February 15, 1851



Sat Feb 15  This morning mended a pair of pants for Frank

and some other things.  Finished two chemise for Susan

made her a skirt out of an old quilted one of mine.

It has been a very stormy day.  the public school

finished this afternoon.  Oakes A, Mr Pratt, Davidson,

Barrows, R. Willis, Lillie & one or two others visited the 

school.  There were no ladies on account of the rain

Mr Ames went to Boston.  Brought Miss Eaton some maple sugar

While her husband went into Boston today despite poor weather, Evelina stayed in, mended clothes and completed two chemises for Susan. The chemise, a forerunner of today’s slip, was a standard undergarment for women and girls in the 19th century, worn right under the dress (and under the corset, when corsets were worn.)  As Evelina suggests, some undergarments were quilted for warmth, an essential consideration in cold New England. On stormy days like this one, women needed all the padding they could accommodate under their wide skirts.

Oakes Angier Ames visited the local schoolhouse today with men from the school’s superintending committee: Amos Pratt, a teacher; Thomas Davidson, the town’s postmaster; Joseph Barrows, a “shovelmaster” with legal training who lived in a house built by Old Oliver; Rufus Willis, a shoe manufacturer; and Daniel Lillie, another employee of O. Ames & Sons.  Daniel and Oakes Angier were in their early twenties, while the other men were older.  Daniel would be close to the Ames family over the years, and ultimately serve as a pallbearer at Oakes Ames’s funeral in 1873.  Today, however, in the rain, without their wives, the men appeared at the public school on the last day of this session.  Why was Oakes Angier along?  He wasn’t a member of the committee, but perhaps he was developing an interest in local politics.

Oakes Ames, meanwhile, returned from Boston in the evening, bringing with him a gift of maple sugar – a sign of spring – for the failing Miss Eaton.   He may also have returned with news of a serious incident in the city.  Shadrach Minkins, a fugitive slave living and working in Boston, was arrested today by federal marshals at a coffeehouse on Cornhill Street. Minkins would be taken to court, only to be rescued by an anti-slavery group, the Boston Vigilance Committee, who hid him and helped him escape to Montreal.  The controversial new Fugitive Slave Law was being tested.  Had Oakes witnessed any of this?

February 10, 1851


Feb 10th Monday  Warm this morning but not pleasant  Jane 

put her clothes out but the wind commenced blowing quite

hard with some rain, so that the clothes had to be taken

in & were dried over the registers  Cut Susan a Chemise

out of the width of  1  1/4 yd wide cloth and partly made it

Worked about house as usual on washing days in 

the forenoon  Wind blows quite hard this eve.

What a jungle of white linens the Ames house featured this Monday, with Jane McHanna having to drape dripping laundry around the heat registers.  So much for Evelina’s cleaning the floors the other day.  Miserable winter weather – snow, rain, ice, wind and rain again – was wreaking havoc with the domestic schedule.

One person in the Ames household celebrated her 12th birthday today: Sarah “Emily” Witherell.  Emily was born in New Jersey where her parents had lived while her father, Nathaniel Witherell, Jr., worked with William Leonard Ames, her mother’s brother, at various Ames enterprises.  Tragedy had struck in recent years, though, with the death of her father and the subsequent “drounding” of her two year old brother, Channing.  Emily was stricken with loss at an early age.

With her mother, Sarah; older brother, George Oliver Witherell; and grandfather Old Oliver Ames,  Emily now lived in North Easton, Massachusetts in “the other part of the house”.  She probably still attended school, but she and Susie Ames were too far apart in age at this point to be close friends, although they would soon find themselves sharing  piano lessons.  Her cousin Oliver (3) found Emily to be outspoken and opinionated; she was, evidently, unafraid of speaking her mind at a time when candor in women was not prized.

Emily never married.  After Old Oliver died in 1863, when she was about twenty-four, Emily and her mother moved into Boston, eventually taking up residence in Back Bay at the Hotel Hamilton and living off of distributions from investments managed by her male cousins.  A spinster cousin, Amelia Hall Ames, the only daughter of William Leonard Ames, eventually moved in with Emily.  These two cousins, in turn, may have undertaken to raise yet another cousin, Eleanor Ames, a granddaughter of William Leonard Ames. All that is in the future; on this day in 1851, we can hope that Emily had a special birthday despite the weather. She deserved a happy moment.