March 31, 1852



March 31st Wednesday  Have been to the sewing circle

at Mr Harrison Pools.  Mrs S Ames & Augusta

went and we took Orinthia with us from Mrs Howard

Mother Henrietta Lavinia Rachel Mrs Nahum & Horace Pool

& Ann Pool were there   It rained very fast as we were

coming home  I left two shirts to be made that I

put in the circle last fall

The Sewing Circle was back.  Female parishioners from the Unitarian Church had begun once again to meet on a monthly basis to sew. Like other sewing circles around the country, they met for fellowship, guidance from the local clergy, and the sewing of clothes and linens for one another or others. They hadn’t met – officially, anyway – since December.

On this weekday the group met at the home of Mary and Harrison Pool in southeastern Easton. From North Easton came Evelina, Sarah Lothrop Ames, and Augusta Pool Gilmore, the young bride who was returning to the area of town where she had grown up. The women stopped en route at Nancy and Elijah Howard’s to pick up Orinthia Foss. Hostess Mary Pool, who had three young children underfoot, welcomed them. Others who attended included Evelina’s mother, Hannah Lothrop Gilmore; Henrietta Williams Gilmore, Lavinia Gilmore, Rachel Gilmore Pool, Lidia Pool, Abby Pool and Ann Pool. It was a veritable family reunion.  Except for Orinthia Foss, every women present was related by blood or marriage to at least one other woman there.

Such a gathering must have been good amusement, with less formality than the social calls that some of the women had paid the day before. But spirits may have been dampened by the “very fast” rain that pummeled the carriages when the meeting ended and the women returned home.

March 28, 1852


Ames Shovel Handle Factory, Oakland, Maine*


March 28 Sunday  Went to church this morning and

at noon called at Mrs Wm Reeds with Henrietta

Hannah came at noon but was faint and

I carried her home and got back to church about

the time the services were over  After went down

to the new shops with Mrs W, S Ames Augusta Orinthia

found Mr. Ames, Oliver & Cyrus L there returned by Edwins

and all called there  Mr Ames & self went to Augustus’ this evening

The new shops were up, and various family members rode by to see them after church. No more “dismal ruin”, as reported by Evelina only three weeks earlier. Risen like a phoenix from the ashes of the old shops, the shovel works were about to begin operations in new, if temporary, quarters.

It was a large group that gathered to consider the new buildings. Evelina, who had missed the afternoon service in attending to her ailing niece, Hannah Lincoln Gilmore, nonetheless rode back from church to the site. Accompanying her were her sisters-in-law, Sarah Witherell and Sarah Ames; another niece, Augusta Pool Gilmore; and sometime boarder and frequent companion, Orinthia Foss.  At the site, by accident or design, they found Oakes Ames and his brother, Oliver Ames Jr., and Cyrus Lothrop, a brother of Sarah Lothrop Ames who often resided with his sister. The group must have marveled at the swift reincarnation of the shovel works.

Perhaps a celebratory spirit inspired the crowd to assemble en masse at the nearby home of newlyweds Augusta and Edwin Gilmore.

*Image of Ames Shovel Handle Factory, Oakland, Maine courtesy of the Oakland Maine Area Historical Society. Included to illustrate what the rebuilt shovel factory could have resembled.

March 23, 1852


 Gunter’s Chain**

March 23

1852 Tuesday. Alson and wife dined here and spent

the afternoon at Edwins  He has been running

out lines for Edwin & Melvin Randall  Orinthia

went home with them.  Was at tea in Edwins

& this evening with Augusta at Augustus’

Augustus has gone to New York.  Susan is staying

there to night went just after dinner.  Oliver & wife

went to Boston this morning   Rained untill early night.

The Gilmore clan was moving around today. Evelina’s nephew, Alson “Augustus” Gilmore, was headed for New York City on business for his boot company or the Ames shovels, or both. Evelina’s brother (and Augustus’s father), Alson Gilmore, and his wife, Henrietta Williams Gilmore, had midday dinner at the Ames house. Alson was in the village helping another son, Edwin Williams Gilmore, and an Easton man, Melvin Randall, run out lines.

