October 9, 1852

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Piano scales

Sat Oct 9th  Miss Alger came to day to give her second

lesson. Mother Amelia Henrietta & Louisa

J Mower spent the day came about eleven

Henrietta went to Augustus to tea  Mother & Louisa

will stop here untill she returns to Maine

Oakes A returned from his journey & Helen

came with him. Have baked in the brick oven

Oakes Angier Ames came home today from points south. He had been on a business trip with his father to New York and New Jersey, but his father had returned several days earlier. What had Oakes Angier been doing? Was he meeting customers and delivering shovels, all on his own? And why was his cousin Helen Angier Ames with him? Perhaps he came back by way of Boston where Helen – and her friend, Catherine Hobart – were at school.

The day was cloudy and cool and the ladies who came to visit with Evelina must have sat inside. Two Gilmore sisters-in-law, Amelia, young widow of Joshua, Jr., and Henrietta, wife of Alson, were there along with the elderly Hannah Lothrop Gilmore and a guest from Maine, Louisa J. Mower. The latter two women would spend the night.

The girls of the house, meanwhile, had another piano lesson today. The sound of Susie and Emily practicing their scales would have been background sound for the chatter in the parlor.

September 4, 1852

seal

Sat Sept 4th  Made Sponge cake & gingerbread

and about ten Started to go to Mothers

Dined there and after dinner went to 

Raynham after Mrs Stevens.  Stopt at

her brothers awhile and called at the door

at Aunt John Gilmores & Aunt Othniels

found Widow Henry Gilmore there.  Came

back to tea at Alsons. Stopt at Sam Wilbers

and got some cooking apples

After some early morning baking, Evelina traveled south to Raynham, stopping along the way to have midday dinner at the family farm with her mother, Hannah Lothrop Gilmore.  It was “a fair day + little cooler,”* so a pleasant day to be out for a carriage ride. Evelina rode on to the home of her friend, Mrs. Stevens, whose company she had enjoyed previously over the course of this diary, and picked her up to return to Easton for a visit.

Before driving north, Evelina and her friend visited more relatives. They went to see Mrs. Steven’s brother, then stopped off to see a few Gilmore relatives, all widows. Aunt John Gilmore and Aunt Othniel (Sally Buffington Gilmore) were the elderly, long-time widows of Evelina’s father Joshua’s brothers, while young Mrs. Henry Gilmore (Adaline Bramen Gilmore) had lost her husband unexpectedly only a few months earlier. Members of this Gilmore clan were descendants of James and Thankful Gilmore who had settled in the area in the 1700’s.

The day not through, the ladies rode back to the farm and had tea with Alson and his family. A last stop was made for cooking apples.  It was the start of apple harvest.

 

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

May 30, 1852

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Alson Gilmore  (1798 – 1888)*

 1852

May 30  Sunday  Have been to church as usual  Mr Briggs

of Boston gave us two very excellent sermons

Alson mother & Helen came home with us

at noon.  Augusta has gone home on a 

visit and is going to Foxboro before she returns

Have been reading since meeting and 

called in Olivers and on Mrs Witherell

 

Evelina’s older brother, Alson Gilmore, turned 54 years old today. He was a farmer – a good one – in the southeastern section of Easton.  He had inherited the property from his father Joshua, probably when the older man passed away in 1836. By that time, older brothers had moved away or passed on, so even as the fourth of five sons, Alson was the heir who took over from his father.

Other than being a productive farmer, Alson was not the most high-profile man in town,  His eldest son, Alson “Augustus” Gilmore, a perennial moderator for town meetings, was more active in civic matters, and his second son, Edwin Williams Gilmore, matured to become the outstanding entrepreneur of a hinge factory. His third son, Francis E. Gilmore, would, in time, take over the family farm as his father had. Alson’s daughters, Rachel, Lavinia, Helen and Hattie, would live theirs lives in Easton, too, two of them marrying.

Alson did play a civic role now and again. For fifteen years, he served as clerk for the Taunton- North Purchase Company, a complicated affiliation based on a seventeenth century acquisition of land that became the towns of Norton, Easton and Mansfield.** He was a selectman for one term in 1849-1850 and also was one of the last treasurers of a toll road that ran between Boston and Taunton, a road that was close to his property. That turnpike, unpopular at best, had only recently closed down.

On occasion, Alson Gilmore ran up against the Ames clan.  His sister may have been been married to one of its most popular and powerful members, but that didn’t prevent Alson from disagreeing with them in a divisive argument over church politics in the 1830s. Alson had been on the side of preserving the familiar Congregational service and Calvinist beliefs, while the Ameses had argued for Unitarianism. With one or two other parishioners, Alson had been threatened with having to bear the cost of paying the minister, Luther Sheldon, while the controversy wore on. In Chaffin’s words, “the situation was very peculiar,”* and ultimately, it was resolved to no one’s complete satisfaction.

