May 8, 1852



Saturday May 8th  Mrs Witherell has finished working

my Delaine sleeves and I have put them in

and have finished the dress which I think

is about time.  I sit with George for Mrs Witherell

to lay down this afternoon  He is very sick and 

suffers very much.  Mr Manly brought me some

more plants & I paid him 1,58 cts.  Oliver &

Brown returned this morning

George Witherell, fourteen years old,  was ill with rheumatic fever. In the age before antibiotics, the “rheumatics,” as Evelina called it, was a serious illness. It was a complication of strep throat, which George must have had three or four weeks earlier. Its symptoms, many of which George manifested, were fever; a flat rash; involuntary twitching in the hands, feet and face; painful, tender and swollen joints; chest pain; palpitations and fatigue. As Evelina noted, George suffered a great deal, for rheumatic fever was extremely uncomfortable and unsettling. It was also often fatal.

Sarah Ames Witherell had been nursing her son for several days now.  She took a rest in the afternoon and let Evelina sit with George.  All the family was helping, although George wasn’t the only sick child. Helen Angier Ames next door was down, too, with a somewhat mysterious ailment in her face. Family members were worried about both young people.

Despite the concern everyone must have been feeling, normal routines in this season of planting had to be adhered to. Old Oliver reported that “we began to plow the hill back of the shovel shop pond to day.”



May 5, 1852


Wednesday May 5th  Worked about house & got my sleeves for Delaine ready

for Mrs Witherell to work  The sewing circle met

at Mrs Nahum Pools.  Mrs S Ames gone to Boston

George quite sick with the rheumatics Augusta gone

to N Bridgewater and so poor I should have had to

go alone.  Preferred to stay at home  Mr Peckham +

family all at Mr Swains.  called to see them & after they

left Mr & Mrs Swain went with me to Edwins garden got

two Gladiolus bulbs.  A beautiful pleasant day

The Sewing Circle met today at the home of Nahum and Lidia Pool, but Evelina didn’t attend. Her usual companions from the village were otherwise occupied, and “poor” she didn’t want to go by herself. She stayed home, or at least she stayed in North Easton. She parcelled out some sewing to her sister-in-law, Sarah Witherell, to work on, and headed out. Perhaps Sarah sat and sewed near her son George, who was “quite sick.”

The day was beautiful, and Evelina seemed to be in fine spirits despite missing the sewing circle, or perhaps because of missing it. She went to see John and Ann Swain and there encountered the Peckham family, who had moved away from North Easton the previous year. They must have been back for a visit.  When they left, Evelina and the Swains went up to the garden of Edwin Manley and bought two Gladiolus bulbs.

April 26, 1852


Ragged robin

Monday April 26

1852  Was about house and to work about the

garden all the forenoon  Mr Manly brought

me a Japan Quince Syringa P Lilac Compfre

Ragged robbin Cowslip Fleur de Luce &c  charged

90 cts.  Went this afternoon to Alsons with

Augustus & wife & her sister.  Came home

quite early and set out some plants that

I got there

Edwin Manley, Easton’s resident green thumb, brought Evelina her lilac bush this morning, along with a quince tree, some comfrey, ragged robin, cowslip and “fleur de luce,” which probably was Evelina’s spelling for fleur-de-lis, also known as  iris.  For less than a dollar, she acquired flora that promised to add fragrance and color to her garden. Later in the day she got more plants – for free, most likely – from her brother Alson Gilmore.

The countryside itself was still wanting in color at this mid-spring juncture, something Evelina and her fellow passengers might have noticed on their way to and from the Gilmore farm. Henry David Thoreau wrote about the pale fields and expectant woods in his journal on this date: “The landscape wears a subdued tone, quite soothing to the feelings; no glaring colors.”* Perhaps Evelina’s rush to add more vibrant colors to her yard would have jarred his sensibility.

Even with all the gardening, the day’s housework went on as usual with dusting, sweeping, dishes and laundry. Evelina and Jane McHanna both worked at various tasks, while Thoreau – not that many miles away – responded otherwise:  “It is a dull, rain dropping and threatening afternoon, inclining to drowsiness. I feel as if I could go to sleep under a hedge.”*

The two diarists reacted differently to the awakening pulse of spring.