The phrase “running out lines” is open to interpretation (ice fishing is a possibility!), but the most likely meaning is that ground was being measured, perhaps for the new factory buildings soon to be built. A running measure is the cumulative distance in a straight line from a fixed point. The standard instrument used to get a running measure, at least in the 18th and 19th centuries, was a Gunter’s chain. It was used in conjunction with a compass and a transit (for establishing straight lines) to measure ground.

Invented by an English clergyman and mathematician, Edmund Gunter, around 1620, the Gunter’s chain “played a primary role in mapping out America.”** The Army Corps of Engineers would have owned such chains in bulk. The chain’s 100 lines measure 4 poles, or 66 feet, or 22 yards, depending on how you care to count it. Eighty chains equal one mile.

The Gunter’s chain, however, helpful as it was, was apt to be hand-made and thus subject to variation. It was eventually replaced by the more accurate surveyor’s tape.

By the way, for those readers who follow the game (or watch Downton Abbey), the length of a cricket pitch is exactly one chain.

*Thank you, Frank Mennino, for your assistance on today’s blog.

**Image from Colonial Williamsburg, courtesy of

March 11, 1852



March 11 Thursday.  Cut out another waist of stout

bleached cotton cloth  Have been to Mr

Horace Pools with Mrs Witherell & Mrs

S Ames.  Met Henrietta Rachel & Mrs Harrison

Pool there, got home about eight Oclock

finished writing a letter to Harriet Ames.

Amelia went to Mr Torreys.

Old Oliver made his daily report:“the ground froze pritty hard last night – wind north in the morning butt southerly in the afternoon + pritty warm. it was a still day butt little wind – we began to rais the hammer shop to day.”  If ever there was an instance of Yankee industry, this cold, windy March in North Easton was it. Whatever the weather, all hands were on deck for the rebuilding of the shovel shops, which had burned to the ground less than ten days earlier.

While the men hammered, the women sewed – at least at the Ames compound. Evelina, anticipating warmer weather, worked on a new cotton dress. She had been fiddling with the waist lines on her dresses lately, suggesting that her waist might have altered. Larger or smaller?

With her sisters-in-law, Sarah Ames and Sarah Witherell, Evelina rode to the home of Horace and Abby Pool, where they met Henrietta Gilmore, Rachel Pool, and Mary Pool. This sounds like a gathering of the Sewing Circle, which we haven’t heard about since December when they temporarily disbanded. Now that spring had arrived, they might have started meeting again.

February 18, 1852




Wednesday 18 Feb  Augusta Emily Susan & self have

spent the day at Rachels.  Mother Henrietta & Lavinia

were there  Had a pleasant visit.  Went to

carry mother home with Charley had some trouble

with him about starting it was so cold.  Mrs Solomon

Lothrop & son Willard came to Alsons this afternoon 

Made two dickeys for Mr Ames and cut out two more


Just like the day before,”this was a fair day wind north west + cold”* as Old Oliver, family patriarch, noted in his daily journal. It was so cold that one of the family horses, Charley, didn’t want to leave the premises. But Evelina needed to take her elderly mother, Hannah Lothrop Gilmore, back to the family farm, so Charley was harnessed up and made to trot out. Evelina and her mother probably didn’t enjoy the frigid temperatures, either, but at least they could cover themselves with blankets or robes.

Evelina spent most of the day in the company of female relatives at the home of her niece, Rachel Gilmore Pool, who lived near the Gilmore farm.  Her daughter, Susan, and niece, Emily Witherell, were with her, as was new bride Augusta Pool Gilmore.**  Rachel’s unmarried sister, Lavinia, was there, along with their mother, Henrietta.  It was a multi-generational gathering of women from ages 9 to 79.

The women must have spent some time sewing as they all sat together, for Evelina managed to complete two dickeys, or shirt fronts, for her husband. The companionship would have made the handiwork fun to do.

