June 14, 1851

Evelina Gilmore Ames

Evelina Gilmore Ames

June 14 Saturday

This is my birth day and it is very pleasant

weather.  Worked in the garden awhile in the

morning then baked in the brick oven.  Made

brown bread sponge & cup cake pies &c.

This afternoon have been to North Bridgewater

and paid Howard & Clark 16 dollars for bed

stead & lounge 50 cts for Castors.  Emily gave

me a box & Harriett a pr of Elastics

 

The diarist herself celebrated a birthday today, number 42.  She was born in 1809 on a farm in the southeastern quadrant of Easton, not far from the Raynham town line.  She was the seventh of eight children. Her parents, Joshua and Hannah Lothrop Gilmore, named her Evelina Orville after the heroine of Fanny Burney’s popular novel, Evelina, or the History of a Young Lady’s Entrance Into the World. In the book, pretty, fictional Evelina, after various comic travails, wins the heart of handsome, rich Lord Orville; did the real Evelina’s parents hope for similar material success for their youngest daughter?

In birth order, Evelina’s brothers and sisters were John, Arza, Daniel, Alson, Hannah, Rhoda, and Joshua Jr.  By the time Evelina reached 40, only John and Alson, and their mother, were still living. Evelina’s siblings carried mostly family names, meaning that Evelina’s name was a departure. Her grandson, Winthrop Ames, noted in 1937 that “Evelina, in its later form of Evelyn, has been a favorite female first name since Evelina Orville Ames first introduced it into the family when she married Oakes Ames in 1827.”*

As a eighteen-year old bride, Evelina moved to North Easton, right into the Ames homestead, a portion of which had been made over to accommodate the newlyweds. Still living at home at that point were most of her siblings-in-law: Oliver Jr., William Leonard, Sarah Angier Ames (aged 13 and, obviously, not yet married to Nathaniel Witherell), John Ames and Harriett Ames (who was only eight years old.) What a full dinner table they must have had!

The next quarter century flew by, as the years do, full of arrivals and departures.  Her children came into the world, even as family members on both sides departed it.  Only now, it seems, did Evelina lift her head from the home-making tasks that were always at her elbow to consider ways to fill the rare discretionary time that began to open up to her.  Flower gardening became one pleasant elective; writing in a diary was possibly another.

 

 

*Winthrop Ames, The Ames Family, 1937

January 27, 1851

Read

Jan 27th Monday.  As usual this morning have been washing dishes

and working about house all the forenoon.  could not sit

with mother at all.  It was cloudy and looked like rain

but Jane ventured to put her clothes out to night  They

are nearly dry.  This afternoon & evening have finished

Susans gingham apron.  Sarah W came in awhile this

evening and the boys have been reading.  After school

Susan went to see Mary Ann Randall.  Cloudy

Another Monday, meaning that Evelina did the housework while Jane McHanna tackled the laundry.  Evelina was too busy “choring,” as she often called it, to sit down in the morning and sew or read with her mother, Hannah Gilmore, who was visiting for the week.  The women sewed together in the afternoon, however, after the midday meal, and in the evening, they enjoyed a visit from Sarah Witherell.  Oakes was most likely over in the office; he and his brother Oliver Jr. often worked there in the evenings after tea.

The boys were around, of course.  The shovel factory closed at 6 P. M. whereupon Oakes Angier, Oliver (3) and Frank Morton walked home. There were no dances on a Monday night, so after tea, they amused themselves by reading.  All three boys read, yet Oliver (3) was reckoned to be the most scholarly.  Even as a child he enjoyed reading and, with Oakes Angier, began to collect books. Years later, a colleague would say of Oliver that “in the company of books he found an absorbing pleasure.”*

On this winter night, everyone indulged in the papers or books, reading by the light of various oil lamps.  Evelina was no doubt eagerly turning the pages of David Copperfield, perhaps reading aloud to her mother whose aging eyesight may have precluded the pastime.  Hannah Gilmore loved to read.   In fact, she had named Evelina after the heroine of a book popular in her youth: Evelina; Or the History of a Young Lady’s  Entrance into the World.  This comic novel by British author Fanny Burney came out in 1778, and continued to find an appreciative audience in both Britain and America.   Evelina had probably read it at some point, if only to see how Evelina Anville captivated Lord Orville.

*Memorial Volume for Governor Oliver Ames, ca. 1896