September 2, 1852

Bowl

1852

Thursday Sept 2d  I was intending to sit down early

this morning to sew but while we were at

breakfast Edwin came in & said his wife was

sick and wanted me to go in there  I found

her sick with the Cholera Morbus.  Came

home & made her some gruel washed her 

dishes & came home and made some pies

& sent Susan in there to stay with her

Just at night called at Augustus

Fred has gone back to Cambridge  Emily went to Boston

Despite its frightening name, Cholera morbus was not the cholera we might recognize as the dreaded disease of epidemic capability, the bacterial scourge that swept through whole cities, but rather a Victorian name for a gastrointestinal disorder that was “characterized by nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, [and] elevated temperature.”* It may also have been used to describe appendicitis. Poor Augusta Gilmore had been felled by this miserable sickness, which was alarming enough to send her husband Edwin to the neighbors for help. Augusta must have been a little frightened that her sickness might be related to her pregnancy; she was almost four months along at this date.

Thank goodness for Evelina, ever dependable in a crisis of this nature. Evelina visited Augusta right away, tidied up for her, made her a bowl of gruel – a thin porridge – and sent Susie Ames over to sit with her. No doubt Susie was instructed to report on any change for the worse.

Back in her own home, Evelina baked pies and kept watch on all the neighborhood goings-on. The younger generation was moving around: Emily Witherell went to Boston, and Fred Ames returned to Harvard for another year. His departure may have caused Oliver (3), who had so wanted to return to Brown, some anguish. Fred got to finish college, and Oliver didn’t.

* Sylvan Cazalet, “Old Disease Names,” http://www.homeoint.org

August 20, 1852

1024px-1879_CV_map_only

Map of the Central Vermont Railroad, circa 1879

1852

Friday Aug 20th  Left Bellows Falls at 1/2 past 7 and

arrived at Burlington about two. Went

to Mrs Stetsons found the house shut up

At the house opposite they told us she had

gone to Mrs Mills and went there and had

some dinner and all went to Mrs Stetsons to

tea  Mrs S Ames Fred & Helen stopt at Pittsford

Willie Gilmore died this afternoon

Evelina would not learn of it for several days, but her young great-nephew, William Lincoln Gilmore, died today of dysentery. (She added the information later.) Barely a year old, Willie had been ill for several weeks, and Evelina had visited his parents, Augustus and Hannah Gilmore, a few times before she left North Easton. His death was sad news.

Not knowing about it, however, and full of her own worry for her own son, Evelina was open to the journey she and other family members were on. By way of the Vermont Central Railroad, presumably, she, Oakes Angier, and Almira Ames traveled another 100+ miles today from Bellows Falls to Burlington, Vermont, while Sarah Lothrop Ames and her two children, Fred and Helen, got off at Pittsford. Although the map in the illustration above dates from 1879, the line itself was first developed in the 1840’s.

Burlington was Oakes Angier’s destination, the place where he would stay for several weeks to rest and, it was hoped, recuperate from his pulmonary illness. The threesome spent the night with Mrs. Stetson, a friend of the family.

August 14, 1852

440px-Henry_Jacob_Bigelow_c1854

 

Dr. Henry Jacob Bigelow

(1818 – 1890)

Aug 14th

1852 Saturday  Oakes A went to see Dr Bigelow

He agrees with Dr Swan that the blood

comes from the lungs and that he must leave the

shop and be very quiet.  Returned from

Boston to night.  Mrs Stevens came here in

the Cars  Mrs Witherell A L Ames & Mrs

S Ames called

Oakes Angier saw a doctor in Boston today about his bad cough and bloody sputum.  He went to a Dr. Bigelow, who could have been either of two well-regarded medical men: Jacob Bigelow or his son, Henry Jacob Bigelow. The son, only a decade older than Oakes Angier himself, was a Harvard grad who was becoming famous for his role in introducing ether into the operating room. Without the modern diagnostic equipment to which we 21st century readers have become accustomed, Dr. Bigelow was nonetheless able to give an informed opinion about Oakes Angier’s pulmonary condition. If the doctor used the word “consumption,” Evelina didn’t write it down.

The illness was serious and Oakes Angier was ordered to ” leave the shop and be very quiet.” Rest and fresh air, in other words, were the treatment. If diagnostic ability was limited, treatments were even more so. Oakes Angier would have to go away and rest and hope for the best.

Back in Easton, the women of the family gathered in the sitting room or parlor to hear what the Boston physician had said, and perhaps to take a look at Evelina’s new bonnet. We can imagine that each member had a notion of what should happen next: where Oakes Angier should go, how he might travel, and what needed to be done to get him ready. In all likelihood, however, the decision on what to do would be decided by Oakes Angier’s father.

 

August 12, 1852.