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

**Rachel Gilmore Pool was married to Augusta’s brother, John Pool, while Augusta Pool Gilmore was married to Rachel’s brother, Edwin Gilmore. One family’s sister and brother married a neighboring family’s brother and sister.

January 11, 1852




Jan 11  Sunday  Have been to meeting although it has

been stormy  Mrs Witherell did not go which is

unusual  Henrietta Mrs Clarke & self called on

Mrs Witherell at noon.  She burned her foot and

cannot go out but it is getting better.  Have written

a letter to Oliver this morning and have been reading

Sarah Witherell burned her foot and couldn’t go to church, probably because she couldn’t put her shoe on. How had she burned it?  Fallen against a coal stove? Stepped on a live ember? Spilled hot tea or scalded it stepping into a tub? If the possible sources of the burn are multiple, so were the potential remedies.

“Cotton wool and oil are the best things for a burn,” declared Lydia Maria Child in The American Frugal Housewife.* Dusting a burn with flour and wrapping it in cotton flannel was another common practice. Like today, the application of a salve was soothing.  We might apply cold water; they might have applied butter, assuming they had any on hand to spare. Home treatments for minor burns are still variable, despite today’s over-the-counter ointments and sprays.

Sarah Witherell, we learn here, always went to meeting.  Her absence today surprised even Evelina, who came back from church at intermission to check on her sister-in-law.  Evidently reassured that Sarah would be fine, Evelina settled into her more normal routine for Sunday, which included reading after church and, today, writing a letter to her middle son, Oliver, who was away at college.


*Lydia Maria Child, The American Frugal Housewife, 1846, p. 17

January 1, 1852


The Four Seasons, from Godey’s Lady’s Book, 1851


Jan 1st Thursday.  It being very stormy last night Alson &

wife came home with us from Olivers & spent the night

and forenoon.  Cooked a turkey for dinner.

Went with them to Augustus this afternoon and 

evening called on Mrs J C Williams, found her

making some shop shirts for Oakes Angier.  The weather

is very warm & unpleasant


The new year began with rain and high water in the ponds, pleasing Old Oliver Ames.  He may have been retired from the shovel shop, but he kept close watch on how the business was doing, and how the business was doing depended heavily on how the water power was running. Evelina herself found the rain “unpleasant.”

Evelina and her family marked the day with a turkey dinner, making it an occasion. Evelina’s brother, Alson Gilmore, and his wife, Henrietta, had stayed the night, unable to get back to their farm in the driving rain. They were rewarded with a feast. After the midday meal ended, Evelina went with them to see Alson’s eldest son, Alson Augustus Gilmore, and his young family.

Back in the village, Evelina visited a seamstress about making shirts for her son, Oakes Angier Ames. Mrs. Williams, who was probably a widow, would sew a number of work or shop shirts for the Ames men over the course of the year.  Evelina herself had sewn multiple shirts the previous spring, a task that took her weeks to finish. Much as she enjoyed sewing, she must have been thrilled to pass the chore on to someone else. This would free her up to concentrate on dresses and accessories, as well as tend to the mending basket that always had work in it.

December 31, 1851



Wednesday Dec 31st  This morning sit down early to knitting

my hood  Have it all finished ready for the lining.  About ten 

Oclock went into the school with Mrs. Witherell.  Mr Brown

has closed his school to day.  Passed the afternoon & evening at Olivers

Mr & Mrs Wm Reed  Mr & Mrs J Howard, Whitwell & A Gilmore were there.

Susie Ames and Emily Witherell may have been happy today to reach the end of their school term. Class, dismissed!  1851, dismissed!

Just how the Ames family celebrated the departure of the old year and arrival of the new, we don’t know. Old Oliver, with his usual terse assessment of the day, merely noted that “this was a cloudy day and some cooler + misty + foggy.” The cool mist he saw would develop into a huge rain storm over night, preventing folks from moving around much.