**Henry David Thoreau, Journal

April 5, 1852




April 5th Monday  Went into the garden this morning and

found my tulips were coming up through the coal

scraped it off and set out a few that I got in

Olivers garden.  Went with Orinthia to Edwin

Manlys garden about three Oclock. he had gone

to Mr Clapps.  We rode there and met him on

the way stoped awhile and had a chat on plants

in general  The school commenced this morning

by Mr Brown & C Clark

Tulips! How welcome was the sight of the curl of green shoots “coming up through the coal.”

Forget the laundry.  Never mind the sweeping and dusting. Someone else could do the breakfast dishes. Without so much as a glance at her sewing workbox or the pile of mending, Evelina was in her garden.

She scraped the coal covering away and “set out a few” more plants. After midday dinner, she and Orinthia headed to Edwin Manley’s nursery north of the village only to find that Mr. Manley had himself headed out to look at plants at the home of Lucius Clapp in Stoughton. The two women rode on and finally came across Mr. Manly en route. With carriage and on horseback, the three avid gardeners paused in the roadway and “had a chat about plants.” Spring had truly begun.

September 6, 1851


Sat Sept 6th  Alson brought Mrs Stevens before we

were up this morning left his carriage here

while he went to Boston.  We went into Olivers

& passed the afternoon with Mrs Latham & Mrs W & Mrs

Mitchell I called on Mrs Peckham while the others

went to Mr Manly’s garden  Mr Ames brought home

some cuff pins for Alsons wife & Mrs Stevens

Evelina was probably pleased today to lapse back into a sociable, summer agenda.  Family friend Mrs. Stevens arrived at dawn, it would seem, delivered by Evelina’s brother Alson Gilmore on his way into Boston. The two women later went next door to call on Sarah Lothrop Ames and were joined by sisters-in-law Sarah Ames Witherell and Harriett Ames Mitchell and the former’s houseguest, Mrs. Latham.  Chat, chat, chat.

As they had done occasionally throughout the summer, many of the women went up to look at the flowers in Edwin Manley’s garden. The blooms they saw would be among the last for this year.  Evelina eschewed that walk (or ride) and went instead to call on Susan Peckham, wife of John Peckham, clerk for the shovel company.  The Peckhams were about to move, so perhaps Evelina went to see what help she could be, or to say goodbye. Susan Peckham must have been packing things up, a chore that would have made Evelina, who was lately familiar with the bustle of departure, feel right at home.

Oakes Ames spent the day in Boston, as he did almost every Saturday.  He went on business for the shovel company, often returning with orders or payments.  Just as often, he carried out particular errands for his wife.  Yet it’s not clear whether she or he or both, perhaps, suggested the purchase of cuff pins (perhaps what we call cuff links) for Mrs. Stevens and Henrietta Williams Gilmore.  Both women had birthdays around this time.

August 29, 1851


Friday Aug 29th  Alson & Mr Hall came early this

morning and were here to dinner & tea, brought Pauline

with them  Have been mending for Oliver getting his

clothes ready for school  Went with Pauline to Edwins

garden he has not many pretty flowers in blossom has

some fine Dahlias  got 5 lbs of butter at Mr Marshalls

after we came back went into Olivers to hear Pauline

play.  George & wife & Sarah gone to her fathers

The day after Clinton Lothrop’s funeral, Sarah Lothrop Ames, her brother George Van Ness Lothrop and his wife Almira spent the day, at least, at the Lothrop farm with their parents, Howard and Sally Lothrop. They would have had to make long-term plans for the property, now that Clinton wouldn’t be there to tend the family farm.

Alson Gilmore, Evelina’s brother, took his meals at the Ames’s today.  He was working nearby, perhaps with Mr. Hall, helping his son, Edwin Williams Gilmore, build a house. They were putting in the cellar.  Pauline Dean, who must have been staying with or near the Gilmores, returned for a visit. She probably got roped into helping Evelina with the mending.

Evelina had a lot of mending to do, as Oliver (3) was preparing to go off to school.  Like his cousin Fred Ames, he was going to attend an Ivy League college, but in Providence, not Cambridge.  Oliver (3) would be going to Brown, and his mother had to get his clothes ready. Shirt fronts, collars and hose weren’t her only business today, however.  She and Pauline took a break from domesticity and went to Edwin Manley’s to see his garden. There they saw “some fine dahlias.”

