March 10, 1852



March 10th  Wednesday  Early part of the day

was sewing on a waist or rather cutting

it out and getting it to fit.  Augusta

came in this afternoon but as Amelia

& self were invited into Olivers she went

with us and Edwin.  Mr Ames came to tea

Amelia trimmed some pocket handkerchiefs

for me that Mrs Ames got in New York

The rebuilding of the shovels shops was moving along well. They “put the roof on the stone shop to day,”* according to Old Oliver, who watched each day’s progress carefully. It had been a full week since fire had destroyed most of the factory buildings. The response and reconstruction had been immediate!

Amelia Gilmore, the widow of Evelina’s younger brother, Joshua Gilmore, Jr., was visiting for several days.  She undertook the hemming of some handkerchiefs – essential components of a lady’s outfit – that Almira Ames had brought Evelina from New York City. The purpose of a handkerchief, a personal item dating back to antiquity, was primarily hygenic, used to wipe one’s nose or brow and cover one’s cough. In a time of contagious diseases such as tuberculosis, cloth handkerchiefs were essential.  Their ubiquity necessitated their incorporation into the fashion profile.

Late in the day, the two went next door to Oliver Jr.’s and Sarah Lothrop Ames’ home for tea.  Oakes Ames went, too, and the newlyweds, Augusta and Edwin Gilmore, tagged along.



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


March 9, 1852


19th century oil lantern


March 9th  Tuesday  This morning finished putting

the sitting room chamber in order

Mrs Witherell came in with her work

for an hour or two. I sent for Hannah

Augusta & Abby this afternoon.  Abby

came in this evening  Augustus called  his

wife has the canker and was not able to come


Today “was a fair good day + pritty warm,” * accommodating weather for the carpenters working on the shovel shops. According to modern town historian, Ed Hands, the repair would be rapid enough to allow a resumption of manufacturing “in less than three weeks.” But what happened to the shovel makers during the hiatus? Were they kept on payroll? Or were they given unpaid furlough?

What happened to Patric Quinn? An Irish immigrant with a young wife and two small children, he was the watchman who had dropped his lantern into the varnish on the night of March 2d. He started the fire. Was he injured? Was he held accountable?  Did he stay on payroll? He and his wife Elisa, who sometimes did sewing for Evelina, remained in North Easton. They lived on Elm Street in one of the workers’s houses.

At the Ames compound, Evelina put the sitting room and parlor back in order. She and her sister-in-law, Amelia Gilmore sat and sewed.  They were joined for a time by Sarah Ames Witherell who was followed by young Abbey Torry and Augusta Pool Gilmore. Hannah Lincoln Gilmore was too sick to attend.


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

**Edmund C. Hands, Easton’s Neighborhoods, 1995, p. 163

March 8, 1852


March 8th

1852 Monday  To day is town meeting.  George brought

sister Amelia here this afternoon  Have got

the carpet down in the front entry and 

the chamber carpet partly down

S Ames sent for the entry lamp for fear

I suppose that I should keep it but

she […] might not been alarmed

Carpenters have come to rebuild the shops

A new week signaled a fresh start. It had only been six days since the fire at the shovel factory, but the clean-up had gone quickly. The ruins were “dismal,” as Evelina noted yesterday, but the debris was mostly gone, hacked down, shoveled up and carted away. Carpenters had arrived to begin rebuilding, as Old Oliver, too, noted in his diary:  “some of the carpenters came on to day to build up our shops + Mr Phillips + his son came.”*

Life in the village was returning to normal.  Housewives, some with servants, tended to washing day. Children went to school and men went to town meeting.  As at church, the fire must have been part of the conversation as the men gathered to decide on town affairs and expenditures for the coming year. People must have wondered how soon the shovel shop would be up and running.

