November 24, 1852


Matthew C. Perry

Wedns Nov 24 Have heat the oven three times

to day and baked squash & apple pies brown

bread gingerbread & cake of sour cream and

it is very good  Miss Alger has given

her thirteenth lesson  Horatio & Gustavus

came in the stage  Augusta spent part 

of the evening here

The brick oven, heated up three times, would have helped warm the house on this day before Thanksgiving, as “it was the coldest day we have had yet.”* Evelina was pleased with a new recipe for sour cream cake, probably a pound cake that used sour instead of sweet cream. Many smart cooks had discovered that this kind of recipe was a good way to use up cream that had turned. It was very Yankee not to let the cream go to waste. And while Evelina was baking, the servants Catharine and Ann were working, too, setting the table, cutting up vegetables, trussing the turkey. The kitchens at the Ames compound  and across New England were busy, busy, busy.

While housewives focused on preparations for the Thanksgiving feast, a major diplomatic mission got underway. Commodore Matthew C. Perry, commander of the East India Squadron, departed Norfolk, Virginia to sail to Japan. His mission was to secure a trade treaty, no easy task with the notoriously secluded island nation. President Millard Fillmore had authorized Perry to open the ports to American trade, by show of force – also known as gunboat diplomacy – if necessary. Despite the ill wishes of the Dutch, who were already trading there, Perry was ultimately successful.


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

August 4, 1851


[No entry]

Evelina made no entry today in her diary, for reasons we’ll never know.  Too hot? Too cross? Too busy? Too much laundry? We can only guess.

Instead of commentary, we’ve posted an image of the Ames family tree familiar to many Ames descendants, especially those who own copies of Winthrop Ames’s 1937 family history, The Ames Family of Easton, which includes a fold-out version of this illustration.  The tree features the lineage of the two Ames brothers who stayed in North Easton: Oakes and Oliver Jr., but doesn’t include the other sons and daughters of Old Oliver and Susannah who also produced issue: Horatio, William Leonard, Sarah Witherell and Harriett Mitchell.

Some readers have asked for clarification on who was who within the family. What follows is a list of the children and grandchildren of Old Oliver and Susannah.  More information about this group and their descendants can be found in a detailed family geneaology produced by William Motley Ames and Chilton Mosely Ames in the late 1980s.

Old Oliver and Susannah’s children and their children in birth order:

Oakes Ames and Evelina Gilmore Ames had five children:

Oakes Angier, Oliver (3), Frank Morton, Henry Gilmore (d. young) and Susan Eveline Ames

Horatio Ames and Sally Hewes Ames had three children:

Susan Angier, Horatio Jr., and Gustavus Ames

Oliver Jr. and Sarah Lothrop Ames had two children:

Frederick Lothrop and Helen Angier Ames

William Leonard Ames and Amelia Hall Ames had seven children:

William Leonard Jr., Angier, Oliver, John Hall, Amelia Hall, Fisher, and Herbert M. Ames

William Leonard Ames and Anna Pratt Hines had one child:

Oakes Keene Ames

Sarah Angier Ames and Nathaniel Witherell, Jr. had three children:

George Oliver, Sarah Emily, and Channing Witherell (d. young)

Harriett Ames and Asa Mitchell had three children:

Frank Ames, John Ames, and Anna Mitchell

Two other children of Old Oliver and Susannah, Angier Ames and John Ames, died without issue.

July 16, 1851


Shovel Storage_1 Nov 2010



July 16th  Wednesday  Mrs H Ames left this morning.  Will stop

a day or two at Mr Hinckleys and then venture

home  Gustavus was to meet her in Boston

Have been to work on my silk muslin dress

Julia has been here cutting the waist and it

is so near done that it will not take long 

to finish it.  Edwin & Oliver went to S. Bridgewater

to get patterns for shovel press & Back strap Machine

Evelina seldom referred to the shovel business in her diary.  The factory, the employees, the machines, the products, the day-long sounds that emanated from the shovel shops right across the street from her home went essentially unmentioned. Despite the fact that six days a week, life in North Easton revolved around O. Ames and Sons, the factory that her husband, father-in-law, and brother-in-law owned, and at which her three sons worked, Evelina was mum about the business.

Instead, she kept her attention on the domestic and social events of her own life, recording the tame goings-on of the household, which was, naturally, her sphere of interest and influence. Her focus begs the question, however, of how much of her record was consciously restricted to the quotidian. Did she hear about events at the shovel shop and choose not to include them, or were business details never discussed at the dinner table?  Were shovels excluded from pillow talk at day’s end? Or was she so familiar with the many facets of the shovel business that she took them for granted, dismissed them and looked solely at her own concerns? Was she disinterested or discrete?

That aside, shovel-making slipped into Evelina’s record today.  Her middle son, Oliver (3), and his cousin, Edwin Williams Gilmore, headed to South Bridgewater to fetch patterns and a back-strap machine for the shovel factory. The patterns were probably “dies used in a drop hammer/press that give the curved shape to the previously flat, partially formed blade.”**  The back strap was an object that facilitated the process of attaching the handle to the blade. Oliver and Edwin must have used a wagon to tote the goods back to North Easton.

