February 13, 1852


Fire engine


Feb 13th  Friday  Have been to work on Olivers shirt

that I was intending to finish last week and have not

got it done yet  have scarcely got over my

Boston jaunt.  Carried my sewing into the other

half of the house awhile  Brother Oliver returned

from Boston to night & says the large machine

shop just back of Mr Orrs was burned last night

Mrs Witherell here about two hours this evening

A serious fire happened in Boston, as Oliver Ames Jr. reported when he got home. The family probably read about it in the city newspapers, including The Boston Atlas:

“FIRE. – Firemen Injured. – About 10 o’clock last night a fire was discovered in the upper part of a five story brick building, in the rear of No. 24 Kingston street. The fire broke out upon the upper floor, used for chair painting. The flames spread rapidly, and in a few minutes the roof fell in, pressing portions of the walls over the sides, the falling bricks injuring five firemen who were upon ladders directing the streams upon the fire, two of them very badly indeed. The third story was improved by the “Boston Laundry,” and was burnt out. The second story, occupied as Fox’s machine shop, and the first by Horace Jenkins, mason, were thoroughly drenched with water. The building, a sham built concern, is owned by Willard Sears. The wind was quite high and the weather freezing cold at the time, and the firemen deserve great credit for their well directed and energetic efforts in subduing the devouring elements, – and it is with pain and regret that we have to record injury to so many of their number: – John Smith, of Hydrant No. 2, very severely in the back and shoulders; Christian Karcher, Engine C. No. 1, badly bruised; Abraham Ross and James McCullis, of Hydrant Co. No. 3, bruised. Charles Ricker, of same company, received a severe injury in the back. It was reported that Smith’s and Ricker’s injuries are of a very serious nature. They were all carried into houses nearby, and medical aid procured.”

Then as now, fire was deadly serious.  John Smith died of his injuries three days later, Boston’s first modern fireman to suffer a Line of Duty Death.**

*The Boston Atlas, February 12, 1852

**http://www.bostonfirehistory.org, accessed Feb. 11, 2015

January 30, 1851


Jan 30th  Thursday  Mended Mr Ames pants which

took me most of the forenoon, read some to Mother.

Spent this afternoon at Olivers with mother & Mr

Whitwell.  They sent the carriage for Mrs Whitwell

but it was so cold that she did not come.  Mr Ames

took tea with us & Mr Ames Oliver Jr C Lothrop & 

Helen played cards I commenced a stocking of the yarn

Mrs Foss gave me.  A bitter cold day & quite windy.

A great fire in Taunton

“A verry bad day to go out in,” noted Old Oliver in his journal today.  Eliza Whitwell refused to leave her home several miles away to join the Ames ladies in the afternoon, even though her husband was there.  The carriage – did it belong to Old Oliver, or Oliver Jr, or to the family in general?  Whoever owned it, its likely driver was Michael Burns, an employee of Old Oliver who looked after the horses and carriages.

While Michael drove to and from the parsonage in the howling cold, various family members gathered next door at Oliver and Sarah Lothrop Ames’s house for tea. Oakes and his son Oliver (or possibly his brother Oliver – unclear) played cards – probably whist – with Cyrus Lothrop and Helen Ames.  Cyrus was an unmarried brother of Sarah Lothrop Ames who lived with Sarah and Oliver, Jr. for many years. Helen was their only daughter; their son, Fred, was probably away at Phillips Exeter Academy on this occasion.  Evelina knitted and kept her mother company.

In nearby Taunton, Massachusetts, Evelina reported, the furious wind contributed to a “great fire.”  The histories of that period don’t mention this fire, so perhaps it was not as great as Evelina thought.  That, or it paled in comparison to the larger fires that Taunton suffered in 1838 and 1859.*  Fire, naturally, was the dread of every homeowner and municipality; towns and cities in the 19th century (and before) were pock-marked by periodic burnings, its citizens haunted by the loss of life and property that fires engendered. The fire on this day in Taunton would have been made especially difficult by the frigid air and icy wind.

*Information obtained from Old Colony Historical Society, Taunton, Massachusetts