November 14, 1852


Sunday Nov 14  Went to church all day

Mother Augustus wife & self went

to Mr Whitwells at noon  she gave

us a cup of tea cake &c &c  Oakes A

Orinthia & Lavinia rode to see Ellen Howard

John & Rachel spent the day at Edwins

I called there with Orinthia and at Mr



Evelina and her family were very sociable this Sunday at intermission and after church. But today’s entry is most notable because it’s the last one in which Evelina mentions Orinthia Foss (at least for the diaries we have.) Orinthia was a twenty-year-old schoolteacher from Maine who boarded with the Ames family for a time in 1851. She and Evelina got to be great  – and sometimes mischievous – friends despite their age difference. After Orinthia moved to Bridgewater to teach, the friendship faded. Yet the two women remained companionable on those occasions like today when their paths crossed.

Orinthia would not remain in Massachusetts much longer, although we don’t know for certain when she returned to Maine. We do know that by the end of the decade, she had married a widower named Dana Goff, a railroad conductor living in Farmington, Maine. With that marriage, she gained a teenage stepdaughter, Julia, and soon became a mother of her own two boys, Herbert Dana and Ralph. Like other mothers before her, she had the sorrow of losing Herbert Dana at an early age, but was able to raise Ralph. Around 1880, the Goffs moved to Auburn where Mr. Goff became a real estate agent.

By 1910, Orinthia was a widow living with her younger sister, Florida (or Flora) Foss Hill in Auburn. She died in Newcastle, Maine, of heart disease, when she was 84. She is buried in the Goff family plot in Auburn, Maine.

May 23, 1852


Sunday May 23d  Mr Rogers of Canton preached to day

I did not like him any better than Mr Whitwell

Alson Mother & Helen came home with us

at noon.  Oakes A carried Miss Foss to the 

sing and home  Ellen H & Rebecca White went

with them  Mr Ames & self made a long call

at Mr Swains  Mr Rogers made a short call

as he was going to church

Robert P. Rogers, the Unitarian pastor from Canton, led the service in Easton today, presumably switching places with the regular minister, William Whitwell, as the clergy often did in those days. Rogers was only twenty-seven or twenty-eight years old; his post in Canton was his very first.  As yet unmarried, and certainly younger and less seasoned than Mr. Whitwell, Rogers did not impress Evelina. He paid her the compliment of making “a short call” before church, but she was partial to the Whitwells.

Young Mr. Rogers would soon leave Canton for a pulpit in Gloucester where he would serve as minister for the remainder of his ministerial life.  He must have done well there, or they wouldn’t have kept him around for so long. Decades later, however, Mr. Rogers would return to Canton to live out his last days.

Between and after today’s services, folks were moving around town quite a bit. Old Oliver noted that it was “some cloudy” but also “pritty warm,” so it was pleasant to visit.  The dry roadbeds, though dusty, would have been relatively smooth. Evelina brought her brother and mother home after the morning service, Oakes Angier carried three young women to a sing after church, and Evelina and Oakes went over to see John and Ann Swain in the late afternoon. Everyone socialized.


October 2, 1851





Oct 2d Thursday  Helped Ellen quilt some this forenoon 

She seems to do pretty well at it

Mrs Elijah & Ellen Howard & Mrs Abba Leach

spend the day and evening in the other part

of the house  I was there at tea.  Oliver &

wife have been to her fathers  Mr Ames has been

to Boston   Lavinia Williams came in the stage

with him but he did not speak to her

Evelina and her servant, Ellen, worked on the new quilt this morning .  Evelina had set the quilt up in the sitting room using a frame that could be dismantled and stored. The frame would have had four wooden legs at the corners, such as those in the illustration above.  Long boards around which the quilt edge was wrapped would have been fastened into the corners, creating an adjustable rectangle on which the women could work.  When finished the pieces of wood would be stowed away until needed again.

In the other part of the house, Sarah Witherell welcomed Nancy Howard, her daughter Ellen Howard, and Mrs. Abba Leach for the day. The women made a social visit that lasted all day and into the evening. Did they bring any needlework or sewing with them, or was conversation the only occupation? Evelina dropped in for tea, but Sarah Lothrop Ames from next door didn’t join them. She and her husband Oliver Jr were calling on her parents, the Hon. Howard Lothrop and his wife Sally. The Lothrop family may still have been wrestling over how to manage the family farm since the death of Clinton Lothrop, Sarah’s younger brother.

From Boston, where he was probably collecting orders for shovels, Oakes Ames returned home on the stagecoach where he sat with an acquaintance of Evelina, Lavinia Williams.  Mrs. Williams was the wife of Cyrus Williams, a local farmer of some means. Evelina seemed surprised that Oakes and Lavinia didn’t converse en route.

Even as Evelina was looking back at the day’s small social exchanges, she was beginning to feel unwell, something she wouldn’t report for another few entries.




August 10, 1851




Aug 10th Sunday  As usual have been to church to day

Mr Whitwell preached.  Went to the

methodist meeting house to a sing at 5 Oclock

got sick of it and went home at recess.

Oakes A Oliver & Helen Ames went with Orinthia to the

sing and carried her home.  Frank went from 

the sing and carried Ellen H & Louisa Swan to 


Her sons clearly enjoyed music, but Evelina’s appreciation was perhaps not up to theirs, if her reaction to today’s musical gathering is any indication. That, or the singing wasn’t very good.  She “got sick of” the sing at the meeting house and left when she could. Perhaps she was just ready to be at home at the end of a long, hot Sunday and already anticipated the choring and sewing ahead of her tomorrow. She may have had a good book waiting for her.

