November 9, 1852

Peasant_Spreading_Manure_1854_55

Jean Francois Millet, Peasant Spreading Manure, 1854-1855**

Tuesday Nov 9th  Have been to work all day again

with my quinces have made over a bushel

into marmalade jelly &c  I am tired & sick

of quince and I dont believe I shall

ever make so much again  Catharine

has sewed but very little.

Fed up with cooking, Evelina seems to have lost her temper in the kitchen. Since late summer she had boiled one pot or another of peaches, apples, barberries, and now quince. She had had enough, “tired and sick” of too much time stirring something on the stove. It’s unclear why she didn’t let the servant Catharine do the stirring and she do the sewing, but so it was.

Besides putting up preserves, other preparations for winter were underway. Old Oliver noted that “we began to git out oure manure to day.”* This means that the stalls in the barn and the leavings in the barnyard were being mucked out and carted off.  The manure was collected to go onto the fields and garden plots. It was either piled up for later or placed around immediately to help nourish the soil for the next growing season. This was a regular fall task in agrarian societies all over the world; witness the illustration above of a mid-19th century French peasant spreading manure on a field.

Even more important than these domestic efforts, however, was the news that the men had “started the enjoin”* at the shovel shop. A new manufacturing era had begun. No longer would water power be the only source of energy for the production of shovels.

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

**Collection of North Carolina Museum of Art

September 27, 1852

 

ohIsesowicked

“Oh! I’se So Wicked”

Sheet Music from George Aiken’s Theatre Production of Uncle Tom’s Cabin

featuring Caroline Fox Howard as Topsy

Monday Sept 27th We have done some washing to day and

some housecleaning  I have been to work

about house most of the time  The gardener

has taken up the plants and I washed 

the pots and brought them into the dining

room  Carried my sewing into Edwins

this morning  Augusta is getting quite smart

The weather is delightful

Laundry, choring, and gardening were on Evelina’s agenda this Monday. A gardener – perhaps an extra hand from the shovel shop – was putting the garden to bed. Under Evelina’s direction, no doubt, he dug up particular plants for her to pot and bring indoors. Her perennials, of course, would winter outside, but other plants – herbs among them, most likely – she would try to winter-over in her dining room, which must have been sunny and warm. What practiced forethought Evelina was using to prepare for winter on such a “delightful” September day.

Back on April 6, we saw Evelina and her daughter sewing indoors out of the way of a heavy spring snow storm. They and a friend passed the time reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a brand new novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe. The book was a phenomenal success, selling not only hundreds of thousands of copies in its first year, but becoming the best-selling book of the 19th century, after the Bible. The book’s popularity spawned a host of imitations, rebuttals, and theatrical interpretations. Modern historian David Reynolds has noted that, over time, Uncle Tom’s Cabin’s  “cultural power resulted not only from the novel but also from its many spin-offs – particularly plays, songs and films – that swayed millions who never read the novel.”*

On this very date, in fact, the first theatrical production of Beecher’s story premiered in Troy, New York (later to move to Albany and New York City.) Produced by George L. Aikens, the show Uncle Tom’s Cabin highlighted dramatic moments from the novel and added tableaux and musical numbers. Like other productions that would follow, the story was somewhat reinterpreted.  Aiken “slightly revised”* the plot, dispensing with some characters and inventing others, but kept the essential story line in tact. “Religion, thrills, comedy: the crowd-pleasing elements were all there.”*

The religious component of the story (and, in the north, the anti-slavery message) was enough of a draw to make theatre-going almost respectable, and drew many to the theatre who had never gone before. The play also offered its audience, for the very first time, a single-feature program rather than the variety fare that was usually staged. “The play appealed to audiences of all backgrounds and ages. Horace Greeley, William Lloyd Garrison, the young Mark Twain, and the even younger Henry James were among those who were deeply stirred by the play.”  Competitive versions soon sprung up, including one produced by P. T. Barnum. For decades before and after the Civil War, the story of Uncle Tom and Eliza was everywhere.

 

*David S. Reynolds, Mightier Than the Sword: Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the Battle for America, New York, 2011

 

August 12, 1852.

Sow Thursday Aug 12th  I have been very busy and have not

written in this book for a number of days and

have made a mistake  Yesterday it rained and

prevented our going to Boston and it was last

night that Oakes  A bled and prevented our

going to day  Mrs Dorr returned to Boston

this morning  I have been very busy fixing work

for Catharine

Evelina was rattled. She usually kept pretty good track of her days, but this week she was delinquent and confused. She jumbled her activities around. In all probability, she was upset about Oakes Angier’s illness. He had been coughing up blood for a couple of weeks, at least, and wasn’t getting any better. The worry and fatigue was getting to her.

Outside the sickroom, the day was pleasant. The wind was “southerly + pritty warm,” allowing Old Oliver’s crew of outdoor men to sow “grass seed + turnips on one half of the Peckham lott this day.”* Life of the farm and, presumably, at the factory were proceeding as normal. But it wouldn’t have felt normal to Evelina and others. Their lives were threatened by a sinister possibility.

Easton readers and local historians, where was the Peckham lot?

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

July 26, 1852

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Monday July 26th  Hannah & Mary washed and I

have been sewing most of the day but have

a head ache  Have engaged to watch with

Mrs Savage, but do not feel like sitting 

up all night  We have had a rainy

day which was very much needed and

I hope it will make my garden look

better

“[I]t was cloudy this morning wind south east and it raind during the day half an inch or more,” reported daily chronicler Oliver Ames. He had been looking for rain all summer and hadn’t seen enough of it. Today’s rain was most welcome; parlor gardens would be perkier and vegetable patches here and there would be improved.  Evelina hoped her garden would “look better.”

