August 29, 1852

300px-1852_Atlantic_hurricane_season_summary_map

Map of 1852 Hurricane Season, 21st century imagery*

Sunday Aug 29

1852  Has rained powerfully all day  Not one

of the family been to meeting  Mr Ames &

self laid down about twelve and when

we went downstairs found Edwin & wife

among the missing  Made them come back

to tea and spend the night  I have

felt tired & lazy and have read but

very little

The unofficial hurricane season of 1852 opened about ten days before today’s diary entry with a storm now classified as the Great Mobile Hurricane of 1852. According to modern meteorologist Christopher Landsea (great name for a weatherman!)*, the unnamed storm hit the Florida Keys, made landfall near Pascagoula, Mississippi and broke back out into the Atlantic in South Carolina, destroying lighthouses, homes, trees, bridges and crops in its way. It surged northward toward Cape Cod, where it still had enough energy to be felt in New England. Thus could Old Oliver report today that “the wind changed to northeast last night and there was an inch + a half of rain fell and it is a raining this morning and it raind all day + the wind blew hard”**

While this weather event of hemispheric proportions pounded its way across the eastern United States, a quite different vignette unfolded inside the Ames’s home. Eveline writes that the family skipped going to church, naturally, given the weather. She and her husband, from whom she had been absent for ten days or so, went upstairs to their bedroom and lay down – and closed the door, presumably. We can’t know the details, nor should we. But we can be grateful for this rare and tiny glimpse of intimacy between Evelina and Oakes, and smile at the Victorian discretion exercised by Evelina as she recorded the event.

*Information courtesy of Wikipedia, “1852 Atlantic hurricane season,” accessed 8.26.2015

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

August 7, 1852

Wagon

Sat Aug 7th  Was sewing part of the forenoon made

some pies & cake  Went into Olivers about four,

Started to go to Augustus in a waggon and

got caught in a shower turned back at the

school house got completely wet  My sons & Mr Ames

were at tea at Olivers  Edwin & wife Lavinia & Abby

there Catharine & I have done some sewing this week

two nightgowns for self one for Susan & one cotton & 

moire skirt & c &c  Susans waists are finished

 

“[T]he 5, 6 + 7th were pritty warm day[s] + there was some rain,”* wrote Old Oliver in his journal. Evelina was out in that rain and “got completely wet.” Late afternoon showers are part and parcel of August weather in New England. The showers can come up quickly, too, so it’s small wonder that folks moving around the countryside in horse-drawn wagons could get caught in the rain.

While Evelina was getting soaked, her husband Oakes and sons Oakes Angier, Oliver (3) and Frank Morton Ames had tea next door with the Oliver Ames Jr family. How was Oakes Angier feeling, now that he was coughing so much? Perhaps he and his brothers got to hear their cousin Helen play piano again, or perhaps they just ate and conversed. Various Gilmore relatives, including Edwin and Augusta Gilmore, Lavinia Gilmore and Abby Torrey were there as well.  As previously noted, Lavinia and Helen were particularly friendly.

And speaking of friends, fans of Sherlock Holmes might enjoy knowing that August 7, 1852 is the purported birthdate of the fictional Holmes’ steady, tolerant and equally fictional sidekick, Dr. John Watson.

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

 

July 30, 1852

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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 http://www.infoplease.com/spot/bluemoon (accessed July 26, 2015)

 

 

 

July 24, 1852

 

woman-holding-dead-baby-1850-us

Unknown woman holding dead child*

July 24 Sat  have been to work to day on

a number of things setting a stich here 

& there  Julia has been here to fix my

skirt and I believe my dress is done at

last  I have made a robe for Mrs

Shepherds child who died this morning

Abby Savage came after me to watch but

I am not well and did not go.  Rachel came 

to Edwins after Julia & called here and I went

in there an hour or two

 

Dressmaker Julia Mahoney was at Evelina’s finishing up the barege dress that had taken so long to make. The traveling dress was put to one side, as Evelina was called upon to sew a shroud for a two-year old boy who had died just a few hours earlier. John T. Shepherd was the only child of a young shoemaker named John and his even younger wife, Elvira. The toddler was the first youngster that we hear of to die during the hot summer. Unfortunately, there would be others.

Hannah Savage, right in the neighborhood, was ill with consumption and would never get better. Her daughter Abby Savage “came after” Evelina to help keep vigil in the night, but Evelina didn’t feel up to the task. She felt well enough, however, to receive a call from her niece Rachel Gilmore Pool and to visit Edwin and Augusta Pool Gilmore across the street.