A group of friends and relatives gathered for tea next door at the home of Oliver Ames, Jr. and his wife Sarah Lothrop Ames. Besides Evelina and Oakes, at the party were Reverend William Whitwell and his wife Eliza, Reverend William Reed and his wife Abigail, Jason Guild Howard and his wife Martha, and Evelina’s brother Alson Gilmore and his wife Henrietta.  In just a few more years, a group like this might have sung the beloved  Auld Lang Syne to mark the occasion. In fact, a version of Auld Lang Syne, written in 1855 and called Song of the Old Folks would become “the tradition of the Stoughton Musical Society to sing […] in memory of those who had died that year.”*

Out with old, in with the new. What a year it would be for the Ames clan.

December 18, 1851



A Delaine Sheep

Dec 18 Thursday  Finished the back of Susans hood

and finished the blue and orange deLaine

for self that Julia cut a new waist for last spring

Mary left this morning said she was going

to Bridgewater for her clothes   It is bitter cold and 

I fear she will suffer  Jane has finished two

prs of cotton flannel drawers for me that she

has been sewing on since she was sick

Another “fair cold day;”* not an ideal time for the servant, Mary, to travel from North Easton to her home in Bridgewater.  Whether she rode or walked, she must have been quite exposed and have become sick, for she didn’t return to the Ames household for the rest of the winter. She only reappears in Evelina’s diary the next July, working by that time for Alson and Henrietta Gilmore at their farm.  What prompted her departure?  Was she homesick for family in Bridgewater, or tired of working at the Ames’s house?

Sewing was today’s occupation of choice for Evelina and her remaining servant, Jane McHanna. Evelina picked up an unfinished project from the previous spring, one that she had nearly finished with help from local dressmaker, Julia Mahoney.  It was a “blue and orange deLaine,” meaning that it was a print or plaid, fine-weave, challis-like wool dress, one that would be of service in this cold weather. The wool itself came from a type of Merino sheep known as a Delaine (as in, “of wool” in French.) Jane, meanwhile, sewed some flannel underclothes for Evelina, who would be warmly dressed once these articles were finished.

Next door, in the other part of the house, a man named Holman Johnson, probably visiting on shovel business, stayed the night.

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


November 29, 1851


Nov 29th  Sat.  This forenoon have been mending

Olivers (3) clothes and putting them in order to 

carry back Monday.  Have been with Oliver

to spend the afternoon at Mothers. Came

home by Mr Lothrops to bring Sarah Lothrop

Fred & Helen home  Alson has been quite 

unwell a week or more & is not able to work

Evelina was enjoying the company of her middle son, Oliver (3), today. Like many a modern child, he had brought his clothes home from college to be put “in order” (but not washed – it wasn’t laundry day.) Evelina mended what she could and then the two of them rode south to visit old Mrs. Gilmore and the family on the farm. They found that Alson Gilmore, Evelina’s brother, had been “quite unwell.” He was evidently bed-ridden, which suggests that their Thanksgiving had been less celebratory than the Ames’s.

Unlike the shovel laborers in the village, Alson did work that didn’t follow a schedule set by a bell.  He labored according to the demands of the season, weather and livestock. How had he managed to run his farm this past week when he was too ill to work? Most likely his fifteen-year-old son, Francis, took over responsibility for any livestock. And if the Gilmores had any dairy cows, it was typically the women of the house – in this case, daughter Lavinia or wife Henrietta – who would typically have done the milking. Because it was November, and after the harvest, there was otherwise not much work that demanded attention.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac, seen above, would have been full of advice for Alson and other farmers. We don’t know if Alson consulted it. (Like Old Oliver Ames, he might have consulted instead an agricultural newspaper called The Massachusetts Ploughman.)  The almanac was just featuring its new “Four Seasons” cover, first used in October of 1851 and still in use in 2014. It was designed by Hammatt Billings, a Boston architect and artist who also did the original illustrations for Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and engraved by Henry Nichols of Cambridge, who name appears on the lower right.  The editor was Robert B. Thomas, whose portrait is featured on the right side of the cover, opposite Benjamin Franklin.