December 21, 1852

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Tuesday, Dec 21st  Mrs Horatio Ames left this morning

for Taunton where she is going to stop a week

or two  Catharine & self have quilted the

lining for Susans sack  We were about

it most all day  This evening have been

in awhile to see Mrs Ames & Witherell

It was the darkest day of the year: winter solstice. Sally Hewes Ames departed for friends or relatives in Taunton, her life in upheaval as she sought a divorce. Would she ever spend time with her husband’s relatives again? Was this the last she saw of them? One wonders how her relationship with Horatio’s family would play out.

Evelina tried again to settle back into her normal routine in North Easton. Picking up a needle and thread and sewing “most all day” probably felt like heaven to her. After the drama and disruption of the past three weeks, she was back doing what she did best: sew. She and her servant Catharine Murphy put together a winter sack, or apron-like jumper, for Susan Ames. They quilted it to make it warmer and sturdier.

In the evening, Evelina sat with her sisters-in-law, Sarah Lothrop Ames and Sarah Ames Witherell. They certainly had much to talk over. Old Oliver, meanwhile, recorded the day’s weather: “[I]t raind a verry little last night and this morning there is a thin coat of snow + ice on the ground wind north east + chilly it snod a little about all day but did not gain much.”*

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

December 19, 1852

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Classified ad, New York Herald, March 30, 1861

1852

Sunday Dec 19th  Have not got over the effects of my

journey yet and did not feel like going

to meeting was intending to have a quiet 

time reading but Mrs. H Ames came in

soon after they left and staid untill after

the[y] got home. Talking over her trouble & by

her account Horatio is very much to blame

and no one could live with him

Still recovering from her recent trip to New York, Evelina was hoping for some “quiet time” at home while others went to church. She had just settled in with something to read when her sister-in-law, Sally Hewes Ames, came in. Sally needed to talk, and Evelina had no choice but to listen.

Sally stayed for hours “talking over her trouble” with her husband Horatio. As would be shown in the divorce documents, Horatio committed adultery “with divers women in New York.”** He was verbally cruel to her and their children. “No one could live with him” was the consensus of the women.  But divorce!

Divorce wasn’t easy in the nineteenth century. Like today, divorce laws varied from state to state and were typically quite strict. The process was intrusive, recriminative and not for the faint of heart. When the century began, in many places divorce could only be obtained through an act of the state legislature. By mid-century, however, the laws were loosening up, but still varied widely. Indiana, for instance, was the Reno of its day:

During the 1850s, Indiana was widely condemned as a Midwestern Sodom for its relatively lax statutes. Couples there obtained divorces on any grounds that a judge ruled “proper” – attracting a flood of applicants from out of state. The editor Horace Greeley lambasted the Hoosier State as “the paradise of free-lovers” whose example would soon lead to “a general profligacy and corruption such as this country has never known.” (In 1859, its legislature finally voted to require a year’s residency before allowing a divorce suit to be heard.)[…]

South Carolina stood at the other extreme. Since the Revolution, the Palmetto State had refused to permit divorce for any reason whatsoever. Although a court might, very rarely, grant an annulment, most disgruntled spouses had no recourse except to abandon each other. (In fact, South Carolina did not pass its first divorce statute until 1949.) In many states, including New York, divorce was often only granted on condition that neither spouse could remarry – which was supposed to safeguard public morality by ensuring that no one could trade in an old partner for a new one. In North Carolina, the “guilty party” was forbidden to remarry during the lifetime of the “innocent party.” *

Sally Hewes Ames would obtain her divorce in Connecticut, in August 1853. She was set free, but at great cost; the rift permanently altered the relationship of Horatio with his children. Horatio himself remarried in 1856.

What might Old Oliver have thought about this episode? He doesn’t say, only remarking that this Sunday “was a cloudy day most of the time wind south west + not col – Horatio s Wife + Horatio Jun r are here”***

*Adam Goodheart, Divorce, Antebellum Style, NYT, March 18, 2011, The Opinionator

**Gregory Galer, Robert Gordon, Frances Kemmish, Connecticut’s Ames Iron Works, New Haven, 1998, p. 157

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

December 18, 1852

Stage

 

Sat Dec 18th  Had a good nights rest but still feel

very much fatigued and cannot make up

my mind to do much  Miss Alger came to give

the 17th lesson and stopt to dinner.

Mrs Horatio Ames & son Horatio came in the 

stage to night  She has left her home and

how unhappy she must be

With the demanding travel of the last several days, and the emotional drain of seeing her son off, Evelina was “very much fatigued” today. She fell back into a routine of sorts, noting that Miss Alger gave another piano lesson to Susie Ames and Emily Witherell and stayed for midday dinner. But she had trouble engaging in her usual occupations: sewing, choring, mending or reading.

A new difficulty arrived, evidently to everyone’s surprise. Sally Hewes Ames and her eldest son, Horatio Ames Jr., arrived by stagecoach from Connecticut, bringing the news that she had left her husband Horatio. She intended to divorce him. Divorce! In a era when such an act was rare and invariably scandalous, Evelina’s foremost reaction was to feel sorry for her sister-in-law. “How unhappy she must be.”

