May 29, 1852

Buttonhole

1852

Sat May 29th  Have had the woodhouse cleaned of the old

chips ready for the ice closet  Baked rhubarb and 

custard pies and this afternoon Mrs Patterson has

cleaned the tin.  Mr Scott painted the china closet

over the second time between the shelves and the 

walls of the porch  I have varnished the oil cloths and 

desks tables &c &c  finished Augustas button holes

Baking, sweeping, scrubbing, painting, varnishing, and sewing were each on the domestic agenda today. Last year’s spring cleaning, which had been steady enough, seemed lackluster compared to the fierce pace of this year’s effort. Evelina didn’t necessarily complete each task personally – Jane McHanna, Mrs. Patterson, Mr. Scott and others helped – but she oversaw each piece of it. She was right in there. Today, it looks as if the only time she sat down was when she helped Augusta Pool Gilmore with her buttonholes.

Evelina excelled at making buttonholes and, at one time or another, helped other women, like Sarah Lothrop Ames next door, sew them. She must have taken pride in that particular skill, just as she must have had a real sense of accomplishment at all the tasks that were dealt with today. The to-do list got shorter.

As Evelina helped her young neighbor with needle and thread, the aroma from the baking would have competed with the fumes of the varnish.  Happily, it was fair and warm outside and hopefully, she opened the windows to let fresh air in.

 

May 28, 1852

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1852  May 28th

Friday  This forenoon cleaned the shed chamber  Mrs

Patterson assisted me and helped about house

down stairs  I baked cake & brown bread

in Mrs Witherells oven and Mrs McHanna

made a custard & some rhubarb pies.

Augusta brought her dress in and I partly

made the button holes  Oakes A went to Boston

yesterday returned to night

Time for rhubarb. The edible plant, with its long red stalks, was coming up in the garden and needed to be harvested and cooked. Household advisor Lydia Maria Child had this to say about it:

“Rhubarb stalks, or the Persian apple, is the earliest in gradient for pies, which the spring offers. The skin should be carefully stripped, and the stalks cut into small bits, and stewed very tender.  These are dear pies, for they take an enormous quantity of sugar.  Seasoned like apple pies Gooseberries, currants, &c., are stewed sweetened and seasoned […] in proportions suited to the sweetness of the fruit; there is no way to judge but by your own taste.  Always remember it is more easy to add seasoning than to diminish it.”*

Jane McHanna made today’s pies and a custard, too. Evelina baked her usual cake and brown bread. Spring cleaning was not forgotten, however, as Evelina and Mrs. Patterson cleaned out the shed. One wonders what they found in there after the long winter.

The younger generation, meanwhile, was stirring. Augusta Pool Gilmore came over from across the street to get Evelina’s help on a dress she was making.  Oakes Angier Ames struck farther afield, going into Boston for the night.  The 23-year-old was there on shovel business, presumably, and, being conscientious, he would have accomplished whatever task he was sent in to do. But he was young, too, and may have enjoyed the freedom of being on his own in the big city.

*Lydia Maria Child, The American Frugal Housewife, 1829, p. 51

 

 

April 15, 1852

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April 15 Thursday.  Oakes Angier 23 years old to day.

This day 23 years ago not a cloud to be seen to day

a heavy rain storm  Julia Mahoney here making

my Delaine and altering my black silk having

a new waist and sleeves.  She has both waists fitted

but did not get much ready for me to work upon

till just at night  I have made the button holes

in the delaine

In both years of her diary Evelina takes note of Oakes Angier’s birthday. She also mentions him by name approximately 117 times as he comes and goes, works, reads, rides, eats or ails. By comparison, her other sons, Oliver [3] and Frank Morton, are each cited with similar purpose only 74 times, or one third less often, and neither of their birthdays draws any mention at all. This numerical disparity, coupled with the soft tone of Evelina’s rare reminiscence about her first child’s birth, when “not a cloud” could be seen, hints at maternal favoritism for the eldest son.

Not only was Oakes Angier the firstborn child of Oakes and Evelina, he was, on his father’s side, the eldest of 24 grandchildren of Old Oliver and Susannah. On his mother’s side of the family, he placed in the middle of a pack of a dozen grandchildren of Joshua and Hannah Gilmore, many of whom, like cousin Edwin W. Gilmore, lived in the vicinity.

