October 19, 1852

 

Gentiana-crinita-Fringed-Gentian-plant

Fringed gentian (Gentiana Crinita)

Oct 19th Tuesday  Have been sewing on Susans

fall de Laine that I bought last summer

and it appears to me that it will never

be finished  I get along so slowly on it

Ann has ironed the coloured clothes

Catharine sewing

“[P]ritty fair,”* today was. Evelina spent much of the day – more time than she wished, in fact – working on a dress for her daughter Susan. The material was delaine, a light wool that should have been easy to sew, but for some reason Evelina was going along “so slowly” that she just couldn’t see the end of it. Perhaps she wished she could be outdoors, instead. Her servant Catharine Murphy was also sewing, most likely on a project that Evelina would have assigned her to do. Evelina occasionally gave material to her girls to sew their own aprons or simple dresses with.

Another diarist, not far away, definitely preferred to be outdoors. In Concord, Henry David Thoreau went for a walk and found the very last flowers of the season:

“I see the dandelion blossoms in the path. The buds of the skunk-cabbage already show themselves in the meadow […] I found the fringed gentian now somewhat stale and touched by frost […] It may have been in bloom a month. It has been cut off by the mower, and apparently has put out in consequence a mass of short branches full of flowers. This may make it later. I doubt if I can find one naturally grown. At this hour the blossoms are tightly rolled and twisted, and I see that the bees have gnawed round holes in their sides to come at the nectar. They have found them, though I had not. “Full many a flower is born to blush unseen” by man. An hour ago I doubted if fringed gentians were in Concord now, but, having found these, they as it were surrender […] It is too remarkable a flower not to be sought out and admired each year, however rare. It is one of the errands of the walker, as well as of the bees, for it yields him a more celestial nectar still. It is a very singular and agreeable surprise to come upon this conspicuous and handsome and withal blue flower at this season, when flowers have passed out of our minds and memories; the latest of all to begin to bloom, unless it be the witch-hazel, when, excepting the latter, flowers are reduced to the small Spartan cohort, hardy, but the most part unobserved, which linger till the snow buries them, and those interesting reappearing flowers which, though fair and fresh and tender, hardly delude us with the prospect of a new spring, and which we pass by indifferent, as if they only bloomed to die. Vide Bryant’s verses on the Fringed Gentian. […] It is remarkable how tightly the gentians roll and twist up at night, as if that were their constant state. Probably those bees were working late that found it necessary to perforate the flower.”**

Much as Evelina enjoyed flowers, we might doubt that she would have been as eloquent about seeing the late-blooming gentian in the meadow as Thoreau.

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

*Henry David Thoreau, Journal, 1852, courtesy of http://hdt.typepad.com/henrys_blog/2010/10/october-19-1852.html

October 7, 1852

elm-yellows

 

Oct 7th Thursday  Have been cutting out some shirts

for bosoms.  Catharine Murphy has made

four window curtains for my front chamber

Mrs Witherell Mrs S Ames & self passed the

afternoon & evening at Mr Swains  Mr Ames 

came to tea and Oliver rode down after us and 

stopt awhile Mr & Mrs Meader are there &

Ellen Meader  Augustus wife went to Boston

 

There was quite a bit of socializing today, prompted in part by good weather. “[T]he 7th was a fair pleasant day + verry warm,” noted Old Oliver Ames. Henry David Thoreau, some 40 miles to Oliver’s north, was more discursive about the sunshine:

I sit on Poplar Hill. It is a warm Indian-summerish afternoon. The sun comes out of clouds, and lights up and warms the whole scene. It is perfect autumn. I see a hundred smokes arising through the yellow elm-tops in the village, where the villagers are preparing for tea. It is the mellowing year. The sunshine harmonizes with the imbrowned and fiery foliage.**

The elm trees such as the ones that Thoreau mentions would also have been seen by Old Oliver. In fact, they would have been seen across the state and beyond. Once upon a time, American Elms were ubiquitous in the United States.They were tall trees with a wine-glass profile and a graceful green canopy. In the 20th century, however, most of them were wiped out by Dutch Elm disease. The existence of “Elm Streets” in communities around the country attests to the fact that elms were once as common as maples or pines. As Thoreau suggests, many a small town lived under their shade.

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

**Henry David Thoreau, Journal, courtesy of http://hdt.typepad.com/henrys_blog

 

 

August 16, 1852

Washing

Aug 16th Monday  Mrs Stevens is making Oakes A

a vest  I have been puttering about the 

house part of the time and the rest fixing

my things to go to Burlington  Catharine

sews nicely and has been making shirts

&c &c  We have had a large washing to day

Catharine helped until after dinner

Oakes Angier Ames, seriously ill with bleeding at the lungs, was going to Burlington, Vermont, for a rest. His mother, Evelina, was going to accompany him to his destination.  On this start to the week, she was all about “fixing my things to go.”

Everyone seemed to be bustling about with purpose. Evelina had at least one servant, Catharine, who was helpful across the board with sewing, laundry and meal preparation. Too, her houseguest, Mrs. Stevens, was sewing a vest for Oakes Angier, perhaps with the idea of keeping his chest warm against any chill.  The weather, although “fair,” had turned “cool for the season.”* Northern Vermont was likely to be even cooler, and a vest would be good protection.