Old Oliver records none of this drama, only the day’s weather, noting that it “was a cold day + a high north west wind + much the coldest day we have this season.” Winter was finally beginning to bite.

November 24, 1852

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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

October 3, 1852

Play

Oct 3d Sunday  We have all been to meeting to day

Mrs Norris Mr Ames & self came home at noon but did not

have a dinner cooked  After meeting Frank carried Miss Linscott

& Orinthia to Bridgewater & Melinda & self went to Mothers and

called on Miss M J Alger while Frank went to carry them home

Mrs A[l]ger had her piano & played Horatio Jr is here came last night

More comings and goings today. Everyone went to church, of course, but afterwards dispersed in different directions. Frank Morton Ames obliged the young, single ladies in the group by driving them home to Bridgewater. While he headed east, Evelina and her friend Melinda Norris rode south to the family farm to visit the elderly Mrs. Gilmore. They also stopped to visit Miss M J Alger, the woman who would be giving piano lessons to Susie Ames and Emily Witherell. She, or her mother, played a piano for them.

Old Oliver reported that “this was a fair pleasant day for season Oakes came home from N. York las[t] night.” Oakes Angier stayed behind, on business or pleasure we don’t know. Evelina reported, as her father-in-law did not, that Horatio Ames Jr. was back for a visit. He was the son of Horatio Ames, a brother of Oakes and Oliver Jr. It’s unclear if Horatio Jr. was living in Boston at this point or was still in Connecticut at the family home there.

 

 

August 4, 1852

Thread

1852

Wedns Aug 4th  Sewing circle met at the other part

of the house  Had an unusually large number

About 30 beside the gentlemen that came

to the second table.  My family all had tea

there  After tea all went into the gardens

and into Olivers to hear Helen play

Horatio and another man came from Salisbury

Sarah Witherell hosted the monthly Sewing Circle, to which people turned out in “an unusually large number.” Everyone would have known about the death of Sarah’s son back in May, and by showing up on this occasion, they likely were paying respect to a woman they probably admired. In her quiet, dignified way, Sarah had done so much for others that others now wanted to do something for her.  They may also have been demonstrating respect for her father, Old Oliver. Sarah was probably grateful for the outpouring and for the hostessing assistance she would have gotten from her visiting cousin, Almira Ames.

Old Oliver may or may not have been on the premises for tea. According to his daily record, on “the 4th Horatio + Mr Morse his traveling agent came here + went away the next day.”* Evelina doesn’t mention Horatio (Sr., probably) but as we know, they weren’t close.

After the busy gathering at Sarah Witherell’s, family and guests toured the gardens – of both houses, presumably – and then moved into the house next door to hear Helen Angier Ames, only daughter of Sarah Lothrop Ames and Oliver Ames Jr., play piano. Perhaps even Old Oliver, Horatio and Mr. Morse were part of the appreciative crowd.

This is the first entry that tells us that Helen Angier Ames played the piano, and it’s significant. Owning a piano or, more likely, a pianoforte was “the ultimate ‘badge of gentility’.”** Because “less than one in a hundred” households in the country owned such an instrument, those that did could be reckoned to be high up on the social scale. Owning a piano distinguished “‘decent people’ from the lower and less distinguished”, according to the standards of the time.

 

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

**Jack Larkin, The Reshaping of Everyday LIfe: 1790-1840, New York, 1988, p. 143

 

 

July 27, 1852

 

Asleep

Tuesday July 27th  Mrs Savage had quite a

comfortable night & I came home a

little before 5 Oclock & went to bed

did not rise untill nearly nine

Elizabeth Pool & Augusta came

in this forenoon with their work

Mrs Whitwell Reed Howard & Miss

Jarvis called on us all & Alsons wife

was here to tea & Mother at Augustus’

Evelina’s all-nighter at the bedside of Mrs. Savage didn’t seem to impinge on her day.  After a catch-up sleep in the early morning, she was back on her feet.  Augusta Gilmore and her young sister Elizabeth came over “with their work,” meaning that they brought some sewing with them, and the women sat, sewed, and visited. Later in the day, several ladies from her Unitarian circle of friends “called on us”.  Her brother Alson’s wife, Henrietta Williams Gilmore, came by for tea. A most sociable day, it was.

In the other part of the house, “Horatio Ames Jun r came here to day.”* Horatio was, obviously, the eldest son of Horatio Ames, who was the brother of Oakes, Oliver Jr., Sarah Witherell, Harriet Mitchell and William Leonard Ames. Repeating previous posts, Horatio ran a forge in Connecticut, far from the shovel shop in Easton, but still connected to it financially and emotionally. He and his son were not on friendly terms, and it’s hard to determine just what had brought Horatio Jr to Easton.  He arrived in the evening and for some reason Evelina didn’t mention it in her diary.

 

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