June 19, 1852

manx40rimwh

 

A “Visite”

Sat June 19th  Have been weeding in the garden and

transplanting   Spent the afternoon in 

Olivers with Mother  Mrs Witherell & Augusta

were there awhile  Finished Susans visite

quite late in the evening  It has not been

much of a job to make if I could have sat

down steady

Evelina worked in her garden today, weeding and moving some of her plants around. After midday dinner, she and her mother, who was visiting, “spent the afternoon” next door “in Olivers,” meaning at Sarah Lothrop Ames’s. In citing Oliver rather than Sarah as the owner of the house, Evelina was only following the norm of the time, whose patriarchal laws prevented women from owning property. Sarah and Evelina lived in homes that belonged solely to the males in the family.

Old Oliver, Ames patriarch above all the rest, reported that “this was a fair day wind southerly + quite warm we have bought two yoke of cattle this weeke one yoke of N Warrin of Stoughton, 6 years old for $110 and one yoke of Thomas Ames 9 or 10 years old for $100.” He was probably buying cattle to help with the approaching hay harvest.

Once indoors, perhaps even after others had gone to bed, Evelina finished a mantle for her daughter Susie. Also known as a visite or paletot or pardessus, a mantel (or mantilla, as Evelina labeled it the previous day) was a three-quarter length cloak with pagoda or cape-like sleeves. It was often adorned with lace, ruching, and especially fringe, which was very big about this time. Many visites were unlined, which no doubt simplified the process of making them. That may be why Evelina thought the garment had “not been much of a job.”

 

 

June 18, 1852

servants

 

 

June 18 Friday Have to be around with the new girl

to show her which hinders a great deal about

my sewing  Mrs Holmes & Richardson came this morning

to get some plants and I worked a long while

in the garden and did not sew but very little 

before dinner  Abby & Miss Gurney passed

the afternoon here and carried home plants

 

It’s hard to tell if Hannah Murphy or Catharine Middleton, both new to the household, is “the new girl” whom Evelina accuses of hindering her sewing. After firing Jane McHanna, Evelina had to train someone new, a process for which she evidently had limited patience. She would have preferred to be working on her own projects; such was one consequence of letting Jane go.

The plus side was that Evelina had the opportunity to establish expectations and guidelines for the new servants. If she would take the time to train them, she might get excellent help around the house. She certainly hoped that the new girls would work out better than Jane had.

If the continued hot weather didn’t help her mood, at least it didn’t keep Evelina out of her flower beds. Her garden had seemed neglected of late, but the plants were growing just fine and she had many to give away. Her niece Abby Torrey and a friend, Miss Gurney, visited for a few hours and went home with a few flowers, as did Mrs. Holmes and Mrs. Richardson earlier in the day.

May 18, 1852

Dianthus.2474433_std

Pinks

 

1852 Tuesday 18 May  Have accomplished but a very little work

to day  Made a long call in Olivers & the other

part of the house talking over my visit yesterday

Set out some pink slips &c that I got there

About three started for N Bridgewater met

Alson & wife turned about and came back

Spent the rest of the afternoon at Edwins.  called

at Augustus,  her sister Elizabeth there

The visit to the Kinsley family that Evelina had made the day before lingered in her mind. She talked about it with both sisters-in-law, no doubt describing the family, the conversation, and the twelve pots of flowers she got to bring home. Was she bragging or sharing? Were Sarah Ames and Sarah Witherell interested or only tolerant? The Kinsleys were well-to-do, prominent citizens of Canton, so one suspects that both sisters-in-law had some curiosity about them. Yet it had only been a week since George Witherell had died, so Sarah Witherell may have had limited attention for Evelina’s gadding about.

After her “long call” with her relatives, Evelina spent time in her garden planting “some pink slips &c” that she got in Canton.  Pinks are bright little flowers that we know better as carnations and more formally as dianthus.  The name comes from the “pinked” or serrated edge of the petals, as if trimmed with pinking shears. Pinks are a traditional flower for a cottage garden; botanist Joseph Breck declared that “There is no flower more desirable in the flower-garden that the Carnation. A well-grown, superior variety, cannot be surpassed, in elegance, beauty, or odor, by any other flower.”*

The pretty little flowers in Evelina’s garden must have brightened up the yard of a home whose occupants needed cheering up.

 

Joseph Breck, The Flower Garden or Breck’s Book of Flowers, Boston, 1851, p. 111

 

May 17, 1852

180px-Beekman_greenhouse

Mid-19th century American Greenhouse*

1852

Monday May 17  Finished planting my flower seeds

Mr Blodget here to dine from Boston

This afternoon have been to Mr Kinsley with

Mr Ames.  Miss Nevill there from Salisbury.

Brought home twelve pots of flowers from

their green house.  The grapes & flowers look

finely  Had a very pleasant visit got home

about dark

Evelina enjoyed herself today. It was lovely outside, for “the sun shined about half the day + was pritty warm wind west + south west.”** She gardened for much of the morning and in the afternoon, rode with her husband, Oakes, to Canton to call on the Kinsley family.