Old Oliver sounded another concern about the lack of rain: “it is extreemly dry now.”**

 

*Daguerrotype, 1850

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

July 21, 1852

Thermometer

July 21st Wednesday  Have been at work on my

borage dress  what time I have sewed

The weather is very hot and I can

work but little  Julia & Elizabeth Pool

are at Edwins having some dresses

made by Julia Mahoney  I called 

to see them carried my work and

stoped awhile  Have been to see

Augustus this evening he is quite feverish

 

“This was a verry warm day and the most scorching sun I ever felt […] it was warm all day and the night following verry,” reported Evelina’s father-in-law, Old Oliver Ames. She, herself, was enervated by the heat; she could “work but little.”  She was alone, too, as Julia Mahoney, her usual dressmaker, was across the street at Edwin and Augusta Pool’s. Augusta had two sisters visiting who were having dresses made. Evelina walked over to join them for a time.

Alson Augustus Gilmore,Evelina’s nephew, was having no fun. He had a fever and in the heat must have felt as if he had landed in Hades. He was indoors, presumably, out of the direct sun at least. Old Oliver and his field hands, on the other hand, may have been outdoors haying in the blasting sunlight, the heat rising in waves around them. We can imagine that they stayed hydrated by drinking water ladled from buckets or a nearby well.  No thermoses or bottled Dasani or Fuji or Poland Spring water for them.

July 12, 1852

Furnace

July 12th Monday  Mary & Hannah both washed and I

was about house most of the forenoon 

Have cut the sleeves & skirt to my borage

dress and cut a waist for Susan

Carried my work into Olivers and stopt

some time  Edwin & Augusta rode to the

furnace & carried my pot to Mr Harveys to

get some butter but it was not ready for me

When Edwin and Augusta Gilmore “rode to the furnace,” they probably went south to an area of Easton known as Furnace Village or Easton Furnace. This was one of the oldest areas in town, its early homes today recognized as a National Historic District. First settled around 1715, it was a site for industry in a landscape that was otherwise quite agrarian. Using Mulberry Brook to turn its wheel, a sawmill was established there well before the American Revolution. Later industries included a tannery and a blast furnace for ironmaking, the latter giving the area its name. Historian Edmund Hands notes, “Once Easton Furnace possessed the highest degree of industrialization in town, but that industry never grew large enough to transform Furnace Village the way the Shovel Shop created the urbanized landscape of North Easton.”*

Back in the urbanized landscape to the north of Furnace Village, Evelina’s servants, Hannah Murphy and a woman named Mary, were doing the weekly laundry. Evelina was choring, sewing and waiting for Edwin and Augusta to return with some butter, which they were unable to do.  In the fields around North Easton, Old Oliver and his men were cutting hay. The agrarian life still held sway despite mills, foundries and factories.

*Edmund C. Hands, Easton’s Neighborhoods, 1995, p. 105

July 2, 1852

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Friday July 2d  Sewed on Susans clothes & new strung

her coral necklace then went to transplanting

moss pinks and work untill noon  The gardener

has hoed & weeded my flower garden  This afternoon 

went into school with Mrs Witherell.  Mr Brown & Miss 

Clark have closed  The school appeared well.

After school went into Edwins to tea  Augustus

& wife were there came home & made a boquet of flowers

 

The day was sunny and windy and Evelina took advantage of practically the whole morning to work in her flower beds. She transplanted flowers with relative ease because a hired gardener had “hoed and weeded” everything for her. Wasn’t she lucky! Plus she had blossoms enough at the end of the day to arrange a “boquet” for the house.

Evelina also did some sewing for her daughter. Of particular interest is that Evelina restrung a coral necklace belonging to the girl. Susie was fortunate to own such a necklace; coral was a popular gemstone, and had been for centuries. It was colorful, exotic and could hold a high polish. By this era in fashion, such a necklace was usually sold as part of a set, suggesting that Susie may have owned a pair of coral earrings or a brooch as well. Earrings had increased in popularity as hair styles were lifted off the ears to expose the lobes, but Susie seems a little young to wear a set. Perhaps not. Having jewelry to wear was, obviously, a sign of wealth and status.

Yet Susie was still a schoolgirl, coral necklace or no, and this afternoon, school let out for summer. Susie and her cousin, Emily Witherell, were free of lessons for the time being, and they were probably happy about it. Evelina and Sarah Witherell went to the school, perhaps to get a report from the teachers or simply to acknowledge the occasion with their daughters and bring them home.

