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.

June 22, 1851




Sunday 22nd June  Have been to meeting to day Heard two

very good sermons from Mr Whitwell  Mother came

home with us to spend a few days.  Since meeting

mother Mr Ames & myself rode to the ponds and to 

Mr Manlys garden  Mother was delighted with her ride

seemed to enjoy it as much as a child  When we

returned we found Emily sick  She is very much

out of her head  Dr Deans called but did not come in

Went to Mr Horace Pools at noon for strawberries


“Doubtless, God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did,” was a well-known remark about strawberries made in the 17th century by William Butler. Unlike today, when modern agriculture has developed a system that brings us strawberries any time of year, in 1851, the fruit was still strictly seasonal and short-lived. Strawberry season was much looked forward to.

Horace and Abby Pool evidently had a good strawberry patch at their home in south Easton, to which they invited a few fellow parishioners during the intermission at church.  Had the strawberries already been picked, or did folks wander through a strawberry patch in their Sunday finest, a la Emma Woodhouse at Donwell Abbey? Was the fruit served with cream and sugar, or taken home to be eaten later?

The fine day continued after church when Oakes and Evelina took old Mrs. Gilmore for a ride north to see the ponds and visit Edwin Manley’s garden. On a less delightful note, Sarah Witherell’s daughter, Emily Witherell, suddenly took sick. “Out of her head,” Evelina described her, suggesting perhaps that Emily had a high fever. The doctor was called.

March 4, 1851


March 4th  Tuesday  This forenoon finished a shirt for O Angier

Have got some old accounts books from the office

for scrap Books  Have been looking over some old

papers for receipts &c  Sarah came to pass the 

afternoon with Jane  Dr Deans & wife & Mr &

Mrs Whitwell spent the afternoon & evening in the

other part of the house  I was there at tea.

Augustus was here to dine  Pleasant but quite windy

Scrapbooks were a popular phenomenon in the 1800’s, as they had been for some time before. Sometimes called friendship albums, scrapbooks were assembled by individuals, usually ladies.  The books contained personal items as varied as pressed flowers, favorite illustrations cut out of periodicals, sketches or poetry, or special pieces of correspondence.  They were creative keepsakes, the “Pinterest” of the day.

Evelina’s approach to scrapbooking was more pedestrian than imaginative or sentimental. Her scrap books were pasted primarily with “receipts”, or recipes, cut out from newspapers, predecessors to the recipe boxes or similar notebooks that today’s cook might keep handy on a kitchen shelf.  These recipes supplemented, if not surpassed, the cookbooks available on the market by women such as Lydia Maria Child, Catherine Beecher, Sarah Josepha Hale, and Mary Peabody Mann.  With the articles clipped from periodicals, cookbooks and other household guides, a housewife or homesteader had a variety of options to refer to when it came to preserving and preparing food.  Even Old Oliver was known to pay attention to receipts; he hand-copied one for brining beef into his personal journal.

Always thrifty, Evelina used discarded account books or ledgers from the “Counting House” in which to paste her receipts.  She also used an empty ledger – the one illustrated in the photograph above, in fact – for her diary.  Its pages, meant for the posting of debits, credits or other accounting notations, were filled instead with her daily jottings.  Waste not, want not.

After a day of inevitable sewing and the more novel entertainment of working on her scrapbook, plus the company of her nephew Augustus at the dinner table, Evelina went to the other part of the house for tea.  There she joined her sister-in-law Sarah Witherell and their friends William and Eliza Whitwell and Samuel and Hannah Deans.

Dr. Deans and his family lived in Furnace Village, an area of Easton south and west of the Ames’s.  Dr. Deans, originally from Connecticut, had settled in Easton after studying medicine at the New Haven Medical School.  In addition to medicine, he also had “a warm and constant” interest in education, according to William Chaffin.  As a physician, Deans occasionally attended members of the Ames family when they took ill.