December 24, 1852

Image from Aunt Louisas Alphabet book - Alphabet og Games and Sports, London, 1870

The Yule Log, English illustration, ca. 1870

Friday Dec 24th  Have finished the sack for Susan

and I feel that I have a good job done

Catharine has basted the lining & outside

of my dress together  Ann & Catharine

went to Canton this afternoon. Alson &

wife came up this morning to go to the lecture

they stopt at Augustus & Henrietta & Helen came

here   Malvina here to tea.  Mr Ames went to Boston

lecture by J C Parks

on the dignity of labour

Some people were preparing for Christmas, but Evelina wasn’t one of them. As we saw last December, the Ames family didn’t celebrate Christmas, certainly not the way we celebrate it in 2015. Nor did other Unitarians and fellow Protestants in New England. Catholics celebrated it, however, and this afternoon, Irish servants Catharine Murphy and Ann Shinkwin departed for Canton where they must have had family or friends to meet. They wouldn’t return until late the next day. In one sense, Christmas to the Ameses meant a lack of servants and no work – or reduced production, perhaps – at the shovel shop. It was a holiday with a negative impact.

So in the Ames compound, life went on as usual, even on Christmas Eve. Evelina sewed and Oakes Ames went into Boston. A few Gilmore relatives, including Evelina’s youngest nieces, Henrietta Hall Gilmore and Helen Jane Gilmore, came by. There was a lecture in town which Evelina’s brother Alson and his wife Henrietta Williams Gilmore attended in which Mr. J.C. Parks spoke on “the dignity of labour.” An interesting theme for a day when much of the work force was so-called idle. Surely the quiet at the factory got under Old Oliver’s skin, but with his usual understatement, he only mentioned the weather in his journal:  “[I]t raind ¾ of an inch last night it was cloudy in the forenoon + fair in the afternoon wind south west and it took the snow + ice all off.”*

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

August 8, 1852

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St. Mary’s Cathedral, Fall River, Massachusetts

Sunday

Aug 8th  Have been to meeting came home with

Mr Ames at noon, and returned again

Lavinia Williams came home to Joshuas with us […]

Lavinia returned home  Mr Whitwell preached

Since meeting have written a letter to Mrs

Louisa J Mower & Mrs S Stevens

 

As shovel-making led the industry of Easton in 1852, so textile manufacturing led the commerce of nearby Fall River. Surely, some of the cloth that Evelina cut and sewed came from the busy textile center that lay about 25 miles to her south.

Fall River is situated at the mouth of the Taunton River, the head of Mount Hope Bay, and (before the construction of the modern interstate put it underground) alongside the swiftly flowing Quequechan River, whose steep drop gave Fall River its name as well as the power to run the mills that lined its banks. Considered “the best tidewater privilege in southern New England,”* Fall River was an important industrial entity for much of the 1800’s. Bustling with bales of cotton and bolts of printed cloth, the city was accessed at mid-century by the Old Colony Railroad line and the Fall River Steamship Line, two entities that would soon merge.

The work force employed to support this industry consisted mostly of immigrants, initially Irish and, after the Civil War, Portuguese. They needed a place to live and a place to worship. The former was supplied by triple-decker tenements, the latter by a succession of churches. The Catholics quickly outgrew the first church built for them in 1840 and thus on this date in 1852, a cornerstone was laid for a new, major church for the congregation. By December, 1855, The Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption was duly consecrated and opened for worship. In 1983, St Mary’s was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

We might wonder if any Catholics or others from Easton ever visited St. Mary’s. We can be pretty sure that Evelina and her family never darkened its threshold. On this day, of course, they attended their own Unitarian Church and listened to their beloved Reverend Whitwell.

