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


September 21, 1852


Tuesday Sept 21st  Have been almost sick to day and

not able to do much  Got a quilt into the

new chamber for Catharine to work upon

Went to the funeral of Mrs Savage at

one Oclock.  Called with Mrs Witherell at

Augustus,  Mr Swains & on Mrs Wales.  She

is confined to her bet yet and has been for weeks

It appears to have been Evelina’s turn to be ill, as she describes herself as unable “to do much.”  We readers know how hard she usually worked, so not doing much might mean that she only accomplished four or five tasks today instead of a dozen. Despite feeling “almost sick,” Evelina managed to arrange sewing for her servant Catharine, attend the funeral of Hannah Savage and, with her sister-in-law, Sarah Ames Witherell, call on several households in the village. It’s hard to know if Evelina was spreading germs or picking them up as she went along, but she meant well.

According to Old Oliver Ames, “this was a fair day + pritty warm wind northerly,”* in other words a pleasant day to be out and about. Yet, in two of the homes that Evelina and Sarah visited, people were ailing. At the Swains’, their infant son was teething and fussy. At the home of Ephraim and Maria Wales, the latter was “confined to her bed yet,” an expression which hints at a recent or impending childbirth. Mrs. Wales was of childbearing age, yet census records show no children for this young couple. Perhaps Maria would lose or had lost an infant, or was simply ill with any one of a myriad of possible ailments.

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

July 30, 1852


July 30th  Friday  Came home from Dr Wales at half

past four and slept untill half past

eight left her quite comfortable

Have cut out another sack night dress

and Susan a waist  Alson & Lavinia Edwin

and wife were here to tea  Mr & Mrs Kinsley

called just at night for a few moments.  We

all went into the other part of the house for

ice cream this evening   Horatio here to dine

When Evelina came home at 4:30 in the morning, was the moon still up? Did she realize that this night would offer the second full moon of the month, familiarly known as a blue moon? She would be able to see it, too, as the skies were clear.

We use the term blue moon to identify a second full moon within a calendar month.  An earlier definition – one that may have been in effect when Evelina could gaze at the night sky – was that of being the third full moon within a season that has four full moons. So say various almanacs. Tracking the lunar cycle to define the passage of time has gone on as far back as human history can record. The Christian ecclesiastical calendar, for one, is built around moon phases. According to one modern source,

Some years have an extra full moon—13 instead of 12. Since the identity of the moons was important in the ecclesiastical calendar (the Paschal Moon, for example, used to be crucial for determining the date of Easter), a year with a 13th moon skewed the calendar, since there were names for only 12 moons. By identifying the extra, 13th moon as a blue moon, the ecclesiastical calendar was able to stay on track.”*

The terrestrial events of Evelina’s day included sewing (of course), her nephew Horatio Jr as a guest at lunch, company for tea and, as a special treat at the end of the day, ice cream. Despite her lack of sleep, a pleasant day overall.

*Courtesy of (accessed July 26, 2015)




July 29, 1852


Thursday July 29th  Julia has been here again

to day worked for me untill about

three and cut Mary a dress  Mrs G

Ames Mrs S Ames Helen Emily & self

have passed the afternoon at Mr B

Algers coming home  Dr Wales stoped

the carriage & asked me to go there and watch with his wife

Evelina and her dressmaker sewed for hours today, presumably working on Evelina’s new traveling outfit but also cutting out a dress for the maid, Mary. In the late afternoon, Evelina joined the visiting Almira Ames, sister-in-law Sarah Lothrop Ames and two nieces, Helen Angier Ames and Sarah Emily Witherell at the home of the Algers in Easton.

Ephraim Wales, a young doctor in town, evidently crossed paths with Evelina as she, and probably some of the other ladies, traveled home after their call on the Algers. Dr. Wales wanted Evelina to watch with his wife, Maria. Maria must have been ill or possibly even in labor.  Subsequent records don’t reveal why a doctor wanted Evelina to tend to his wife. But it does seem that Evelina was becoming the go-to care-giver in various homes. She was clearly generous with her time, and her bedside skills must have been excellent.

