July 1, 1851



Tues July 1st  Worked in the garden a long while

this forenoon weeding & transplanting.

This afternoon trimmed Susan a straw and

horsehair bonnet that I purchased at Boston

Sat  Asa & Charles Mitchell came to 

the other part of the house this morning

Charles left this afternoon  I have not seen

Asa as yet

The wound on Evelina’s finger and thumb seemed better today; she spent most of her morning in the flower garden and, after dinner, trimmed a new bonnet for her daughter, Susan.  Straw bonnets were worn in the summer, naturally, and horsehair was a reinforcing fabric that could be used year round. Evelina had to be an expert by now on using horsehair, so adding ribbon or cloth flowers to it would be pretty easy for her, even with a sore hand.

Old Oliver, who seldom took note of the comings and goings of his children or his in-laws, reported in his journal that “Asa Mitchell came here to day from Sharon Pennsylvania.”  Asa was the husband of his youngest daughter, Harriett, who had been staying in Easton and Bridgewater by herself with her three children since the middle of April.  Asa worked in coal, an occupation that seemed to lead him – and his family – around western Pennsylvania and northern Ohio.

Evelina took note of Asa’s arrival; her curiosity was almost palpable as she awaited her turn to see him.  He and his brother Charles visited with Old Oliver and Sarah Witherell first thing.  What did they discuss?

* Horsehair and straw bonnet, modern construction from 1860s design; blog.historicalfashions.com, June 12, 2010, “Couture Historique” by Lindsey Slaugh

June 30, 1851



June 30 Monday  Jane has been washing to day but I

have done but very little of any thing. having a

very sore finger & thumb it is quite painful

have to let out the matter quite often  It has been

quite painful since Friday.  It is a very warm

uncomfortable day  I have worked some in the 

flower garden

Today was another Monday, another washday ably managed by the Ames’s servant, Jane McHanna. Evelina, who usually undertook other household chores on a Monday, wasn’t up for choring. She had a bad infection on her thumb and finger that prevented her washing the breakfast dishes, sweeping, or helping to prepare dinner. She was in pain and somewhat handicapped.

Perhaps she had cut her hand, or had worked up a few blisters, or had a bad scrape.  She could have done something in the kitchen or garden, or while sewing the tough horsehair cover for the new lounge. However she hurt herself, a skin infection was nothing to make light of in 1851.  In that age before antibiotics, Evelina had few remedies at hand beyond keeping her hand clean and perhaps applying a homemade linament or poultice. Her wound was the kind of injury that could turn septic; that she was squeezing “the matter” – or pus – out of it shows that she was conscious of a certain level of risk.

And yet, she found a way to work in the garden, so she couldn’t have been too frightened.