September 20, 1852

Hay

 

Monday Sept 20th  Staid at Edwins last night

and slept with Emeline as I did not like

to leave them alone  Augusta rested very

well and is much better to day.  Hannah

left this morning & Louisa McAvoy came

and she & Catherine have washed  I have

worked hard all day  Augustus’ wife called

here this afternoon

 

Worried about her neighbor, Evelina spent the night at the Edwin Gilmore house in case Augusta took a turn for the worse. Also staying there was fourteen-year old Emeline Pool, Augusta’s youngest sibling, who may have been sent up by the Pool family to sit with her ailing sister. Everyone was unnerved by Augusta’s continued illness, but in the morning Evelina was able to report that Augusta had improved.

At the Ames house, of course, and, indeed, all over town, it was washday. Servant Hannah Murphy departed, as anticipated, but the new servant, Louisa McAvoy and the remaining servant, Catharine Middleton, were on task. The washtubs were out. Evelina did her usual Monday choring and tidying, and the house stirred with activity.

Also on task were men who worked for Evelina’s father-in-law, Old Oliver Ames. They were mowing. Old Oliver reported that “this [was] a fair day part of time + cloudy a part wind southerly + midling warm  began to mow second crop to day.”*  The hay that had been sown in early August was being cut, each worker mindful of the importance of the crop. “[T]he most important matter connected with American agriculture,” declared one farming expert a decade later, “the hay crop is of more value than the cotton, the corn, or the wheat crop, or any single article of farm produce upon which the lives of three fourths of all the horses, cattle, and sheep depend from November to April.[…] Farmer! Have you thought how much depends upon the four weeks of haying time?”** Old Oliver could have answered that question with alacrity.

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

** Solon Robinson, Facts for Farmers, January 1865, pp. 772-773

September 13, 1852

Towel

Monday Sept 13th  Catharine has washed all the fine

clothes & towels &c  We had 26 towels and 21 shirts

Hannah got up about nine or ten and went to

work some  I have starched most of the clothes

Have passed the afternoon in the other part

of the house with Mother & Mrs Stevens.  William

& Angier are there came three or four days

since

With the addition of all the new men’s shirts that Evelina had been sewing, the laundry this week was heaping. Two servants worked on the wash, while Evelina set items in starch. Fortunately, the day was sunny and the laundry could be hung outside. It was a busy Monday around the wash tubs.

On or close to this date in 1852, a campaign biography of Franklin Pierce was published in Boston by Ticknor, Reed and Fields. The Life of Franklin Pierce was written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, a friend of Pierce since their days at Bowdoin College. The purpose of the bio was to present the Democratic candidate to the voting populace at large, particularly in the areas of the country, such as the burgeoning northwest, where he was less well known. Publishing a biography was a typical campaign strategy at the time for major presidential contenders.

Although Hawthorne, who was famous as the author of The House of Seven Gables, readily admitted that this kind of writing was “remote from his customary occupation,”* he threw himself into the project. He softened Pierce’s well-known pro-slavery stance by emphasizing his friend’s peaceful and pragmatic nature. He explained Pierce as believing that slavery would disappear on its own without human intervention. It needed no management or interference. In sour jest, some abolitionists and others responded that this biography was Hawthorne’s best work of fiction yet.

As we know, Pierce did get elected; perhaps the campaign biography helped. With gratitude, Pierce appointed Hawthorne to a consulship in Liverpool, a lucrative post. Hawthorne needed the money. The two men remained friends for the rest of their lives, until Hawthorne’s death in his sleep in May, 1864, while visiting the Pierces.

*Nathaniel Hawthorne, Life of Franklin Pierce, Boston, 1852, Introduction.

September 12, 1852

Peach

Sunday Sept 12th  A very stormy day and none of the 

family have been to church.  Frank  C Hobart

& Helen went to the meeting house but there

was no meeting  Mr Ames & self laid down

and read “Poor rich man and Rich poor man”

Mother is better  Hannah has been to

[illegible] in the rain but is not able to work.

Cate Hobart, William & Olivers family came in this evening to eat peaches

Bad weather kept most folks indoors on this Sabbath day. Old Oliver reported a more than adequate rainfall: “it raind last night and nearly all day to day wind sotherly and warm   in that has fell yesterday + to day there is one inch + nine tenths of an inch.”* Despite the rain, Frank Morton Ames carried his cousin Helen and her classmate Catherine Hobart to church, but the service was cancelled. They must have had a wet ride down and back, but perhaps enjoyed the journey anyway.

Inside the Ames homestead, things were pretty quiet. Old Hannah Gilmore was feeling better, but servant Hannah Murphy was not. Evelina and Oakes spent some time upstairs and together read a story, probably from one of Evelina’s periodicals. Son Oliver (3) was likely to be reading, too. Perhaps Oakes Angier was reading or resting, in the interest of maintaining the good health he appeared to have regained. Certainly all three sons appeared late in the day, when family from around the compound gathered for tea.  William Leonard Ames and his young son, Angier Ames, who were staying with Old Oliver, popped in from the other part of the house. Oliver Ames Jr., his wife Sarah Lothrop Ames, daughter Helen and friend Catherine, on the other hand, had to cross the wet yard to attend. The big draw appears to have been peaches, a fresh, local and strictly seasonal treat.

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

September 11, 1852

DSCF1590small

Sat Sept 11th  Mother had a sick night and is very unwell

to day not able to sit up but very little.

