November 15, 1851




Sat Nov 15th  Another day I have been about house all

day, this morning helped the gardener weigh out

a box of sugar that we bought in Boston

got my bags of cloth of different kinds

in order in the shed chamber  It has been

very stormy all day Mr Ames and Oliver Jr

in Boston Oliver went yesterday He looked 

at carriages but did not purchase one

Bridget gone to housekeeping

At the rate Evelina used sugar in her fruit preserves, she needed many loaves of it. Unable to purchase it at the family store in the village, she bought what they needed in Boston at Faneuil Hall.  On this day, she appeared to be breaking at least part of a sugar loaf into usable bits for her kitchen.  The family gardener helped her, perhaps because the sugar loaf was so heavy to hold.

Sugar wasn’t the only commodity that Boston had to offer.  Evelina’s husband, Oakes, and his brother, Oliver Ames Jr., had gone to the city, the latter in search of a new carriage. He – or they – didn’t purchase anything, just looked.  Oliver Jr. would have been very careful about the cost and quality of such a big item.  Both men would have admired the various coaches, chaises, gigs and traps they must have seen.

It’s worth noting that Evelina reveals today where she kept her “bags of cloth,” when not working on them: in the shed. As she organized them today, folding cloth and perhaps tossing any textiles that couldn’t be used, she would have heard steady rain on the roof.




November 14, 1851



Tuesday Nov 14th  Bridget has cleaned the store room

and I have been working about in the chambers

have put Franks chamber in order papered

a little trunk &c &c  Have been working about

the house all day  I can scarcely tell what 

Im about all the time but I find something 

to keep me busy and I scarcely sew at all

Frank has been making a fuss about a robin to wear

The American edition of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick or The Whale was first published on this date in New York, by Harper & Bros.  It followed a British edition that had come out about one month earlier.  Neither edition was a commercial success.

Today may have been a milestone for American literature, but the occasion went unnoticed by Evelina and most readers, discerning or otherwise. Evelina was focused, as usual, on domestic concerns “about the house,” including putting the bedroom or “chamber” of her youngest son, Frank Morton Ames, in order.  He, meanwhile, was complaining about an item of clothing that he needed to wear. Does anyone know what a “robin” is?

Old Oliver was, as usual, paying a farmer’s attention to the weather:  “this was a cloudy day most of the time the wind got round south west and was warmer than it has bin for several days past”.

November 8, 1851


Sat Nov 8th  Jane is still in Mansfield and Bridget

sick consequently I have to do the housework and

I have scarcely sat down for one moment  Alson

came up with a load of vegitables and Hannah

called and I left my work while they stopped

Mrs Witherell came home this evening and I have been

in there  Mr Ames went to Boston stopt at Canton to a

whig meeting.  Oakes & Frank brought him home.

Not only was the dependable Jane McHanna away, but the Ames’s second servant, Bridget O’Neil, was sick.  Dr. Ephraim Wales had checked in on Bridget the previous evening but she was still laying low.  Evelina, capable if disinclined, was faced with doing her own housework. She spent most of the day choring, as she called it.

Her brother, Alson Gilmore, drove a wagon up from the Gilmore family farm to deliver a “load of vegitables” to the Ameses. His daughter-in-law, Hannah Lincoln Gilmore, who lived right in the village, came to call and for those visits, Evelina paused to chat.  Once they left, however, she must have plunged into sorting and storing the vegetables that Alson had brought. By this time of year, they would most likely have been root vegetables such as turnips, parsnips, carrots and potatoes. She would have stored them somewhere cool, dry and varmint-free: the cellar, if it wasn’t too wet, or the buttery or even the shed. Sharp-eyed housewife that she was, Evelina would have made sure everything was put away safely.

Oakes Ames, meanwhile, went to Boston as usual on this Saturday, but also “stopt at Canton to a whig meeting.”  The following Monday was Election Day and the party faithfuls were gathering in anticipation. This is the first mention in Evelina’s diary of Oakes’s participation in local politics. Their son, Oakes Angier, had shown interest earlier in the year, running unsuccessfully for the Easton school superintending committee, and attending the Whig convention in Springfield.  But her husband’s interest, although it had probably existed prior to this moment, had not drawn comment. Evelina mentions the meeting most likely because of the impending vote, but the statement coming so close on the heels of an undisclosed agreement she and Oakes had made only one week earlier gives creedence to the possibility that their agreement had something to do with Oakes’s waxing interest in politics.

November 7, 1851



Friday Nov 7th  Mr Bartlett left in the stage this morning

and George & Mrs Witherell went to Boston I have made

13 lbs Quince preserve 4 lbs jelly and a lot of marmalade

and painted my leaf for the table and it has

kept me busy all day.  Jane went to Mansfield

yesterday with Mrs H & Ames. Bridget is here yet

was taken with a bad pain in her stomach this

evening & sent for her husband & Dr Wales

Mr. Bartlett of Maine departed the house this morning, and Sarah Ames Witherell rode into Boston with her fourteen-year old son, George Oliver Witherell. Her guests, too, had departed, and she was free to go into town.

