November 30, 1852


Hanover Street, Boston, ca. 1872*

Tuesday Nov 30th  Oakes A Oliver & self went to

Boston to the Webster funeral.  Called at

Mr Orrs & Melinda went with me to see Selina

Selina & self saw the procession from A A Gilmores

room in Hanover St. We called on Pauline

and on Mrs Dorr  Spent the evening at

Mr Butlers his mother brother & sister there


After a false start the day before, Evelina rode into Boston today – she and thousands of others, evidently. The city was hosting an official memorial service for Daniel Webster, the great senator who had passed away a month earlier. It was “a fair good day for the season”* so Evelina, Oakes Angier, and Oliver (3) had easy traveling.

Senator Webster was eulogized at Faneuil Hall, with a prayer led by Reverend Samuel Kirkland Lothrop, the pastor of Brattle Street Church in Boston, and the main oration delivered by George Stillman Hillard. Hillard, an admirer of the late Webster, was a senator in the Massachusetts Legislature. Harvard-educated, he had been a law partner of Charles Sumner, had edited – for a time – the Unitarian publication, Christian Register, and eventually would became the first dean of Boston University Law School. He was well known for his oratory.

Hillard spoke at length about Daniel Webster, his speech published and distributed afterwards. Many in the nation were still feeling the loss of the great senator, whether or not they had agreed with him.  President Millard Fillmore, who was about to send his final State of the Union Address to Congress, included a brief lament of the man:

Within a few weeks the public mind has been deeply affected by the death of Daniel Webster, filling at his decease the office of Secretary of State. His associates in the executive government have sincerely sympathized with his family and the public generally on this mournful occasion. His commanding talents, his great political and professional eminence, his well-tried patriotism, and his long and faithful services in the most important public trusts have caused his death to be lamented throughout the country and have earned for him a lasting place in our history.***

Evelina and her sons didn’t attend today’s service, but they did observe the procession along Hanover Street, which is now part of the North End.

*Image courtesy of Boston Public LIbrary

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

***Millard Fillmore, State of the Union Address, Dec. 6, 1852, courtesy of

December 20, 1851

unnamed Dec 20 Saturday  Have been very busy all day working

on different articles  Mended some clothes

for Frank, the stockings and mended the

places that were cut & bound the end of

some pieces of carpeting Jane finished the 

second robin that she has made for Frank

Mr Ames brought home some marble rubber

and lining & ribbon for Susans bonnet   ”


[T]his was a fair day and not verry cold” was the weather report from Old Oliver Ames. It was a normal Saturday at the Ames’s house in all respects. Evelina mended clothes, darned socks and repaired some carpeting.  Jane McHanna sewed, too, having recovered from an acute indisposition caused by coal the day before. She finished a “robin” (which one reader suggests was a kind of tough work pants) for Frank Morton Ames, Evelina’s youngest son.

Oakes Ames went into Boston, as usual, for a weekly check-in with shovel customers, after which he went shopping for his wife. From a list Evelina must have given him, he made his way along Washington Street and around Faneiul Hall, probably knowing just which shop to go to for such-and-such ribbon or a well-priced bolt of flannel. He returned to North Easton laden with parcels wrapped in paper and tied with string.

December 14, 1851


Benjamin Seaver

Mayor of Boston, 1852 – 1854

Sunday 14 Dec  Have not been to meeting to day on

account of my cough.  Jane went to meeting 

at eight Oclock got breakfast before she went.

I have been writing and reading

Mr Swain & wife have spent the evening here

Mr Swains brother has been there a week or two

I have not seen him  The babe grows very 

fast and is a great wonder

In an unusual occurrence for a Sunday in New England in the 19th century, an election – or an announcement of the results of an election – was held on this day.  A new mayor, Benjamin Seaver, was elected to govern the City of Boston, a post he would hold through 1853. He was a Whig, one of that dying breed whose successful election surely gave the Ames men a lonely branch to cling to in the swirling flood of new political parties.

According to modern historian Jim Vrabel, Seaver won with 3,300 votes and defeated Dr. Jerome Smith and Adam Thaxter. (Only men voted in the election, of course.) Seaver was noteworthy for his interest in erecting a public library for the city. During his administration, a committee would be formed, plans (some already in the works) developed, a first librarian hired, and private funding obtained for the project.

At the same time that Seaver came in, “the entire Board of Aldermen” were voted out, “reportedly for refusing Daniel Webster” – a hometown favorite – ” use of Faneuil Hall because an abolitionist group had earlier been denied its use.”* Webster had advocated for passage of the Fugitive Slave Act, something for which abolitionists never forgave him. Just goes to show that the issue of slavery informed all levels of political intercourse in this decade before the Civil War.

On the home front, besotted new parents Ann and John Swain spent the evening with Evelina and Oakes, talking about their son.  Evelina seemed smitten, too, writing that the baby boy was “a great wonder.” Like the new mayor and the Board of Aldermen, however, she and that baby’s parents couldn’t know what sorrow lay ahead.


Jim Vrabel, When in Boston, Boston, p. 157

May 21, 1851



May 21

Wednesday  This day have been to Boston and had a hard days

work but accomplished very little  Had a green silk

bonnet made for me which fitted […] no better than the

other that I sent back. Mr Remick paid back the four

dollars and I was glad to get off so well after all my 

trouble.  Spent most of the time with Sarah [and] Oliver in

looking for her things.  Bought me a pair of cuff pins

Called at Martin Halls store about some sugar

The search for the perfect bonnet continued today. It was back to Boston, to Alfred Remick & Co. to pick up a bonnet that Evelina had ordered – green silk this time instead of blue plaid – and it still didn’t fit. She had left the instructions up to her husband, Oakes.  Had he gotten it wrong or was the milliner once again at fault? So much for “all my trouble.”

Like yesterday’s diary entry, the tone of this one is self-deprecatory, even grumpy. Gone is the light-hearted pleasure she had expressed earlier in the month when gadding about buying plants for the garden in the company of Orinthia Foss or her nieces. Evelina couldn’t seem to get things to go her way. Her inability to find a bonnet was proving irksome, and the best she could manage was to tag along with her sister-in-law, Sarah Ames, and brother-in-law, Oliver Ames Jr., while they did some shopping. She did buy a pair of cuff pins, however, which was consolation of a sort.

While they were at Faneuil Hall, Evelina purchased or ordered or, at the very least, inquired about some sugar from a grocer there. Faneuil Hall was – and is – a prominent, historic building in Boston. In the middle of the 19th century, it featured a spreading marketplace, called Market Square, where merchants such as Martin Hall sold their wares.  Upstairs there was a large hall for civic gatherings. The illustration above, by Winslow Homer, shows Faneuil Hall in 1861, at the very start of the Civil War, ten years after Evelina bought sugar there. The image of a regiment of Massachusetts volunteers famously marching off to Washington was published in Harper’s Weekly, a periodical to which Evelina and Oakes subscribed.