November 26, 1852

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Ball gowns, ca. 1852

Friday Nov 26th  Have been stirring so much of 

late that to day sitting down makes me

feel very stupid  Oakes A & Oliver went to

E Bridgewater to a ball & Frank to Canton

yesterday  Frank came home about six

Oakes & Oliver just after dinner  Mr & Mrs

Dow Sarah Lothrop & Olivers family at tea

in the other part of the house  I have been in this Evening

The young men of Ames house celebrated Thanksgiving with more than just feasting. They danced! Oakes Angier and Oliver (3) headed to a ball in East Bridgewater, where Catherine Hobart just happened to live, while Frank Morton rode to Canton, where Catharine Copeland lived. Oakes Angier and Frank wanted to see their favorite young women. Oliver (3), on the other hand, was still unattached and amenable to dancing with various young ladies.

We don’t get to know who hosted the ball, or how many people attended. But we can imagine how the young people looked. The young women, especially, would have taken great care with their outfits and tried to be as comme il faut as possible. The Ames brothers also would have worn their best bib and tucker. And the dances they did? Richard Powers of Stanford suggests that during the years from 1840 to 1860, the steps were lively:

While the Waltz received a great deal of criticism, as “leading to the most licentious of consequences,” it slowly made some inroads into the ballroom, aided by the occasional performance by a notable society figure.  Waltzing jumped ahead in acceptability when its inherent sensuousness was tempered with a playful exuberance, first by the Galop and then by the Polka.  The Polka from Bohemia became an overnight sensation in society ballrooms in 1844, eclipsing the Waltz at the time.  The Polka’s good-natured quality of wholesome joy finally made closed-couple turning acceptable, introducing thousands of dancers to the pleasure of spinning in the arms of another.  Once they tasted this euphoria, dancers quickly developed an appetite for more.  The Polka mania led to a flowering of other couple dances, including the Schottische, Valse à Deux Temps, Redowa, Five-Step Waltz and Varsouvienne, plus new variations on the earlier Waltz, Mazurka and Galop.  Meanwhile, the increasing trend toward ease and naturalness in dancing had eliminated the intricate steps from the Quadrille and country dances, reducing their performance to simple walking. The overall spirit of this era’s dancing (1840s-1860s) was one of excitement, exuberance and gracious romance.  The dances were fresh, inventive, youthful and somewhat daring.  Society fashions were rich and elegant, but continued an emphasis on simplicity.  By the 1850s, the ballroom had reached its zenith.*

Evelina, weary to her bones after hours on her feet preparing the feast, could only sit and do little more than wonder how her sons were faring.

*Richard Powers, “19th Century Social Dance,” socialdance.stanford.edu

November 14, 1852

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Sunday Nov 14  Went to church all day

Mother Augustus wife & self went

to Mr Whitwells at noon  she gave

us a cup of tea cake &c &c  Oakes A

Orinthia & Lavinia rode to see Ellen Howard

John & Rachel spent the day at Edwins

I called there with Orinthia and at Mr

Torreys

 

Evelina and her family were very sociable this Sunday at intermission and after church. But today’s entry is most notable because it’s the last one in which Evelina mentions Orinthia Foss (at least for the diaries we have.) Orinthia was a twenty-year-old schoolteacher from Maine who boarded with the Ames family for a time in 1851. She and Evelina got to be great  – and sometimes mischievous – friends despite their age difference. After Orinthia moved to Bridgewater to teach, the friendship faded. Yet the two women remained companionable on those occasions like today when their paths crossed.

Orinthia would not remain in Massachusetts much longer, although we don’t know for certain when she returned to Maine. We do know that by the end of the decade, she had married a widower named Dana Goff, a railroad conductor living in Farmington, Maine. With that marriage, she gained a teenage stepdaughter, Julia, and soon became a mother of her own two boys, Herbert Dana and Ralph. Like other mothers before her, she had the sorrow of losing Herbert Dana at an early age, but was able to raise Ralph. Around 1880, the Goffs moved to Auburn where Mr. Goff became a real estate agent.

By 1910, Orinthia was a widow living with her younger sister, Florida (or Flora) Foss Hill in Auburn. She died in Newcastle, Maine, of heart disease, when she was 84. She is buried in the Goff family plot in Auburn, Maine.