Lyman and Louisa Kinsley, whom we’ve heard of before in Evelina’s diary, were about the same age as Oakes and Evelina. They had two children, Lucy Adelaide and Edgar Lyman, who were twelve years apart, suggesting that there may have been other children born between the two. Lucy was close in age to Oakes Angier, and Edgar was a year or so younger than Susie.

The Kinsleys were prosperous; Mr. Kinsley ran an iron business that had been started by his father and had long supplied material for Ames shovels. The Kinsley Iron and Machine Company would eventually be bought by the Ameses and managed by Frank Morton Ames. That being some years in the future, the Ameses could sit and admire the Kinsley place with little thought of acquisition – perhaps. Certainly, Evelina was much taken with the Kinsley greenhouse and the “twelve pots of flowers” she got to take home.

Greenhouses such as Mr. Kinsley’s were becoming more popular in the mid-19th century, particularly in England after the government there did away with the heavy tax on window glass. Hothouses had been known previously on this size of the Atlantic, also, appearing in the colonies as early as 1737, when wealthy Bostonian Andrew Faneuil built one. George Washington, too, had one built at Mt. Vernon to grow pineapple. Greenhouses would increase in size, status, and grandeur as the century progressed. Easton would see its share when the next generation of wealthy men reached maturity. Frederick Lothrop Ames, Edwin Williams Gilmore and probably others would raise orchids and more in the glass-walled wonders.

*Greenhouse from Beekman Estate in Manhattan, circa 1850

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

May 16, 1852

lclapp-1

1852

Sunday 16th May Mr Whitwell preached a funeral sermon

and very good  At noon mother Henrietta

and self spent at Mr Whitwells  After meeting

Mr Ames Susan & I rode to Mr Clapps made

quite a long call  he has but a very few 

flowers in blossom, pansys were very pretty

Have engaged a trellis of him

The last formal recognition of the death of fourteen year old George Witherell took place in the Unitarian church this Sunday when the minister “preached a funeral sermon.”  Different from the ritual text that probably defined the graveside service just three days earlier, the sermon was presumably a collection of thoughts about death in general and the death of the young man in particular.  Reverend Whitwell knew the family well and, being an articulate and thoughtful wordsmith, must have offered the family some personal comfort and consolation.

Evelina appeared to be recovering her strength. With her husband and daughter, she rode to Stoughton after church to visit Lucius Clapp, where they made “quite a long call.” Evelina discussed flowers and a trellis. Was this trellis ordered in place of the one at the front door that was being built only ten days earlier?  Or was this a new trellis entirely, designed perhaps for the garden?  Was this the year of the trellis?

One imagines that Oakes Ames offered less direction about the trellis than his wife.  What he might have preferred to discuss with Lucius Clapp was their shared interest in the Whig party, or their mutual respect for temperance.  According to one nineteenth century historian, Mr. Clapp was a “kind-hearted”* man with a “modest and retiring nature.”* His politics were informed and liberal:

Formerly a Whig, Mr. Clapp has been identified with the most progressive political creeds. He was one of the original Free Soilers, and chairman of the first Free-Soil meeting held in Stoughton. Since its organization he has supported the Republican party. He has been [a] member of school committees several years, and selectman of Stoughton seven years, and now (1883) holds that position. He has always been pronounced in advocacy of temperance, and has been connected with every movement for the betterment and advancement of his native town. He is an attendant and supporter of the Methodist Episcopal Church.”*

Mr. Clapp and Mr. Ames would have had much to talk over.

 

*D. Hamilton Hurd, History of Norfolk County, Massachusetts, 1884, pp. 424-425

May 15, 1852

IMG_0156_1

May 1852

Saturday 15th  Have been mending a lot of stockings

that have bee[n] put by for a week or two  Spend

too much time in the garden  Gave Mrs Gilmore

Augusta & Abby some plants & flower seeds

Abby stoped a couple of hours  Gave Susan a bath

and took one myself and the afternoon thus passed

Spent the evening   Helen is much better she has

had a sorry time of it  Quite pleasant

 

Today was “cloudy all day but a little warmer,”* according to Old Oliver. The bath water that Evelina and her daughter Susie used was in no danger of freezing, as it had earlier in the year when Oakes had planned to bathe but forgot and left the the water to freeze in the pail.  The water in the pail should have been poured into a tub not unlike the one in the illustration above, copper-lined, claw-footed, and rimmed in oak.  That Evelina mentioned taking a bath suggests that bathing was not a regular event; personal hygiene operated under a different set of standards in the 19th century.

The baths, taken in the Ames’s indoor bathing room, probably felt quite relaxing, even therapeutic after the stress and grief of the week gone by. For Evelina, even just mending the hose that had sat untended would have been a welcome return to normalcy after the death of young George Witherell.  Working in the garden, too, would have been a pleasure.  Her plants were doing so well, in fact, that she had plenty to spare and give away to some of her female relatives.

Next door,  fifteen year old Helen Angier Ames was finally recovering from an infection on her face, an abscess or boil, that had  been lanced the day before.  The procedure had been successful, and the family’s health concerns seemed to be put away, at least for now.

