September 22, 1852

Piano

Wednesday Sept 22d Have been to Boston with Mrs

Witherell to get a Pianno  Have got to have

them made  Mrs Kinsley called to see them with

us  Met Mrs Wilson at Lintons to go to select

them. Dined at Mr Orrs while Mrs Witherelll

called on Mrs Dorr  Bought a Piano cloth

and gold thimble for Mrs Ames & C Hobart

and a ring for Helen  Oliver came from Providence

 

A piano! And not one piano, but two, one for each side of the house. Both Susan Ames and Emily Witherell would be learning to play the instrument. Each girl would have her own piano to practice on. What luxury. What gentility. What fun.

With advice from friends such as Louisa Kinsley, Evelina and Sarah Ames Witherell selected and ordered the instruments in a Boston store. Spending money liberally, Evelina went on to purchase gifts. For her other sister-in-law, Sarah Lothrop Ames, she bought a cloth to go on top of the piano that those Ameses already owned. For Catharine Hobart, a young family friend who had caught the eye of her son Oakes Angier Ames, she bought a gold thimble. And for her niece Helen Angier Ames – Catharine’s classmate – she bought a ring.

Did her husband Oakes know that Evelina was spending so much money? Did her father-in-law? While her husband must have given his approval, it’s unlikely that Old Oliver would have approved of such a spree. Yet both those men were often generous within the family; in that respect, Evelina was just following suit.

We note today, too, that Oliver (3) returned from a few days at a fair in Providence, where he no doubt saw friends and former classmates from his two semesters at Brown University. We might imagine that he was missing school.

 

 

September 2, 1852

Bowl

1852

Thursday Sept 2d  I was intending to sit down early

this morning to sew but while we were at

breakfast Edwin came in & said his wife was

sick and wanted me to go in there  I found

her sick with the Cholera Morbus.  Came

home & made her some gruel washed her 

dishes & came home and made some pies

& sent Susan in there to stay with her

Just at night called at Augustus

Fred has gone back to Cambridge  Emily went to Boston

Despite its frightening name, Cholera morbus was not the cholera we might recognize as the dreaded disease of epidemic capability, the bacterial scourge that swept through whole cities, but rather a Victorian name for a gastrointestinal disorder that was “characterized by nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, [and] elevated temperature.”* It may also have been used to describe appendicitis. Poor Augusta Gilmore had been felled by this miserable sickness, which was alarming enough to send her husband Edwin to the neighbors for help. Augusta must have been a little frightened that her sickness might be related to her pregnancy; she was almost four months along at this date.

Thank goodness for Evelina, ever dependable in a crisis of this nature. Evelina visited Augusta right away, tidied up for her, made her a bowl of gruel – a thin porridge – and sent Susie Ames over to sit with her. No doubt Susie was instructed to report on any change for the worse.

Back in her own home, Evelina baked pies and kept watch on all the neighborhood goings-on. The younger generation was moving around: Emily Witherell went to Boston, and Fred Ames returned to Harvard for another year. His departure may have caused Oliver (3), who had so wanted to return to Brown, some anguish. Fred got to finish college, and Oliver didn’t.

* Sylvan Cazalet, “Old Disease Names,” http://www.homeoint.org

July 17, 1852

Wine glass

July 17th Sat  Hannah & Mary picked some currants

yesterday and to day I have made some

currant wine had four quarts of juice

Have done but very little sewing. Have

mended some.  Oliver returned from

school to night He is not looking very well

He brought home his pictures & all his things

is in hopes to go back again but it is uncertain

Evelina’s diary entry today poses two questions for us readers. First, why was she, wife of a strict tee-totaler, making wine? The answer is that from time to time, even a temperance household needed wine for medicinal purposes. It may be, also, that the occasional dish, such as mincemeat, required some alcohol as an ingredient. Even Lydia Maria Child, who abhorred liquor, nonetheless included a recipe for currant wine in her household guide:

