September 1, 1852

Men's Work Shirt, mid-19th c.

Men’s Work Shirt, mid-19th c.


Sept 1st 1852  Have been cutting out shirts & fixing

them for Catharine to sew  She does very

well at sewing but I have to get it ready for

her  Mrs James Mitchell & Catharine Hobart

came before noon at Olivers   And I have

been in there  Did not get ready to go

very early  Mr Ames has gone to the 

Whig convention at Worcester


Evelina had settled back into her sewing routine, the latest project being shirts for the men in her family. The last time she had sewn a large batch of shirts was back in March, 1851. It looks like the men had worn through the allotment and needed new ones. Evelina and her servant, Catharine, probably used the Bartlett sheeting mentioned two days earlier for material.

Next door, Sarah Lothrop Ames welcomed some visitors from Bridgewater: Harriet Lavinia Angier Mitchell (not to be confused with Harriet Ames Mitchell) and Catharine Hobart, the latter a classmate of her daughter, Helen.  In another three years, Catharine Hobart would later become a member of the family when she married Oakes Angier Ames. We might imagine that Catharine asked after him, perhaps expressing concern for his health. How much information did the family share about Oakes Angier’s lung condition?

While the women worked and socialized at home, the Ames men were out and about. Oakes Ames attended the Whig Convention in Worcester to help put together the Whigs’s slate for the fall election, and Old Oliver “went to quincey + Braintree to get stone for the foundation for the steam enjoin”.  The building of the new factory to replace the one that had burned down in the spring was not yet complete.



June 30, 1852


Wednesday June 30th  Mr Ames left home this morning

for New York and Conn  Mrs James Mitchell

her mother & Grace came to father Ames & I

called into see them  Mrs Mitchell made 

quite a long call in here and at Olivers

Mrs Almira Ames came by the stage

to night from Conn she left New York

about four weeks since

Oakes Ames went to New York and Connecticut today on shovel business, as his father and wife each noted in their diaries. He wasn’t the only Ames on the road, either. Almira Ames, widow of cousin George Ames, arrived in North Easton from Connecticut and New York. Oakes probably went by “the cars,” as they called the railroad, while she definitely traveled in a stagecoach. Their separate modes of travel demonstrate the transformation that was taking place in transportation.

The railroad was moving in and would shortly become the dominant mode for long-distance transportation for the rest of the century and beyond. As Mrs. Penlimmon, a character developed by popular author Fanny Fern, opined only two years later:

‘The days of stage coaches have gone by.  Nothing passes for muster now but comets, locomotives and telegraph wires. Our forefathers and foremothers would have to hold the hair on their heads if they should wake up in 1854. They’d be as crazy as a cat in a shower-bath, at all our whizzing and rushing. Nice old snails!”*

How life was changing.

In more local traffic, Harriet Lavinia Angier Mitchell came to call with her mother and daughter on Old Oliver and Sarah Witherell in the other part of the house, on Evelina, and on Sarah Lothrop Ames next door. Mrs. Mitchell was a cousin of Old Oliver’s late wife, Susannah Angier Ames.

Fanny Fern, Fern Leaves from Fanny’s Port-Folio, ca. 1854, p. 50

February 7, 1852



Charles Dickens, ca. 1852

(1812 – 1870)


1852  Sat  Feb 7th  Orinthia Miss Burill Susan & self called this

morning on Mrs J Howard, Whitwell & E Howards

left Susan at Mr Howards, came home with Frank

from a sing this evening.  Abby Augusta & Helen were

here awhile this afternoon  Helen went out to Bridgewater

last night and came up with Mr & Mrs James Mitchell this

forenoon  Orinthia went home about five and this

evening we have been into Olivers.  Mr Mitchell returned at nine.


This was a non-stop sociable Saturday for Evelina; she, her daughter Susan, dear companion Orinthia Foss, and another young schoolteacher, Miss Burrell, made calls all morning long. In the afternoon, she entertained three of her nieces and in the evening, visited next door at Oliver Jr and Sarah Lothrop Ames’s house. Chat, chat, chat.

