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

May 5, 1852


Wednesday May 5th  Worked about house & got my sleeves for Delaine ready

for Mrs Witherell to work  The sewing circle met

at Mrs Nahum Pools.  Mrs S Ames gone to Boston

George quite sick with the rheumatics Augusta gone

to N Bridgewater and so poor I should have had to

go alone.  Preferred to stay at home  Mr Peckham +

family all at Mr Swains.  called to see them & after they

left Mr & Mrs Swain went with me to Edwins garden got

two Gladiolus bulbs.  A beautiful pleasant day

The Sewing Circle met today at the home of Nahum and Lidia Pool, but Evelina didn’t attend. Her usual companions from the village were otherwise occupied, and “poor” she didn’t want to go by herself. She stayed home, or at least she stayed in North Easton. She parcelled out some sewing to her sister-in-law, Sarah Witherell, to work on, and headed out. Perhaps Sarah sat and sewed near her son George, who was “quite sick.”

The day was beautiful, and Evelina seemed to be in fine spirits despite missing the sewing circle, or perhaps because of missing it. She went to see John and Ann Swain and there encountered the Peckham family, who had moved away from North Easton the previous year. They must have been back for a visit.  When they left, Evelina and the Swains went up to the garden of Edwin Manley and bought two Gladiolus bulbs.

November 1, 1851




Sat Nov 1st  This morning I patched the paper in the

bedroom that Mr Robinson papered last spring

Henrietta came about ten Oclock and left mother 

and her little girls at Augustus.  I went there this P.M.

and staid a couple of hours.  Mr & Mrs Peckham came

to the other part of the house  Mr Scott has finished

painting the parlour and has done here for the present

I paid him 12 dols, 25 cts for graining


The graining of the woodwork and doors in the downstairs of the house was completed today. As noted earlier, graining is the painting of a surface to resemble wood.  In 1851, popular taste dictated that wood trim from simple pine or ash or other tree be grained to resemble a dressier wood such as mahogany, or curly maple. The illustration above, from a modern decorating company that offers “faux bois,” as graining is also known, shows a hand-painted example of flame mahogany.

The talented Mr. Scott finished his work today, for which Evelina paid him $12.25.  In today’s dollars, the “labor value” of that compensation is $2,680, according to one economic source.** That value is computed using a wage index for unskilled labor; the computation for a production worker compensation would be even higher. That Evelina made note of the expenditure in her personal journal suggests that she thought it was noteworthy – in her own opinion, she either paid too much or she got a good deal.  I suspect the former!

Social life went on as usual today. John and Susan Peckham were back in town and stopped in to see Old Oliver and Sarah Witherell. Evelina’s sister-in-law, Henrietta Williams Gilmore, came into the village from the farm and brought old Mrs. Gilmore to Mr. Torrey’s to visit Alson “Augustus” and Hannah Gilmore.  Henrietta also brought along her two youngest children, eight-year-old Henrietta Hall Gilmore and six-year-old Helen Jane Gilmore.  The two girls were actually half-sisters of 29-year-old Augustus. Their mutual parent, Alson Gilmore, had a spread of seven children from two wives.


Image of mahogany-style graining, Courtesy of, Great Neck, New York.





September 7, 1851


Ames Home and Office, North Easton, Massachusetts ca. 1852 - 1862

Ames Home and Office, North Easton, Massachusetts
ca. 1852 – 1862


Sunday 7th  Have been to meeting all day  Mother

Mrs Stevens & I went to Mr Whitwells at

intermission Mrs Whitwell made a cup of tea

for us, brought mother home with us from meeting

at night  Mr Ames & I called at Mr Swains

Mr & Mrs Peckham are to leave tomorrow for

Taunton & the children & Mrs Metcalf  Thursday

The weather is very warm  Gave Mrs Stevens

some cuff pins it being her birth day.

Despite today’s heat, Evelina and her guest Mrs Stevens, and others of the Ames family, presumably, attended both morning and afternoon sessions of church. When the last service was over, they carried Evelina’s 79-year-old mother, Hannah Lothrop Gilmore, to North Easton to stay for a few days.

An important transition was taking place this week at the shovel works.  John Peckham, former clerk, and his family were leaving for Taunton.  His place in the Counting Office was being taken by John Swain, whom Oakes and Evelina went to visit late in the day.  Swain and his wife, Ann Meader Swain, probably hailed from Nantucket.  They had connections in North Easton, but the move to a new abode was still a big change for the young couple. Oakes, with his wide-armed jocularity and Evelina with her easy, approachable manners, must have made the Swains feel welcome.  Over the years, their friendship would solidify.

Many decades later, when Ann Swain was the only one of the foursome still alive, she told historian and minister William Chaffin about the special relationship between John Swain and Oakes Ames:

“…[H]er husband had his regular salary supplemented by an addition from Mr. Ames. Mr. Swain did more or less work for him, besides the regular office work when he was head clerk. Mr. Ames was not very methodical and his transactions for the day in Boston, jotted down in a notebook rather hastily, would sometimes be in a tangle when he came to the office in the evening (office work in those days always going on in the evening), and he would say to Mr. Swain, ‘Come, John, you help me straighten out these things.’ In common with all the persons who served him Mr. Swain had a strong affection for Mr. Ames.”**


*Ames Homestead with Counting Office on far left.  Residence demolished in 1951.