Oakes Angier, Oliver (3) and Frank Morton were regular attendees at the sings; they enjoyed the music.  They also enjoyed the company of a circle of friends who attended the sessions, including Ellen Howard and Louisa Swan. Frank Morton was the son who drove Ellen and Louisa home, while Oakes Angier and Oliver (3), along with their cousin Helen Angier Ames, drove Orinthia back to the Howard house.

Ellen Howard was the tenth of Elijah Howard’s twelve children (by three wives.) Small wonder that the Howards were willing to board Orinthia Foss for a time; Nancy Howard was quite used to setting many places at what must have been a capacious dining room table. Ellen Howard ended up marrying George Withington, a Unitarian minister who came to town about this time. He ultimately left the ministry and served for many years as Easton’s town clerk.

Louisa Swan was the daughter of Dr. Caleb Swan, who had eleven children by his three wives. Louisa never married; she eventually left Easton for Vermont, where she lived with her sister Ruth who was married to U. S. Senator Justin S. Morrill.

* Currier & Ives,The Morning Ride,”  1859

May 14, 1851


Evelina, Oakes and Susan Ames, ca. 1860 Archives at Stonehill College, Easton, Massachusetts

Evelina, Oakes and Susan Ames, ca. 1860
Archives at Stonehill College, Easton, Massachusetts

Wednesday May 14  Susans birth day and she has had a little

party.  Julia has been here to work on Orinthias

dresses.  Ellen Howard called this evening

came from Jasons. Mrs Holmes called a 

few moments this morning.  I have swept

and dusted the front chamber and taken the 

carpet from the stairs and painted them It

has been a confused day. Pleasant this afternoon

Augustus gone to Boston


Another interruptious day, filled by “confused” and overlapping events: Susie Ames’s birthday party, Julia Mahoney’s work on dresses for Orinthia Foss, calls from Ellen Howard and Harriet Holmes, the usual choring in the downstairs rooms, not to mention Evelina’s removing the carpet from the stairs and painting the treads. What commotion.

Susan Eveline Ames, the only daughter and youngest child of Evelina and Oakes Ames, turned nine years old today and was treated to a little party. Did she have friends over or was the party strictly en famille? Did she have cake? Ginger snaps? Presents? What was a nine-year-old’s birthday party like in 1851?

Born in 1842, Susie Ames came along several years after all her big brothers were born. From the beginning, she was raised differently from them. While they were slated to work, earn and provide, her education and training were oriented toward a future of domestic responsibilities. Like most girls of the time, she was brought up assuming that she would marry and raise a family. If she failed to marry, she would have to make her way as a spinster aunt living with one or more of her brothers, or become a schoolteacher like Orinthia Foss. Which route was hers?  Marriage.

On January 1, 1861, Susan married Henry W. French, a wool merchant. She was 18 years old; he was 27. For many years, the couple lived in the Ames house with her parents, and possibly looked after the house during the periods when congressman Oakes and Evelina were in Washington. For a time, Susan and Henry lived in their own home on Main Street, on the site where the Oakes Ames Memorial Hall came to be built circa 1880.

As Evelina moved into widowhood and grappled with illness and age, Susan looked after her. She and Henry never had any children, so the particulars of her story weren’t passed on to interested offspring. She only comes to life in her mother and brother Oliver’s journals.





March 6, 1851


March 6th  Thursday.  This morning Orinthia cleaned the sitting room

and I sat down to work quite Early on Mr Ames shirt

and finished it about ten Oclock  I then went to

mending some old shirts & colars &c  Sarah Witherell

brought me the fourth bosom that she has stiched for

me.  Jane went to Mrs Willis to get her dress  Miss Foss

and myself called to see Mr Guild about the school & on

Ellen Howard  A[u]gustus here to dine  Morning pleasant  storm at night

More men’s shirts.  If we’re getting tired of reading about them, imagine how tired Evelina must have been sewing them – and she had many more to go. She evidently had a method to her sewing, in that she worked on the same kind of clothing in succession until she had finished.  She didn’t make just one shirt for her boys or husband, she made several in a row.  She didn’t just make one apron for her daughter, she made three or four in a row.  Perhaps the cutting of the fabric and the arrangement of the pattern components were made easier when addressed as multiples.  The economy of cloth-cutting trumped the tedium of repetition.

Leaving the shirt bosoms and collars behind, Evelina went out with Orinthia Foss in the afternoon.  They paid a call on a Mr. Guild on a school-related matter, showing that Evelina continued to be involved with some aspect of the private school.  It was unusual for a married woman to be so active in this way.

Their second call was on Ellen Howard, daughter of Nancy (Johnson) Howard and Elijah Howard.  Mr. Howard was a sometime business partner of the Ames men and a prominent citizen of Easton.  Mrs. Howard was his third wife, he having buried his first two.  He had twelve children, of whom seven were with Nancy; Ellen was in the latter group.  In 1851, Ellen was seventeen, the same age as Frank Morton Ames, and she often socialized with the Ames sons.  In introducing Orinthia to Ellen, Evelina was perhaps hoping the two young women might become friends.  In the future, Orinthia would board with the Howards.  In Ellen’s future, in 1860, she would marry George Withington, a young minister who came to town to replace the departed William Whitwell.

The fine weather that allowed Evelina and Orinthia to travel around town disappeared by evening and ushered in a storm.  Such variability was to be expected this time of year.  It was March, after all.