December 29, 1852

Emma-Snodgrass1

Emma Snodgrass 

 

Wednesday Dec 29th  Julia here to day & cut the

waist to Susans raw silk & partly cut the

waist to my 12 1/2 cts Delaine  My family

& Fathers all dined to Olivers  Mr & Mrs

Whitwell called.  We were all invited to 

Mr Swains this afternoon  I did not go untill

past five Oclock  Mr Ames & Oliver Jr came

there to tea

 

In North Easton, Evelina and her dressmaker, Julia Mahoney, spent the day cutting up cloth for some new dresses – probably one of Evelina’s favorite tasks. Evelina also entertained a visit from Rev. Whitwell and his wife, Eliza. She ended up staying indoors for most of the day, only venturing out after dark for tea at the home of John and Ann Swain.

In Boston on this day, a very different woman on a very different path ended up getting herself arrested, and not for the first time. The petite young perpetrator was Emma Snodgrass, a native of New York City. According to newspaper accounts of the day, her crime was “donning the breeches.” She was dressed in pants and a frock coat, trying to pass herself off as a man.

Her alias was George Green, and she was earning her living, at least for a time, as a sales clerk at John Simmons & Co., a clothier in the city. Newspapers as far away as California seized on the novelty of this aberrant behavior, and published various accounts of Miss Snodgrass’s conduct. What sources they might have used for their stories goes uncited, but nonetheless they delighted in reciting such tidbits as: “Snodgrass used to circulate in all the drinking houses, made several violent attempts to talk ‘horse’ and do other things for which ‘fast boys’ are noted.”*

The shock that Emma Snodgrass’s behavior generated in 1852 demonstrates how times have changed. In 2015, we might see Snodgrass’s cross-dressing as suggestive of what we now call gender identity disorder. Then, it was more likely understood as willful rebellion against the strict division of the roles of the sexes. Snodgrass and others – and there were others – had an impossible time being taken seriously. Many people probably believed that Emma Snodgrass’s parents hadn’t raised her properly.

What did Evelina think?

 

*New York Daily Times, November 30, 1852

 

December 27, 1852

Prisoner

Monday Dec 27  Catharine & Ann washed and I have

commenced my dresses early for Julia

Mr & Mrs Swain & his sister came unexpectedly

into the other part of the house this afternoon

and the evening I have been there  Mrs A L

& Mrs S Ames have been to Sharon this afternoon

Mrs Ames says all the reports about Mr Clarke

abusing his wife are true and he has broken her jaw

in three places  He is in the house of correction

 

Almira Ames and Sarah Lothrop Ames rode to neighboring Sharon and back today and returned with a tale of domestic violence. A Mr. Clarke had been put in jail for beating his wife. Evelina listened closely to the news, lingering over the specifics of the injuries he inflicted on poor Mrs. Clarke, whose jaw was broken in three places. That’s a serious injury in any period, but in 1852 the capacity for proper repair of such breakage was limited at best. Orthopedic surgery was in its infancy and wouldn’t improve until doctors learned more about bone breakage during the Civil War.

The “house of correction” which housed the abusive Mr. Clarke was, simply put, the local jail. In Massachusetts the terms “jail” and “house of correction” were and are used interchangeably. Elsewhere the term “house of correction” was more narrowly defined to mean a holding place for people who were awaiting trial, or for vagrants – not a residential prison, in other words. However it may be defined, it meant at least temporary detention behind bars for Mr. Clarke.

Historians differ on society’s treatment of domestic violence in the nineteenth century. Most people believed that the government – even the local government – had no role in domestic concerns. But people also believed strongly in the moral authority of women and were loathe to tolerate physical transgressions against the weaker sex. Thus was Mr. Clarke put behind bars.

Other than this news, life at the Ames compound was trotting along as usual. It was laundry day – the last one that we shall read of – and the Irish servants were busy at their wash tubs, hot water boiling on the stove. Evelina sewed, of course, and got some pieces ready for Julia Mahoney, the dressmaker. Old Oliver noted that “in the evening there was a little snow.”

 

December 26, 1852

Church

Sunday Dec 26  It was very stormy this morning

and I did not decide to go to church untill

it was to late to dress myself & Susan all the

rest went from the three families except father

Elijah Robinson in the other part of the house

came Friday night  It was cleared off very pleasant

Mr, Mrs & Miss Swain Augustus & wife & E Robinson

called this evening

Once again, we see Evelina and her father-in-law differ on their descriptions of the weather. While Evelina found it “very stormy this morning,” Old Oliver wrote: ” it snod a verry little last night and there was a little rain this morning + the snow is all gone there was not rain + snow enough to make more than ¼ inch of water it was fair in the afternoon wind north west”* It was proving to be what New Englanders call an “open” winter – at least so far. It was nearly January, and there was no snow on the ground.