Break and squeeze the currants, put three pounds and a half of sugar to two quarts of juice and two quarts of water. Put in a keg or barrel. Do not close the bung tight for three or four days, that the air may escape while it is fermenting.  After it is done fermenting, close it up tight…It should not be used under a year or two. Age improves it.*

The second question is almost unanswerable. Why wasn’t Oliver (3) able to return to Brown University? He wanted to, but clearly the decision wasn’t his to make, nor did it appear to be the school’s choice. Rather, the decision to cease attendance lay with Oliver (3)’s father, Oakes Ames, who had been against his son attending college in the first place. Oakes was once described as having “inherited some measure of that Puritanical contempt for the liberal arts…”**. He had first put his foot down against Oliver going, finally relented for one year, and now was again saying no.

If we can move past Oakes’s prejudice against higher education, we can imagine that he wanted his middle son back at the factory. So much had happened at the shovel works during Oliver (3)’s absence. The old factory had burned down and a temporary one had been quickly rebuilt. A new, state-of-the-art stone factory was being raised, requiring extra supervision. And the manufacture and sale of shovels had had to continue as if nothing had happened. Quite likely, Oakes needed his son’s help. Studying was over.

It’s also possible that an additional factor may have influenced Oakes’s decision, a factor that he couldn’t yet share – at least not with Evelina. Oakes may have been privy to a concern about his son Oakes Angier’s health, a condition that would soon be apparent to all.

 

*Lydia Maria Child, The American Frugal Housewife, p. 59

** Hon. Hosea M. Knowlton, Address at the Dedication Ceremony for the Oliver Ames High School, December 12, 1896, published  Boston, 1898, p.98

 

May 7, 1852

il_340x270.517720740_i0s3

Polyanthus

Friday May 7th  Was in the garden to work a short

time transplanted some pinks but worked on

Olivers clothes most of the time.  Mr Brown &

Oliver rode to Mr Copelands and got me a polyanthus

and to the furnace in the afternoon to Canton 

and Sharon.  Mrs S Ames returned from Boston to

night & Helen with her  Helens face is very

swollen has not been to school for a week

 

With her middle son Oliver home from Brown, Evelina had a great deal of mending to tend to. She might have preferred to be in her flower garden, but she only had a short window in which to repair her son’s shirts, hose, and coats. Oliver, meanwhile, rode out with his college roommate, Mr. Brown. They roamed from Easton to Canton and Sharon and in the process picked up a polyanthus, or primrose, for Evelina. They got the latter from a Mr. Copeland, who was perhaps Josiah Copeland, an elderly resident of Easton who lived with his wife and unmarried daughter.

George Witherell continued to be ill in the other part of the house, but he wasn’t the only family member who was ailing.  Helen Angier Ames had to come home from boarding school because of a swollen face. Perhaps she had an infection – an abcess of some sort – or perhaps she was having an allergic reaction to an insect bite or other allergen. Whatever was ailing her, she hadn’t attended class for a week, and her mother had to fetch her home.

 

May 6, 1852

images-1

Queen of the Prairie

1852 May

Thursday 6th Worked in the garden a short time and

about nine went to the shovel shops with Hannah

and her sister  They spent the afternoon here and

Augusta.  Edwin came to tea  Mr Brown,

Olivers room mate, came to night.  We ladies rode

to Mr Clapps, bought Queen of the Prairie for 37 cts

Warm sunshine sent Evelina outdoors for much of the day. She gardened after breakfast, then broke away at nine a.m. to go over to the shovel shops with her niece, Hannah Lincoln Gilmore, and Hannah’s sister, Sarah Lincoln. What were the ladies doing at the factory? Evelina wouldn’t have gone there on her own volition.