November 22, 1851


Sat Nov 22d  Another busy day I have had.  Jane

is better than she was yesterday but is not 

able to do much.  Did not rise untill after

breakfast.  Michaels sister came to night

has gone to meeting this evening   Jane was

quite smart talking this evening with them

I have had the offer of another girl.  She is

coming to work Monday & stay a few days


Evelina had lacked the full support of her servant Jane McHanna for much of this month. The thirty-six year-old servant had been away for five days and sick for seven. Evelina wasn’t happy to be doing most of the housework and all of the cooking and baking. With Thanksgiving less than a week away, she was feeling stressed.  She planned to get “another girl” to come in to help.

Evelina never described the nature of Jane’s illness but she did care enough about her servant to have brought in Dr. Wales.  She had allowed Jane to rest as needed, too, but she couldn’t help but notice that Jane seemed lively enough when her friends, Michael O’Beirne (also known as Michael Burns) and his sister came by to see her. Was Jane taking more time to recuperate than she needed? The relationship between the two women must have been strained by this point.


November 21, 1851


Friday Nov 21st  Jane has not been able to do any thing

to day has had Dr Wales.  I have heat the

brick oven twice made Apple & mince pies

& brown bread  Mr Clarke has taken the 

box & sink from the little porch.

Mrs Witherell has been baking and she

made my bed & Susans for which I feel

quite mortified  And assisted about the dishes.

Jane McHanna, the Ames’s servant, really was ill. Dr. Ephraim Wales called at the house to examine her. A young doctor, he was the son and grandson of doctors, also named Ephraim. Beyond that, we don’t know much about him. He and his wife, Maria, were listed in both the 1850 and the 1855 census, yet he drew no mention in the detailed chapter on physicians in William Chaffin’s History of Easton, Massachusetts. Perhaps they moved away before 1886, when Chaffin published his tome.

In 1851, Ephraim and Maria may have lived in the village; by 1855, they appear to have moved out to the country and settled near the Gilmore farm.  Regardless of his home address, on this particular day Dr. Wales braved some wet weather to visit Jane. Old Oliver described the day as ” a verry rainy day wind North east – East + south East the wind blew quite hard there was about 3 inches of rain fell. it raisd the two resevors 13 inches each.”

Evelina and her sister-in-law, Sarah Ames Witherell, stayed indoors and baked. With Jane sidelined, Evelina was once again doing the cooking and the housework, too busy to sew. Sarah must have felt sorry for Evelina, for she slipped away from the baking and made the beds for Evelina while the latter was coping in the kitchen, then came downstairs and helped with the dishes. Sarah, a widow who kept house for her father, was always looking after others.

November 8, 1851


Sat Nov 8th  Jane is still in Mansfield and Bridget

sick consequently I have to do the housework and

I have scarcely sat down for one moment  Alson

came up with a load of vegitables and Hannah

called and I left my work while they stopped

Mrs Witherell came home this evening and I have been

in there  Mr Ames went to Boston stopt at Canton to a

whig meeting.  Oakes & Frank brought him home.

Not only was the dependable Jane McHanna away, but the Ames’s second servant, Bridget O’Neil, was sick.  Dr. Ephraim Wales had checked in on Bridget the previous evening but she was still laying low.  Evelina, capable if disinclined, was faced with doing her own housework. She spent most of the day choring, as she called it.

Her brother, Alson Gilmore, drove a wagon up from the Gilmore family farm to deliver a “load of vegitables” to the Ameses. His daughter-in-law, Hannah Lincoln Gilmore, who lived right in the village, came to call and for those visits, Evelina paused to chat.  Once they left, however, she must have plunged into sorting and storing the vegetables that Alson had brought. By this time of year, they would most likely have been root vegetables such as turnips, parsnips, carrots and potatoes. She would have stored them somewhere cool, dry and varmint-free: the cellar, if it wasn’t too wet, or the buttery or even the shed. Sharp-eyed housewife that she was, Evelina would have made sure everything was put away safely.