In the larger world of letters, Charles Dickens turned 40 years old today. Even at mid-career, he was known as “The Inimitable,” so great was his talent, so voracious his readers. Evelina loved his work and benefited from his prolificacy.

By this point in Dickens’ life, among the books he had already published were The Pickwick Papers, Nicholas Nickleby, various Christmas novellas including A Christmas Carol, Dombey and Son, and David Copperfield, which Evelina had read the previous year. At this time he was composing Bleak House which, like most of his novels, was published in serial form over many months. Its first episode would come out in March, 1852, and run through September, 1853.

Still waiting to be born were future classics such as Hard Times (which targeted Unitarianism, among other entities), Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, Our Mutual Friend – and more. Dickens wrote articles, made speeches, toured, and even acted. He was a high-profile tour de force with a fertile imagination and a thirst for success. Ralph Waldo Emerson, who heard Dickens speak in Boston, compared the author’s ability to “a fearful locomotive to which he is bound and can never be free from it nor set to rest.”*

*Ralph Waldo Emerson, quoted in Annie Field’s diary, 1868.





August 28, 1851

17 Alexander Jackson Davis (American architect, 1803-1892),  Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. 1850


Thursday Aug 28th  Have done but very little sewing to day.

Mrs Fullerton Abby & Malvina here to tea.  Mr & Mrs

Whitwell called.  Mr Whitwell walked up and sent

Mr Tilden with a carriage for his wife.  Mrs Hyde

Mrs James Mitchell & Mrs Watson came from E Bridgewater

& Mrs Watson & Peckham to the other part of the house

to tea. Alson here to dinner & tea

Frederick left for Cambridge this morning

There was much socializing in North Easton today, but it paled in importance when compared to the departure of Frederick Lothrop Ames for college. Though only 16 years old, Fred  was entering Harvard College as a sophomore, making him a member of the class of 1854.

A notable nineteenth-century commentator would arrive at Harvard just after Fred had graduated.  Henry Adams, Class of 1858, would have this to say about the college in Cambridge before the Civil War:

“Harvard College, as far as it educated at all, was a mild and liberal school, which sent young men into the world with all they needed to make respectable citizens, and something of what they wanted to make useful ones. Leaders of men it never tried to make. Its ideals were altogether different. The Unitarian clergy had given to the College a character of moderation, balance, judgment, restraint, what the French call mesure, excellent traits, which the College attained with singular success, so that its graduates could commonly be recognised by the stamp, but such a type of character rarely lent itself to autobiography. In effect, the school created a type, but not a will. Four years of Harvard College, if successful, resulted in an autobiographical blank, a mind on which only a water-mark had been stamped.”**

Was Fred Ames stamped by his time at Harvard? He certainly appreciated his years there, and became “warmly interested in everything that pertained to the welfare of Harvard, as evinced by his well-known liberal gifts to several of its departments.”***


* Alexander Jackson Davis, “Harvard University,” Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1850

** Henry Adams, Education of Henry Adams

*** Harvard “Report for Class of 1854,” 1894

August 2, 1851




Saturday Aug 2d  Mrs James Mitchell, Cousin & sister Harriett

Mitchell came to the other part of the house to day

Sister Harriet returned to E Bridgewater with them

Frank went to Boston to see a Dr about his

throat got him a white hat.  We were all 

invited into Mr Bucks to see Miss Lothrop from

Boston  Orinthia & Helen went  Mrs Witherell

& I called after tea the boys went in the evening


Evelina felt better. She was back in the social swing today, going out after tea with her sister-in-law Sarah Witherell to meet a Miss Lothrop. Earlier in the day, Sarah Witherell had entertained two or three women named Harriet in her parlor in “the other part of the house”: sister Harriett Ames Mitchell, friend Harriet Angier Mitchell (Mrs. James Mitchell) and, possibly, cousin Harriet Ames. It’s also possible that Evelina, in writing the word “cousin,” meant to identify Harriet Angier Mitchell as a cousin which, by a stretch of several “removeds,” she was. In the latter case, there was no cousin Harriet Ames present. Confusing to us, certainly, and, perhaps, confusing to them.  Who was visiting in the parlor?

