October 7, 1852



Oct 7th Thursday  Have been cutting out some shirts

for bosoms.  Catharine Murphy has made

four window curtains for my front chamber

Mrs Witherell Mrs S Ames & self passed the

afternoon & evening at Mr Swains  Mr Ames 

came to tea and Oliver rode down after us and 

stopt awhile Mr & Mrs Meader are there &

Ellen Meader  Augustus wife went to Boston


There was quite a bit of socializing today, prompted in part by good weather. “[T]he 7th was a fair pleasant day + verry warm,” noted Old Oliver Ames. Henry David Thoreau, some 40 miles to Oliver’s north, was more discursive about the sunshine:

I sit on Poplar Hill. It is a warm Indian-summerish afternoon. The sun comes out of clouds, and lights up and warms the whole scene. It is perfect autumn. I see a hundred smokes arising through the yellow elm-tops in the village, where the villagers are preparing for tea. It is the mellowing year. The sunshine harmonizes with the imbrowned and fiery foliage.**

The elm trees such as the ones that Thoreau mentions would also have been seen by Old Oliver. In fact, they would have been seen across the state and beyond. Once upon a time, American Elms were ubiquitous in the United States.They were tall trees with a wine-glass profile and a graceful green canopy. In the 20th century, however, most of them were wiped out by Dutch Elm disease. The existence of “Elm Streets” in communities around the country attests to the fact that elms were once as common as maples or pines. As Thoreau suggests, many a small town lived under their shade.

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

**Henry David Thoreau, Journal, courtesy of http://hdt.typepad.com/henrys_blog



November 13, 1851



Thursday Nov 13th  Have been cleaning the draws in

the beaureaus and have papered the closet beside

the fire place and painted some boxes &c

Ellen Meader […] has been making Susan a visit

this afternoon  The Stoughton band have been

in the neighborhood this evening. They marched 

and played up as far as the house and back to the

school house.  Went to Mr Swains and had coffee &c &c

Mr Ames has been to Boston

Stoughton, Massachusetts, has a wonderful musical legacy, most famously the Old Stoughton Musical Society, a choral group that has been active since 1786. Known in its first hundred-twenty years simply as the Stoughton Musical Society, some of its members referred to it as the “Grand Club”*. When it celebrated its centennial in 1886, Lt. Governor Oliver Ames and Governor George D. Robinson were two notable attendees at a celebratory concert. Oliver (3) was very fond of music; he even took singing lessons in his youth. He must have enjoyed the musical evening.

The long and revered history of the Old Stoughton Musical Society sheds no light on the existence of a Stoughton marching band, however. Evelina’s entry may be the only known mention – at least to date – of such a band.  On this day in 1851 it marched and played instruments through the village of North Easton, presumably after the factory had closed for the day. Why did it stop at the Ames’s house? What was the occasion? Surely the music it played was a welcome change from the usual clanging and hammering that emanated from the shovel shop.

Other than this pleasant interlude, Evelina’s day was ordinary.  While her daughter Susie had a friend over, Evelina cleaned, papered and painted.  Later in the day – perhaps as she accompanied little Ellen Meader home – she had “coffee &c &c” at the home of Ann and John H. Swain.  Oakes Ames spent the day in Boston.


Mary Swan Jones, The One Hundredth Anniversary Celebration, 1886



November 12, 1851



Wedns Nov 12th  Painted the closets in the sitting

room chamber which with other things has taken

me most of the day.  Susan has passed the 

afternoon at Mr Swains  Mr Whitwell called

this afternoon. I felt very sorry to stop my work as

I was very much engaged at the time  Have not

sewed at all to day  This evening have felt too much



According to Old Oliver, “this was a fair cold day wind north west. the factory pond was frozen over this morning”  It was a good day to stay indoors, which Evelina did.  She still hadn’t completed all the refurbishments on the house, so she spent the day painting the shelves in the closet in the sitting room; the shelves in the parlor were already finished.  By evening, she was “too fatigued” even to sew.

Daughter Susie spent the day at the home of Ann and John Swain, perhaps playing with Ann’s niece, Ellen Meader.  Reverend William Whitwell braved the north west wind and paid a call on Evelina.  Much as she liked him and admired his Sunday sermons, she was less than pleased to set aside her painting for his visit.

And “the factory pond” – probably Shovel Shop Pond – had skim ice, at least, all the way across it.  What did that do to shovel production?  How did the dams, flumes, and wheels work when the water began to ice up?


*Photo courtesy of Kenneth Aisawa, http://www.theboundsofcognition.blogspot.com

November 9, 1851



Sunday Nov 9th  Did not go to meeting to day on account of

Bridgets being sick.  Expected Mr Ames home at noon to carry

me this afternoon but he went off electioneering and 

forgot all about it.  This evening have been to Mrs

Swains with Mr Ames & Susan  Her nurse is there

and her brothers wife and daughter of about Susans

age  Mr & Mrs Meader returned home about a week since


Not only did Oakes Ames stop in Canton for a Whig meeting on Saturday, but he spent Sunday afternoon “electioneering” and forgot to go home at noon to take Evelina to church for the afternoon service.  In personal terms, this was not an auspicious beginning to his political career, but it was certainly indicative of the wholeheartedness and zeal with which he approached politics.  If Oakes and Evelina had, in fact, reached an understanding about his getting into politics – about which we can only conjecture – we have to wonder if that understanding had already been violated.  Yet Evelina’s diary is not particularly dispirited; she writes matter-of-factly and without obvious annoyance.  Perhaps she already understood and forgave her husband’s capacity for preoccupation.

After missing church in the morning because of a sick servant and in the afternoon because of an absent-minded husband, Evelina must have been pleased at last to go out in the evening. She, Oakes and their daughter Susie paid a call on Ann and John Swain, a younger couple who were relatively new in town.  New parents, their infant son was being tended by a nurse, while two relatives, the last remainders of a crowd who had arrived to tend at the birth, were still visiting.  Ellen Meader, a little girl about Susie’s age, was there with her mother, Sarah Bliss Meader, wife of Ann Swain’s brother, Reuben Meader.