December 27, 1852

Prisoner

Monday Dec 27  Catharine & Ann washed and I have

commenced my dresses early for Julia

Mr & Mrs Swain & his sister came unexpectedly

into the other part of the house this afternoon

and the evening I have been there  Mrs A L

& Mrs S Ames have been to Sharon this afternoon

Mrs Ames says all the reports about Mr Clarke

abusing his wife are true and he has broken her jaw

in three places  He is in the house of correction

 

Almira Ames and Sarah Lothrop Ames rode to neighboring Sharon and back today and returned with a tale of domestic violence. A Mr. Clarke had been put in jail for beating his wife. Evelina listened closely to the news, lingering over the specifics of the injuries he inflicted on poor Mrs. Clarke, whose jaw was broken in three places. That’s a serious injury in any period, but in 1852 the capacity for proper repair of such breakage was limited at best. Orthopedic surgery was in its infancy and wouldn’t improve until doctors learned more about bone breakage during the Civil War.

The “house of correction” which housed the abusive Mr. Clarke was, simply put, the local jail. In Massachusetts the terms “jail” and “house of correction” were and are used interchangeably. Elsewhere the term “house of correction” was more narrowly defined to mean a holding place for people who were awaiting trial, or for vagrants – not a residential prison, in other words. However it may be defined, it meant at least temporary detention behind bars for Mr. Clarke.

Historians differ on society’s treatment of domestic violence in the nineteenth century. Most people believed that the government – even the local government – had no role in domestic concerns. But people also believed strongly in the moral authority of women and were loathe to tolerate physical transgressions against the weaker sex. Thus was Mr. Clarke put behind bars.

Other than this news, life at the Ames compound was trotting along as usual. It was laundry day – the last one that we shall read of – and the Irish servants were busy at their wash tubs, hot water boiling on the stove. Evelina sewed, of course, and got some pieces ready for Julia Mahoney, the dressmaker. Old Oliver noted that “in the evening there was a little snow.”

 

December 20, 1852

DSCF1590small

Monday Dec 20th  Was puttering about house most of the time

this forenoon  made some cake of sour cream

This afternoon here to tea  Mrs H & A L Ames

Mrs Witherell Emily & father & Oliver & wife

Have cut a pattern from Mrs Whitwells

cloak for Susan  Have not done much

sewing of course

Life seemed to be getting back to normal. The servants did the laundry while Evelina puttered about the house and did a little baking. In the evening, the family assembled for tea at Evelina and Oakes’s. Sarah Ames Witherell, Emily Witherell, Oliver Ames Jr., Sarah Lothrop Ames, and Old Oliver himself attended. So did Sally Hewes Ames and Almira Ames, who were still visiting; Almira would stay at the Ames compound well into the new year. Missing were Fred and Helen Ames – off at school, presumably – and Oakes Angier, of course.

The family was weighed down by personal difficulties: Oakes Angier an invalid in far-off Cuba and Sally Hewes Ames fed up and seeking divorce, not to mention the lingering loss of George Oliver Witherell earlier in the year. Perhaps other concerns occupied their thoughts, too. Like many other families, the Ameses drew strength from simply standing together. In the same way they had risen from the fire at the shovel factory back in March, they would do their best to prevail over the latest adversity. What a year it had been for them.

Yet on the horizon, a greater ill loomed which it is our readers’ advantage to know and the Ames family’s innocence not to foresee. Eight years later, on this exact date, the State of South Carolina would issue a proclamation of secession from the United States, kicking off the calamitous American Civil War.

 

December 17, 1852

Waiter

Friday, Dec 17th  Had a north east storm and a very rough

night and I was quite sick got into Boston

about ten and went to the Marlboro Hotel

to breakfast sick and tired. Went out shopping

bought Delaine for a double gown & morning

dress  Home in the stage at the usual time

This evening attended a lecture by Dr Holmes

on lectures & lecturing  Mrs Ames here to tea

 

“[I]t snowd last [night] about 3 inches and there was some rain with it – and it raind most of the forenoon and in the after noon it was verry foggy + warm + the snow about all gone there was an inch of water in all – Oakes + his Wife got home + Mrs George Ames with them”*  This is the only place in his entire decades-long journal that Old Oliver mentions his daughter-in-law and, per the custom of the day, he doesn’t even mention Evelina by name. The weather, however, he describes in detail.

