December 8, 1852

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Wednesday Dec 8th  Have been doing to day probably

what I shall while Oakes A stays, to work

on his clothes  He went to Boston this

morning  It is so near the time he is to leave

that I do not like to have him away but 

how little is he sensible to what my feelings are

Miss Alger has given the 15th leson

 

Only one week earlier, Evelina had learned that Oakes Angier’s illness had returned. She had been shocked, rattled, anxious. Today, a week later, she was not much improved and had added a dose of self-pity. She was feeling sorry for herself. While Oakes Angier went off to Boston for the day, probably with his cousin Alson Augustus Gilmore, Evelina stayed at home to mend and sew the clothes he would need for the journey to Cuba. “[H]ow little is he sensible” to her maternal concern and regard, she bemoaned.

Oakes Angier may have been quite aware of his mother’s feelings, and may have wanted a break from them. Fresh air, sunshine and a jaunt into Boston must have appealed to him. He had his own mental adjustments to make to this threat to his young life, independent of everyone else’s personal regard. He had so much at stake.

So mother and son spent some time apart, he exploring some of the larger world he would soon be thrust into, she nursing a heavy heart at home, sewing, of course, perhaps with piano scales running in the background.

The only thing that Old Oliver noted was that it was a “fair good”* day.

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

 

 

December 5, 1852

Cheese

Sunday Dec 5th  have been to meeting all day

as usual. Staid in the meeting house

at noon with Augustus wife. Was very

sleepy this afternoon could not possibly 

keep awake.  Have been writing John &

wife this evening & Mr Ames has written some

& sent him a check for 86 doll 39 cts and are

to pay Alson 25 doll for him, for butter & cheese

dried apples &c.

 

“[T]his was a cloudy foggy day wind north east, not cold.”* Evelina doesn’t mention her eldest son today. She went to church and “staid in the meeting house” with a niece-in-law, Hannah Lincoln Gilmore, during intermission, which was unusual for her. Most other Sundays she went out and socialized; today, not. Perhaps she was avoiding friends and neighbors who, by now, would have heard about Oakes Angier’s illness, and would have wanted to extend sympathy and advice to her, which perhaps she just couldn’t handle yet. She still didn’t have her own thoughts and feelings in order and was so exhausted that she couldn’t stay awake during the afternoon sermon.

As she had done before during times of stress, Evelina turned her attention to money, in this case settling a domestic financial transaction. She spent time in the evening attempting to reconcile an account between her brother John Gilmore, who lived out of town, and her other brother, Alson, who lived on the family farm. There had been, evidently, a three-way trade of “butter & cheese dried apples &c,” a transaction that involved Oakes Ames writing a couple of sizable checks. Might Oakes Ames have helped support some of Evelina’s relatives from time to time?

 

December 4, 1852

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Silk Day Dress, ca. 1853 – 1855*

 

Sat Dec 4th  Have made velvet strings to my

bonnet swept the parlour and done some

sewing on one thing and another   Do not

feel very well  It has been a damp uncomfortable 

day and O A has been in the house reading.

Mr Ames brought me home a blue & brown 

raw silk dress

Feeling poorly, Evelina seemed to move through her day randomly doing “one thing and another.” She was so worried about her son Oakes Angier that she was making herself sick. Her thoughts must have been in an endless loop of Oakes Angier being ill and being ordered to Cuba for a cure. Why had this happened? Would he get better? Did the doctor know what he was doing? How could she cope?

This being Saturday, her husband Oakes went into town on shovel business, as usual. He, too, must have been feeling the shock and fright of their son being sent away for his health, but his thoughts today were on Evelina.  He was worried about her and, as he sometimes did, bought her a present. In the past he had purchased thread or magazines or some other small item. But on this day, he bought something on a scale we haven’t seen before: an expensive silk dress.

We might want details about this purchase: was it a bespoke dress that she could alter to fit, or was it simply the material that she and her dressmaker could create from scratch? Whatever shape that blue raw silk took, Oakes knew how much his Evelina loved dresses and dressmaking and was making a grand gesture of love and concern. We have no greater proof of his regard for his wife.

*Image courtesy of Cincinnati Art Museum, Gift of Mark A. Clark in memory of Mrs. Lawrence Halloran.

