October 1, 1851



Oct 1st Wednesday.  Put a quilt into the frame in the

sitting room got it in about ten marked it

and quilted awhile and went into the garden

to save some flower seeds.  have got some nice

Balsam seed and a few china pink seed among

others. Passed the afternoon at Olivers with

Mrs Drake & Torrey

Quilting, gardening, and socializing made up Evelina’s day.  She set up a quilt frame in the sitting room and worked on a quilt she had begun about ten days earlier. She couldn’t stay inside, though, as the day was “fair” and “pritty warm for the time of year.”* The sunshine drew her to the garden where she moved through her annuals, saving seeds for next year.

She got “some nice Balsam,” a flower that today we call impatiens. At the time, it was reckoned to be “one of the most prominent ornaments of the garden,”** according to Joseph Breck, a Boston horticulturalist.  Breck’s important guide, his eponymous Book of Flowers, had proved helpful to Evelina earlier in the year and must have been doing so again as she put her garden to bed. Breck particularly admired some of the variegated varieties of Balsam as “decidedly the most elegant.” He had specific advice about saving Balsam seed: “Old seed is considered by some to be the best, as more likely to produce double flowers. The seeds should be saved from double flowering plants only; all single flowering ones should be destroyed as soon as they appear.” Did Evelina follow his advice?

After gardening, Evelina probably changed her dress and went next door to see Sarah Lothrop Ames and her guests, Caroline Drake (Mrs. Lincoln Drake) and another woman, Mrs. Torrey. The two guests may have been related to one another (Caroline’s maiden name was Torrey.) They had no immediate connection to Col. John Torrey, however, who appeared often in Evelina’s journal. The women would have sat, had tea and chatted – a pleasant occupation on a pleasant day.


* Oliver Ames, Journal, Courtesy of Stonehill College Archives

** Joseph Breck, Book of Flowers, Boston, 1851, pp. 185 – 186

*** Heirloom impatiens balsamina, Courtesy of edenbrothers.com


May 7, 1851


Wednesday May 7th  Orinthia went to Boston this morning

with Abby Torrey after she left I went into Olivers

on an errand and stopt a long while as I am

sure to do when I ought not and then went into the

other part of the house to bid Mrs Stetson good

by (as Mrs S Ames and Frank went with her to Bridgewater)

and Mrs Lincoln Drake rode up and saw me by

the window and I was obliged to see her, thus the day passed

and I accomplished very little Went with Mrs Witherell

to the sewing circle at Daniel Clarkes


The Sewing Circle held its monthly meeting today, this time at the home of Daniel and Elvira Clark.  Roughly contemporary in age to Oakes and Evelina, the Clarks were members of the Unitarian Church.  Daniel was a carpenter who occasionally did work for the Ames family. Elvira, like Evelina, was a housewife with teenaged children.  She and Evelina visited together last Sunday during the intermission between sermons.

So much socializing went on today that Evelina had to chastise herself – “I am sure to do what I ought not” – when she spent too much time next door visiting her sister-in-law, Sarah Lothrop Ames. Sarah must have been feeling better; although she didn’t go with Evelina and Sarah Witherell to the Sewing Circle, she had improved enough not only to have a good, long chat with Evelina, but also to have an outing to Bridgewater, which she was “carried to” by her nephew Frank Morton Ames.

Evelina stopped in at Sarah Witherell’s to say goodbye to Mrs. Stetson, a friend of the family who was departing for Bridgewater, too. She then was spotted by Caroline Torrey Drake, a friend who stopped in for a visit. Mrs. Drake, a woman in her early fifties, was the mother of eight children: five girls followed by three boys.  Her first child was born when she was 20, her last child when she was 45.  Now that’s childbearing!