December 2, 1852

Fire

Thursday Dec 2d  Have been very nervous to day

thinking about Oakes A   cannot reconcile myself

to his leaving home.  Have done as well as I

could about taking care of the hog but made

poor headway  Augustus & wife  Edwin & wife

Mrs Witherell & Mrs S Ames all came unexpectedly

to spend the evening and I have not even changed

my dress. But who cares?  Miss Alger has

given her 14th lesson

 

Back in North Easton, Evelina was still rattled by the bad news her son had received. She tried to deal with a butchered hog that her father-in-law sent her but could barely cope.

Oakes Angier had been told he had consumption. He was advised to go to Cuba, whose warm, humid climate was believed to be good for pulmonary tuberculosis. No other effective treatment was available. The Ames men – Oakes Ames, certainly – would have been active today investigating possible arrangements. Oakes and Oliver Jr. had a business associate, a shipping merchant named Elisha Atkins, who traded in sugar in Cuba, at a port called Cienfuegos on the southern side of the island. Perhaps they contacted him for advice.

All the Ameses, and the Gilmore clan, too, were upset by the diagnosis. Family members on both sides “all came unexpectedly” at night to show affection and alarm for Oakes Angier, the eldest cousin of his generation. The family pulled together, although Evelina was too shocked to appreciate the support, too sad to rise to the occasion. “I have not even changed my dress,” she noted pitifully.

Completely preoccupied by Oakes Angier’s illness, the folks at the Ames compound may not have paid much attention to the news that the Chickering Piano Company building in Boston had caught fire and burned to the ground.

“3 o’clock A.M. — Thursday Morning — The whole of the manufactory—an immense block structure, five stores high—is one mass of ruins. Mr. Jonas Chickering owned the building, and occupied all of it except the stores, which were improved by Messrs Thomas &Merriam, grocers, Edward Butman, crockery ware dealer, Amos Cummings, grocer. Very little property, in the building was saved. The devouring element spread through the building with terrific rapidity and soon the heated walls began to fall so as to endanger the lives of those who approached.

The building occupied the space on Washington street, between Norfolk place and Sweetser court. A portion of the side wall on Sweetser court first fell doing no injury, and the gable end of the side wall, on Norfolk place, fell over and crushed in the roof of the brick building on the opposite corner, which was on fire, and forced out the gable end. Both buildings were now one mass of fire, presenting an awfully grand sight. A part of the wall on Washington street, next fell and the flames swept across Washington street, threatening the destruction of the Adams House and other buildings on the opposite side, but they were saved. The attic windows of the Adams House were badly scorched.

The greater portion of the wall on Norfolk street next fell over on the opposite building, crushing it completely to pieces, and the walls of the next adjoining northerly, a three story, old fashioned block, and buried underneath the ruins, two watchmen, named Alfred Turner and Benjamin F. Foster, of the Boylston division. A large force immediately set to work to remove the rubbish, and after some time, were able to converse with Turner, and in an hour’s time reached one of his arms, but before the ruins could be cleared away, he fell into the cellar, and not just before putting our [news]paper to press been dug out. Foster, it is supposed lived but a short time.

The building on the corner of Norfolk place, opposite Chickering’s was five stories high, belonged to Deming Jarvis, and was occupied, the store by P.R. Morley, plumber, and the upper stories by Mr. Ladd, pianoforte key maker. They saved but a small amount of their stock. The building was insured. The old brick building next adjoining, which was leveled to the ground by the falling wall was occupied by Mrs. Wyman, as a boy’s clothing store and a dwelling house.”*

Was the Chickering Piano Company the place where Evelina and Sarah Witherell had purchased their pianos?

*

December 1, 1852

 

1852_Duvotenay_Map_of_the_West_Indies_-_Geographicus_-_WestIndies-duvotenay-1852

Map of West Indies, including Cuba, 1852

Wedns Dec 1st  Oakes & Oliver got left last night

Oakes A went to consult Dr Bigelow and he

advised him to spend the winter in Cuba

He has been raising more blood for two

or three weeks but has said nothing about it.

Mrs S Ames came into Boston this morning

I have selected some silver forks & a pr of spoons

and left them to be marked

 

Bad news today. Oakes Angier was coughing up blood again, and had been, for much of November. Evelina hadn’t known it, although how she missed the evidence of bloody handkerchiefs in the weekly laundry is a question. The servant girls might have guessed it. Oliver (3) must have had an inkling, especially after the two brothers spent so much time together attending a Thanksgiving dance in East Bridgewater. Oakes Angier would have been challenged to dance lively reels and converse in a crowded room without coughing.