Oakes Ames, meanwhile, went to Boston as usual on this Saturday, but also “stopt at Canton to a whig meeting.”  The following Monday was Election Day and the party faithfuls were gathering in anticipation. This is the first mention in Evelina’s diary of Oakes’s participation in local politics. Their son, Oakes Angier, had shown interest earlier in the year, running unsuccessfully for the Easton school superintending committee, and attending the Whig convention in Springfield.  But her husband’s interest, although it had probably existed prior to this moment, had not drawn comment. Evelina mentions the meeting most likely because of the impending vote, but the statement coming so close on the heels of an undisclosed agreement she and Oakes had made only one week earlier gives creedence to the possibility that their agreement had something to do with Oakes’s waxing interest in politics.

November 7, 1851



Friday Nov 7th  Mr Bartlett left in the stage this morning

and George & Mrs Witherell went to Boston I have made

13 lbs Quince preserve 4 lbs jelly and a lot of marmalade

and painted my leaf for the table and it has

kept me busy all day.  Jane went to Mansfield

yesterday with Mrs H & Ames. Bridget is here yet

was taken with a bad pain in her stomach this

evening & sent for her husband & Dr Wales

Mr. Bartlett of Maine departed the house this morning, and Sarah Ames Witherell rode into Boston with her fourteen-year old son, George Oliver Witherell. Her guests, too, had departed, and she was free to go into town.

Without assistance from servants Jane McHanna, who was away, or Bridget O’Neil, who was sick, Evelina stood over her stove today turning at least a peck of quinces into preserves, jelly and marmalade. The store of fruit would be an important addition to the Ames’s dinner table over the winter.  A period recipe for making quince preserves, from The Young Housekeeper’s Friend; Or, A Guide to Domestic Economy and Comfort reminds us of the challenges 19th century cooks faced when preserving food:

“Weigh a pound of best sugar for a pound of fruit, pared and cored.  Boil the fruit in water until it becomes so soft that care is necessary in taking it out. Drain the pieces a little as you take them from the water, and lay them into a jar […] Stone jars will do very well, but if glass is used, it is easy to see whether fermentation commences, without opening them.  Quinces done in this way are very elegant, about the color of oranges, and probably will not need scalding to keep them as long as you wish.  If any tendency to fermentation appears, as may be the case by the following May or June, set the jar (if it is in stone) into the oven after bread has been baked, and the quince will become a beautiful light red, and will keep almost any length of time.” *

Quince is a fruit that we Americans don’t see much of in the 21st century, but it was commonly used in the 19th.  A poor eating fruit, too sour to consume raw, it was high in pectin and kept well, once cooked.  In fact, quince was one of the earliest fruits to be made into marmalade; the word marmalade derives from marmelo, the Portuguese word for quince.**


Mrs. Cornelius, The Young Housekeeper’s Friend; Or, A Guide to Domestic Economy and Comfort, New York, 1845.

** “Quince,” Wikipedia, November 5, 2014



June 18, 1851

Black ticking-stripe-15

June 18th Wednesday  Worked again untill nine in the 

garden and then made the tick for the 

mattress.  This afternoon put the cotton in 

and tied it  Bridget was here a couple

of hours & picked over the curled hair

Towards evening called at Mr E Carrs, Dr Wales

and on Mrs J C Williams at Mr Torreys, Mrs S. Ames

called with me  Augustus gone to Boston

Mr Bartlett spent

last night here

Evelina was making progress on the mattress for her new lounge.  She “made the tick” for the cover and stuffed it with old cotton.  The final cover, to be made of horsehair, was still being worked on. Bridget O’Neil, a servant who usually worked next door, came over to help Evelina with the project.

The long-lasting light of day, as the calendar approached summer solstice, allowed for late socializing. Evelina and her sister-in-law, Sarah Lothrop Ames, went out calling.  They visited Esek Carr and, presumably, his wife, Ann; called on young Dr. Ephraim Wales and, again presumably, his wife Maria; and stopped at John Torrey’s to see Mrs. Joshua C. Williams.  Mrs. Williams, we might infer, was a boarder or renter at Col. Torrey’s apartment building, which Evelina called a tenement. Was Mrs. Williams possibly a widow?

A Mr. Bartlett had spent the night with the family.  He was from Maine, so likely had some connection to the shovel works and their ongoing need of wooden handles.