There was no Evelina in church, either, as she just couldn’t bear to go out in the rain. Her daughter also managed not to dress in time. So the two females stayed at home while the males rode off to church. This is our last glimpse of Evelina on the Sabbath Day, as the year will soon draw to a close, obviously, whereupon Evelina’s diary stops. So our final Sunday post is not Evelina listening with rapt attention to Mr. Whitwell’s sermons, or being aware of her husband as he nodded off in the pew, or visiting with the other Unitarian ladies during the midday intermission. It’s Sunday at home.

The next few years at the Unitarian Church in Easton would be much the same as this one. By 1857, however, Rev. Whitwell would not be invited to extend his service there** – we don’t know why. He would be called to serve as minister at the Unitarian Church in Chestnut Hill, outside of Boston, but would remain in touch with the Ames family – even borrowing money from Oliver Jr. at one point (a loan which Oliver Jr. forgave). According to historian William Chaffin, Whitwell’s departure initiated the period when part of the congregation moved its service to North Easton proper:

At the conclusion of Mr. Whitwell’s ministry the Ames family discontinued attendance upon the First Parish Church, as a Unitarian Society had been formed at North Easton village, where they resided. A proposition was made to unite with the latter society in the support of a minister who should supply both pulpits, but the proposition was not carried into effect.***

It’s generally acknowledged that Old Oliver played a leading role in establishing a new Unitarian association in North Easton in a tiny church in the middle of the village (since moved to make room for the Rockery).  Did he also play a role in ending Reverend Whitwell’s tenure?

 

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

**Oliver Ames (3) Journal, Stonehill College Archives, David Ames Collection

***William Chaffin, History of Easton, Massachusetts, 1886, p. 362

December 15, 1852

USS_James_Adger

Steamer James Adger

Wednesday Dec 15th  Got into New York about 5 Oclock

had a very pleasant night  Breakfast at

the Astor House & then called on Mrs A L Ames

OAA & self dined at the Clifford House  Mrs Ames

went with us to see Oakes A start for Charleston

at 3 Oclock, there met Mr Colter & Mr C Swain

who were there on the same errand  Mr Ames

settled at the Astor & went to the Clifford House

The 16th music lesson

 

Evelina Gilmore Ames woke up in New York City on this December weekday, far away from her needle and thread. After a last meal with Oakes Angier, she went to the waterfront to bid farewell as he boarded his vessel. With her husband and some family friends – including Charles Swain, brother of John H. Swain of North Easton – she waved goodbye to Oakes Angier, not knowing if she would ever see him again.

Emotions ran high, no doubt, but they must have competed for attention with the immediate scene around her. The sheer scale of din and clamor on the docks would have been like nothing Evelina had experienced before. A comparable departure from New York Harbor for Cuba was recorded by fellow New Englander Richard Henry Dana in 1859. He describes a steamer as she is ready to sail:

[H]er decks are full, and the mud and snow of the pier are well trodden by men and horses. Coaches drive down furiously, and nervous passengers put their heads out to see if the steamer is off before her time; and on the decks, and in the gangways, inexperienced passengers run against everybody, and mistake the engineer for the steward, and come up the same stairs they go down, without knowing it. In the dreary snow, the newspaper vendors cry the papers, and the book vendors thrust yellow covers into your face – “Reading for the voyage, sir – five hundred pages, close print!”[…] The great beam of the engine moves slowly up and down, and the black hull sways at its fasts. A motley crew are the passengers. Shivering Cubans, exotics that have taken slight root in the hothouses of Fifth Avenue, are to brave a few days of sleet and cold at sea, for the palm trees and mangoes, the cocoas and orange trees, they will be sitting under in six days, at farthest. There are Yankee shipmasters going out to join their “cotton wagons” at New Orleans and Mobile, merchants pursuing a commerce that knows no rest and no locality; confirmed invalids advised to go to Cuba to die under mosquito nets and be buried in a Potter’s Field; and other invalids […] and here and there, a mere vacation maker, like myself.”*

Three ships were cleared to sail on December 15, 1852, from New York Harbor: the Steamer James Adger, the Bark Caroline and the Schooner Aramis. The latter two vessels cleared but did not depart, perhaps waiting for more favorable wind or tide. The steamship, the hybrid of its day, was new, having been built that year in New York. Not having to wait for wind or tide, the James Adger cleared and sailed, its destination being Charleston, South Carolina, a port of call on the way to Cuba. To date, we don’t know which ship Oakes Angier was on, but we might imagine that he – and his father, who no doubt played a roll in making these arrangements – opted for the newest, fastest vessel. Steamships were the way to go.