How Evelina could have missed the signs became an irrelevant question in the face of the proposed remedy. Oakes Angier had been advised to go to Cuba. For consumptive patients, travel to a different climate was common therapy (for those who could afford it), and Cuba was known as a “site of recuperative possibilities.”* Other ailing Bostonians of means, like Sophia and Mary Peabody some years earlier, had taken the cure there. And William Rice, the vice-president elect, was there even as the Ameses were discussing the situation.  The Peabody sisters recovered; the vice-president would not.

Despite the reassurances that Cuba was the best place for Oakes Angier, to Evelina it must have seemed as far away as the moon. Oakes Angier would have to sail there. Where would he stay? He would be gone for months, if not years. He might never come back. Even as Evelina busied herself with dropping off some silver flatware to be monogrammed, she had to be preoccupied with this unfortunate turn of events.

 

*John George F. Wurdemann, Slaves, Sugar and Colonial Society, p. 107

 

September 19, 1852

Abbott H. Thayer, Angel, 1887, oil Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of John Gellatly

Abbott H. Thayer, Angel, 1887, oil
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of John Gellatly

 

Sunday 19th Sept  Have been to meeting as usual, rode

home at noon alone with Alson  Rode in

our new carriage for the first time & like it

very well  Mr Dawes & Miss M J Alger called

since meeting  Augusta is more unwell again

and is in great pain and sick to her stomach

Edwin came in after me and I have been there

since Mr Dawes went away

The new carriage took various Ameses to church this morning, and the ride went “very well.” Was it Oakes’s horse Kate who pulled the reins? Evelina herself came home at noon with her brother; perhaps they had something about their mother to attend to. Perhaps Evelina was preparing for company later in the day, or was tending to serious matters in the village.

Hannah Savage, a neighbor, died today after months of illness. Surely, those who knew her were grateful that she was finally out of her misery. Her slow decline from tuberculosis had taxed not only her body and soul, but the goodwill and resources of her family and friends. Consumption was truly a wasting disease.

There was more illness nearby. Augusta Pool Gilmore still hadn’t gotten the best of a gastrointestinal disorder that had kept her in bed for almost three weeks, and today she had a serious relapse. She was in her second trimester of pregnancy, too, which had to have everyone worried. As soon as Evelina said goodbye to her guests, she hurried over to tend to poor Augusta.

August 14, 1852

440px-Henry_Jacob_Bigelow_c1854

 

Dr. Henry Jacob Bigelow

(1818 – 1890)

Aug 14th

1852 Saturday  Oakes A went to see Dr Bigelow

He agrees with Dr Swan that the blood

comes from the lungs and that he must leave the

shop and be very quiet.  Returned from

Boston to night.  Mrs Stevens came here in

the Cars  Mrs Witherell A L Ames & Mrs

S Ames called

Oakes Angier saw a doctor in Boston today about his bad cough and bloody sputum.  He went to a Dr. Bigelow, who could have been either of two well-regarded medical men: Jacob Bigelow or his son, Henry Jacob Bigelow. The son, only a decade older than Oakes Angier himself, was a Harvard grad who was becoming famous for his role in introducing ether into the operating room. Without the modern diagnostic equipment to which we 21st century readers have become accustomed, Dr. Bigelow was nonetheless able to give an informed opinion about Oakes Angier’s pulmonary condition. If the doctor used the word “consumption,” Evelina didn’t write it down.

The illness was serious and Oakes Angier was ordered to ” leave the shop and be very quiet.” Rest and fresh air, in other words, were the treatment. If diagnostic ability was limited, treatments were even more so. Oakes Angier would have to go away and rest and hope for the best.

Back in Easton, the women of the family gathered in the sitting room or parlor to hear what the Boston physician had said, and perhaps to take a look at Evelina’s new bonnet. We can imagine that each member had a notion of what should happen next: where Oakes Angier should go, how he might travel, and what needed to be done to get him ready. In all likelihood, however, the decision on what to do would be decided by Oakes Angier’s father.