Sow Thursday Aug 12th  I have been very busy and have not

written in this book for a number of days and

have made a mistake  Yesterday it rained and

prevented our going to Boston and it was last

night that Oakes  A bled and prevented our

going to day  Mrs Dorr returned to Boston

this morning  I have been very busy fixing work

for Catharine

Evelina was rattled. She usually kept pretty good track of her days, but this week she was delinquent and confused. She jumbled her activities around. In all probability, she was upset about Oakes Angier’s illness. He had been coughing up blood for a couple of weeks, at least, and wasn’t getting any better. The worry and fatigue was getting to her.

Outside the sickroom, the day was pleasant. The wind was “southerly + pritty warm,” allowing Old Oliver’s crew of outdoor men to sow “grass seed + turnips on one half of the Peckham lott this day.”* Life of the farm and, presumably, at the factory were proceeding as normal. But it wouldn’t have felt normal to Evelina and others. Their lives were threatened by a sinister possibility.

Easton readers and local historians, where was the Peckham lot?

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

August 11, 1852

Doctor

Aug 11 Wednesday  Was intending to go to Boston

with Oakes Angier to day but last night he had another

attack of bleeding  Dr Swan came and ordered

medicine every two hours  I waited upon him

and of course did not sleep much  He appeared

pretty well this morning and walked to the 

shop  Passed the afternoon with Mrs Dorr

and others at Father Ames

A scary night at the Ames home. Oakes Angier had “another attack of bleeding,” one that was bad enough to call out Dr. Swan. For several weeks now, the Ames’s eldest son had been hacking and periodically coughing up blood; in the night, he did it again. Yet by morning Oakes Angier had recovered enough to go to work, and his mother, Evelina, was obligated to move through her day on very little sleep. She spent most of the afternoon sitting down in the other part of the house.

Serious illness may attack one person, but it impacts everyone around that person. Oakes Angier, the eldest son, had a difficult physical challenge in front of him, but others, too, had to find an acceptable path through these dark nights and troubling possibilities. Evelina, the mother, certainly had a frightening prospect to deal with and, as primary care-giver, an exhausting role to play.

What might be the medicine that Dr. Swan ordered for Oakes Angier? Laudanum? Any thoughts, readers?

 

August 6, 1852

sarudy4-R14-E422

Friday Aug 6th

1852 Sewed but very little this forenoon picked

some peas currants &c  Lavinia came to 

dinner  Edwin & wife to tea  Lavinia & I

called to Augustus’ to see their babe who 

is quite sick with the disentary  He looked

quite bright  Mrs Witherell & A L Ames

called a few moments

There were fresh peas at the Ames dinner table today.  We readers might not have enjoyed them, however, as the recipes of the time called for cooking peas – and other vegetables – much longer than our modern preferences allow. Domestic doyenne and editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, Sarah Josepha Hale, declared that peas are “a most delicious vegetable,” but cautioned that “[i]t takes from half an hour to an hour to boil them.”* That seems overcooked to us, but, nevertheless, the Ames’s peas were fresh, untarnished by pesticides, and indisputably local.

With her niece Lavinia Gilmore, Evelina went to visit her nephew (and Lavinia’s half-brother) Alson Augustus Gilmore, who had lately been ill. He was now well, but his one-year old son, Willie, had become “quite sick” with dysentery. Had the child caught something from his father? Or was he suffering a condition not uncommon in children in the heat of the summer?  His bright red face suggests fever and dehydration. Augustus and his wife, Hannah, would have been worried about the little boy.

*Sarah Josepha Hale, The Good Housekeeper, 1841, p. 75

 

August 1, 1852

SerffLedger1

 

Example of anonymous, old cash ledger

1852

Sunday Aug 1st  Went to meeting this forenoon

but was very sleepy and had a head

ache came home at noon & did not

return, was writing and looking over my

accounts untill the rest returned from 

meeting, good business for the Sabbath

I think. Mr Ames & self went to see Augustus

since meeting.  Alson & wife came after Mary

Evelina was plagued by a headache, so didn’t return to the afternoon service at the Unitarian church. As she had done before on a Sunday afternoon, she went over her household accounts. Like many a competent householder, she kept a ledger of cash transactions that detailed the weekly or monthly expenses of running the house. It’s highly unlikely that she had any money of her own; everything would have been paid for by her husband, Oakes, who either saw that she had a regular allowance or gave her funds as needed. She would have been careful with every penny, probably more careful than he was.

On this Sunday, she describes the review of her accounts as “good business for the Sabbath,” but in an earlier entry she had hesitated to do it, fearing that it was inappropriate. Accounting was quiet work, certainly, but it was still work, and that was forbidden on Sunday. By defending the activity in her own diary, she shows us that she was still feeling a little guilty for doing it.