**William Chaffin, Oakes Ames, private publication                                   





September 6, 1851


Sat Sept 6th  Alson brought Mrs Stevens before we

were up this morning left his carriage here

while he went to Boston.  We went into Olivers

& passed the afternoon with Mrs Latham & Mrs W & Mrs

Mitchell I called on Mrs Peckham while the others

went to Mr Manly’s garden  Mr Ames brought home

some cuff pins for Alsons wife & Mrs Stevens

Evelina was probably pleased today to lapse back into a sociable, summer agenda.  Family friend Mrs. Stevens arrived at dawn, it would seem, delivered by Evelina’s brother Alson Gilmore on his way into Boston. The two women later went next door to call on Sarah Lothrop Ames and were joined by sisters-in-law Sarah Ames Witherell and Harriett Ames Mitchell and the former’s houseguest, Mrs. Latham.  Chat, chat, chat.

As they had done occasionally throughout the summer, many of the women went up to look at the flowers in Edwin Manley’s garden. The blooms they saw would be among the last for this year.  Evelina eschewed that walk (or ride) and went instead to call on Susan Peckham, wife of John Peckham, clerk for the shovel company.  The Peckhams were about to move, so perhaps Evelina went to see what help she could be, or to say goodbye. Susan Peckham must have been packing things up, a chore that would have made Evelina, who was lately familiar with the bustle of departure, feel right at home.

Oakes Ames spent the day in Boston, as he did almost every Saturday.  He went on business for the shovel company, often returning with orders or payments.  Just as often, he carried out particular errands for his wife.  Yet it’s not clear whether she or he or both, perhaps, suggested the purchase of cuff pins (perhaps what we call cuff links) for Mrs. Stevens and Henrietta Williams Gilmore.  Both women had birthdays around this time.

August 15, 1851

Vintage Ames Shovel

Vintage Ames Shovel

Friday 15th Aug  Julia here to work to day cutting me

a purple loos dress & cutting a pink french

calico for Susan.  Made a childs waist to it.

Oakes Frank & Oliver went this afternoon

to Robbins pond in E Bridgewater to a party.

Oakes A is to go from there to Boston tomorrow

I have passed the afternoon at Mr Peckhams

had a pleasant visit

Robbins Pond, where the Ames sons and their Aunt Harriett went today for a party, is in Bridgewater and is known today for its bass fishing.  Who hosted the party there in 1851 isn’t known, but all the Ameses, including Evelina, were invited.  Evelina declined, however, suggesting yesterday that she might enjoy herself too much if she went. She went to call on the Peckhams instead.

On a much more serious note, today marks the one year anniversary of a terrible accident at the shovel factory. According to Old Oliver, an employee named William Loftis “was hurt so bad yesterday by leting a shovel catch in the polishing wheel that he dyed.” Loftis was an illiterate laborer in his late twenties. Like the Middleton and Maccready families with whom he lived, he had immigrated from Ireland.

Old Oliver seemed to blame Loftis for getting caught in the machinery, perhaps through inattention or carelessness. He doesn’t suggest that the factory was at all at fault, or that the machinery could be reconfigured in a way to make it less dangerous. As far as Old Oliver and most factory owners at the time were concerned, employment carried a certain level of risk, risk that was assumed by any man who received a pay check.

It’s doubtful that the Ames family was indifferent to the fate of William Loftis, however. It’s likely that Evelina or one of her sisters-in-law sewed a shroud for the body for a proper burial. Knowing Oakes Ames’s instinctive kindness to strangers and employees, he probably would have reached out to Loftis’s family. The absence of a widow and children, however, suggests that Loftis was simply buried and simply forgotten.


June 29, 1851

portrait of yoiung man yawning



June 29th Sunday  Went this forenoon to meeting

came home again did not feel like going

back again as it [was] very warm and I was very

sleepy and thought I might as well sleep at 

home as at church  After meeting at night

Mr Ames & I walked to Mr Peckhams to see

Mrs Swain.  She is a very pleasant woman I

should judge.

Small wonder that Evelina nearly fell asleep in church this morning. Reverend Whitwell’s sermons usually held her attention, but she was tired. She’d been busy all week, augmenting her usual chores and interests with a visit from her brother, John. On top of the emotional excitement of that rare reunion, she went to Boston yesterday, an excursion that typically delighted and exhausted her at the same time. She needed a nap.

Late in the day, evidently refreshed, Evelina and Oakes walked to the home of John and Susan Peckham. Mr. Peckham served as clerk for the Ames Shovel works, but was preparing to move away with his young family.  Replacing him, apparently, was the new clerk, John H. Swain. Evelina had already met Mr. Swain when he dined with them back in May. Tonight she met his wife, Ann, who made a favorable impression. The two families would become close over the years.