 

* “Fall River,” Wikipedia, accessed August 5, 2015

April 11, 1852

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Sunday April 11th  Mr Whitman of E Bridgewater preached

He gave us two good sermons but he is very dull and

I was very sleepy. Came home at noon  Alson & wife

came to Augustus’ After meeting went into Edwins

Augustus & E Andrews came there.  Susan staid

at home from everything  It has been very pleasant

In the tradition of their Puritan ancestors, Evelina and her family did not celebrate Easter. No hidden eggs or little bunnies or even new bonnets appeared in the Unitarian homes of Easton on Easter Sunday, 1852. Many of the Catholic families in town, however, would have celebrated this significant Christian holiday, further underscoring the strong cultural differences between the new Irish and the old Yankees of Massachusetts.

Other parts of the country celebrated this holiest of Christian remembrances. It was the German community of the mid-Atlantic states, better known as the Pennsylvania Dutch who, some say, introduced the Easter bunny to America in the 1700s. The rabbit and the egg were symbols of the Germanic fertility goddess Eostre, whose pagan festival was eventually taken over by early Christians as a celebration of Christ’s death and resurrection.

It being Sunday, the Ameses went to meeting, at least, for both an afternoon and a morning service. Reverend Whitwell, the usual minister, was replaced today by Mr. Whitman from East Bridgewater who was, unfortunately, “very dull.” Evelina struggled to stay awake.

 

 

April 4, 1852

Crucifix

 

1852

April 4th Sunday.  Orinthia and self went to the

Catholic meeting this forenoon after waiting more than

an hour the priest came and driveled over a mess

of nonsense in latin, they distributed palm as they called

it being nothing more than cedar & pine twigs.

Sat there three tedious hours, came home and

went to our church in the afternoon. since have

written a letter to Sister H. &c  Susan went over to Anna.

Evelina’s ill-tempered condescension continued today when she and her sidekick, Orinthia Foss, attended a morning service at the little Catholic church on Pond Street. It was Palm Sunday. Father Thomas was late – not unusual for an itinerant priest – and the service was in Latin, a language that Evelina didn’t understand, all for a holy day that Unitarians didn’t acknowledge. Most vexing of all, perhaps, was that the palms weren’t even real.

By her own account, Evelina was better satisfied by a service in the afternoon at her own church. The question is, why did Evelina attend the Catholic service to begin with? Out of curiosity? Out of respect for her own Catholic servant, Jane McHanna? Was this Orinthia’s idea?

Whatever her motive, Evelina came away from her “three tedious hours” as anti-Catholic as ever. Such feelings would not have been encouraged by her husband, Oakes, who was more welcoming of the Irish newcomers. But Evelina would have found reinforcement at home from her father-in-law, Old Oliver, who was no fan of the Irish Catholics in Easton, for all the work they did at the shovel shops.

In Easton, in Boston and all over New England, differences between the old Puritan customs and the transplanted Irish culture were pronounced and, for many, unyielding. In strictly religious terms, Unitarians couldn’t imagine a religion that kowtowed to a foreign leader, as they deemed the pope, while Catholics were incredulous that Protestants could just shake off the time-honored and revered practices of the original church. The melding of the two cultures would be a long time coming, and in some circles is still a work in progress.

February 2, 1852

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1852

Monday Feb 2d  Worked about house untill about twelve

and went into Olivers to dine with my whole family

and mother.  Alson came this afternoon & carried

mother home.  All took tea at Olivers.  Mrs S Ames

Oliver Fred & self passed the evening at Mr Swain

Worked some on flannel skirt this afternoon […]

carried Susans stocking to Mr Swains.

 

We know about February 2; it’s Groundhog’s Day.  In 1852, it was no such thing, at least not in New England. In the Pennsylvania Dutch communities of the mid-Atlantic states, however, some folks had begun to claim that the behavior of a groundhog on this date could prognosticate the weather for the remainder of the winter. This practice was first formally celebrated in 1887, in Punxsutawny, Pennsylvania, and continues today.

More common for this date was the celebration of Candlemas, a holy day in the Christian Church that honored the presentation by Mary of Jesus at the temple. Roman Catholics called it the fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. Unitarians had no name for it because Unitarians, like some other Protestant sects, didn’t acknowledge ecclesiastical feast days.