 

August 5, 1852

Rein

1852

Thursday Aug 5th  Have had a rainy day which was

very much needed.  Was intending to go to

Boston with Oakes A in a carriage  Am most

affraid to have him drive Caty as he has been

raising blood of late and has a hacking cough

Lavinia is at Edwins has had Julia

cut her a dress to day  I went there and 

carried my work awhile this afternoon 

Put a new breadth into Susans Borage Delaine

where she tore it

Caty (or Katy), one of the Ames’s horses, was famous in Easton for her willful – and fast-paced – ways. Evelina has complained about her in previous diary entries. Today, however, Evelina had another reason entirely to be “most affraid” to let her son, Oakes Angier, drive the horse. Oakes Angier Ames was coughing up blood.

In an age when consumption, which we know as tuberculosis, was rampant and usually fatal, any person “raising” bloody sputum was immediately suspected of having the disease. TB wasn’t restricted to the lungs, actually; it could attack other parts of the body, such as the spine, but its most common manifestation was pulmonary. Blood coughed into a handkerchief was bad news.

How frightening this development must have been for Oakes Angier, and indeed for the entire Ames family.  Oakes Angier was the eldest grandson, the heir, the star cousin and nephew in whom many expectations were placed. He was beloved, and suddenly he was evincing signs of a potentially fatal illness. Old Oliver makes no mention of this in his journal, however, and Evelina herself had taken a few days to record the news. She may not have wanted to see such words in writing. We may suspect that Oakes Ames knew about his son’s condition earlier, but we can’t know for certain, of course. We can only follow the family as it copes with this huge development.

On this day, Evelina seemed to cope as she always did, by sewing. She took her work across the way to visit Augusta Pool Gilmore, the young bride who was now in the family way. Dressmaker Julia Mahoney was there, as was Lavinia Gilmore, so the women were able to sit and sew and talk in their usual fashion. The touch of normalcy must have been somewhat soothing for Evelina.

 

July 26, 1852

imgres-1

Monday July 26th  Hannah & Mary washed and I

have been sewing most of the day but have

a head ache  Have engaged to watch with

Mrs Savage, but do not feel like sitting 

up all night  We have had a rainy

day which was very much needed and

I hope it will make my garden look

better

“[I]t was cloudy this morning wind south east and it raind during the day half an inch or more,” reported daily chronicler Oliver Ames. He had been looking for rain all summer and hadn’t seen enough of it. Today’s rain was most welcome; parlor gardens would be perkier and vegetable patches here and there would be improved.  Evelina hoped her garden would “look better.”

What was blooming in Evelina’s garden at this time of year? So many flowers had gone by by this point in the summer, having peaked between May and early July, yet perennials like Black-eyed Susans and Coneflowers would be in full presentation. If Evelina had geraniums, or other annuals, they too might still be stretching toward the sun – and grateful for the day’s rain. The fact that Evelina was able to gather a “boquet” to take to a friend at church the day before proves that flowers were alive and well in her garden.

Evelina, unfortunately, wasn’t feeling at the top of her game. Nonetheless, she agreed to sit up over night with her ailing neighbor, Hannah Savage. Perhaps Evelina was conscious that her acute headache couldn’t compare with Mrs. Savage’s ongoing battle with tuberculosis. Evelina would get over her ailment but Hannah would die from hers.

June 29, 1852

22633861_126751003919

Henry Clay

(1777 – 1852)

1852

Tuesday June 29th  Have had a quiet […] sick day  have

a bad cold & cough and sick head ache

A gentleman here from Pennsylvania

to dine but I did not go to the table

Mr Bartlett here to tea from Maine

Augusta came in and cut her out a

visite & I have written to Melinda to

get some trimming for it  Ottomans came

from Boston

Evelina was sick and probably spent most of the day in bed. She didn’t eat much, missing midday dinner – with company – and possibly skipping tea, too. Perhaps she took a tray of food in her room. She must have begun to feel a bit better, however, as she eventually roused herself to cut out a “visite” for Augusta Gilmore, who came over at the end of the day.  She even wrote to her friend Melinda Orr, in Boston, to find some trim. She could get animated about a sewing project, though not much else appealed to her today.

It was “a fair warm day + verry dry,”* and probably “verry” good for the haying that was underway. Old Oliver and a team of hands would have been outdoors from sunup to sundown.

In the world beyond North Easton, a consummate, outspoken and controversial politician passed away today: Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky, aged 75, died in Washington D. C., of consumption. The Ameses wouldn’t have known this, however, until they read the next day’s newspapers. But most likely they admired Clay, the “Star of the West,” and the founder of the Whig Party. Clay’s biggest opponent back in the day had been Andrew Jackson, who called Clay “the Judas of the West.”  One imagines that Oakes Ames had probably been on the side of Clay’s admirers.

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