Dahlias, which had been introduced in the United States early in the 1800s, had quickly became popular, although not yet listed in Joseph Breck’s Book of Flowers. So successful were they that over the course of the century more than 10,000 varieties were developed or identified and sold. Today, dahlias are still much admired by flower gardeners, yet less than a dozen of those 19th century heirloom examples still exist in cultivation.* The earliest known, White Aster (above) dates from 1879.


July 13, 1851


July 13 Sunday  We all went to church this forenoon

but my company did not wish to go this

afternoon and I staid with them

About 4 Oclock had a very heavy shower of

rain & hail which prevented us from going to Mr

Manlys garden as we intended.  Oakes A carried

Orinthia home & stoped awhile at Dr Swans

Mrs S Ames & Mrs Mitchell & Witherell called


After noting yesterday’s accommodating weather, Old Oliver made a very different report today:

“it was fair to day but rather cool wind north west untill about 5, O,clock when there was a smart shower and a considerable quantity of hail but it was not large enough to do much damage. there was some thunder the hail cut the corn leves in strings – and at Daniel Wheatons and in Taunton it broke a good deal of glass”

Damage to the corn crop was no small matter, although Old Oliver seemed to make light of it.

Evelina, meanwhile, along with Oakes and their sons had to entertain the young houseguests, Melinda and Caleb Norris and Julianne and Benjamin Harris, once they all came home from church. The expedition to Edwin Manley’s garden, a regular and favorite destination for guests, was cancelled because of the bad weather. Instead, the company must have sat inside and listened to the pelting hail.

Eventually, the weather passed and some family members ventured forth.  Oakes Angier carried Orinthia Foss back to the Elijah Howard house, where she was boarding, and stopped to visit Dr. Swan and his two daughters, presumably, on his way home.  Evelina’s sisters-in-law came to call, and tea was likely served to a crowd.

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.

June 16, 1851



June 16th Monday  Worked about the house awhile

Boiled some curled hair (for the matress

for my lounge) that belonged to the sewing

circle, formerly the pulpit cushion.  Edwin

Manly brought me 5 dahlias and Miss Foss

sent me 20 dahlia slips  This afternoon 

have been fixing the cotton for the matress

have put it in some old cloth

Evelina undertook to fashion a horsehair cushion for the new lounge she just bought in North Bridgewater.  Horsehair was a popular and relatively inexpensive material, so it’s small wonder that Evelina chose it.  That the cloth was “recycled,” to use a word she wouldn’t have recognized, from an old pulpit cushion by way of the Sewing Circle made it all the more attractive. How old that horsehair must have been!

The material may have been cheap, but it would be a bear to cover the new mattress, or cushion, with it. She had to boil it, presumably to both soften and clean it, shape it and sew it onto a cotton covering. She was planning to use some old cotton, too, for the cushion. The work would take several days, but Evelina never minded long or complicated projects when it came to sewing.

Meanwhile, she had 25 dahlias to plant in her garden.

June 15, 1851


June 15 Sunday  Have been to meeting all day.

At noon went with Alsons wife & Rachel to

Mr William Reeds had a very pleasant call

Since meeting walked with Mr Ames & Susan 

up to the fly away pond and home by

Edwin Manlys to see his flowers  he has 

fine plants in blossom, among others the

Fraxinella  It sprinkled some and we called

at Mr Peckhams & saw Mrs Washburn

The weather over the past week was so mild that, despite the occasional sprinkle, folks were outdoors as much as possible. Evelina made all kinds of social calls today.

At the intermission between services, she went calling with a sister-in-law from the Gilmore side of the family: Henrietta Hall Gilmore, wife of Alson.  Henrietta was Alson’s second wife, his first having died young, and mother of six of his seven children, including Lavinia, of whom we have seen much this past spring. With Henrietta was someone named Rachel, who was possibly Henrietta’s daughter or another niece with the same name. The ladies called at the home of William and Abigail Reed.  Mr. Reed, older than Evelina by a generation, was a former teacher at Milton Academy and a graduate of Harvard’s Divinity School, although he never settled in a particular parish.  An acting Justice of the Peace, Mr. Reed was well known and well liked.

This afternoon after church, Evelina, Oakes and their daughter walked the road to Fly Away Pond and on to Edwin Manley’s garden.  There the Fraxinella, also known as Burning Bush, caught Evelina’s eye.  More for her garden?





* Fraxinella,