November 30, 1852


Hanover Street, Boston, ca. 1872*

Tuesday Nov 30th  Oakes A Oliver & self went to

Boston to the Webster funeral.  Called at

Mr Orrs & Melinda went with me to see Selina

Selina & self saw the procession from A A Gilmores

room in Hanover St. We called on Pauline

and on Mrs Dorr  Spent the evening at

Mr Butlers his mother brother & sister there


After a false start the day before, Evelina rode into Boston today – she and thousands of others, evidently. The city was hosting an official memorial service for Daniel Webster, the great senator who had passed away a month earlier. It was “a fair good day for the season”* so Evelina, Oakes Angier, and Oliver (3) had easy traveling.

Senator Webster was eulogized at Faneuil Hall, with a prayer led by Reverend Samuel Kirkland Lothrop, the pastor of Brattle Street Church in Boston, and the main oration delivered by George Stillman Hillard. Hillard, an admirer of the late Webster, was a senator in the Massachusetts Legislature. Harvard-educated, he had been a law partner of Charles Sumner, had edited – for a time – the Unitarian publication, Christian Register, and eventually would became the first dean of Boston University Law School. He was well known for his oratory.

Hillard spoke at length about Daniel Webster, his speech published and distributed afterwards. Many in the nation were still feeling the loss of the great senator, whether or not they had agreed with him.  President Millard Fillmore, who was about to send his final State of the Union Address to Congress, included a brief lament of the man:

Within a few weeks the public mind has been deeply affected by the death of Daniel Webster, filling at his decease the office of Secretary of State. His associates in the executive government have sincerely sympathized with his family and the public generally on this mournful occasion. His commanding talents, his great political and professional eminence, his well-tried patriotism, and his long and faithful services in the most important public trusts have caused his death to be lamented throughout the country and have earned for him a lasting place in our history.***

Evelina and her sons didn’t attend today’s service, but they did observe the procession along Hanover Street, which is now part of the North End.

*Image courtesy of Boston Public LIbrary

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

***Millard Fillmore, State of the Union Address, Dec. 6, 1852, courtesy of

November 2, 1852


William R. King

(1786 – 1853)

Tuesday Nov 2d  Sewed on cambric sleeves for

Susan this forenoon very quietly with

Miss Alger  It has rained since Saturday

morn but this afternoon has cleared 

off Mrs Ames & self have been to Mr

Swains & called at Doct Wales & Augustus

Miss Alger & O Angier took tea in Olivers


Back from her quick day trip into Boston, Evelina spent the morning “very quietly” in her sitting room, sewing. The piano teacher, Miss Alger, was still visiting.  Outside, “it rain[ed] by spells […] wind north east it stormd all the forenoon and was cloudy about all day – there has bin one inch + a quarter of water fell since Sunday”*

After midday dinner, when the storm had stopped, Evelina and her sister-in-law, Sarah Lothrop Ames, went out to check on Ann and John Swain, whose infant son had died on Saturday. Evelina would have taken with her the mourning accoutrements she had purchased for Ann in the city. No doubt the Ames women continued to comfort the forlorn parents. From the Swains they paid other calls in North Easton, to the home of Ephraim and Maria Wales and to see Evelina’s nephew, Alson “Augustus” Gilmore and his wife Hannah. Hannah had lost her infant son Willie back in the summer. The women would have had much to talk about.

On the national scene, the day was momentous. As we have read previously in this blog, General Franklin Pierce, a Democrat, was elected President of the United States, defeating Whig candidate General Winfield Scott (incumbent Whig Millard Fillmore hadn’t been renominated) and Free Soil candidate John P. Hale. Easton historian William Chaffin writes: “In 1852 the vote for President was one hundred and seventy-one for Winfield Scott, one hundred and forty-three for John P. Hale, forty-nine for Franklin Pierce, and four for Daniel Webster, who was dead. This vote shows the political complexion of the town, and confirms the statement of the adoption of the Free Soil position by many Democrats.”**

The vice-president-elect was William R. King, a senator from Alabama who believed strongly in the Union. He had helped draft the Compromise of 1850. Unfortunately, King was suffering from tuberculosis and would soon die in office, one of the shortest-termed vice-presidents and the only Alabaman. He was also the only vice-president to take the oath of office on foreign soil; he was in Cuba taking the cure when he was inaugurated.