 

 

June 28, 1852

Haymaking

1852

Monday June 28th  Have been about the house at

work most of the day  Swept most of the 

house except the parlour.  washed the

front stairs and have the house in pretty

good order  Mrs S Ames came in with her 

work and stoped an hour or two something

unusual for her  Hannah came to spend 

the evening but I had gone into Edwins and

she went in to see Mrs Witherell

 

Either Evelina felt better this morning, or her habit of working simply wouldn’t let her be idle. In the course of the morning, she swept most of the rooms and washed the stairs while her servant – Hannah Murphy, most likely- did the laundry and prepared the midday dinner. In the afternoon, Evelina at last sat down. Sarah Lothrop Ames came over – “something unusual for her” – and they visited and sewed together. Evelina was usually the one who went next door, not the other way around. In the evening, Evelina even felt well enough to go across the street to see Edwin and Augusta Gilmore.

The highlight of the day, however, had to be the commencement of haying. Old Oliver reported that “this was a fair warm day wind south west + verry dry We begun haying to day.”*  The calendar may have indicated that summer had barely begun, but everyone knew that fall and winter lay ahead. That hay would be essential. And now that haymaking had begun, perhaps Old Oliver would be less irritable with his family members.

 

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

June 25, 1852

hand-sewing-color-grown-cotton-pajama-pants-for-a-toddler

1852

June 25 Friday  Worked about house all the forenoon 

but can scarcely tell what I was doing but

know I wasnt idle. This afternoon have

been mending different articles Hannah

mended the stockings.  I hope she is going 

to be a pretty good girl.  Mr Whitwell called

Called at Edwins this evening  Augustus & wife

Edwin & Elisha Andrews gone to Alsons

 

New servant Hannah Murphy was “pretty good” today helping Evelina mend the family stockings. Mending was never Evelina’s favorite duty.  She often put it off, preferring instead to head for the garden or slip next door to chat with one of her sisters-in-law. But what she seemed to prefer most of all was to sew. Cutting cloth for a new dress, or refashioning a waist in an old one, finding just the right trim for her sleeves, or making multiple buttonholes, such was her passion. Evelina loved to sew.

If Evelina had lived today rather than in the 19th century, would sewing still have been her favorite occupation? Freed from her domestic obligations as a 19th century housewife, and no longer in the thrall of the patriarchal laws and mores of the day, what could she have accomplished?  She was so tactile that it’s hard to imagine her abandoning her needle, or not using her hands. Might she have become a textile artist? A craftsperson? Or had a career in fashion?

We know that Evelina was hardworking; as she herself points out, “I wasnt idle.” Whatever career we might imagine for her to excel in, she would have committed to it as surely as she did to her domestic agenda in the 1850s. Yet the fantasy of transporting Evelina to the 21st century ultimately falls flat.  She was too much a creature of her own time and place, as we all tend to be, and not unhappy with her lot in life – even while mending.

 

June 20, 1852

Lemon

Sunday June 20th  Have been to meeting all day Mother

went this afternoon and returned home  Mr Sanger

of Dover preached  Since meeting have been to 

Alsons with Edwin & wife & Oakes Angier.

Called at Mr Pools  Was treated with strawberries

& ice cream at Alsons and with lemonade

at Mr Pools  Frank went to a sing at Cohassett

Father gave me quite a lecture on cooking stoves

says we have had a dozen and we have had four

 

No Mr. Whitwell at church today. Instead, Rev. Ralph Sanger of the First Church of Dover led the service. Dr. Sanger was an older minister in the area, having graduated from Harvard in 1808, a year before Evelina was born. He had spent his entire ministerial life in Dover where he was well regarded. He also served several terms in the Massachusetts Legislature and was the chaplain for the Massachusetts State Senate.

After church came an afternoon of sweet sensations. Strawberries, ice cream and lemonade were served at two different homes where Evelina, Oakes Angier, and the young Gilmore couple called. The fresh fruit was a seasonal treat, and the ice cream and lemonade no doubt delightful as well.

Not all was sweet at home, however. Old Oliver got cross with his daughter-in-law and gave Evelina “quite a lecture” about her cooking stove. She was about to get a new one in her kitchen, certainly with her husband’s approval, but her father-in-law had no patience for it.  He didn’t see the need to update the kitchen equipment. We might remember that Oliver had grown up watching his own mother cook over a hearth, a style of cooking that had served for generations.  And here was his daughter-in-law planning to install another stove under his roof.

Even the little bit of rain that fell around sunrise didn’t cheer Old Oliver up.