December 4, 1852

IMG_0408

Silk Day Dress, ca. 1853 – 1855*

 

Sat Dec 4th  Have made velvet strings to my

bonnet swept the parlour and done some

sewing on one thing and another   Do not

feel very well  It has been a damp uncomfortable 

day and O A has been in the house reading.

Mr Ames brought me home a blue & brown 

raw silk dress

Feeling poorly, Evelina seemed to move through her day randomly doing “one thing and another.” She was so worried about her son Oakes Angier that she was making herself sick. Her thoughts must have been in an endless loop of Oakes Angier being ill and being ordered to Cuba for a cure. Why had this happened? Would he get better? Did the doctor know what he was doing? How could she cope?

This being Saturday, her husband Oakes went into town on shovel business, as usual. He, too, must have been feeling the shock and fright of their son being sent away for his health, but his thoughts today were on Evelina.  He was worried about her and, as he sometimes did, bought her a present. In the past he had purchased thread or magazines or some other small item. But on this day, he bought something on a scale we haven’t seen before: an expensive silk dress.

We might want details about this purchase: was it a bespoke dress that she could alter to fit, or was it simply the material that she and her dressmaker could create from scratch? Whatever shape that blue raw silk took, Oakes knew how much his Evelina loved dresses and dressmaking and was making a grand gesture of love and concern. We have no greater proof of his regard for his wife.

*Image courtesy of Cincinnati Art Museum, Gift of Mark A. Clark in memory of Mrs. Lawrence Halloran.

December 3, 1852

Hog

Friday Dec 3d  Finished taking care of the pork this

forenoon had 60 lbs sausage meat  Weighed

16 lb pork tried it out and it (the lard) weighed 14 lbs

Went to mothers this afternoon with Oakes

Angier as he was going to West Bridgewater

My bonnet came from Boston to night

that I left to be made  Susan practiced

an hour this evening to me & I went into the other 

part of the house

Yesterday Old Oliver “kild six hogs [… and] the everage weight of the whole 12 was 413 pounds the heavyest weighd 489.” Oliver had given each offspring – Oakes, Oliver Jr., and Sarah Witherell – a pig to cut up and preserve. Upset as she was over the news about her eldest son, Oakes Angier, Evelina and her two servants worked to break down their pig into a manageable, edible assortment of pork. Sausage, of course, was a standard way to process and keep pork over time. So yesterday and today, the women cut and grounded meat, ending up with 60 pounds of sausage and 14 pounds of lard.

No doubt Evelina was preoccupied with thoughts of her son, but she may have found some comfort in keeping her hands busy with the necessary chores of the kitchen.  She took the opportunity of riding with Oakes Angier to the family farm, perhaps to share the news with her mother and brother Alson. Oakes Angier rode on to West Bridgewater. Might he have traveled to call on the Hobart family as well? He must have had to tell Catharine Hobart that he was leaving for Cuba and an uncertain future.

Susan Ames, once so rebellious at the piano, “practiced an hour this evening to” her mother. Do we imagine too much to think that she was trying to make her mother happy?

 

June 12, 1852

 3124164293_b3d771db50Lace bonnet

June 12th Sat  Jane has left and gone to Mr Savages

Mrs Patterson is here yet  Cousin Susan Orr

and Harriet Mitchell came to the other part

of the house this morning  I have spent the

afternoon there and Augusta stoped there awhile

Have finished my bonnet & lined & trimmed

Susans last summer bonnet

Jane McHanna, the Irish servant whom Evelina had fired the previous day, found immediate employment in the village at the home of William and Hannah Savage. Mr. Savage worked at the shovel factory; Mrs. Savage was a homemaker with a teenage daughter, Abby.  Mrs. Savage, unfortunately, was ailing, and needed help around the house.