Orinthia Miss E Burrell Alice Ames came

about ten and spent the day.  Abby Torrey

passed the afternoon and Emily & Mrs Shepherd

Hannah went to bed sick about two and

I had to get tea for them to go home early

 

Evelina invited several female friends to spend the day, but her plans were thrown into disarray by her mother’s indisposition during the night and her servant, Hannah Murphy, falling ill after the midday meal. Orinthia Foss and others had gathered and instead of sitting in the parlor with them while Hannah made and served the tea, Evelina had to be in the kitchen herself preparing the meal. Not what she had planned. She must have been reminded of times past when her previous servant, Jane McHanna, was often ill and unable to cook or serve.

According to Old Oliver, “the 11th was rainy part of the day and cloudy all day wind south east + warm there was half an inch of rain”* Perhaps the women were grateful to be in the parlor and not out in the weather, however welcome the rain might have been.  The Alice Ames who came to visit may have been married to a George Copeland in Plymouth, although her name would have been Copeland, not Ames. Are any readers out there versed in the wider reaches of the Ames (or Eames) name in Massachusetts?

 

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

July 22, 1852

Fly

July 22 Thursday.  this has been a hot uncomfortable

day and the flies are quite too plenty

dead ones laying on the floor in any

quantity.  Hannah is not neat at all

and does not keep the house in any order

Julia has got my skirt to the borage so

much one side that it will have to be taken

of[f]. She says she will come Saturday and do it

 

Oh, dear. Today was “allso a verry warm day verry much like yesterday.” * Evelina appears to have been affected by the “uncomfortable” heat. She had nothing agreeable to report. Her maid was sloppy, her dressmaker was inept, and there were dead flies all around the house. Probably not even her flower garden offered solace.

As for the flies, we modern readers must remember that window screens were in their infancy, so that when Evelina and other housewives pulled up the window sashes in their homes to try to cool the air inside, they let in flies and other bugs “in any quantity.”

Flypaper hadn’t been invented yet, either, but it would come along in another decade when a baker in the small town of Waiblingen, Germany, fed up with the flies that landed on his cakes and tortes, had the idea to coat a strip of paper with molasses and hang it in his window. The flies went for it, so to speak, and a universal aggravation was successfully addressed. Customers began to want the strips of flypaper even more than the baked goods, so much so that the baker eventually gave up baking and took up the manufacturing of his product. (He would soon replace the molasses with arsenic, but that’s another story.)

The German baker’s invention, unfortunately, came too late to help the disgruntled Evelina or the hapless Hannah on this warm, warm day in Easton.

 

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

July 19, 1852

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

1852

July 19th Monday  Hannah & Mary both washed again

to day and I was fussing about house all

the forenoon  How is it that I do not accom

plish more? I try but somehow I get but

very little done.  I have commenced trimming

the sleeves to my borage dress.  It is going

to be something of a job to finish my dress

yet   Uncle Ephraim called to see about Mrs Ames again

After a string of warm days, this start to a new week “was fair rather cool.”*  While the servants did the laundry, Evelina was “fussing about house.” She also fussed at herself for not getting things done. “I try” she writes in frustration, feeling that she failed to meet her own standards. Her response to this perception was typical: she picked up her sewing needle and went to work.

Who was this Uncle Ephraim who called? There were at least two men in the Bridgewater area at this time named Ephraim Ames, and none named Ephraim Gilmore or Ephraim Lothrop. It appears that a distant Ames relative may have been the man who kept calling “to see about Mrs Ames again.” The Mrs. Ames in question was most likely the visiting Almira Ames, widow of cousin George Ames. Had she sparked a romantic interest in this eager caller?

 

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

July 14, 1852

1852

P1070606-X2

High water (flood level) mark in canal in Lowell, Massachusetts

 

Wedns July 14th  Julia came again this morning

but we have not got along very fast

on my dress  Have no trimming for the

sleeves have written for Mrs Stevens to

get me some   There is a great deal to

do to finish my dress  Hannah & Mary 

have both been ironing all day and 

have it all done

Evelina was indoors, sewing a new dress with the help of dressmaker Julia Mahoney. Old Oliver was out haying, “jawing” orders at local men gathering up this year’s meager crop. Oakes Angier, Frank Morton and probably Oliver (3), now that he was home from college, were each posted in some area of the factory, making shovels alongside the workers. Oakes and Oliver Jr. were supervising, perhaps striding around the shovel complex watching the new building go up or sitting in the office looking at accounts.

If we modern readers want to find a day that typifies life in North Easton in the middle of the 19th century, we couldn’t do better than this ordinary summer day in 1852. In other years and in other places, July 14th has hosted more momentous events: the storming of the Bastille, the first ascent of the Matterhorn, the shooting of Billy the Kid, the day Jane Goodall arrived in Tanzania to study chimpanzees. Nonesuch in North Easton; according to Old Oliver’s record, July 14, 1852 was simply a “warm good hay”* day. Routine ruled.

This is not to say that history wasn’t happening. It was. Yet as Evelina noted, “we have not got along very fast,” a phrase that is applicable to so much of history. Change often quietly accumulates, transforming what we know in a stealthy fashion. Evelina’s hand-sewing, Old Oliver’s oxen-driven hay-wagons, Oakes’ and Oliver Jr.’s water-powered shovel machinery: all have since disappeared, replaced by modern equipment invented over time. The life that the Ameses lived was already altering, irrevocably, bit by bit.

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