Yet there was a saying regarding this time of year that New England farmers – Old Oliver, a Unitarian, included – would have been familiar with:

“Half your wood and half your hay, You should have on Candlemas Day”

Candlemas falls between winter solstice and vernal equinox. It’s a day that turns the corner on winter, and heads for spring. It’s a day to take stock and hope you have enough wood left to keep warm and enough hay remaining to feed your animals for the rest of the winter.

 

 

January 18, 1852

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Jan 18 Sunday  Has snowed quite hard all day.  The

gentlemen all went to meeting & Mrs S Ames & Emily,

Mrs Witherell staid at home because she looks so bad

& Susan & self on account of a cold & cough  Have

read The Vale of Cedars by Grace Aguilar & have

written a letter to Pauline Dean.  Made a long

call in the other part of the house this evening.  Mrs

S Ames there with me

Feeling under par, Evelina and her daughter stayed home from church today while the men of the house pushed through the “fine cold dry snow”** to get to meeting. Sarah Witherell stayed home, too, still recovering from having had her teeth pulled.  It was a luxurious opportunity for Evelina – and Susie and Sarah, perhaps – to sit and read in relative quiet.

Evelina’s choice (which she probably read in serialized form in a periodical, as the tale wasn’t published in book form until 1853) was The Vale of Cedars or The Martyr’s Tale by Grace Aguilar. It was a tale of a Jewish father and daughter trying to hide from the Spanish Inquisition in 1479. The “Vale of Cedars” was their hideout. Eventually discovered and imprisoned, the daughter resisted the church’s demand that she convert to Catholicism.  Thus, the “Martyr’s Tale.”  The dramatic plot with its medieval overtones, exotic location, and anti-catholicism probably captivated Evelina, just as the author meant it to. Aguilar included these words from Byron’s [Oh! Weep for Me] in her introduction to the book:

“The wild dove hath her nest – the fox her cave –

Mankind their country – Israel but the grave.”

George Gordon, Lord Byron

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

December 25, 1851

Turnstile

 

Dec 25th Thursday  The Irish are expecting to have a great

time to day Jane went to the meeting house about

eight but the priest did not come she stoped an

hour. Carried my knitting into Olivers awhile this

forenoon. This afternoon have been to mothers

with Mr Ames & Frank as they were going to West

Bridgewater.  Finished knitting the front & back of

my hood  Made a present to Lavinia of Turnpike Dividend $800

Christmas Day! But as Evelina points out, the Irish Catholics in town would be celebrating, but the Ames family wouldn’t. Jane McHanna left the house to attend a Christmas mass for which, unfortunately, the priest was either late or didn’t show up at all.  Jane returned home to prepare dinner. Evelina, meanwhile, visited Sarah Lothrop Ames next door, knitting in hand.

After dinner Evelina rode along with her husband and youngest son as they went on an errand to West Bridgewater.  They dropped her off to see her mother at the family farm. There may have been some recognition of the holiday in this gesture, although Evelina makes no mention of gift-giving, with one significant exception. Evelina gave an $800 dividend to her niece Lavinia Gilmore.

The dividend came, somehow, from proceeds from the Taunton and South Boston Turnpike, a road that had run through part of Easton since the early 1800s, between “‘Taunton Green, so called, to the Blue Hill Turnpike,'” according to town historian William Chaffin.* Its origin was controversial and involved a long-standing disagreement with the Town of Raynham, but its impact on the Gilmore family was generally positive, as various Gilmores, including Evelina’s father and brother, served as toll-gate keepers. As Chaffin points out, however, “[t]he toll-gate naturally became unpopular.” It was closed in October of 1851.

How Evelina came to possess $800 from the road is unclear. Was this a regular dividend that Evelina received, or was the family compensated for the road’s discontinuance? That Evelina passed this money on to her niece, however, is a clear demonstration that for all her economical instincts, Evelina was capable of great generosity.

 

*William L. Chaffin, History of Easton, Mass, 1866, pp. 454 – 458.