October 30, 1852

Nurse

Sat Oct 30th Mr Dawes & Miss A[l]ger left for

Boston this morning  Mrs S Ames watched 

last night with Mr Swains child and Mrs Witherell

is there to day  I have been very busy about

house to day and wish I was able to do

a great deal more as it is much out of order

Yesterday the Ames women visited Ann and John Swain’s house to see their ailing infant son. Today Sarah Lothrop Ames and Sarah Ames Witherell were back, taking turns watching. The outlook for the one-year old wasn’t good, evidently. Evelina would go over to the Swains for the night, being too busy during the day to help.

Evelina was straightening up her house after the departure of the latest houseguests, Mr. Dawes and Miss M. J. Alger. It was the first time in days that her home was back to normal, with only family in residence.  She found everything to be “much out of order,” and no doubt she and her servants bustled about choring and setting things to rights. She seemed too busy even to worry about whether or not her daughter Susie was practicing the piano.

In unrelated news from the Pacific Northwest, this 1852 date marks the first time that the name “Seattle” appeared in print, in a pair of advertisements in The Columbian, a nascent newspaper in Olympia. The city we know today, then just a small settlement, had been known informally as Duwamps, but had been recently renamed after Chief Seattle, a leader of the local Suquamish tribe. How remote and unconnected Evelina would have considered the beginnings of a city so far from her kin and beyond her ken.

 

 

September 21, 1852

Funeral

Tuesday Sept 21st  Have been almost sick to day and

not able to do much  Got a quilt into the

new chamber for Catharine to work upon

Went to the funeral of Mrs Savage at

one Oclock.  Called with Mrs Witherell at

Augustus,  Mr Swains & on Mrs Wales.  She

is confined to her bet yet and has been for weeks

It appears to have been Evelina’s turn to be ill, as she describes herself as unable “to do much.”  We readers know how hard she usually worked, so not doing much might mean that she only accomplished four or five tasks today instead of a dozen. Despite feeling “almost sick,” Evelina managed to arrange sewing for her servant Catharine, attend the funeral of Hannah Savage and, with her sister-in-law, Sarah Ames Witherell, call on several households in the village. It’s hard to know if Evelina was spreading germs or picking them up as she went along, but she meant well.

According to Old Oliver Ames, “this was a fair day + pritty warm wind northerly,”* in other words a pleasant day to be out and about. Yet, in two of the homes that Evelina and Sarah visited, people were ailing. At the Swains’, their infant son was teething and fussy. At the home of Ephraim and Maria Wales, the latter was “confined to her bed yet,” an expression which hints at a recent or impending childbirth. Mrs. Wales was of childbearing age, yet census records show no children for this young couple. Perhaps Maria would lose or had lost an infant, or was simply ill with any one of a myriad of possible ailments.

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

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 19, 1852

Abbott H. Thayer, Angel, 1887, oil Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of John Gellatly

Abbott H. Thayer, Angel, 1887, oil
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of John Gellatly

 

Sunday 19th Sept  Have been to meeting as usual, rode

home at noon alone with Alson  Rode in

our new carriage for the first time & like it

very well  Mr Dawes & Miss M J Alger called

since meeting  Augusta is more unwell again

and is in great pain and sick to her stomach

Edwin came in after me and I have been there

since Mr Dawes went away

The new carriage took various Ameses to church this morning, and the ride went “very well.” Was it Oakes’s horse Kate who pulled the reins? Evelina herself came home at noon with her brother; perhaps they had something about their mother to attend to. Perhaps Evelina was preparing for company later in the day, or was tending to serious matters in the village.

Hannah Savage, a neighbor, died today after months of illness. Surely, those who knew her were grateful that she was finally out of her misery. Her slow decline from tuberculosis had taxed not only her body and soul, but the goodwill and resources of her family and friends. Consumption was truly a wasting disease.

There was more illness nearby. Augusta Pool Gilmore still hadn’t gotten the best of a gastrointestinal disorder that had kept her in bed for almost three weeks, and today she had a serious relapse. She was in her second trimester of pregnancy, too, which had to have everyone worried. As soon as Evelina said goodbye to her guests, she hurried over to tend to poor Augusta.