Oakes Angier Ames would have known all four of his grandparents, although he was only seven years old when his grandfather Gilmore died. He was just turning 18 when his grandmother Ames passed away and in his thirties, with children of his own, when his grandfather Ames and his grandmother Gilmore (who lived to be nearly 92) died. Throughout his life, Oakes Angier was surrounded by multiple generations of relatives; he grew up amid a swirl of siblings and first cousins, among most of whom he held primogenitary status. He was the standard bearer. His siblings and cousins called him simply “Oakes,” leaving it to Evelina (and his descendants and historians) to append his middle name when spoken of.

 

June 11, 1851

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June [11]  Wednesday  Mended

Oakes Angiers coat put on new

buttons  Then made the button holes in 

the waist of Mrs Sarah Ames dress. Cooked

a calfs head for dinner  This afternoon

about three Mrs Witherell, Mitchell & Miss

Eaton & self went to call on Mrs Whitwell.

Called at Mr Wm Reeds  Mrs Reed was from

home.  Called at Dr Swans.  Bridget here.

A[u]ugustus gone to Boston.

 

Evelina’s activities today were quintessentially nineteenth-century.  She mended her son’s coat, made button holes for her sister-in-law, rode out in the carriage with her other sisters-in-law to call on the parson’s wife, and served a calf’s head for dinner.

Perhaps there is a reader out there who has been served calf’s head, or cooked it.  Most 19th century cook books carried a “receipt” for it, right next to recipes for calf’s feet, sheep’s head, and roasted sweetbreads.  Calf’s head could be roasted or boiled; the recipe below from Mary Peabody Mann’s 1858 Christianity in the Kitchen opts for the latter.  What follows is not for the squeamish:

To Dress a Calf’s Head

Soak the head for ten minutes in lukewarm water, powder it well with rosin, dip it into a large quantity of scalding water, and holding it by the ear, scrape off the hair with the back of a knife.  When clean, take out the eyes, cut out the tongue, remove the jawbone with teeth, saw lengthwise through the skull without injuring the brains, which must be carefully taken out, and put for a few hours into lukewarm water, to disgorge, [that is, to rinse out the blood.]

Make a stock by putting into the brazing pan two or three carrots and onions, six cloves, a pint of cream, a bouquet of parsley, thyme, and bay-leaves, and after stirring this together for twenty minutes over the fire, add a pint of water.  When this is warm, mix a quarter of a pound of flour with a gallon of water, slice a lemon, add a quarter of a pound of salt, and lay the calf’s head into the stock.  Let it be entirely covered, else the uncovered part will have a dark look, and simmer it gently till it is tender.

 

 

 

March 14, 1851

Hose

March 14 Friday  Quite early this morning sat down to 

mending the stockings.  Jane had mended them for two

or three weeks & they were very much out of order.  At

ten Oclock comenced working on the new pattern shirt

& finished it before eight the bosom was ready to put in.

made the button holes & helped Orinthia finish a

a coarse shirt of Oakes Angier.  Very pleasant

but bad traveling

Jane McHanna, the Irish servant who did the laundry and cooking for Evelina and Oakes Ames, was not much of a seamstress.  She had recently been assigned the task of mending everyone’s stockings, or hose as they were also known, but evidently, Jane’s mending did not pass muster. Evelina had to see to the work herself.  This explains why we’ve never heard of Jane sewing any of the shirts that Evelina had been working on for weeks.

Orinthia Foss was around to rely on, however.  When not teaching her little classroom, she seemed to help Evelina in various ways, sewing and choring.  Evelina must have been grateful not just for the assistance, but also for the company of another adult female in a home usually filled with the sounds and sights of four grown men and one little schoolgirl.

“Bad traveling” meant that the roads were in transition from winter to spring.  Roads weren’t paved, of course, so by this time of the year they were rutted, rough and still patchy with snow or wet with puddles. Sleighs no longer worked, so wagons, carriages and carts had to bump and rock along the byways.  Hard to say who had tougher going, the animals pulling or the passengers riding.