painted some closet shelves. Evelina worked alongside them both, when she wasn’t called away, and managed to oversee their work and plan ahead as well. It could be that the extra energy she was using to put her home in order was, in one respect, a way to channel her grief for her nephew, so recently deceased. Her body was busy all day long, getting things done, and her mind occupied with domestic necessities. All this may have helped her sleep at night.

 

May 15, 1852

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May 1852

Saturday 15th  Have been mending a lot of stockings

that have bee[n] put by for a week or two  Spend

too much time in the garden  Gave Mrs Gilmore

Augusta & Abby some plants & flower seeds

Abby stoped a couple of hours  Gave Susan a bath

and took one myself and the afternoon thus passed

Spent the evening   Helen is much better she has

had a sorry time of it  Quite pleasant

 

Today was “cloudy all day but a little warmer,”* according to Old Oliver. The bath water that Evelina and her daughter Susie used was in no danger of freezing, as it had earlier in the year when Oakes had planned to bathe but forgot and left the the water to freeze in the pail.  The water in the pail should have been poured into a tub not unlike the one in the illustration above, copper-lined, claw-footed, and rimmed in oak.  That Evelina mentioned taking a bath suggests that bathing was not a regular event; personal hygiene operated under a different set of standards in the 19th century.

The baths, taken in the Ames’s indoor bathing room, probably felt quite relaxing, even therapeutic after the stress and grief of the week gone by. For Evelina, even just mending the hose that had sat untended would have been a welcome return to normalcy after the death of young George Witherell.  Working in the garden, too, would have been a pleasure.  Her plants were doing so well, in fact, that she had plenty to spare and give away to some of her female relatives.

Next door,  fifteen year old Helen Angier Ames was finally recovering from an infection on her face, an abscess or boil, that had  been lanced the day before.  The procedure had been successful, and the family’s health concerns seemed to be put away, at least for now.

April 30, 1852

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1852

Friday April 30th  Worked in the garden awhile this

morning  Mr Scott has grained the cook

room  Rachel dined here & was intending to 

spend the day but Mrs Packard came to Edwins

and she went back there  Mrs Lincoln

passed the afternoon & Augustus to tea  Abby

spent the day, was away awhile with Mrs

Clapp after some flowers.  Hannah gone to Boston

 

The last day of the month was “a fair day + the warmest we have had this spring …,”* according to Old Oliver Ames, who also noted that he “killed 4 shoats to day.”

A shoat is a newly weaned pig that typically  weighs in at about thirty pounds. It wasn’t unusual to find a farmer thinning a litter of pigs (also known as a drift of pigs) at this time of year, for different reasons. Many farmers bought shoats at this time of year to fatten up over the summer and slaughter in the fall. For reasons known only to himself, Old Oliver chose to slaughter four of his young pigs rather than sell them. Perhaps the shoats in question were unpromising specimens, or perhaps the Ames family was ready for a little fresh pork.

In the first part of the 19th century, the word “shoat” was also used as a pejorative slang term, intended to describe someone as fairly useless. To call someone a shoat was to say that he or she was dispensable and unimportant.

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

April 28, 1852

Unitarian Church, Bridgewater, Mass

1852

Wednesday April 28  Have been to the ordination of

Mr Ballou of W Bridgewater with Oakes A & 

Sister Sarah, Mr H Ballou, Briggs of Plymouth

Brigham [illegible] Ballou of Stoughton &c

Mrs Witherell dined at old Mrs Ames, the

rest of us at Mr Thomas Ames.  On my return 

stoped at Augustus’.  Oakes A came to tea

Miss S Lincoln Rachel Augusta & Abby here

It was the middle of a work week, but the Unitarian ministry was busy. In Bridgewater, (or West Bridgewater) a Mr. Ballou was ordained as minister. The name Ballou was associated with many late 18th and 19th century men of the cloth, particularly with Hosea Ballou, an early leader of the Universalist Church. Today’s Mr. Ballou wasn’t he, but may have been a relative.

Why were the Ameses invited to this ordination? Why did they attend? What was the connection? Were they related to the Ballous? They were distantly related to various Ameses in the area, including Thomas Ames, a 52 years-old farmer, who kindly had them to dine.

On this special occasion, as the Unitarians in Bridgewater were honoring ritual and perpetuating their ilk, a forward-looking and entirely new event took place in Boston. The first electric fire alarm in the world “was rung from what is now Box 1212 for a fire on Causeway Street. Created by Dr. William Channing and Moses Farmer, the system consists of forty miles of wire, forty-five signal boxes, and sixteen alarm bells. Police officers and members of the Boston Night Watch are given keys to the locked boxes to enable them to turn in alarms.”* What’s particularly amazing is that “[p]art of the system is still in use today.”*

*Jim Vrabel, When in Boston, 2004, p. 160

April 22, 1852

Cobbler

1852

Thursday April 22  Worked a very little in the garden

not very pleasant but looks more like fair weather

Sewed a little on my black silk dress

Called with Augusta on Hannah & her sister

Sarah, Abby and at Willard Lothrop, Sampsons

A Pratts Holmes and at the store.  afterwards at

Olivers & Edwins carried a pr shoes to mend

A little sewing, a little gardening, and a great deal of socializing filled the hours of Evelina’s day today. After being pretty well pent up by several days of stormy weather, Evelina was ready to go out.

With her niece-in-law, Augusta Pool Gilmore, she called on another niece-in-law, Hannah Williams Gilmore. There they met Hannah’s sister, Sarah Lincoln, who was visiting from Hingham. They went on to see yet another niece, Abby Torrey, then to the homes of Willard Lothrop (one of Easton’s most active spiritualists), Joel and Martha Sampson, and others.

The Sampsons were a younger couple from Maine with five little children aged eight and under, including three-year-old twins. Joel Sampson worked at the shovel shop and was evidently devoted to Oakes Ames. Twenty years later, on hearing of Oakes’ death, “Joel Sampson, teamster and farmer of the company came home when he heard the sad news, threw himself upon his sofa and announced to his wife that the head and soul of the business was dead, that every thing would go to smash now, and told her to make ready to go back to their old farm and home in Maine, as it was no use to live here any more.”**

Throughout her travels today, Evelina carried a pair of shoes to be mended. In an area of the country well known for its shoe manufacturing, there must have been a good cobbler somewhere in town.

 

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

**William Chaffin, “Oakes Ames,” p. 2

April 9, 1852

images-1

April 9th Friday  Have made the skirt of my Delaine

dress and Orinthia has been sewing on her own

clothes most of the day  I have done but very

little sewing this spring.  Have had some one staying

here for the last few weeks and have been upon the

go a great deal of the time.  Abby came about four

this afternoon and spent the evening

Evelina was trying to catch up on her sewing today, admitting that she had been distracted by “someone staying” at the house for several weeks. She had been “upon the go” with visits from her sister-in-law Amelia Gilmore, her mother, and her former boarder, Orinthia Foss. As a consequence, her sewing had suffered. It was time to get busy.

Her father-in-law, Old Oliver, was busy, too. After noting that“it was cloudy all day wind north east + snowd a little,” he went on to report the purchase of several animals.  “[W]e bought 12 pigs to day that weighd 2041 lb at 7 ½ cents a lb – paid 143=00 cents for them [and] we bought a black hors[e] to day of Mr Feild of North Bridgewater which he cald 5 years old for 125$ if he proves good we are to pay 25$ more for him”

A few days ago it was oxen, today it was pigs and a horse.  Old Oliver was filling the barn.