Evelina describes a “very rough” trip from New York to Boston, one that made her ill. Yet she managed to recover after breakfast at the Marlboro Hotel. This trip is the only time in Evelina’s diary that she mentions dining in restaurants, first in New York and again in Boston. Dining out was not something that was done by women like her; restaurants generally catered to men, who could go out in public unaccompanied. But as Evelina was traveling with her husband, she was an acceptable customer. This exposure to aspects of the men’s normal world was a true adventure for her.

Not one to miss an opportunity to shop, Evelina bought some fabric in Boston before catching the stagecoach home. Back in North Easton, she seemed to settle back in quickly, perhaps unpacking and visiting around the immediate family, members of whom would have wanted to know about Oakes Angier’s departure. Almira Ames came for tea, and Evelina still had energy enough to attend an evening lecture in the village. The woman had stamina.

The lecturer that night was none other than Oliver Wendell Holmes, famous Boston physician, professor and poet – “a confirmed generalist”  who “regarded his eclecticism as a mark of intellectual superiority.”** Besides lecturing on lectures, he also gave talks about medicine and poetry. They were generally interesting and well attended, as they must have been to pull a fatigued Evelina out to listen to him.***

 

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

**Louis Menand, The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America, New York, 2001, p.58

***Information of Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809 – 1894) courtesy of Wikipedia; identity researched by reader Jessica Holland.

December 16, 1852

home3

Stonington, Connecticut, 19th century*

Thursday Dec 16th  Went out shopping awhile with Mrs

Ames but did not purchase much and was

hardly able to walk such sore feet  We went

to Burtons last eve did not think much

of the play & wished myself somewhere else

We left New York about 4 Oclock in the Stonington

boat  Mrs Ames came with us  The weather not

very pleasant

Evelina and Oakes stayed in New York City over night after seeing their son set sail for Cuba. Perhaps to take their minds off Oakes Angier’s departure, they attended a play at the popular Burton’s Theatre on Chambers Street off Broadway. Burton’s, originally known as Palmo’s Opera House, was built in 1844 and would be torn down in 1876. Managed by actor William Burton, it generally offered light fare like comedies and musicals. It wasn’t light enough for Evelina, though. She couldn’t attend to the performance, either because her feet hurt or she couldn’t stop thinking about Oakes Angier.

Where the couple stayed in New York is unclear, although both the Astor House and the Clifford Hotel are mentioned. The Astor House was a world-famous hotel. Built in 1836 by John Jacob Astor, it attracted a high-end clientele throughout much of the 19th century. Oakes may have stayed there before on the sales trips he made to the city, though it seems too dear for the frugal style he preferred. In all likelihood, this would have been the first time Evelina had spent a night there. In the future, the Astor Hotel wouldn’t be the usual spot for the Ames men when they traveled to New York. A decade later, as they began to be active in the building of the Union Pacific, Oakes, Oliver Jr., and fellow directors would stay at the Fifth Avenue Hotel. The City of New York would become very familiar to them.

In the afternoon, with Almira Ames, Evelina and Oakes boarded the steamboat for home. Almira had been at the docks, too, to watch Oakes Angier depart. She was a constant, attentive friend to all the family (and a relative by marriage) and no doubt made good company for Evelina as they bounced across Long Island Sound in rough water. How glad they all must have been to make landfall at Stonington, Connecticut and catch the train for Boston, where they would spend the night.*

*Image courtesy of Stonington Historical Society

 

August 27, 1852

Locomotive

Friday Aug 27th  Left Burlington at 1/4 before eleven on

our return home  They were very unwilling that we

should leave before next week and it was a sudden

start our leaving at last  It rained most of the 

way which made it much more pleasant as it

laid the dust  Arrived at Boston about

eight passed the night at Mr Orrs. Mrs Ames

Helen & Fred went to the Adams House

Somewhat precipitously, Evelina departed Burlington today with Sarah Lothrop Ames and her children Fred and Helen. Almira Ames didn’t return with her nor, more important, did Oakes Angier Ames. He would stay behind to rest and try to get the better of his pulmonary ailment.