* Ames shovels, Stonehill College Archives, with thanks to Nicole Casper, CRM, Director of Archives and Historical Collections

** Per Gregory Galer, PhD.

July 15, 1851



July 15 Tuesday  Jane washed this forenoon and about

nine or ten Mother Henrietta Rachel and her

babe came  They went home about 11 Oclock

mother will stop a few days  Gustavus left

yesterday morning  The afternoon Mrs H Ames

passed here  Mrs S Ames had a dress maker & did

not come in

Laundry was done today, a day later than normal because of the extra work involved in tidying up after a weekend of houseguests.  It’s not hard to imagine that such a disruption in the routine made Evelina or Jane McHanna or other members of the household think today was Monday instead of Tuesday.

Just as things were getting back to normal, however, more visitors arrived. Evelina’s sister-in-law, Henrietta Gilmore (Mrs. Alson Gilmore), arrived with Evelina’s mother, Hannah Lothrop Gilmore. As often happened, the senior Mrs. Gilmore came to spend “a few days” with Evelina, her only living daughter.  With them was Henrietta’s daughter, Rachel Howard (Gilmore) Pool (Mrs. John M. Pool or Poole) and her little girl, Ella. Ella, barely one year old, was Hannah Gilmore’s great-granddaughter. Four generations of Gilmore women visited together in the Ames parlor.

In the afternoon, Evelina had yet another sister-in-law pay a call, this one from the Ames side of the family.  Sally Hewes Ames came to visit one last time before leaving; she planned to return to Connecticut the next day. The women likely sat and sewed together; Evelina almost always had sewing or mending in her hands when socializing at home.  As was her wont, she probably gave something to Sally to work on while they talked. Perhaps even old Mrs. Gilmore sewed with them.

July 10, 1851


July 10th  Baked in the brick oven this morning

Cassander Gilmore engaged to come here to

day but did not  Mrs Horatio Ames Mrs Witherell

Mitchell and their children father Gustavus &c &c

were here to tea.  Had strawberries from 

Mr King, his last picking.  This afternoon

finished my dress  Alson called

Evelina was quite busy today.  She baked, probably making the usual bread, ginger snaps and a pantry’s worth of pies. Although she doesn’t specify what kind, this was the time of year for rhubarb and her pies may have been made of the very fruit she grew in her back yard. She culled through the last of the available local strawberries, too; there would be no more this season.

Much of this kitchen work was preparation for afternoon tea, which was served to a raft of Ames relatives.  Sally Hewes Ames, Horatio’s wife, was there with her son, Gustavus, along with the Witherells and Father Ames from the other part of the house.  Sister-in-law Harriett Ames Mitchell and her three children were there.  Where was Harriett’s husband, Asa Mitchell? Presumably Oakes, Susie and her three older brothers were at table, too.

When she did get out of the cook room, Evelina finally finished sewing her new dress, and had a visit from her brother, Alson Gilmore.

July 9, 1851


1851 July 9th  Julia is here again to day and my dress

not finished yet  it will take me two hours

or more to get it done  I think it will suit 

me pretty well when it is finished  Mrs Horatio

Ames & Gustavus came to Father Ames this 

afternoon  Frank and Gustavus went to Mr Algers

to get some butter

William Leonard Ames, fifth child and youngest surviving son of Old Oliver and Susannah Angier Ames, was born on this day in 1812, less than a month after the United States declared war against Great Britain. He came along at an unsettled moment in Old Oliver’s life; the latter was attempting to establish a textile factory in Easton, an enterprise that would fail when “peace came along and spoilt the business.”*

William grew up having to compete with his older brothers, Oakes, Horatio and Oliver Jr.  In 1851, he was still vying for his place in the sun, so far without much success. Several years earlier, William had undertaken the management of two separate iron furnace operations in New Jersey, both of which were underwritten by Ames money from Easton. He was not successful, and blamed his lack of success on his brother Oakes. William believed that Oakes, referred to by one historian as “the emperor of New Jersey operations,”** was selfishly working against him.  “Oakes sole object […] is to make everything as unpleasant for me as it can be.”**

The enterprise may have been unlikely to succeed all along. William was focused quite specifically on operational issues while Oakes was looking at the profits to be made from various land deals on the properties in question.  The two brothers had different goals.

William began to close down his affairs in the east and, with his young family, prepared to move west to Minnesota. There, in the St. Paul area, he found success in cattle ranching and lumber. Credited with introducing the first Shorthorn cattle into the territory, “[h]is large and successful farm […] was a practical advertisement for Minnesota as an agricultural region”*** Despite the distance between him and the family in Easton, William made periodic trips back east to see his father, bringing some of his children along.  His only daughter, Amelia, eventually returned to the east to live.

Of all the offspring of Old Oliver and Susannah, William was the most married and had the most children.  His wives, the first two of whom died before he did, were Emily Louise Brown, Amelia Hall, and Anna Pratt Hines.  He and Amelia had six boys and one girl. He and Anna, too, had one son not long before William died, in 1873.

* Oliver Ames, journal

** Gregory J. Galer, Forging Ahead, Brown University