That Jane found another position so quickly speaks not just to the circumstances of the Savage family, but also to her own capabilities.  She may have been more adept than Evelina had lately given her credit for, and others knew it. By 1855, Jane would be working for Oliver Ames Jr. and his wife Sarah Lothrop Ames, a couple with high standards. How would that play out for the two sisters-in-law?

But meanwhile, Evelina had Mrs. Patterson to depend on, and a whole afternoon in which to finish her – and Susan’s – latest bonnets.  She also got to sit and visit in the other part of the house with Sarah Witherell, where both were visited by Susan Orr, Harriett Mitchell and the young bride, Augusta Pool Gilmore.  Did Augusta share the information that she was now in her first trimester of pregnancy? Probably not, and impossible to know, but fun to imagine the conversation if she did.

June 10, 1852

 FullSizeRenderOld view of Gilmore house near Foundry and Washington Streets*

June 10th Thursday  This morning worked a few moments

on my bonnet and about half past ten Mr &

Mrs Orr Mr Ames & self went to Alsons to

spend the day  Mr Ames Orr & Alson rode

to W Bridgewater after noon  Mother is most 

sick with a cold  Called at Mr Copelands

to get Susans hat & Lavinia mended it where

it was burned

The Orrs of Boston continued their visit with Evelina and Oakes. The rain showers – too brief to satisfy area farmers – receded and the sunshine returned, along with wind that was “strong and verry dusty.”** The Ameses and the Orrs took to the road, traveling a few miles south to spend the day with Evelina’s mother at the Gilmore farm.

After midday dinner with the Gilmores, Oakes Ames, Robert Orr and Alson Gilmore rode east to West Bridgewater. What was their business? Evelina and Melinda stayed behind with elderly Mrs. Gilmore who was poorly. Evelina managed to go over to the Copelands to pick up a hat she had left there for Susan, which Lavinia proceeded to mend for her little cousin.

Old Oliver, meanwhile, was looking ahead to bringing in the hay, assuming it hadn’t been ruined by the lack of rain.  He “bought a yoke of cattle from Howard Lothrop,”** the latter a well-known man in Easton who, according to a 19th c. history of Plymouth County, “styled himself a farmer, yet did much business of a partially legal character [..] for which work his superior business qualities and excellent judgment especially fitted him.” The Honorable Mr. Lothrop was also a former town clerk, state senator, member of the Governor’s Council, and father of Sarah Lothrop Ames. Between the two strong men, seller Howard and buyer Oliver, who got the best deal?

*Image from Howard Gilmore Papers, Courtesy of Easton Historical Society

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

***usgwarchives.org

June 9, 1852

 

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Example of bonnet frame

 

June 9th  Wednesday  Mr & Mrs Orr  Mr Ames & self dined

in Olivers and Oakes & Frank came to tea

with us.  Mrs Davidson & two daughters there

Mr Ames & Mr Orr rode to Canton

Mrs Orr brought me a frame for a lace

bonnet and I have fitted it to my head ready

for the trimming

With their guests, Robert and Melinda Orr, Evelina and Oakes ate midday dinner next door. It was a rare occasion to be invited to dine at Oliver Jr.’s and Sarah’s, an indication of how important the houseguests were.  At tea time, they were joined by Betsy Davidson, wife of the postmaster, and her little girls Lizzie and Julia. Oakes Angier and Frank Morton Ames joined the group, too, after finishing work at the shovel shops.

Evelina was given a special bonnet frame by Melinda and got right to the pleasant task of creating a new bonnet, “ready for the trimming.” The two friends probably sat and chatted as Evelina worked on it. Perhaps Melinda had brought some lapwork with her, or perhaps Evelina gave her something to sew. Neither woman would have been apt to sit idly while the other worked.

After dinner, Oakes and Robert rode over to Canton, probably to visit the Kinsley iron works. Back at home, Old Oliver Ames was breathing a bit easier after the much-needed rainfall of the previous day and night, reporting that “the plowd land is wett down considerable.” Just what the farmer asked for.