The Lincoln sisters, originally from Hingham, spent much of the day with Evelina.  They were joined by Augusta Pool Gilmore, whose husband Edwin Williams Gilmore later came to tea. “We ladies” traveled to the home of Lucius Clapp, another fine gardener with plants to sell, where Evelina purchased a Filipendula rubra, or Queen of the Prairie. Clapp was a well-respected citizen of Stoughton, described by a contemporary historian as “one of the representative farmers of this progressive age.” *

Oliver (3), meanwhile, was briefly home from Brown University.  His roommate, a Mr. Brown, came to North Easton for a visit. It was a full table at tea time.

D. Hamilton Hurd, History of Norfolk County, Massachusetts, pp. 424-425

 

February 20, 1852

View of the College 1792

Brown University

1852

Friday Feb 20th Oliver returned to Brown University this

morning  Have given the sitting room a thourough

sweeping & have made the front chamber bed

and put the room in order.  Also the entry.

After dinner called into Olivers to see her mother

Mrs Solomon & Willard Lothrop spent the afternoon 

Willard said he wanted to come to tea but the spirits

would not let him.  Orinthia came this evening

The house was quieter this morning than it had been for some time.  Evelina’s middle son, Oliver (3), had returned to college. She tidied up, putting away at least some of the sewing things that had been pulled out for mending Oliver’s clothes. She swept and put various rooms “in order.” She must have felt a sense of accomplishment and, perhaps, that contradictory combination of relief, satisfaction and sadness that follows the departure of a child for school.

After midday dinner, Evelina walked next door to greet Sally Williams Lothrop, mother of Sarah Lothrop Ames. A different Lothrop came to call (whether at Evelina’s or Sarah’s is unclear): Mrs. Solomon Lothrop and her son Willard. Willard was invited to stay for tea but declined. As a medium and a follower of Spiritualism, he felt that “the spirits would not let him.”

Willard Lothrop was not alone in his belief that the possibility of communication exists between the living and the dead.*  William Chaffin makes note of the existence of Spiritualism in Easton, where “interest in this subject first appeared on the Bay road. In 1850 Asahel Smith, Amos Hewett, Willard Lothrop, and others became much interested in the matter. Several Easton people soon displayed mediumistic powers.” Evelina was clearly intrigued by the premise.

See also June 13, 1851.

*William L. Chaffin, History of Easton, Massachusetts, 1866, p. 370.

February 19, 1852

images-1

 

1852

Thursday Feb 19th  Have been to work on Olivers clothes getting

them ready to go back to school  Have spent the

whole afternoon mending a coat for him which he

has spoiled wearing it in the shop  Augusta was

here this afternoon did not stop to tea.  Lavinia called

came up to bring Mrs Lothrop & son to Willards

Susan & self have spent the evening at Willards

Oliver came after us about nine Oclock

Finally, Oliver Ames (3) was going back to Brown. He had been home in North Easton, on a break, since January 21st. Evelina had her hands full mending a coat “which he has spoiled” so he could take it back to Providence. He wore it while working at the shovel factory and damaged it somehow. There was no time – and probably little inclination – to get a new one made for him. His mother had to fix it.

As Caroline Healey Dall, a contemporaneous female in Boston during this era, commented at one point in her mid-19th century diary, it was “a lonely, dull day – stitch, stitch, stitch.”* For most of the 19th century, all women sewed, and sewed often. Sometimes sewing was fun or companionable or rewarding; sometimes it wasn’t.  It was more often a necessity, a chore, and for Evelina today, the uninteresting and obligatory side of sewing prevailed.

Fortunately, Evelina had a few visits today from her younger female friends and relatives to help the time pass. Augusta Pool Gilmore visited in the afternoon – possibly with her own needle in hand – and niece Lavinia Gilmore called, having come into town from the family farm. In the evening, Evelina and her daughter Susan spent the evening with one of Easton’s more eccentric characters,Willard Lothrop, a medium. Oliver Ames (3) “came after” them after dark, probably anxious that all was ready for his return to college in the morning.

*Caroline Healey Dall, Daughter of Boston: The Extraordinary Diary of a Nineteenth Century Woman , ed. Helen R. Deese, Boston, 2005, p. 314