What was blooming in Evelina’s garden at this time of year? So many flowers had gone by by this point in the summer, having peaked between May and early July, yet perennials like Black-eyed Susans and Coneflowers would be in full presentation. If Evelina had geraniums, or other annuals, they too might still be stretching toward the sun – and grateful for the day’s rain. The fact that Evelina was able to gather a “boquet” to take to a friend at church the day before proves that flowers were alive and well in her garden.

Evelina, unfortunately, wasn’t feeling at the top of her game. Nonetheless, she agreed to sit up over night with her ailing neighbor, Hannah Savage. Perhaps Evelina was conscious that her acute headache couldn’t compare with Mrs. Savage’s ongoing battle with tuberculosis. Evelina would get over her ailment but Hannah would die from hers.

July 25, 1852

 

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Massapoag Pond

July 25th  Have been to meeting and at intermission

went into Mrs John Howards with Mother

Had a very pleasant call met a number 

of ladies carried Miss Jarvis a boquet

of flowers  After meeting rode to Mashpog 

pond with Mr Ames & Susan.  Came home

through Sharon & went by Col Tisdales

a very pleasant ride but feel much fatigued

 

Evelina had a “very pleasant” time at church today. She carried some flowers from her garden with her and gave them to a friend, Miss Jarvis, at intermission. She was worn out by the end of the day, however, because after church, she, her husband, and daughter drove up to Massapoag Pond in Sharon. The day was sunny and warm and the drive along the woods may have been pleasant, especially as they drew near the water. There were old iron works in the area; perhaps they were what interested Oakes in the outing.

On the way home, the threesome drove by the home of the late Col. Israel Tisdale. Frank Mennino, curator at the Easton Historical Society, tells us that:

“The Tisdale family was well known in the area from colonial days, once operating an inn on Bay Road. Later, the family built two farmhouses and ran a large farm on Mountain Road. One of the houses was the house that Oakes and Blanche [Ames] stayed in while Borderland was being built, and was lived in for many years by the Manning and Kent families. It burned in the early 1980’s after being empty for some time. Mountain Road was ‘party central’ back then.”

Oakes, Evelina and Susie did no partying as they ventured home, but they did have “a very pleasant ride,” nonetheless.

 

July 2, 1852

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Friday July 2d  Sewed on Susans clothes & new strung

her coral necklace then went to transplanting

moss pinks and work untill noon  The gardener

has hoed & weeded my flower garden  This afternoon 

went into school with Mrs Witherell.  Mr Brown & Miss 

Clark have closed  The school appeared well.

After school went into Edwins to tea  Augustus

& wife were there came home & made a boquet of flowers

 

The day was sunny and windy and Evelina took advantage of practically the whole morning to work in her flower beds. She transplanted flowers with relative ease because a hired gardener had “hoed and weeded” everything for her. Wasn’t she lucky! Plus she had blossoms enough at the end of the day to arrange a “boquet” for the house.

Evelina also did some sewing for her daughter. Of particular interest is that Evelina restrung a coral necklace belonging to the girl. Susie was fortunate to own such a necklace; coral was a popular gemstone, and had been for centuries. It was colorful, exotic and could hold a high polish. By this era in fashion, such a necklace was usually sold as part of a set, suggesting that Susie may have owned a pair of coral earrings or a brooch as well. Earrings had increased in popularity as hair styles were lifted off the ears to expose the lobes, but Susie seems a little young to wear a set. Perhaps not. Having jewelry to wear was, obviously, a sign of wealth and status.

Yet Susie was still a schoolgirl, coral necklace or no, and this afternoon, school let out for summer. Susie and her cousin, Emily Witherell, were free of lessons for the time being, and they were probably happy about it. Evelina and Sarah Witherell went to the school, perhaps to get a report from the teachers or simply to acknowledge the occasion with their daughters and bring them home.

 

 

July 1, 1852

 

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Thursday July 1st  Transplanted some in the garden

this morning but there came up a shower

and put a stop to it  I then went to

mending on some of Susans clothes  Susan

was quite sick last night and not well

enough to go to school to day.  This afternoon 

Mrs Witherell S Ames A Ames rode to make calls

found all the ladies that we were to call on at Mr E Howards

 

In Washington, D. C., Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky became the first person ever to lie in state in the Capitol rotunda.  A giant in his day, he had served in the House of Representatives, the Senate, and as Secretary of State. He was the man who had created the Whig Party and aspired to the presidency, who always spoke passionately for the Union and was willing to compromise to preserve it. As he himself noted in a speech in 1844, “It has been my invariable role to do all for the Union. If any man wants the key of my heart, let him take the key of the Union, and that is the key to my heart…”* He had dedicated his life to public service and the country thanked him.

The next such person to lie in state in the rotunda would be Abraham Lincoln.

Less august (but no less meaningful to Evelina) events transpired in North Easton today. Evelina, Almira Ames, Sarah Ames and Sarah Witherell “rode to make calls.” This activity marks the first time that Sarah Witherell had ventured out socially since the death of her son, George, six weeks earlier.

Old Oliver made note of the rain that had interrupted Evelina’s early morning work in the garden: “It raind a little last night + there was a little rain this forenoon it was a warm day + cloudy most of the time.”**

*Henry Clay, from 1844 speech, as quoted in “Henry Clay,” by Robert V. Rimini, New York, 1991

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