 

 

June 1, 1852

Mathew_Brady_-_Franklin_Pierce_-_alternate_crop

Franklin Pierce (1804-1869)

Photograph by Matthew Brady

1852

Tuesday June 1st  Have been to Boston with

Mrs Witherell Mrs S Ames Helen & Emily

Called at Mr Orrs the first place met

the other ladies at half past nine at Mr

Daniells & Co.  Was trying to get a bonnet

most all day at last got materials for a lace 

one  Went to Doe & Hasletons about my consol

Mrs Norris met us at half past two

Most of the Ames females decamped North Easton today and went into the city.  Even Sarah Witherell, dressed in black, rode into Boston to go shopping. Were her sisters-in-law hoping to cheer her up with an outing?

While Evelina and “the other ladies” went about Boston “most all day” in earnest pursuit of bonnets, furniture and more, a group of politicians was gathered in Baltimore some 400 miles south. The Democrats were holding their national convention for the nomination of their next presidential candidate.  Among the ten to twelve gentlemen in the running were Senators Lewis Cass of Michigan, Daniel S. Dickinson of New York, Henry Dodge of Wisconsin, Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois and Sam Houston of Texas, Governor Philip Allen of Rhode Island, former Secretary of State James Buchanan, and former Senator Franklin Pierce of New Hampshire. The latter, a dark horse candidate, was chosen.

Franklin Pierce would win the next election and serve as President from 1853 through 1857. Known as “Handsome Frank,” a sociable fellow with a difficult personal life and a probable addiction to alcohol, Pierce was an accomplished politician and fierce opponent of abolition. Once in office, he signed the inflammatory Kansas-Nebraska Act, then failed to be renominated for a second term. His purported response was “There’s nothing left to do but get drunk.”

After the Democrats’ gathering, another presidential convention would shortly be held in the same Baltimore hall, the Maryland Institute for the Mechanical Arts.  This time, the Whig Party would meet and nominate Gen.Winfield Scott, hero of the Mexican-American War.  Scott was the candidate that the Ames men would support.  The Ames women couldn’t vote, of course.

May 11, 1852

Abbott H. Thayer, Angel, 1887, oil Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of John Gellatly

Abbott H. Thayer, Angel, 1887, oil
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of John Gellatly

Tuesday May 11th  George died this morning about eleven

Has not spoken so that we could understand

since yesterday noon.  died at last very easy

without a struggle or groan.  Mrs S Ames & self

laid him out,  His mother has slept but about

two hours for two days and nights. Have trimmed

my straw bonnet. Miss Copeland sewed it over  Spent

about two hours in Olivers this afternoon.  Helen has a 

blister on her arm  The gardener set out some rose plants.

Prairie Rose Baltimore bell and Fraxinella sent

from Boston

George Oliver Witherell, aged fourteen, died on this day from rheumatic fever.  He had been suffering for many days, but “died at the last very easy.”  His Aunt Evelina had been with him for much of the illness, spelling his exhausted mother, Sarah Ames Witherell. She and her other sister-in-law, Sarah Lothrop Ames (who had her own sick child at home), laid out the corpse.

The family must have expected George’s death by this stage of his illness; certainly the attending physician had already predicted it. But anticipation is not the same as actuality, and the death of the young man would have hit everyone hard. Evelina dwelt in her diary on George’s last few minutes, but then added a few mundane notes about her summer bonnet, her niece Helen’s continued battle with an unnamed infection, and some new additions to the flower garden. She might have wished to move on to less painful concerns.

George’s grandfather, Old Oliver, noted his grandson’s death succinctly: “George Witherell dyed to day about eleven O clock.” Oliver rarely included personal items in his daily record; that he wrote of George’s death is a sign of regard, however minimal we might consider it. His grief would have been real.

Of Sarah Ames Witherell’s feelings, we’re told nothing, and must imagine her utter exhaustion and complete sorrow.