 * Photographer Unknown; portrait of a young man, yawning; ambrotype; ca. 1854; George Eastman House, Donald Weber Collection


February 13, 1851



Feb 13th  Thursday  This morning put the parlour in order

and went down to the store with the intention of calling

on Miss Eaton on my way back, but her Mother & brother

came last night and thought best not to see her but wait

until she was over the excitement of seeing them  Went into the

office with account of butter and other things sold.  Mr Peckham

gave me 30 dollars 78 cents  Augustus is still assisting him with

his books.  Very pleasant but ground rather wet.

Moving past yesterday’s humiliation, Evelina put her parlor back together first thing this morning and left the house, all by herself.  A walk to the little village on a fair day must have felt good, muddy ground notwithstanding.  She went right to the company store.

The Ames family made shovels, obviously, but their overall enterprise was never limited to manufacturing alone  – witness their eventual involvement with the Union Pacific.  They also made money from the operation of a company store, one that had been owned previously by a former partner of Old Oliver named Colonel David Manley.* The shop was right in the village of North Easton where shovel employees and others could purchase ordinary household items – muffin tins, for instance – dry goods like flour and personal articles. Evelina shopped there from time to time, and on this day she may have picked something up.  But she also sold things through the store, which explains why later that day she made her way to the Counting Office to collect $30.78 for “butter and other things sold.”  She had a little stream of income for herself, a source of satisfaction for any homemaker, and material consolation for a wounded spirit.

On her walking rounds, Evelina stopped in at the Holmes residence to call on Miss Eaton, a neighbor who is slowly declining. When she learned that Miss Eaton had family visiting, she deferred her call until another day.  Evelina and her sister-in-law Sarah Lothrop Ames have been looking after Miss Eaton from time to time and will continue to do so as her health fails.  The Ames women were dutiful in looking after the sick among the families of employees of the shovel shop.

* For more information on this store, you might want to read Easton’s Neighborhoods by Edmund C. Hands.  Among extensive historical information about the town, he offers some great context about early business days in North Easton.

February 11, 1851


Feb 11th Tuesday  This day has been a very busy one

with me, getting ready for the sewing Circle.  Have

washed the front stairs & have been sweeping &

dusting.  Have got things pretty much in order for

tomorrow  It was very unpleasant this morning but this

afternoon it has cleared off very pleasant.  Augustus

is helping Mr Peckham post his books.  went home

with him to dinner & tea

Evelina seemed to feel better today and so went right to work.  Stairs got washed, carpet was swept, table tops were dusted, knick knacks, books and periodicals put in order.  The house would look spanky clean for the Sewing Circle tomorrow. Evelina herself was doing this work, while the servant Jane McHanna handled the regular chores: cooking the meals, washing the dishes and tidying up from the indoor laundry activity of yesterday.  Jane and/or Evelina may have ironed today, too, although it’s doubtful that they could have completed the task.   With all those men’s shirts to care for, ironing at the Ames house often lasted for several days.

In the office, or Counting House, next door, the company’s bookkeeper, John Peckham, was tending to business. Evelina’s nephew, Alson “Augustus” Gilmore, had started work there temporarily as Peckham’s assistant. Augustus is the nephew who has been looking for a place to rent for his growing family, all while beginning to set up a boot manufacturing company in the area. But meanwhile, nepotism being an acceptable, even laudable fact of life in a family-run business, Augustus was being kept afloat financially by work here and there for O. Ames and Sons.   Augustus, a man of robust build, would prove to be a well-known figure around town, especially once he accepted the role of moderator at town meetings, a position he would hold twenty-four times in the next 32 years.

January 15, 1851



Jan 15 Wednesday  This morning after doing my usual

morning work went to Mr Carrs  to put the robe on the

corpse.  in the afternoon attended the funeral.  Mr

Whitwell spoke very well to the mourners & made a good

prayer  Mr Whitwell and Mr Reed were over to tea.  After

they went away I passed the evening at Olivers with Mr

& Mrs Peckham  Made a hair cloth cover for one of the

rocking chairs cushions and sewed in the evening on a


Today Evelina attended the first of several funerals she will go to over the course of her diary.  The death of young Lewis Carr won’t be the only case of consumption, either.  In this case, she helped the Carr family by sewing a robe for the body and dressing the corpse.  Death was familiar to women like Evelina; tending to its aftermath was one of their responsibilities.

And then life went on.  After the service, Evelina (with Jane McHanna’s help, certainly) served tea to Rev. Whitwell and Mr. Reed, another man from Easton.  There were several Reed families in town, so we can’t know for sure which Mr. Reed came to tea.  In her diary, Evelina mentions Daniel Reed most frequently.  Daniel was a carpenter, according to the census; today we might call him a builder.  In any case, he was well known to the Ameses.  His wife, Mary Reed, was a member of a sewing circle to which the Ames sisters-in-law belonged and the family attended the Unitarian church.

After dark, Evelina walked next door to Oliver Jr. and Sarah Lothrop Ames’s house to visit with Joseph and Susan Peckham.  She may have taken her work box with her to sew while they visited.  No doubt, they discussed the death of Lewis Carr.