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

**William L. Chaffin, History of Easton Massachusetts, 1886, p. 630


October 29, 1852


Daniel Webster

(1782 – 1852)

1852 Friday Oct 29th  Mr Dawes came from Boston

about ten Oclock  Miss Alger expected

him before and began to feel uneasy

They went to the shops after dinner

Helen Susan & Emily went to the shop

& then rode to call at Mr Roachs

They were all in here this evening to

hear Mr Dawes play on the guitar  Mrs S

Ames & self called Swains, to see their child

Mrs Lothrop & Brett called with her babe


Old Oliver must have been an admirer of Daniel Webster, else why would he mention the man in his daily weather journal? He wrote, “the 29th was a verry plesant warm day. it clouded up some toward night – Daniel Webster was buried to day”.

Daniel Webster, lawyer, diplomat, statesman, orator and Whig leader, was indeed buried on this day. He had died three days earlier after a fall from a horse and was buried with “impressive ceremonies”* at Marshfield, about 35 miles east of Easton. Considered by many to be one of the finest senators ever, Webster had also been a Secretary of State, U.S. representative, constitutional lawyer par excellence, and a devoted preservationist of the union. To the latter end, he co-authored and spoke eloquently on behalf of the Compromise of 1850, which included the controversial Fugitive Slave Act. As a result, he lost the support of many New Englanders; abolitionists washed their hands of him.

On this day in Boston, however, it would have been hard to find his enemies. According to a newspaper account the next day, a united citizenry mourned:

Boston never before presented – probably never will present – such a funeral aspect as was worn in her streets yesterday. Most of the stores and shops were closed, as well as the institutions, offices, and markets, and a large proportion of the city was dressed in the habiliments of wo. [sic] Though the work was only voluntarily the act of individuals, it was very general – Washington, Hanover, and many other streets being covered in black, interspersed with mottoes, flags, portraits, and other mementoes, as the taste of each led him to adopt and carry out.  It was one of the last acts which Boston can perform to express her sorrow for the loss of the great statesman, and it is praise enough to say that it was well and appropriately done. The streets were thronged nearly all the day, crowds of people being present from other places, – and our young men wore the insignia of mourning which had been adopted, and grieved countenances were observed at every turn of the street…*


*New York Times, October 28, 1852


December 14, 1851


Benjamin Seaver

Mayor of Boston, 1852 – 1854

Sunday 14 Dec  Have not been to meeting to day on

account of my cough.  Jane went to meeting 

at eight Oclock got breakfast before she went.

I have been writing and reading

Mr Swain & wife have spent the evening here

Mr Swains brother has been there a week or two

I have not seen him  The babe grows very 

fast and is a great wonder

In an unusual occurrence for a Sunday in New England in the 19th century, an election – or an announcement of the results of an election – was held on this day.  A new mayor, Benjamin Seaver, was elected to govern the City of Boston, a post he would hold through 1853. He was a Whig, one of that dying breed whose successful election surely gave the Ames men a lonely branch to cling to in the swirling flood of new political parties.

According to modern historian Jim Vrabel, Seaver won with 3,300 votes and defeated Dr. Jerome Smith and Adam Thaxter. (Only men voted in the election, of course.) Seaver was noteworthy for his interest in erecting a public library for the city. During his administration, a committee would be formed, plans (some already in the works) developed, a first librarian hired, and private funding obtained for the project.

At the same time that Seaver came in, “the entire Board of Aldermen” were voted out, “reportedly for refusing Daniel Webster” – a hometown favorite – ” use of Faneuil Hall because an abolitionist group had earlier been denied its use.”* Webster had advocated for passage of the Fugitive Slave Act, something for which abolitionists never forgave him. Just goes to show that the issue of slavery informed all levels of political intercourse in this decade before the Civil War.

On the home front, besotted new parents Ann and John Swain spent the evening with Evelina and Oakes, talking about their son.  Evelina seemed smitten, too, writing that the baby boy was “a great wonder.” Like the new mayor and the Board of Aldermen, however, she and that baby’s parents couldn’t know what sorrow lay ahead.