Socializing wasn’t forbidden, however, and when her husband, Oakes, came home from church, the two went out to see Evelina’s nephew, Alson Augustus Gilmore, who had been quite sick with fever. Her brother, Alson, and his wife, Henrietta, meanwhile, “came after” the maid, Mary, and, evidently, took her home with them.

 

 

July 31, 1852

images

Women making potash soap, circa 1900*

1852 July 31st  Saturday  Have made two barrels

of potash soap and have had very good luck  This 

afternoon have been mending  Catharine Murphy came

this afternoon to sew for me and Im sure I hope she

will be worth something for it  Mary has been to work

on her own dress this afternoon   Susan &

self have been to Augustus this evening

and staid until ten  He is getting quite smart

This was a full Saturday for Evelina. She made a large batch of soap and was quite pleased with the result. Soap-making is an art, and Evelina was good at it. She knew enough about it, indeed, to be grateful for her own success. Of course, she could have purchased soap in the city or, perhaps, even in the Ames’s general store, but the farm girl in her resisted spending money on something she could make herself.

Lydia Maria Child, author of The American Frugal Housewife, devotes a whole page of her slim volume to making soap. “In the country,” she states unequivocally, “I am certain, it is good economy to make one’s own soap.” She offers various measures of ingredients: “To make a barrel of soap, it will require about five or six bushels of ashes, with at least four quarts of unslacked stone lime,” after which “[t]hree pounds of grease should be put into a pailful of lye.”** The trick to making soap depended on the sequence in which the ingredients were mixed, and at what temperature. It was a backyard chemistry experiment.

After the hard work of soap-making, in which Evelina was no doubt assisted by a servant, and an afternoon of mending, Evelina and her daughter Susan went to see her nephew. Augustus had fallen quite ill two weeks earlier with fever, but was now on the mend.

 

Image courtesy of http://www.wildernessarena.com

** Lydia Maria Child, The American Frugal Housewife, 1841

July 29, 1852

stock-illustration-20625662-woman-on-death-bed-friend-at-bedside-1862-magazine

Thursday July 29th  Julia has been here again

to day worked for me untill about

three and cut Mary a dress  Mrs G

Ames Mrs S Ames Helen Emily & self

have passed the afternoon at Mr B

Algers coming home  Dr Wales stoped

the carriage & asked me to go there and watch with his wife

Evelina and her dressmaker sewed for hours today, presumably working on Evelina’s new traveling outfit but also cutting out a dress for the maid, Mary. In the late afternoon, Evelina joined the visiting Almira Ames, sister-in-law Sarah Lothrop Ames and two nieces, Helen Angier Ames and Sarah Emily Witherell at the home of the Algers in Easton.

Ephraim Wales, a young doctor in town, evidently crossed paths with Evelina as she, and probably some of the other ladies, traveled home after their call on the Algers. Dr. Wales wanted Evelina to watch with his wife, Maria. Maria must have been ill or possibly even in labor.  Subsequent records don’t reveal why a doctor wanted Evelina to tend to his wife. But it does seem that Evelina was becoming the go-to care-giver in various homes. She was clearly generous with her time, and her bedside skills must have been excellent.

July 18, 1852

Church

July 18th Sunday  Have been to meeting as usual

Mr Whitwell preached well.  Went to Mr

Whitwells with Mother & Henrietta at noon

When we came from church Mr Ames

& self rode up to the ponds, found Oliver &

Fred there  Called this evening with Mr

Ames at Augustus found him threatened

with a fever & quite unwell.  Called on Lavinia

Williams a moment and Mrs Savage who is quite ill.

The good news today was that Evelina was comfortably back in her own pew at her own church, listening to her favorite minister preach. During the intermission between sermons, she even took her mother and sister-in-law, Henrietta Williams Gilmore, to the parsonage for tea. After church she and Oakes “rode up to the ponds,” meaning that they may have ridden not just to Shovel Shop Pond, but also beyond to Flyaway or Great Pond. There they ran into Oliver (either their son or Oakes’s brother-in-law) and Fred Ames.*

The not-so-good news was a run of illness among family and friends. Evelina’s nephew, Alson “Augustus” Gilmore, was suffering from some kind of fever. This was not an uncommon ailment during the hottest weeks of summer; many infants, especially, were prone to dehydration when the thermometer went up. Evelina had to be concerned that Augustus was so ill so suddenly. Hannah Savage (her near neighbor for whom her old servant, Jane McHanna, was now working) had been ill for some time. Hannah was thought to be dying; a watch would soon begin for her.

*It seems likely that it was Oliver (3) and not Oliver Jr with  Fred “up to the ponds.”  If it had been Oliver Jr., it’s probable that Sarah Lothrop Ames would have been with them.  She wasn’t. And it’s equally likely that the two young college men would be enjoying their familiar camaraderie, now that each was home from school.