December 14, 1851


Benjamin Seaver

Mayor of Boston, 1852 – 1854

Sunday 14 Dec  Have not been to meeting to day on

account of my cough.  Jane went to meeting 

at eight Oclock got breakfast before she went.

I have been writing and reading

Mr Swain & wife have spent the evening here

Mr Swains brother has been there a week or two

I have not seen him  The babe grows very 

fast and is a great wonder

In an unusual occurrence for a Sunday in New England in the 19th century, an election – or an announcement of the results of an election – was held on this day.  A new mayor, Benjamin Seaver, was elected to govern the City of Boston, a post he would hold through 1853. He was a Whig, one of that dying breed whose successful election surely gave the Ames men a lonely branch to cling to in the swirling flood of new political parties.

According to modern historian Jim Vrabel, Seaver won with 3,300 votes and defeated Dr. Jerome Smith and Adam Thaxter. (Only men voted in the election, of course.) Seaver was noteworthy for his interest in erecting a public library for the city. During his administration, a committee would be formed, plans (some already in the works) developed, a first librarian hired, and private funding obtained for the project.

At the same time that Seaver came in, “the entire Board of Aldermen” were voted out, “reportedly for refusing Daniel Webster” – a hometown favorite – ” use of Faneuil Hall because an abolitionist group had earlier been denied its use.”* Webster had advocated for passage of the Fugitive Slave Act, something for which abolitionists never forgave him. Just goes to show that the issue of slavery informed all levels of political intercourse in this decade before the Civil War.

On the home front, besotted new parents Ann and John Swain spent the evening with Evelina and Oakes, talking about their son.  Evelina seemed smitten, too, writing that the baby boy was “a great wonder.” Like the new mayor and the Board of Aldermen, however, she and that baby’s parents couldn’t know what sorrow lay ahead.


Jim Vrabel, When in Boston, Boston, p. 157