At the meeting, a new moderator, Alson Augustus Gilmore, presided. Not yet thirty years old, it was his first time holding the gavel; he would repeat the performance twenty-four times over the coming decades.  According to William Chaffin, Gilmore and his predecessor, Elijah Howard, Jr., “served with signal ability.”**

Evelina and her sister-in-law, Sarah Lothrop Ames, had a minor set-to over “the entry lamp,” which appears to have been a luminary that was shared by both houses. Sarah was evidently skittish about not having it, and Evelina was annoyed to have it commanded away.  No cause for alarm, she might have said. She wouldn’t have been annoyed for long, however, as a favorite family member, Amelia Gilmore, arrived for a visit. Amelia was the young widow of Evelina’s younger brother, Joshua Gilmore, Jr. She had lately been working as a private nurse.

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

**William Chaffin, History of Easton, 1886, p. 637

February 15, 1852


Nursing uniform from the late 19th c.*


Sunday Feb 15th  Have been to church and at

noon went to Mr Baileys to see sister Amelia

who is nursing there  Mother went with me

Have been reading since meeting  Edwin & wife came

in to spend the evening but Mr Ames & self were

just going to Mr Swains and they would not let 

us stop for them so they went to Augustus  Had a 

pleasant call or rather visit at Mr Swains  came away

about nine Oclock  Very pleasant

The sun came out today, so despite it being “pritty cold,”** the Ames family went to church. During the intermission between morning and afternoon services, Evelina and her elderly mother, Hannah Lothrop Gilmore, rode out to visit Amelia Gilmore.  Amelia was the widow of Evelina’s brother, Joshua Gilmore, Jr. Joshua had died three years earlier, at age 35, leaving Amelia with two sons to raise.

In order to support herself and her boys, Amelia hired out as a nurse.  In this instance, she was looking after a Mr. Bailey, who must have lived near the Unitarian church. He may have lived alone, been ill and needed paid help; otherwise the convention of the day would have meant his female relatives looked after him. When Amelia wasn’t working, she and her youngest son, Samuel, lived with the Alger family near the Gilmore farm. The older son, Charles, had hired out somewhere but would soon come to reside with his uncle Alson Gilmore.

In 1852, nursing was not a formal profession.  Women (nursing was considered the exclusive province of women at the time) undertook nursing because they needed to work and this was one of very few avenues open to them. They based their protocol on personal experience in caring for ill members of their own families. There were no training programs or certification venues available, in no small part because there were so few hospitals. People were cared for at home. It would take the Crimean War in Europe and the Civil War in the U.S. to change attitudes and formalize medical care.

*Courtesy of

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


June 20, 1851


20 June Friday.  Worked in the garden after breakfast until

half past eight.  After getting things in order for

dinner went to work on the hair cloth cover again

untill about two Oclock when Amelia & Samuel

came.  Mr Whitwell called and we had quite

a pleasant chat  Sent Samuel for Abby and

she came to tea and staid untill nine

The last few days have been very pleasant


As previously noted, Evelina was one of eight children.  Five of her siblings were deceased by the time she was writing in this diary, including her younger brother, Joshua Gilmore Jr.  He had died about two years earlier at age 35.  Today, his widow Amelia and one of their two living sons, Samuel Gilmore, came to visit.

No longer having a home of their own, assuming they had had one before Joshua died, Amelia and Samuel boarded with the Algers, a farming family in the south eastern quadrant of Easton, near the Gilmore farm.  They stayed with the Gilmores, too, from time to time while an older son, Charles (all of twelve years old,) may have hired out to another farm.  Amelia, presumably left without much income after her husband died, worked occasionally as a nurse, staying with families in households where someone was chronically or terminally ill.

What happened to young widows, or old widows, for that matter, when they found themselves bereft? For many, the former assurance of house or farm was threatened and lost. Some women remarried and regained footing and security with a new husband and his relatives.  Those women who didn’t remarry had to rely on their own relatives, their late husband’s relatives, and their own skills. In an age when few women were employed outside the home, survival could become a real challenge.