October 3, 1852

Play

Oct 3d Sunday  We have all been to meeting to day

Mrs Norris Mr Ames & self came home at noon but did not

have a dinner cooked  After meeting Frank carried Miss Linscott

& Orinthia to Bridgewater & Melinda & self went to Mothers and

called on Miss M J Alger while Frank went to carry them home

Mrs A[l]ger had her piano & played Horatio Jr is here came last night

More comings and goings today. Everyone went to church, of course, but afterwards dispersed in different directions. Frank Morton Ames obliged the young, single ladies in the group by driving them home to Bridgewater. While he headed east, Evelina and her friend Melinda Norris rode south to the family farm to visit the elderly Mrs. Gilmore. They also stopped to visit Miss M J Alger, the woman who would be giving piano lessons to Susie Ames and Emily Witherell. She, or her mother, played a piano for them.

Old Oliver reported that “this was a fair pleasant day for season Oakes came home from N. York las[t] night.” Oakes Angier stayed behind, on business or pleasure we don’t know. Evelina reported, as her father-in-law did not, that Horatio Ames Jr. was back for a visit. He was the son of Horatio Ames, a brother of Oakes and Oliver Jr. It’s unclear if Horatio Jr. was living in Boston at this point or was still in Connecticut at the family home there.

 

 

September 16, 1852

Flatiron

1852

Thursday Sept 16  Watched with Mrs Savage last night

came home at half past five went to bed

and laid untill past eight  Starched some

more shirts that were washed yesterday  We

have 20 fine shirts this week in the wash

Miss Elizabeth Capen called & Mrs Stevens was

with Mrs Witherell to tea  I was ironing & did not go

Oakes A went to carry Helen & C Hobart to Bridgewater

Today we have proof positive that Oakes Angier Ames, back from his recuperative rest in Vermont, was spending time with Catherine Hobart, the girl who would become his wife. For several days, Catherine had been staying next door with her classmate, Helen Angier Ames, but the time had come to return home to Bridgewater. Whether Oakes Angier volunteered to carry the girls or was assigned the duty, we don’t know, but we can believe that he enjoyed the trip. Was Evelina aware of their mutual attraction? Did Helen stay for a visit with Catherine, or did she return to Easton? Did the two girls discuss Oakes Angier after he left them off?

Evelina may have been too busy with all the shirts that needed starching and ironing to attend to her eldest son’s romantic inclination. Having spent most of the night before sitting up with Hannah Savage, she was only operating on three hours sleep. She positioned herself at the kitchen or dining table and covered it with a protective blanket and sheet, kept “on purpose for ironing.”* Using thick cloth to protect her hand from the hot handle, she lifted and pushed the heavy implement across each one of those new cotton shirts. Back and forth, back and forth, putting away one iron when it cooled to pick up another one that had heated up. It was hot, heavy work. She didn’t break her stride, either, not even for tea in the other part of the house.

* Lydia Maria Child, The American Frugal Housewife, 1832, p. 11

September 1, 1852

Men's Work Shirt, mid-19th c.

Men’s Work Shirt, mid-19th c.

Wednesday

Sept 1st 1852  Have been cutting out shirts & fixing

them for Catharine to sew  She does very

well at sewing but I have to get it ready for

her  Mrs James Mitchell & Catharine Hobart

came before noon at Olivers   And I have

been in there  Did not get ready to go

very early  Mr Ames has gone to the 

Whig convention at Worcester

 

Evelina had settled back into her sewing routine, the latest project being shirts for the men in her family. The last time she had sewn a large batch of shirts was back in March, 1851. It looks like the men had worn through the allotment and needed new ones. Evelina and her servant, Catharine, probably used the Bartlett sheeting mentioned two days earlier for material.

Next door, Sarah Lothrop Ames welcomed some visitors from Bridgewater: Harriet Lavinia Angier Mitchell (not to be confused with Harriet Ames Mitchell) and Catharine Hobart, the latter a classmate of her daughter, Helen.  In another three years, Catharine Hobart would later become a member of the family when she married Oakes Angier Ames. We might imagine that Catharine asked after him, perhaps expressing concern for his health. How much information did the family share about Oakes Angier’s lung condition?

