December 20, 1852


Monday Dec 20th  Was puttering about house most of the time

this forenoon  made some cake of sour cream

This afternoon here to tea  Mrs H & A L Ames

Mrs Witherell Emily & father & Oliver & wife

Have cut a pattern from Mrs Whitwells

cloak for Susan  Have not done much

sewing of course

Life seemed to be getting back to normal. The servants did the laundry while Evelina puttered about the house and did a little baking. In the evening, the family assembled for tea at Evelina and Oakes’s. Sarah Ames Witherell, Emily Witherell, Oliver Ames Jr., Sarah Lothrop Ames, and Old Oliver himself attended. So did Sally Hewes Ames and Almira Ames, who were still visiting; Almira would stay at the Ames compound well into the new year. Missing were Fred and Helen Ames – off at school, presumably – and Oakes Angier, of course.

The family was weighed down by personal difficulties: Oakes Angier an invalid in far-off Cuba and Sally Hewes Ames fed up and seeking divorce, not to mention the lingering loss of George Oliver Witherell earlier in the year. Perhaps other concerns occupied their thoughts, too. Like many other families, the Ameses drew strength from simply standing together. In the same way they had risen from the fire at the shovel factory back in March, they would do their best to prevail over the latest adversity. What a year it had been for them.

Yet on the horizon, a greater ill loomed which it is our readers’ advantage to know and the Ames family’s innocence not to foresee. Eight years later, on this exact date, the State of South Carolina would issue a proclamation of secession from the United States, kicking off the calamitous American Civil War.


September 24, 1852


Henri Giffard’s Dirigible  

Friday Sept 24th  Mr Ames & Oakes Angier went

to Boston and are going to New York for New

Jersey to night  I have been to work again about

house all day ironing and this that & tother

Catharine got my quilt out and has been

mending some stockings  Mr Rathbourne

returned to P[rovidence] this afternoon  Oliver carried him

to Mansfield  They went to Canton this afternoon


Today Evelina saw her husband and eldest son depart for New York and New Jersey, by way of Boston; that helps explain the extra laundry day yesterday. The men were off on shovel business and the fact that Oakes Angier went along suggests that he was enjoying good health. He was also learning the family trade.

Back at the house in North Easton, domesticity reigned, as usual. Even Evelina couldn’t quite keep track of all the little tasks she was addressing. It was simply “this that & tother.” Mending, ironing, quilting went on. Her son Oliver was riding here and there with his houseguest, Mr. Rathbourne.  It looks like the only son who was present at the shovel works was the youngest, Frank Morton.

Miles away from anyplace that any Ameses were traveling today, a steam-powered dirigible, lifted by hydrogen, rose in the air for the very first time. Hot air balloons had already ascended the skies in various places and for various lengths of time. The airship was new and different by virtue of its shape, design, and engine. Created by a Frenchman, Henri Giffard, the airship made its maiden voyage from Paris to Elancourt. It traveled 17 miles. The winds were too strong for it to return to Paris, as planned, but Giffard was nonetheless able to steer and turn the airship in its course. It was the shape of things to come.




February 15, 1852


Nursing uniform from the late 19th c.*


Sunday Feb 15th  Have been to church and at

noon went to Mr Baileys to see sister Amelia

who is nursing there  Mother went with me

Have been reading since meeting  Edwin & wife came

in to spend the evening but Mr Ames & self were

just going to Mr Swains and they would not let 

us stop for them so they went to Augustus  Had a 

pleasant call or rather visit at Mr Swains  came away

about nine Oclock  Very pleasant

The sun came out today, so despite it being “pritty cold,”** the Ames family went to church. During the intermission between morning and afternoon services, Evelina and her elderly mother, Hannah Lothrop Gilmore, rode out to visit Amelia Gilmore.  Amelia was the widow of Evelina’s brother, Joshua Gilmore, Jr. Joshua had died three years earlier, at age 35, leaving Amelia with two sons to raise.

In order to support herself and her boys, Amelia hired out as a nurse.  In this instance, she was looking after a Mr. Bailey, who must have lived near the Unitarian church. He may have lived alone, been ill and needed paid help; otherwise the convention of the day would have meant his female relatives looked after him. When Amelia wasn’t working, she and her youngest son, Samuel, lived with the Alger family near the Gilmore farm. The older son, Charles, had hired out somewhere but would soon come to reside with his uncle Alson Gilmore.

In 1852, nursing was not a formal profession.  Women (nursing was considered the exclusive province of women at the time) undertook nursing because they needed to work and this was one of very few avenues open to them. They based their protocol on personal experience in caring for ill members of their own families. There were no training programs or certification venues available, in no small part because there were so few hospitals. People were cared for at home. It would take the Crimean War in Europe and the Civil War in the U.S. to change attitudes and formalize medical care.

*Courtesy of

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


January 28, 1852



Jan 28 Wednesday  Mother went to Augustus this morning and I went

this afternoon. Mr Ames sent Frank after me in the sleigh

this evening  Mr Ames & Oliver went to West Bridgewater

this afternoon  I have been to work on Susans flannel

skirt have got most of it done.  Susan spent the afternoon

and evening with Malvina.  Mr Brown spent two

nights at Augustus, returned to Boston this morning.


