October 22, 1852

 

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Tibetan Sheep, 21st century

Friday Oct 22d Julia Mahoney was here to work

this forenoon on Susans Maroon Thibot

making a new waist and put a new yoke

and making over the waist to her dark

striped wool deLaine  Carried home the

waist to finish to her Thibot dress  I spent

the afternoon at Olivers with Hannah + Augustus

Mr Whitwell called

 

Julia Mahoney, a local dressmaker, worked at Evelina’s sewing at least two dresses for Susan Ames. Susie, who was ten-going-on-eleven, was growing taller and more mature. The dresses she had worn the previous winter needed to be altered, the waists expanded, the tucks let out, a new yoke put in. One of her dresses was made of delaine, a wool that Evelina sewed often for herself and her daughter. It was a popular, open-weave, light-weight wool that came in many patterns and colors; it may or may not have been imported.

The “Thibot” cloth that Evelina describes was more unusual. It was of “[w]ool material, worsted with soft and smooth plain-finished face; made from mountain sheep of Thibet, Asia*.” This textile was imported and would have been more expensive, suggesting that Susie’s little maroon dress may have been meant for “Sunday best.” It was special enough that the dressmaker took it home to work on.

In Boston at this time, sources for wool were both domestic and foreign.  There were approximately 15 wool merchants in the city, most of whom were prospering. According to an early 20th century history:

“The quantity of domestic wool showed a steady decrease for several years subsequent to the enactment of the tariff of 1846. The effect of the gold discoveries upon general commerce in 1849, stimulating the manufacturing industry, is reflected in the rapidly increased imports of home grown wools. The imports of foreign wools show considerable yearly fluctuation, corresponding in the main to the varying quantities of domestic wools.”**

Some years later, Susie would marry a wool merchant named Henry French. She and Evelina would then – presumably – have access to whatever wool they needed or wanted, foreign or domestic.

*Betty J. Mills, Calico Chronicle: Texas Women and Their Fashions, 1830-1910, Texas Tech University Press, 1988, p. 183

**Joseph T. Shaw, The Wool Trade of the United States: History of a Great Industry:Its Rise and Progress in Boston, Now the Second Market in the World, 1909, p. 52

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 12, 1852

DSCF1683small

Gravestone of George Oliver Witherell

Tuesday Oct 12th  Mother & Louisa dined at Mr Torreys

and I went there to tea I was ready to go

when Mrs Roland & Miss Louisa Howard & Mrs

Dunham from N. Bedford called and stopt

some time  Mrs Witherell & Ames were gone

to Norton to see about Georges grave stone

Augustus & wife & her mother were at Mr Torreys

also

It could be that excitement over the new steam engine that was installed yesterday in the Long Shop continued, but Evelina tells us nothing about it. As usual, she maintains a disinterested distance from business matters. Not that she didn’t care, perhaps, but the business was up to her husband, his brother and her father-in-law. Commerce was in their sphere, the running of the household was in hers, and neither she nor her husband crossed the line between the two. So it was in most households in the middle of the 19th century.

“[I]t was foggy this morning but cleard of[f] warm before noon wind south west,”* reported Old Oliver. Sarah Ames Witherell and Sarah Lothrop Ames rode together to Norton to select a gravestone for Mrs. Witherell’s son, George, who had died at age fourteen the previous spring of rheumatic fever. The task could not have been pleasant, but perhaps Sarah Witherell found solace in marking her son’s passing in such a permanent way. The gravestone – if it is the one that she picked out, as the grave site was eventually moved – can be seen in the Village Cemetery behind the Unitarian Church in North Easton.

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

September 21, 1852

Funeral

Tuesday Sept 21st  Have been almost sick to day and

not able to do much  Got a quilt into the

new chamber for Catharine to work upon

Went to the funeral of Mrs Savage at

one Oclock.  Called with Mrs Witherell at

Augustus,  Mr Swains & on Mrs Wales.  She

is confined to her bet yet and has been for weeks

It appears to have been Evelina’s turn to be ill, as she describes herself as unable “to do much.”  We readers know how hard she usually worked, so not doing much might mean that she only accomplished four or five tasks today instead of a dozen. Despite feeling “almost sick,” Evelina managed to arrange sewing for her servant Catharine, attend the funeral of Hannah Savage and, with her sister-in-law, Sarah Ames Witherell, call on several households in the village. It’s hard to know if Evelina was spreading germs or picking them up as she went along, but she meant well.

