February 7, 1852



Charles Dickens, ca. 1852

(1812 – 1870)


1852  Sat  Feb 7th  Orinthia Miss Burill Susan & self called this

morning on Mrs J Howard, Whitwell & E Howards

left Susan at Mr Howards, came home with Frank

from a sing this evening.  Abby Augusta & Helen were

here awhile this afternoon  Helen went out to Bridgewater

last night and came up with Mr & Mrs James Mitchell this

forenoon  Orinthia went home about five and this

evening we have been into Olivers.  Mr Mitchell returned at nine.


This was a non-stop sociable Saturday for Evelina; she, her daughter Susan, dear companion Orinthia Foss, and another young schoolteacher, Miss Burrell, made calls all morning long. In the afternoon, she entertained three of her nieces and in the evening, visited next door at Oliver Jr and Sarah Lothrop Ames’s house. Chat, chat, chat.

In the larger world of letters, Charles Dickens turned 40 years old today. Even at mid-career, he was known as “The Inimitable,” so great was his talent, so voracious his readers. Evelina loved his work and benefited from his prolificacy.

By this point in Dickens’ life, among the books he had already published were The Pickwick Papers, Nicholas Nickleby, various Christmas novellas including A Christmas Carol, Dombey and Son, and David Copperfield, which Evelina had read the previous year. At this time he was composing Bleak House which, like most of his novels, was published in serial form over many months. Its first episode would come out in March, 1852, and run through September, 1853.

Still waiting to be born were future classics such as Hard Times (which targeted Unitarianism, among other entities), Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, Our Mutual Friend – and more. Dickens wrote articles, made speeches, toured, and even acted. He was a high-profile tour de force with a fertile imagination and a thirst for success. Ralph Waldo Emerson, who heard Dickens speak in Boston, compared the author’s ability to “a fearful locomotive to which he is bound and can never be free from it nor set to rest.”*

*Ralph Waldo Emerson, quoted in Annie Field’s diary, 1868.





January 30, 1852


Jan 1852

Jan 30th  Friday  Have commenced making a flannel

skirt for self & finished Susans dark print apron.

Mother [and] self passed the afternoon at Edwins.  Mr

Ames came to tea. Mrs S Ames called there with Mrs

Holmes. Mrs Witherell and the others returned to 

night  She has not her teeth but is to send for them

Oliver & Fred went to James Mitchell and called at

several other places  had a fine time Oliver played

chess with Judge Mitchell

Oliver Ames (3), Evelina’s middle son and a future governor of Massachusetts, was still home from college, as was his first cousin, Frederick Lothrop Ames.  The two young men were having “a fine time” on their winter break.  Chess was just one of the games they might have played to while away the dark evenings, another being whist.

Chess had been around for centuries, having first developed in India and the Islamic world.  It had evolved over time; dark and light squares on a chessboard were first introduced in the 10th century, for instance, rules for a stalemate or draw in the 15th, and so on.

By the nineteenth century, chess was really coming into its own.  In 1802, one J. Humphreys published a book called Chess Made Easy.  In 1830, the first known female chess player was acknowledged (though probably not encouraged.)  The first international chess tournament was held in London in 1851, won by Adolf Anderssen, and in 1852, the year we find Oliver Ames (3) playing the game on a winter’s night in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, sandglasses were first used to time a game.

Before the decade was finished, an American prodigy name Paul Morphy came to fame, winning nearly every game he played and defeating most of the older expert players. In the United States, a chess “epidemic” was born.

July 24, 1851


Thurs July 24th  Have been sewing on some of Susans

clothes, altering some skirts &c  Have been thinking

over my visit yesterday  Mrs Mitchell will have

a fine place in a few years if she keeps on as

she has begun  They have a fine lot of Turkeys

Ducks & Chickens and their garden looks finely

but not many flowers.


The visit that Evelina and her sisters-in-law made to East Bridgewater yesterday was enjoyable enough to preoccupy Evelina’s mind today.  As she sat sewing she thought over the home she had visited and considered its domestic arrangements. She liked the yard she had seen.  Casting her knowledgeable, farmer’s-daughter’s eye over the property in her mind, she assessed the “fine lot” of poultry and admired the garden.  Not enough flowers for her, though.

The house in question belonged to James Mitchell, son of Nahum and Nabby Mitchell, and his wife, whose name was Harriet Lavinia Angier Mitchell.  As fate would have it, Harriet Angier Mitchell was a friend of Harriett Ames Mitchell.  The two visited one another when Harriett Ames was in town and, presumably, worked out any confusion the similarity of their names occasioned.  As they were usually referred to as Mrs. James Mitchell and Mrs. Asa Mitchell, they may have encountered less confusion than there would be today, when first name usage is so prevalent.  Terms of address were definitely more formal in 1851.


May 22, 1851



Thursday May 22d  The first thing after breakfast set out

a plant that Orinthia sent me last night.  Then

went to work in the sitting room taking up the 

carpet cleaning the closets &c  have finished cleaning

the room and the carpet partly down.  Aunt Orr

& Harriet, James Mitchell came to visit Mrs

Witherell about two Oclock and I left my work to

see them  Quite pleasant

Ordinarily, Evelina was tired and listless after a day in Boston, but not today. Orinthia Foss sent her a plant, a sweet token of friendship and thanks, and “the first thing” Evelina did was head to the garden to plant it. Before doing her chores! The plant meant a lot to her and the gesture from her young friend buoyed the day.

Carpet cleaning, closet cleaning, &c, &c, as Evelina would say, took up the morning and some of the afternoon. Guests arrived in the other part of the house, making a welcome interruption from housework.

The Orrs and Mitchells were old connections from Bridgewater, and their families had long been intertwined with the Ameses. Some of the earliest Ameses had settled in Bridgewater and, as a young man, Old Oliver had lived there. As we’ve noted before, Evelina boarded with one branch of the Orr family whenever she stayed over in Boston.  Aunt Orr was probably Susan Orr, a close friend who could remember when Oakes Ames was a baby.

There were many Mitchells in Bridgewater. James Mitchell, who ended up as a merchant in Philadelphia, was one of them.  He was married to a woman from Belfast, Maine named Harriett Lavinia Angier (possibly a distant relative in the Angier line.) He and his wife didn’t appear often in the Ames written records, but they were among the few non-family members who, years after this, would attend the funeral of Horatio Ames.  Perhaps James Mitchell and Horatio Ames had been friends growing up.

Mrs. James Mitchell’s married name was Harriett Angier Mitchell, almost the same as Harriett Ames Mitchell, Oakes’s youngest sister who was married to Asa Mitchell. The Harriett who accompanied James Mitchell today was most likely his wife, not Oakes’s sister. Confusing to us, certainly, but straightforward to them. Otherwise, a pleasant day in all respects.