Busy, Evelina probably had little thought for anything beyond her own immediate purview, yet she did share the same weather and sky as a journalist not too many miles to her north.  On this same day, Henry David Thoreau wrote in his journal, “At sunset, the glow being confined to the north, it tinges the rails on the causeway lake-color, but behind they are a dead dark blue. I must look for the rudbeckia which Bradford says he found yesterday behind Joe Clark’s.”**

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

** Henry David Thoreau, Journal

 

 

 

April 26, 1852

ragged-robin

Ragged robin

Monday April 26

1852  Was about house and to work about the

garden all the forenoon  Mr Manly brought

me a Japan Quince Syringa P Lilac Compfre

Ragged robbin Cowslip Fleur de Luce &c  charged

90 cts.  Went this afternoon to Alsons with

Augustus & wife & her sister.  Came home

quite early and set out some plants that

I got there

Edwin Manley, Easton’s resident green thumb, brought Evelina her lilac bush this morning, along with a quince tree, some comfrey, ragged robin, cowslip and “fleur de luce,” which probably was Evelina’s spelling for fleur-de-lis, also known as  iris.  For less than a dollar, she acquired flora that promised to add fragrance and color to her garden. Later in the day she got more plants – for free, most likely – from her brother Alson Gilmore.

The countryside itself was still wanting in color at this mid-spring juncture, something Evelina and her fellow passengers might have noticed on their way to and from the Gilmore farm. Henry David Thoreau wrote about the pale fields and expectant woods in his journal on this date: “The landscape wears a subdued tone, quite soothing to the feelings; no glaring colors.”* Perhaps Evelina’s rush to add more vibrant colors to her yard would have jarred his sensibility.

Even with all the gardening, the day’s housework went on as usual with dusting, sweeping, dishes and laundry. Evelina and Jane McHanna both worked at various tasks, while Thoreau – not that many miles away – responded otherwise:  “It is a dull, rain dropping and threatening afternoon, inclining to drowsiness. I feel as if I could go to sleep under a hedge.”*

The two diarists reacted differently to the awakening pulse of spring.

 

**Henry David Thoreau, Journal

December 27, 1851

imgres-1

Sat Dec 27th  Have put more sugar lemon & ginger to the syrup

of the citron  swept and dusted the rooms got

the lining ready to quilt to Susans hood quilted

the lining to Susans bonnet and fixed the collar

to my cloak  A[u]gustus Lothrop brought me a 

bushel of cranberries.  A Augustus called to bring

soap shoes &c that he got me in Boston

 

The cold temperature continued, Old Oliver noting in his diary that “the thermometer according to the papers was down to 8 in some places.”* Such temperatures wouldn’t have harmed the bushel of cranberries that Evelina received today. As author Mrs. Cornelius advised in her 1846 household guide, “cranberries keep well in a firkin of water. If they freeze, so much the better.”**

Cranberries were common in New England.  There is debate over whether they were served at the earliest Thanksgiving dinners, but there’s no debate that both Native Americans and English settlers consumed the fruit in season. Botanist Judith Sumner notes that: “Wild cranberries were originally hand-picked, but efficient New-Englanders soon crafted scoops that could be used to rake the berries from the lax stems.  During the nineteenth century, bogs carpeted with wild cranberries transformed into cultivated sites that were raked systematically each fall.”***  Augustus Lothrop, the youngest brother of Sarah Lothrop Ames, evidently cultivated cranberries at his farm in Sharon.

Henry David Thoreau enjoyed cranberries, finding them in the wild and eating them raw.  He considered them “a refreshing, cheering, encouraging acid that literally puts the heart in you and sets you on edge for this world’s experiences.”***

*Oliver Ames, Journal, Stonehill College Archives, 1848-1863

**Mrs. Cornelius, The Young Housekeeper’s Friend, New York, 1846

*** Judith Sumner, American Household Botany, Portland, Oregon, 2004, p. 124

 

Ed. note:  Horace “Augustus” Lothrop was the youngest brother of Sarah Lothrop Ames.  He lived in Sharon.

Alson “Augustus” Gilmore was a nephew of Evelina Gilmore Ames, son of her brother Alson. He lived in Easton.

October 31, 1851

apple_barrel

*

Friday 31st  Have taken up the bedroom and stair carpets

and Bridget has cleaned the front entry

I have been very busy all day about the house

Mrs Hubbell, Ames, and Mrs S Ames have been

to Sharon  Mrs Witherell called at Mrs Swains

this afternoon but I was so busy that I could 

not accompany her.  Passed the evening in

the other part of the house.  Mr Scott painting

Mr Hawkins lectured at the methodist meeting house

 

Evelina’s autumn version of spring cleaning continued today as she tackled the upstairs carpets. Mr. Scott was still in the house, painting, and servant Bridget O’Neill cleaned the front entry which had also undergone repainting. “Very busy all day about the house,” Evelina evidently didn’t even venture out of doors.

Others did go outside. Sarah Ames Witherell paid a call on new mother Ann Swain, while Sarah Ames, Almira Ames and Mrs. Hubbel rode to nearby Sharon. Old Oliver noted in his journal that “this was a fair day + some cooler wind north west +considerable of it.”

Some miles northward, in Concord, Henry David Thoreau noted in his journal that “The wild apples are now getting palatable. I find a few left on distant trees, that the farmer thinks it not worth his while to gather. He thinks that he has better in his barrels, but he is mistaken, unless he has a walker’s appetite and imagination, neither of which can he have.”**  Two farmers in Evelina’s life, her father-in-law, Old Oliver, and her brother, Alson Gilmore, might take exception to Thoreau’s characterization of them as men without imagination.

In the evening, a Mr. Hawkins gave a lecture at the Methodist meeting house, right in the village.

* Barrel of apples, http://nbarnett2.wordpress.com/2010/02/15/the-importance-of-good-packing/

**Henry David Thoreau, Journal, http://hdt.typepad.com/henrys_blog/2004/10/october_31_1851.ht