December 27, 1851

imgres-1

Sat Dec 27th  Have put more sugar lemon & ginger to the syrup

of the citron  swept and dusted the rooms got

the lining ready to quilt to Susans hood quilted

the lining to Susans bonnet and fixed the collar

to my cloak  A[u]gustus Lothrop brought me a 

bushel of cranberries.  A Augustus called to bring

soap shoes &c that he got me in Boston

 

The cold temperature continued, Old Oliver noting in his diary that “the thermometer according to the papers was down to 8 in some places.”* Such temperatures wouldn’t have harmed the bushel of cranberries that Evelina received today. As author Mrs. Cornelius advised in her 1846 household guide, “cranberries keep well in a firkin of water. If they freeze, so much the better.”**

Cranberries were common in New England.  There is debate over whether they were served at the earliest Thanksgiving dinners, but there’s no debate that both Native Americans and English settlers consumed the fruit in season. Botanist Judith Sumner notes that: “Wild cranberries were originally hand-picked, but efficient New-Englanders soon crafted scoops that could be used to rake the berries from the lax stems.  During the nineteenth century, bogs carpeted with wild cranberries transformed into cultivated sites that were raked systematically each fall.”***  Augustus Lothrop, the youngest brother of Sarah Lothrop Ames, evidently cultivated cranberries at his farm in Sharon.

Henry David Thoreau enjoyed cranberries, finding them in the wild and eating them raw.  He considered them “a refreshing, cheering, encouraging acid that literally puts the heart in you and sets you on edge for this world’s experiences.”***

*Oliver Ames, Journal, Stonehill College Archives, 1848-1863

**Mrs. Cornelius, The Young Housekeeper’s Friend, New York, 1846

*** Judith Sumner, American Household Botany, Portland, Oregon, 2004, p. 124

 

Ed. note:  Horace “Augustus” Lothrop was the youngest brother of Sarah Lothrop Ames.  He lived in Sharon.

Alson “Augustus” Gilmore was a nephew of Evelina Gilmore Ames, son of her brother Alson. He lived in Easton.

December 19, 1851

Coal

Dec 19th Friday  After breakfast went to making

my citron made quite a long job of it nearly two before it

was all done had about 14 or 15 lbs  The coal

affected Jane so much that she nearly fainted 

and had to go to bed & I had to get dinner

After I got through with the citron I put

the things back into the store room from the

shed chamber & put it in order  Spent eve at Olivers

Coal was the fuel of choice at the Ames compound, but it had some negative aspects (beyond its environmental impact, a more modern concern.) Dust and smoke from burning coal was noxious, its particulates containing toxins like lead, mercury and arsenic.  Yet much of America was turning to coal for fuel to support the growth of manufacturing and the expanding rail traffic, and to replace the use of wood in homes.

While working in the kitchen making candied citron, Jane McHanna was overcome by the coal smoke and smell.  She went to bed to recover, leaving Evelina at the stove to finish up and make dinner. No doubt Evelina was concerned for the health of her servant, but no doubt she was somewhat peeved to be doing Jane’s job again.

Citron, meanwhile, was the fruit of choice for fruitcake.  Not as familiar to us nowadays as it was in 1850, it was cooked and candied and used for special baking.  Both Evelina and Jane would have known how to cook it down.