After a nine hour train trip, which proved to be “much more pleasant” than the ride they had taken eight days earlier, Evelina and company arrived “at Boston.”  Light rain had fallen throughout the journey, which helped lay the dust, but was a precursor of more wet weather to come. This was hurricane season, after all.

Evelina says nothing about shopping in Boston. She may have been too fatigued by the journey to follow her favorite pursuit in the city.  Instead, she went right to the home of Robert and Melinda Orr, her usual headquarters when there. Sarah Lothrop Ames and her children stayed elsewhere.

August 26, 1852

Champlain-02

The Steamboat Oakes Ames, ca. 1868*

Thursday 26th Aug  This morning Mrs Mills got a hack and

carried us all out to ride.  We had a fine view

of the Lake and town, was riding over an hour

and returned to Mrs Stetsons and all dined there

Called into a shop to see stone ware made

Passed the afternoon at Mrs Mowers and there

we had a very pleasant time  Charades & Tableaux

got home about twelve

Evelina filled her last full day in Burlington with social activity. She and a group – Almira Ames, Sarah Lothrop Ames, Fred and Helen, and Oakes Angier, too, presumably – were “carried” out for a ride, during which they admired the “fine view” they got of Lake Champlain and the town itself. It was a pretty place. But no amount of imagination in the mind of anyone in the hired carriage could have foretold that one day a steamboat named for Oakes Ames would be plying the waters they were gazing at.

In 1868, in fact, the 244′ Oakes Ames, built in the Napoleon B. Proctor Shipyard, would be launched from Burlington. Designed to ferry railroad cars from Burlington across the lake to Plattsburgh, New York, the steamship was commissioned by the Rutland Railroad, for whom Oakes Ames was a director and one of the line’s “firmest friends.”** In 1874, the ship would be renamed and repurposed for passenger service. Yet the newly christened Champlain II would last in service only until running aground in July, 1875. Although the incident produced no fatalities, the ship’s hull would be dashed beyond repair. Today, the boat is a famous wreck in the water.

Steamship and railroad deals being in the future, Evelina and the group continued to enjoy themselves on this pleasant day. They dined at a friend’s house and visited a stoneware shop. In the evening they all played charades and tableaux, popular parlor games in which participants acted out words or situations, or created still scenes of familiar subject matter, respectively. Such games were particularly popular at Christmastime.

*Image courtesy of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum

** Burlington Free Press, August 20,1868, p.4.  For an exhaustive narrative about the Champlain II, ex-Oakes Ames, please see a thesis by Elizabeth Robinson Baldwin, May 1997, Texas A & M

August 21, 1852

513684745

Factory in Burlington, Vermont, 19th century

Saturday Aug 21th (sic)  Cousin Harriet came up to see us

this morning and invited us to spend the day

at Mrs Mills but she stopt to dinner there

and we went to Mrs Mills to tea  Miss Ann Clark

and Mr S Mower called. After tea Mrs A Ames

Oakes A & self called at Mrs Mowers and they were

going to the Panorama of the garden of Eden and Mrs Ames

Mrs Stetson and I went with them.  Oakes A returned to Mrs Stetsons

Evelina, Oakes Angier, and Almira Ames woke up in Burlington, Vermont, at the home (or boarding house) of a Mrs. Stetson. Surely they spent the morning unpacking and whisking road-dust off the outfits they had traveled in. Their quiet time was soon interrupted by visitors, however, including their spinster cousin, Harriet Ames.

Burlington is Vermont’s largest city, and even in 1852 was a bustling town. Located on Lake Champlain, it had a railroad line that connected not only with Boston and New York, but also with a steamship company on the lake, making shipping and manufacturing a big part of the local commerce. Like many communities in Massachusetts, the city had attracted a large Irish population that became its dominant work force.

Vermont as a whole struggled through most of the 19th century between the influence of industrialization in its few urban areas and the entrenched rural preferences of its many small towns.* Many would say that the agrarian forces triumphed, for in the 21st century, Vermont remains New England’s most rural state.  Burlington itself is now home to the main campus of the University of Vermont and, more important, the headquarters of Ben and Jerry’s.

All that lay ahead, of course, and would have been beyond the reach of Evelina’s imagination. For her, this 19th century day was full of becoming acquainted with a new city, seeing her eldest son get settled, and finding friends.

 

*Paul M. Searls, Vermont in the Nineteenth Century, http://www.flowofhistory.org