June 24, 1851



June 24th  Tuesday  Emily is very much better this morning and

is quite rational  I was at work in the garden

awhile weeding and transplanting and then I

went to sewing on the hair cloth again.  Mother

is knitting a pair of coloured stockings for Susan

of yarn I bought at the factory yesterday

Mrs Sarah Ames stoped awhile here  I get along

very slowly with my work  Spent the afternoon picking hair

Everyone exhaled with relief today as young Emily Witherell recovered from her congestion of the brain. What exactly had been wrong with her? Had she fallen or spiked a fever or had an allergic reaction to something?

Evelina went back to her summer routine of morning work in the garden, midday dinner for the whole family, and sewing in the afternoon. The horse hair upholstery for the new lounge was taking a long time to make. She may have been skilled with a needle, but this project was proving difficult.  She had the company of her mother, however, who was visiting them in North Easton this week.

The elderly Hannah Gilmore was knitting some stockings for her granddaughter, Susie.  She was using yarn that Evelina most likely bought at the Morse factory shown in the photograph. Located in South Easton and owned at the time by E. J. W. Morse, the business produced high quality thread and yarn.

* Photo borrowed from Edmund C. Hands, Easton’s Neighborhoods, 1995, p. 28

June 23, 1851



Monday 23  Emily is no better.  The Dr calls her

disease congestion of the brain  About ten Oclock she

was in great distress & I sent for the Doctor.  He was

just stepping into his chaise to go to Taunton

He came up immediately  found her asleep and easier.

Mrs James Mitchell & Miss Sarah Mitchell from

Freeport came to spend the day.  they passed the 

afternoon in Olivers.


Twelve year old Emily Witherell, only daughter of widowed Sarah Witherell, had been taken suddenly and seriously ill. Her symptoms seemed to worsen this morning, so much so that Evelina sent someone for the doctor, perhaps Dr. Samuel Deans who had stopped in yesterday. He or Dr. Caleb Swan, the two doctors who usually tended to the Ames family, diagnosed the illness as “congestion of the brain.”

Congestion of the brain was, by some modern accounts, a 19th century catch-all phrase for any number of illnesses that caused swelling of the brain. Known in the medical world as encephalaemia, it could be caused by a head injury or an infection.  Symptoms would include headache, fever and confusion.  Emily certainly seemed to be confused.

Why did Evelina send for the doctor, and not Sarah Witherell herself? Who went for the doctor on a Monday morning, when everyone was at work? Perhaps Michael Burns, who worked for Old Oliver? Good that the doctor was caught before he had left in his chaise for Taunton, and even better that he found Emily marginally better.