May 14, 1852

Susan Eveline Ames French

Susan Eveline Ames (French)

1852

May 14th  Susan ten years old to day.  Her father & 

I have promised her 10 dollars each if she will

be a good girl and keep herself neat till her

next birth day.  Have been to work some on

Susans delaine dress altering it The gardener

laid out my verbena and I set out some slips

From the house  Malvina came to stop the night

Helen had her face lanced  Not pleasant

 

 

Last year for her birthday, Susie Ames had a little party.  Not so this year, her birthday coming too close on the heels of the death of her cousin George Witherell. Instead, her parents made her a generous promise of “10 dollars each,” if she behaved well and kept “herself neat” for the next year. Those were high expectations for a child, even a Victorian one.

Next door, Helen Angier Ames was still suffering from her own difficult ailment, that of a swollen face. Was it an abscess, or a boil, or something else? The doctor came again to see her and this time lanced her face. Not a pleasant procedure, one imagines. Otherwise, in the main house, family members seemed to be settling back into the normal domestic routine.  Eveline sewed and gardened; her verbena and more went into the ground, despite the continued stormy weather.

 

May 12, 1852

Corpse

Wednesday May 12th  Helped Mrs Witherell make Georges robe

Planted some seeds that Mrs Howard gave me

and African rose sent from Andover.  Have ripped

the skirt from Susans borage delaine to lengthen

it Swept & dusted my chamber &c &c Jane had

finished the ironing  Have not felt very well

have not got over being broken of my rest.  It has

rained since nine Oclock quite fast

A new gardener commenced work today

What sad sewing went on today. Sarah Ames Witherell, a thoughtful, dutiful woman who had sewn so many things for friends and family, now sat and made a shroud for her first-born child, George. Only fourteen years-old, he had died the day before after a painful bout of rheumatic fever. Of the three children Sarah had borne, only her middle child, Emily, was still alive.

The steady rain must have enhanced the gloom. Old Oliver wrote that “it began to rain before noon wind north east and it grew cold and raind all the afternoon.”* Evelina must have done her planting first thing in the morning, after which she helped Sarah with the robe for George. She also worked on a skirt for Susan, and swept and dusted while Jane McHanna ironed. She was probably not the only family member who was recovering from “being broken of my rest.” Everyone was trying to return to a normal routine after the disruption and sorrow of George’s illness, although next door, Helen Angier Ames was still suffering from a case of blisters and facial swelling.

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

 

May 11, 1852

Abbott H. Thayer, Angel, 1887, oil Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of John Gellatly

Abbott H. Thayer, Angel, 1887, oil
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of John Gellatly

Tuesday May 11th  George died this morning about eleven

Has not spoken so that we could understand

since yesterday noon.  died at last very easy

without a struggle or groan.  Mrs S Ames & self

laid him out,  His mother has slept but about

two hours for two days and nights. Have trimmed

my straw bonnet. Miss Copeland sewed it over  Spent

about two hours in Olivers this afternoon.  Helen has a 

blister on her arm  The gardener set out some rose plants.

Prairie Rose Baltimore bell and Fraxinella sent

from Boston

George Oliver Witherell, aged fourteen, died on this day from rheumatic fever.  He had been suffering for many days, but “died at the last very easy.”  His Aunt Evelina had been with him for much of the illness, spelling his exhausted mother, Sarah Ames Witherell. She and her other sister-in-law, Sarah Lothrop Ames (who had her own sick child at home), laid out the corpse.

The family must have expected George’s death by this stage of his illness; certainly the attending physician had already predicted it. But anticipation is not the same as actuality, and the death of the young man would have hit everyone hard. Evelina dwelt in her diary on George’s last few minutes, but then added a few mundane notes about her summer bonnet, her niece Helen’s continued battle with an unnamed infection, and some new additions to the flower garden. She might have wished to move on to less painful concerns.

George’s grandfather, Old Oliver, noted his grandson’s death succinctly: “George Witherell dyed to day about eleven O clock.” Oliver rarely included personal items in his daily record; that he wrote of George’s death is a sign of regard, however minimal we might consider it. His grief would have been real.

Of Sarah Ames Witherell’s feelings, we’re told nothing, and must imagine her utter exhaustion and complete sorrow.

May 10, 1852

Doctor

Monday May 10th  Do not feel very well to day.  Slept in

the light bedroom so as to assist Sarah in taking

care of George.  He knows everyone but otherwise 

is not conscious and since noon does not notice

all all.  The Dr has given up all hopes of him

I planted most of my flower seeds this

afternoon felt sorry to do so but it is getting late

The women in the Ames compound were becoming exhausted with tending to two very sick young people, George Oliver Witherell and Helen Angier Ames.  It was George, however, who had entered a dangerous phase. He had been suffering from rheumatic fever for many days and was now unconscious. His doctor had finally “given up all hopes of him.” How terrified the family must have been; no doubt prayers were being lifted in the hope that George might yet recover.

Evelina broke away from her nephew’s bedside to work in her garden. She “felt sorry to do so,” but the seeds needed to be planted. To wait too long would be to lose the best timing for the flowers. She might have felt relieved to kneel down in the soil and push little seeds into place, each seed a hopeful gesture in the face of helplessness.