According to Old Oliver Ames, “this was a fair day + pritty warm wind northerly,”* in other words a pleasant day to be out and about. Yet, in two of the homes that Evelina and Sarah visited, people were ailing. At the Swains’, their infant son was teething and fussy. At the home of Ephraim and Maria Wales, the latter was “confined to her bed yet,” an expression which hints at a recent or impending childbirth. Mrs. Wales was of childbearing age, yet census records show no children for this young couple. Perhaps Maria would lose or had lost an infant, or was simply ill with any one of a myriad of possible ailments.

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

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

 

September 10, 1852

Conductor

Friday Sept 10th  Mother Mrs Stevens Susan & self rode to

the shops this morning.  Mother seemed as delighted

as a child  we called on Mrs Shepherd also invited 

her to come here Saturday  Have passed the

afternoon at Mr Torreys Augustus & wife were

there  Mr Torrey very sociable & clever

Oakes A returned home from Burlington yesterday

and is looking much better

Oakes Angier Ames returned to Easton today, looking healthier than when he had left three weeks earlier. Family members would have hoped that the 23-year-old had recovered from his lung ailment in the fresh air of Vermont, that his indisposition hadn’t proved to be consumption. No doubt, he hoped that, too.

Another male relative also arrived in town; although not traveling together, both men must have arrived by train at Boston, then Stoughton or Taunton, and then traveled by carriage to North Easton. William Leonard Ames “came here from Minesota the 10th,”* bringing with him his five-year old son, Angier Ames. He had left his wife back in St. Paul with their older son, William Leonard Ames Jr., and their youngest child, Oliver Ames. William visited Easton periodically and always stayed with his father. He and Oakes Ames did not get on well, as we have seen before, and we can perhaps infer from Evelina’s failure to mention his arrival that she wasn’t keen on William, either.

With her friend Mrs. Stevens in tow, Evelina took her mother and daughter out on a number of calls. Her mother enjoyed the ride around the new shop, and all seemed to enjoy an afternoon visiting Col. John Torrey in the village. He was a widower of Evelina’s late older sister, Hannah. Evelina seemed to be planning a special tea for the following day, perhaps in honor of Mrs. Stevens.

 

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

August 20, 1852

1024px-1879_CV_map_only

Map of the Central Vermont Railroad, circa 1879

1852

Friday Aug 20th  Left Bellows Falls at 1/2 past 7 and

arrived at Burlington about two. Went

to Mrs Stetsons found the house shut up

At the house opposite they told us she had

gone to Mrs Mills and went there and had

some dinner and all went to Mrs Stetsons to

tea  Mrs S Ames Fred & Helen stopt at Pittsford

Willie Gilmore died this afternoon

Evelina would not learn of it for several days, but her young great-nephew, William Lincoln Gilmore, died today of dysentery. (She added the information later.) Barely a year old, Willie had been ill for several weeks, and Evelina had visited his parents, Augustus and Hannah Gilmore, a few times before she left North Easton. His death was sad news.

Not knowing about it, however, and full of her own worry for her own son, Evelina was open to the journey she and other family members were on. By way of the Vermont Central Railroad, presumably, she, Oakes Angier, and Almira Ames traveled another 100+ miles today from Bellows Falls to Burlington, Vermont, while Sarah Lothrop Ames and her two children, Fred and Helen, got off at Pittsford. Although the map in the illustration above dates from 1879, the line itself was first developed in the 1840’s.

Burlington was Oakes Angier’s destination, the place where he would stay for several weeks to rest and, it was hoped, recuperate from his pulmonary illness. The threesome spent the night with Mrs. Stetson, a friend of the family.