While the women worked and socialized at home, the Ames men were out and about. Oakes Ames attended the Whig Convention in Worcester to help put together the Whigs’s slate for the fall election, and Old Oliver “went to quincey + Braintree to get stone for the foundation for the steam enjoin”.  The building of the new factory to replace the one that had burned down in the spring was not yet complete.

 

 

August 9, 1852

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Map of Bristol County, Massachusetts, 1852*

1852

Aug 9th Monday  Part of the forenoon was working

about the house & cut out some work.

This afternoon started to go to Taunton

and got as far as brother Alsons when it rained

poringly and we were obliged to ride into

the barn untill it slacked a little so that we

could get into the house  Spent the afternoon 

there.  It was quite pleasant when we came 

home.  Mrs Witherell A L Ames & S Ames were with me

 

On the 1852 map of Bristol County, illustrated above, the town of Easton sits at the very top. Its eastern border abuts Plymouth County, which was the home of Bridgewater (today’s Brockton), West Bridgewater, and more. On Easton’s northern line sits Stoughton in Norfolk County. To its immediate south lies Raynham, home of many Gilmore cousins. We often read of Evelina traveling to these three vicinities – Bridgewater, Stoughton and Raynham –  to see family, friends, and vendors.

To the west of Easton lies Mansfield – where Oakes and Oliver (3) caught the stagecoach for Providence – and Norton. Further south, on a NNW/SSE axis, is the somewhat bow-tie-shaped town of Taunton. Taunton in the 19th century was known locally as “Silver City,” for its silver manufacturing, being the home of Reed & Barton, F. B. Rogers and others. We seldom hear of Evelina heading there, but for some reason, she and her sisters-in-law were traveling there this afternoon.

The ladies never got to Taunton, however, as an abrupt rain shower came down “poringly” while they were en route. “Good showers,”**too, according to Old Oliver, the kind of showers he’d been looking for most of the summer. When the rain commenced, the women drove their vehicle into Alson Gilmore’s barn and waited, then hurried into the house when “it slacked a little.” And there they sat, visiting with the Gilmores.

With the notable exception of Boston, to which Evelina traveled several times a year, this map pretty well represents the geographic scope of Evelina’s life to date. The northern portion of Bristol County and its abutting towns constituted her largest neighborhood, her network of friends and family, her travel pattern, her home. That was her world. It would soon get larger.

 

*Courtesy of the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center, Boston Public LIbrary

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

July 3, 1852

 

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Catharine Hayward Copeland Ames and Frank Morton Ames*

 

July 3d Sat  Was about house the greater part of the 

forenoon.  Made cake Mrs Ames Tumbler rule

After dinner helped do up the work for Hannah

to go to Bridgewater afterwards mending Susans

dresses.  Was expecting Augustus wife here & Orinthia

but they did not come.  About 5 Oclock went

into Mrs Witherells & stoped to tea.  Frank has

gone a ride to Middleboro with Cate Copeland

The bad news today was that “this was a fair cold day wind verry high a verry bad day to git in hay.”** Evelina’s father-in-law, Old Oliver, was clearly not pleased with this year’s haymaking, at least not to date. Not enough rain in the beginning to have the hay grow well and, today, too much cold wind to bring it in properly.

The regular news today included mending and baking. Evelina evidently tried a new cake recipe, using the “Tumbler rule” that she got from Mrs. Ames – probably Almira Ames, who was visiting. A tumbler was a common word for a drinking glass, which suggests that at least one of the cake’s ingredients – flour, perhaps – was measured by filling a tumbler.  Hard to say, but it must have been fun to try a new recipe for an old standard.

We get a peek into the family’s future with Evelina’s notation that her 18-year-old son, Frank Morton, went “a ride” with a girl named Cate Copeland. Cate was Catharine Hayward Copeland, daughter of Hiram Copeland, a farmer, and his wife Lurana – and a future daughter-in-law to Evelina. Cate was all of 15, but not too young to be of interest to Frank. Four years later, the couple would marry. Over the course of their lives together, in North Easton, Canton, and Boston, they would produce seven children, six of whom would survive to adulthood.

* Image of Catharine Hayward Copeland Ames and Frank Morton Ames courtesy of ancestry.com

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