Jim Vrabel, When in Boston, Boston, p. 157

July 6, 1851



1851 July 6th  Oakes A and Mr Norris went to East Bridgewater

this morning and returned this evening  I went to

meeting this morning but had something of a head

ache and did not go but half a day.  Mr Ames

rode with me to Mr Kinsleys  Since meeting had a

very pleasant call  Met a Mr & Miss Kinsley

there from Springfield

In his Fourth of July speech two days earlier at the laying of a new cornerstone for an addition at the Capitol building, Daniel Webster praised the church-going character of the American people:

“I think it is safe to say that a greater portion of the people of the United States attend public worship, decently clad, well behaved, and well seated, than of any other country of the civilized world.”  He could have been describing Evelina as his ideal church goer.  She was undoubtedly well-behaved, nicely dressed and, whatever it means, well-seated.  On the other hand, her husband, Oakes Ames, who chose to wear shabby clothes  and was known for falling asleep in church, was not the image of American godliness that Webster intended to praise.

Evelina did attend meeting today, but only stayed for the morning service.  She had a headache, perhaps the result of hot weather or too much socializing and not enough gardening.  She recovered enough to go to Canton later with Oakes to visit the Kinsley family, a “very pleasant call.”

* W. E. Tucker, The Church Porch, an illustration designed and engraved especially for Godey’s Ladys Books, July 1851


April 24, 1851


1851 Thursday  April 24th  Julia here to finish Susans dresses

She is very slow We have got the waist done

to her Delaine & finished the print dress & cut

the lining to my dress This afternoon called 

at Augustus’ & Mr Whitwell with Mrs Peckham

A[u]gustus returned from New York this morning

and is here again to dine Hannah went to

Alsons while he was gone Pleasant weather


Evelina and Julia Mahoney sewed today, perhaps trying to make up for time lost yesterday. Evelina’s nephew, Augustus, returned to the Ames’s dinner table after a business trip to New York. Meanwhile, his expectant wife, Hannah Lincoln Gilmore, and son Eddie were staying out at the Gilmore farm with his parents, Alson and Henrietta.

Had Augustus run into any abolitionist fervor while in New York?  Probably not as great as in Boston, where controversy continued in the aftermath of the Fugitive Slave Act and the capture and rescue of Shadrach Minkins. While some of the most prominent abolitionists of the day, like William Lloyd Garrison, lived in Boston, the city was nonetheless home to many citizens who were less adamant about the issue.  They might not have liked slavery, but they feared the radicalism of the anti-slavery rhetoric more.  They were law-abiding, and the law said that slaves were property and had to be returned to their owners. Daniel Webster had decreed it, and they supported the law accordingly. The controversy pulled at everyone.

When another escaped slave, Thomas Simms, was caught in Boston, the Mayor of Boston, John P. Bigelow, ordered him sent back south. The aldermen and the police supported the move, and the black population of the city became even more nervous than before, as the poster above illustrates. Have TOP EYE Open!

March 19, 1851



March 19 Wednesday  This morning commenced another

shirt that was cut out last fall & the

sleeves finished & the body nearly ready for the

bosom. Made the bosom & collar and finished

it all off this evening. Mr Ames went to

Boston this morning The snow is not deep but

much banked Augustus here to breakfast & dinner

Orinthia finished the shirt that she worked on yesterday

The last days of winter in Easton appeared calm, with the final snowfall (they hoped) on the ground, nephew Augustus still pulling up a chair to the Ames dinner table, and Evelina and Orinthia sitting near the windows, sewing more men’s shirts. But all wasn’t well in the nation. Since the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act the previous fall, discord over the issue of slavery had increased.  In Boston, where Oakes Ames went today, passions ran high among abolitionists.

What did Oakes and Evelina think of the debate? The Ames men admired Daniel Webster, but the famous Whig senator had helped engineer the political compromise that led to the slave act and been roundly denounced for what many in Massachusetts saw as a sell-out. In the interest of preserving national unity, Webster urged his constituents to obey the federal law. If the story that historian William Chaffin tells is true, Oakes Ames disobeyed it. Writes Chaffin:

“Rev L. B. Bates was once here as Methodist minister.  He says that one night not long after the passage of the infamous Fugitive Slave Law a poor slave called him up at midnight for food and help. Rev. Bates fed him and then took him to Oakes Ames who gave him money and sent him on his way rejoicing.”

Lewis Bates was certainly a respected minister in North Easton, but he wasn’t appointed until 1859, so the timing in his recollection of Oakes Ames assisting a runaway slave close on the heels of the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act doesn’t jibe. Either Bates got it wrong in the telling or, because he was writing the story many decades later, Chaffin got it wrong in the remembering. The whole tale may be apocryphal, but two ministers believed it to be true. Helping a slave would have been in keeping with Oakes’s generous spirit.