Without assistance from servants Jane McHanna, who was away, or Bridget O’Neil, who was sick, Evelina stood over her stove today turning at least a peck of quinces into preserves, jelly and marmalade. The store of fruit would be an important addition to the Ames’s dinner table over the winter.  A period recipe for making quince preserves, from The Young Housekeeper’s Friend; Or, A Guide to Domestic Economy and Comfort reminds us of the challenges 19th century cooks faced when preserving food:

“Weigh a pound of best sugar for a pound of fruit, pared and cored.  Boil the fruit in water until it becomes so soft that care is necessary in taking it out. Drain the pieces a little as you take them from the water, and lay them into a jar […] Stone jars will do very well, but if glass is used, it is easy to see whether fermentation commences, without opening them.  Quinces done in this way are very elegant, about the color of oranges, and probably will not need scalding to keep them as long as you wish.  If any tendency to fermentation appears, as may be the case by the following May or June, set the jar (if it is in stone) into the oven after bread has been baked, and the quince will become a beautiful light red, and will keep almost any length of time.” *

Quince is a fruit that we Americans don’t see much of in the 21st century, but it was commonly used in the 19th.  A poor eating fruit, too sour to consume raw, it was high in pectin and kept well, once cooked.  In fact, quince was one of the earliest fruits to be made into marmalade; the word marmalade derives from marmelo, the Portuguese word for quince.**


Mrs. Cornelius, The Young Housekeeper’s Friend; Or, A Guide to Domestic Economy and Comfort, New York, 1845.

** “Quince,” Wikipedia, November 5, 2014



October 31, 1851



Friday 31st  Have taken up the bedroom and stair carpets

and Bridget has cleaned the front entry

I have been very busy all day about the house

Mrs Hubbell, Ames, and Mrs S Ames have been

to Sharon  Mrs Witherell called at Mrs Swains

this afternoon but I was so busy that I could 

not accompany her.  Passed the evening in

the other part of the house.  Mr Scott painting

Mr Hawkins lectured at the methodist meeting house


Evelina’s autumn version of spring cleaning continued today as she tackled the upstairs carpets. Mr. Scott was still in the house, painting, and servant Bridget O’Neill cleaned the front entry which had also undergone repainting. “Very busy all day about the house,” Evelina evidently didn’t even venture out of doors.

Others did go outside. Sarah Ames Witherell paid a call on new mother Ann Swain, while Sarah Ames, Almira Ames and Mrs. Hubbel rode to nearby Sharon. Old Oliver noted in his journal that “this was a fair day + some cooler wind north west +considerable of it.”

Some miles northward, in Concord, Henry David Thoreau noted in his journal that “The wild apples are now getting palatable. I find a few left on distant trees, that the farmer thinks it not worth his while to gather. He thinks that he has better in his barrels, but he is mistaken, unless he has a walker’s appetite and imagination, neither of which can he have.”**  Two farmers in Evelina’s life, her father-in-law, Old Oliver, and her brother, Alson Gilmore, might take exception to Thoreau’s characterization of them as men without imagination.

In the evening, a Mr. Hawkins gave a lecture at the Methodist meeting house, right in the village.

* Barrel of apples,

**Henry David Thoreau, Journal,

October 24, 1851



Friday Oct 24th  Jane & Bridget have cleaned the buttery

and I have had some paint put on the 

shelves  Mr Smiley worked here about three

hours, he went to Mansfield and came here 

about two Oclock.  Scott & Holbrook have finished

the first coat to the sitting room & parlour

I have been about house most of the day.  Sit awhile

with Susan Orr.  Capt Isaac Lothrops wife buried this P. M.

Much cleaning was going on at the Ames’s house in tandem with major redecorating. Evelina the housewife was impelled to tidy everything up before and after various workmen came through to scrape, dismantle, build, paint and/or paper the downstairs rooms. Her servants, Jane McHanna and Bridget O’Neil, scurried around with her, clearing shelves so that the men could follow and do their work.

The buttery that Evelina mentions was, in fact, a shelved area off her kitchen that served pretty much as a pantry.  She had food storage “down cellar”, of course, but the buttery, being close by and on the same floor as the kitchen, would have been more accessible for daily use.  She would have stored everyday items like coffee or tea there, for instance. If the Ameses had kept dairy cows, milk would have been poured into pans there, to be skimmed for cream.  Yet the term buttery derives not from its use for dairy products, but from an archaic British term for the room where large caskets of wine, known as butts, were stored. (One butt was the equivalent of two hogsheads or four barrels of wine.) There was no storing caskets of wine at the Ames’s.

Oakes Ames was away during yesterday and today’s disruption, though sons Oakes Angier and Frank Morton and daughter Susan Eveline were home and had to sidestep the disarray. Oakes was away on shovel business, most likely.  No one from Evelina’s household appeared to attend the funeral of Isaac Lothrop’s wife.


* 19th century pantry, courtesy of, photo by Gross & Delaney


October 23, 1851


Thursday Oct 23rd   Mr Smiley Scot & Holbrook came

to paint to day.  Mr Smiley whitewashed

the parlour & sitting room & painted two

windows in the sitting room  has been to work

all day  Hannah & Eddy called this morning

Augustus & wife & self have been to the funeral

of aunt Alger this afternoon  Have passed

the evening in Olivers  Bridget ONeal came this


Contractors filled the old house again today to paint and continue the refurbishment of the downstairs.  The parlor, where company met, and the sitting room, where Evelina sewed, were both being redecorated. We don’t know who Mr. Smiley and Mr. Scott were, but we believe that Mr. Holbrook’s first name was Randall; of the three men, Mr. Scott and Mr. Holbrook would continue off and on to paint various rooms at the Ames’s from this date until June, 1852.

New to this bustle of repainting was Bridget O’Neil, a servant who only arrived in the morning. She was probably taking the place of the recently departed Ellen. She was also the same Bridget who had worked for the family earlier in the year.  Where had she gone in the interim?

On a sad note, Evelina attended a funeral today for a Gilmore relative, an aunt in the Alger family. She went with her nephew and his wife, Hannah.  Later, she went next door to visit with Sarah Lothrop Ames.  Those post-tea evenings were beginning to take place after dark . Very soon tea itself would be served after the sun had gone down.  Daylight and warmth would diminish.  As Old Oliver noted in his journal , “this was a fair day wind north west and grew cold towards night.”