August 15, 1852

Bed

August 15th Sunday  Did not sleep much last night

My handbag with bonnet visite & c were missing

found them this morning at Olivers  Helen

carried them home.  Have been to meeting

came home at noon  Mrs Stevens Orinthia &

Lavinia with us.  Called to see Willie

Gilmore found him more comfortable

Evelina often felt poorly right after returning from her shopping forays into Boston; on this occasion, she was unable to sleep. Surely, the seriousness of her son’s pulmonary illness was the larger culprit in her wakefulness than the usual exhaustion from her trip to the city. She was still rattled in the morning, unable to find her handbag, bonnet and
visite which, it turned out, had been mistakenly taken next door by Helen Angier Ames. It would seem that all the women were a little rattled.

The men may have been rattled, too, by Oakes Angier’s illness, but Old Oliver, at least, wasn’t showing it. He kept up his usual weather-related journal entries. Accordingly, today “was a fair warm day with the exception of two slight showers, perhaps 1/8 of an inch in both of them.”*

Somewhere in the course of the day, perhaps after church, Evelina and her husband, Oakes, and Oakes Angier himself, in all likelihood, determined on a course of action for the latter. Oakes Angier would go off to rest in fresher air and, for the journey itself, be accompanied by various family members.  The decision must have offered relief and hope to all. Evelina got outside of her own head enough to call on her nephew, Alson Augustus Gilmore, whose infant son had been so sick with dysentery. Little Willie seemed better. While there, no doubt, Evelina shared the plans to send Oakes Angier away.

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

 

August 6, 1852

sarudy4-R14-E422

Friday Aug 6th

1852 Sewed but very little this forenoon picked

some peas currants &c  Lavinia came to 

dinner  Edwin & wife to tea  Lavinia & I

called to Augustus’ to see their babe who 

is quite sick with the disentary  He looked

quite bright  Mrs Witherell & A L Ames

called a few moments

There were fresh peas at the Ames dinner table today.  We readers might not have enjoyed them, however, as the recipes of the time called for cooking peas – and other vegetables – much longer than our modern preferences allow. Domestic doyenne and editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, Sarah Josepha Hale, declared that peas are “a most delicious vegetable,” but cautioned that “[i]t takes from half an hour to an hour to boil them.”* That seems overcooked to us, but, nevertheless, the Ames’s peas were fresh, untarnished by pesticides, and indisputably local.

With her niece Lavinia Gilmore, Evelina went to visit her nephew (and Lavinia’s half-brother) Alson Augustus Gilmore, who had lately been ill. He was now well, but his one-year old son, Willie, had become “quite sick” with dysentery. Had the child caught something from his father? Or was he suffering a condition not uncommon in children in the heat of the summer?  His bright red face suggests fever and dehydration. Augustus and his wife, Hannah, would have been worried about the little boy.

*Sarah Josepha Hale, The Good Housekeeper, 1841, p. 75

 

August 1, 1852

SerffLedger1

 

Example of anonymous, old cash ledger

1852

Sunday Aug 1st  Went to meeting this forenoon

but was very sleepy and had a head

ache came home at noon & did not

return, was writing and looking over my

accounts untill the rest returned from 

meeting, good business for the Sabbath

I think. Mr Ames & self went to see Augustus

since meeting.  Alson & wife came after Mary

Evelina was plagued by a headache, so didn’t return to the afternoon service at the Unitarian church. As she had done before on a Sunday afternoon, she went over her household accounts. Like many a competent householder, she kept a ledger of cash transactions that detailed the weekly or monthly expenses of running the house. It’s highly unlikely that she had any money of her own; everything would have been paid for by her husband, Oakes, who either saw that she had a regular allowance or gave her funds as needed. She would have been careful with every penny, probably more careful than he was.

On this Sunday, she describes the review of her accounts as “good business for the Sabbath,” but in an earlier entry she had hesitated to do it, fearing that it was inappropriate. Accounting was quiet work, certainly, but it was still work, and that was forbidden on Sunday. By defending the activity in her own diary, she shows us that she was still feeling a little guilty for doing it.

Socializing wasn’t forbidden, however, and when her husband, Oakes, came home from church, the two went out to see Evelina’s nephew, Alson Augustus Gilmore, who had been quite sick with fever. Her brother, Alson, and his wife, Henrietta, meanwhile, “came after” the maid, Mary, and, evidently, took her home with them.