The morning was fair, the afternoon cloudy and warm enough so that the snow on the ground “thawd some.”* Sleighing (or “slaying,” as Old Oliver occasionally spelled it) would have been good, the top crust of the snow-packed roads slick with ice and fast to travel.

Despite being out and about today in a sleigh, Evelina accomplished some sewing. The flannel skirt she was making for her daughter was probably a petticoat that Susie could wear under her dress, rather than an outer skirt. Full dresses and jackets were indeed made from wool flannel around this time, but the flannel underskirt was more common. Known for its insulating capability, the cloth would have kept Susie extra warm on the cold, cold days.

Flannel was also inexpensive. It would really come into its own during the Civil War, when soldiers wore undershirts and even simple coats made from the material. Flannel became the go-to cloth for long underwear. In 1889, a man named Hamilton Carhartt opened a factory in Detroit to manufacture flannel work clothes which became popular with railroad and construction workers.**


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

**, January 26, 2015



January 26, 1852



Ames Plantation, Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, ca. 1880’s

Jan 26/51 (sic)

Monday   commenced making Susan a flannel skirt

Mother & self went into Edwins with our work and staid

about 3 hours came home to tea.  Evening Augustus

Hannah and Mrs Witherell were here Oliver Jr

and Oakes A went to Mr Whitwells expecting to meet

Willard L there.  It has been a beautiful day.  Mrs Buck

and Sarah called at Edwins while we were there and

were very polite

It was Monday, which meant that Evelina probably did a little housework this morning before picking up her sewing. As usual, Jane McHanna managed the Monday washing and Evelina didn’t need to paint or fix or oversee anything but the flannel skirt she was making for her daughter. After midday dinner, she and her elderly mother, Hannah Lothrop Gilmore, walked to the home of Edwin Gilmore and sat with his bride, Augusta Pool Gilmore, each of them tending to their sewing. It seemed quiet on the home front.

In another decade, it would be anything but quiet – at least across most of the country.  The United States would be in the first upheavals of an impending civil war. “The Great Rebellion,” they would call it. On this particular day in January, 1861, Louisiana would secede from the Union, the sixth of eleven states to do so. When the war ended in 1865, the Confederacy defeated, Louisiana and her sister states would ultimately be accepted back into the Union through the arduous and hotly political process known as Reconstruction.

In another two decades, the economies of the southern states would still be struggling, enabling many northerners to acquire cheap land and cast-off businesses. In 1873, the three Ames brothers – Oakes Angier, Oliver (3) and Frank Morton – would purchase two old plantations, Estelle and South Side in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, right across the Mississippi from New Orleans. On 13,000 acres, they would grow and refine sugar. The business ran until the start of the 20th century, overseen eventually by one of Frank’s sons. The property, which”stretched for more than one mile on the river and ran about eight miles deep”* was eventually sold.  Today that land comprises much of the city of Marrero, Louisiana. Little is left of the Ames influence except an eponymous boulevard running through the city’s center.


* Betsy Swanson, Historic Jefferson Parish: From Shore to Shore, p. 97.


June 27, 1851

weedy flower bed


June 27 Friday  John left here this morning

Worked a long time in the garden

this morning for the weeds were very plenty

afterwards finished picking over the hair and

a long job it has been.  This afternoon put the hair

into the hair cloth cover and just commenced tying

it when Mrs Clark and Mrs Stetson came from

Sharon and of course had to leave it and go

into the other house house to see them. Mother & I stoped to tea

Pigweed, thistle, crabgrass, and purslane: Such weeds – and more – are the collective bane of the flower gardener. Evelina tackled some of them this morning as she addressed the “very plenty” weeds that were pushing into her flower beds. Perhaps she ruminated about her brother John and his short visit while her fingers dug into the soil.

After midday dinner she turned to her sewing, as usual, going right to her haircloth slipcover project, but abandoned it with alacrity when an opportunity for socializing turned up.  “Had to leave it and go..” she noted, when two friends from nearby Sharon arrived next door.  She and her mother, Hannah Lothrop Gilmore, went over for tea.

Frank Ames Mitchell, a nephew of Oakes and Evelina, turned ten years old today.  One of two grandsons of Old Oliver named Frank (the other being Frank Morton Ames,) he was the eldest son of Oakes’ sister, Harriett Ames Mitchell. He, his mother, and two younger siblings were living temporarily in Bridgewater while their father, Asa Mitchell, was working in coal in western Pennsylvania.

Our knowledge about Frank Mitchell is limited, as he never married or had any known issue. We do know that he was the only Ames grandson to fight in the Civil War.  He served in both the 44th and the 56th Massachusetts Regiments, and ultimately made captain.  In 1864, he was wounded at Cold Harbor.  Hospitalized in Washington DC, where his mother rushed to his side, he eventually recovered but remained in indifferent health for the rest of his life.

After the war, Frank bought a plantation in Tallullah, Louisiana, an effort that was underwritten and ultimately bought out by his Uncle Oliver Ames, Jr.  Family records show that Frank subsequently depended on financial support from his cousin Fred Ames. The remainder of his life consisted of traveling from one healthful climate or resort to another in search of good health.


* A modern flower garden, full of weeds, from canoecorner.blogspot