Old Oliver, meanwhile, was in the thick of haying season.  He noted that “this was a fair good hay day wind south west and we got in all the hay we had out some of it had bin out over a week and all of it since last Monday –“

One young man who was neither outside with a pitchfork helping his grandfather nor inside the factory fashioning a shovel was almost-eighteen year old Frank Morton Ames. Frank had been suffering from a sore throat that he evidently couldn’t get the better of, so he took off to Boston to have it looked at. When he returned to Easton, he reported nothing alarming.  Rather, he arrived with a startling new white hat, looking perhaps like one of the young men in the illustrated daguerrotype above. According to some sources, white beaver hats enjoyed a short vogue at this period. Frank must have stood out in the gathering at the Bucks’ house that evening.


* Image from Daguerreian Society, Mark Koenigsberg Collection

July 24, 1851


Thurs July 24th  Have been sewing on some of Susans

clothes, altering some skirts &c  Have been thinking

over my visit yesterday  Mrs Mitchell will have

a fine place in a few years if she keeps on as

she has begun  They have a fine lot of Turkeys

Ducks & Chickens and their garden looks finely

but not many flowers.


The visit that Evelina and her sisters-in-law made to East Bridgewater yesterday was enjoyable enough to preoccupy Evelina’s mind today.  As she sat sewing she thought over the home she had visited and considered its domestic arrangements. She liked the yard she had seen.  Casting her knowledgeable, farmer’s-daughter’s eye over the property in her mind, she assessed the “fine lot” of poultry and admired the garden.  Not enough flowers for her, though.

The house in question belonged to James Mitchell, son of Nahum and Nabby Mitchell, and his wife, whose name was Harriet Lavinia Angier Mitchell.  As fate would have it, Harriet Angier Mitchell was a friend of Harriett Ames Mitchell.  The two visited one another when Harriett Ames was in town and, presumably, worked out any confusion the similarity of their names occasioned.  As they were usually referred to as Mrs. James Mitchell and Mrs. Asa Mitchell, they may have encountered less confusion than there would be today, when first name usage is so prevalent.  Terms of address were definitely more formal in 1851.


May 22, 1851



Thursday May 22d  The first thing after breakfast set out

a plant that Orinthia sent me last night.  Then

went to work in the sitting room taking up the 

carpet cleaning the closets &c  have finished cleaning

the room and the carpet partly down.  Aunt Orr

& Harriet, James Mitchell came to visit Mrs

Witherell about two Oclock and I left my work to

see them  Quite pleasant

Ordinarily, Evelina was tired and listless after a day in Boston, but not today. Orinthia Foss sent her a plant, a sweet token of friendship and thanks, and “the first thing” Evelina did was head to the garden to plant it. Before doing her chores! The plant meant a lot to her and the gesture from her young friend buoyed the day.

Carpet cleaning, closet cleaning, &c, &c, as Evelina would say, took up the morning and some of the afternoon. Guests arrived in the other part of the house, making a welcome interruption from housework.

The Orrs and Mitchells were old connections from Bridgewater, and their families had long been intertwined with the Ameses. Some of the earliest Ameses had settled in Bridgewater and, as a young man, Old Oliver had lived there. As we’ve noted before, Evelina boarded with one branch of the Orr family whenever she stayed over in Boston.  Aunt Orr was probably Susan Orr, a close friend who could remember when Oakes Ames was a baby.

There were many Mitchells in Bridgewater. James Mitchell, who ended up as a merchant in Philadelphia, was one of them.  He was married to a woman from Belfast, Maine named Harriett Lavinia Angier (possibly a distant relative in the Angier line.) He and his wife didn’t appear often in the Ames written records, but they were among the few non-family members who, years after this, would attend the funeral of Horatio Ames.  Perhaps James Mitchell and Horatio Ames had been friends growing up.

Mrs. James Mitchell’s married name was Harriett Angier Mitchell, almost the same as Harriett Ames Mitchell, Oakes’s youngest sister who was married to Asa Mitchell. The Harriett who accompanied James Mitchell today was most likely his wife, not Oakes’s sister. Confusing to us, certainly, but straightforward to them. Otherwise, a pleasant day in all respects.