And off he went.

*Richard Henry Dana, To Cuba and Back, 1859, courtesy of Echo Library

 

December 12, 1852

 

NYC1852

New York City, 1852

Sunday Dec 12th  We have all been to meeting OAA

came home at noon  Mrs Witherell & self

called to see Mrs Whitwell who was not

well and not out to church  Mother

& Lavinia went home  Mr Ames

& self called to Mr Swains & Augustus

OAA has decided to leave here for NY Tuesday

 

This was Oakes Angier’s last Sunday at church before departing. We might imagine that he was approached by well-wishers at the intermission, or else he escaped the crowd by heading home before they could gather. He might have avoided the afternoon service for that reason, or for fear of having to cough.

Oakes Angier would be sailing from New York City on Wednesday and, cutting it close, decided to depart for the city on Tuesday. There was no time to lose in making last minute arrangements. After church, Evelina and Oakes called on John Swain and Alson Augustus Gilmore, two of Oakes’s most trusted employees.  Did they assist in arranging for passage, or procuring letters of introduction for Oakes Angier? We must remember that none of the travel arrangements could have been quickly accomplished in this age before the telephone and the internet. Such plans were made in person, on foot or horseback. It’s not out of line to think that Oakes and his son had help; it’s possibly why Augustus had gone with Oakes Angier into Boston on Friday, to finalize paperwork necessary for the journey.

Evelina, despite her worries, was able to get out of herself enough to pay a call on Eliza Whitwell, the minister’s wife, who was “not well.” Sarah Witherell went with her.

 

November 18, 1852

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Thursday Nov 18th  Catharine & Ann have cleaned

the buttery and it has taken them both all

day and I see to putting most of the dishes

back  Mixed my meat for mince pies

Wrote a note to Mrs Ames to send by

Mr Swain tomorrow with a gold thimble

Called in Olivers  Augusta there this evening

 

For all the sewing that Evelina did, this is the first entry where she mentions a thimble. The approximate particulars seem to be that Evelina asked her sister-in-law, Sarah Lothrop Ames, to get a gold thimble to be sent – as a gift? – to Ann Swain. Sarah Ames must have been planning to go to Boston the next day. Readers, your interpretation?

Whatever the circumstances were around this gold thimble, there’s no question that women used thimbles to sew. A thimble was worn on the tip of the finger to push the needle through the fabric. Simple enough, and time-honored. Thimbles have been found dating from BC, the earliest ones made of metal or leather or wood. Brass eventually became a standard material, although versions made of glass, ceramic, or even whalebone were made as well. Silver and gold, of course, were at the high end of the spectrum and often became heirlooms. Although the sewing machine would soon enter the market and alter the sewing habits of most women, thimbles would remain a tool for anyone using a needle and thread.

Not all the day was spent on sewing concerns. Evelina and her servants cleaned the buttery (or pantry) and made mincemeat. Old Oliver and his men were still outside where, in a “chilly” wind, they “finisht geting the manure of[f] our hog yard.” Surely everyone was pleased to finish that noisome task.

 

 

November 8, 1852

83a3a337ba181f911b01be69f4dabfa0

Monday Nov 8th  Ann & Catharine washed this morning

and I have been making part of my

quince preserve and some marmalade

Mr & Mrs Swain & Mrs Meader spent

the afternoon in fathers and Mr Ames

& self were there to tea. Mrs [entry incomplete]

“[T]his was a fair good day. it was Town meeting day and Wade Daily was chosen Representative, Free soil.” wrote a pleased Oliver Ames. Although the national election for president had been held the previous week, voting men from Easton gathered to vote on local issues and perhaps to hear the formal results from last week’s election. We must remember that voting, and vote counting, was a manual affair.

Historian William Chaffin gives us the run-down, confirming Old Oliver’s account:

“Horace Mann, the Free Soil candidate for governor, received one hundred and eighty-eight votes in Easton, one more than the Whig candidate, John H. Clifford; and on a second ballot, and with the help of the Democrats, the Free Soil candidate for representative, Wade Daily, was elected.”

Wade Daily, elected to the General Court of Massachusetts, was an older member of the community, a veteran of the War of 1812. A “master carpenter,” according to Rev. Chaffin, Mr. Daily was responsible for the erection in 1816 of the church building that housed Luther Sheldon and his congregation. He had also served as a selectman in the early 1830s.  As a Free Soiler – meaning he wasn’t in favor of the spread of slavery – Wade Daily rated high in Old Oliver’s opinion. He and his wife of sixty years, Ruth, are buried in the Easton Central Cemetery.

Back at home, the women, who did not attend town meeting or participate in the political decisions of the town, were busy in the kitchen washing the weekly laundry and making preserves. All gathered for tea.