With Evelina, Alson shared the responsibility for looking after their elderly mother. It was a duty they both took seriously. He seems to have been a decent man.

Image of Alson Gilmore courtesy of the Easton Historical Society

** William Chaffin, History of Easton, Massachusetts, 1886, pp. 19 – 38

**Ibid., p. 354.

April 7, 1852

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Five Dollar Gold Piece, 1850

1852

April 7th  Mother is 80 years old this day and notwithstanding

the snow banks have been down to see her and made

her a present of a five dollar gold piece.  She is

not very smart to day but is generaly very well and

capable for one of her years.  Orinthia Abby & Augusta

went with me and we have had a very pleasant visit

Augustus stoped the evening here  Helen came

home this afternoon with her father.

Evelina’s mother, Hannah Lothrop Gilmore, turned 80 years old. She was the grandmother of Oakes Angier, Oliver (3), Frank Morton and Susan Eveline Ames – among other grandchildren –  and first cousin-once-removed of Sarah Lothrop Ames. She was born in Bridgewater in 1772, the fifth child and only daughter of Daniel and Hannah (Howard) Lothrop.  Her mother died soon after she was born and her father remarried two times more and had six additional children.

In 1789, at age 17, Hannah married Joshua Gilmore of Easton. They had a large family, too, producing eight children, of whom Evelina was seventh. By this 80th birthday in 1852, Hannah was a widow with only three offspring still alive. As we have seen, she lived on a farm with a son, Alson Gilmore, but often visited her daughter, Evelina.

Beyond these genealogical facts, little is known of the life of Hannah Lothrop Gilmore. When she was barely twenty, however, and already a mother of her first baby, John, she walked on a trail one day with her husband in an area of Easton known at the Great Cedar Swamp. Town historian William Chaffin recorded the tale:

“There was then no road through Cedar Swamp. Trees were however felled, and on these by hard work pedestrians at certain seasons could pick their way through from Easton to Raynham, or return.

“In 1792 […] Raynham had petitioned the Court of General Sessions for Bristol County to require Easton to build a road through the swamp to connect the two towns. The advantages of such a road were obvious. But Easton stood aghast at the prospect of incurring the expense of building a causeway such a distance and in such depths of mire.  The difficulty is illustrated by the fact that as Joshua Gilmore was going on the footpath through the swamp one day with his wife, carrying a little child in his arms, Mrs. Gilmore was speaking of the difficulty of the passage, and her husband replied that some day the child would ride through the swamp in a carriage; and the idea struck her as so essentially preposterous that she had a hearty laugh over it. However, the Court of Sessions did not, it would seem, share her skepticism, for it ordered Easton to construct the road.”*

The road, known then as the Turnpike Road or Street, was built, and Hannah Gilmore lived to ride it in a carriage.

*William L. Chaffin, History of Easton, Massachusetts, 1886, pp. 454-455

December 25, 1851

Turnstile

 

Dec 25th Thursday  The Irish are expecting to have a great

time to day Jane went to the meeting house about

eight but the priest did not come she stoped an

hour. Carried my knitting into Olivers awhile this

forenoon. This afternoon have been to mothers

with Mr Ames & Frank as they were going to West

Bridgewater.  Finished knitting the front & back of

my hood  Made a present to Lavinia of Turnpike Dividend $800

Christmas Day! But as Evelina points out, the Irish Catholics in town would be celebrating, but the Ames family wouldn’t. Jane McHanna left the house to attend a Christmas mass for which, unfortunately, the priest was either late or didn’t show up at all.  Jane returned home to prepare dinner. Evelina, meanwhile, visited Sarah Lothrop Ames next door, knitting in hand.

After dinner Evelina rode along with her husband and youngest son as they went on an errand to West Bridgewater.  They dropped her off to see her mother at the family farm. There may have been some recognition of the holiday in this gesture, although Evelina makes no mention of gift-giving, with one significant exception. Evelina gave an $800 dividend to her niece Lavinia Gilmore.

The dividend came, somehow, from proceeds from the Taunton and South Boston Turnpike, a road that had run through part of Easton since the early 1800s, between “‘Taunton Green, so called, to the Blue Hill Turnpike,'” according to town historian William Chaffin.* Its origin was controversial and involved a long-standing disagreement with the Town of Raynham, but its impact on the Gilmore family was generally positive, as various Gilmores, including Evelina’s father and brother, served as toll-gate keepers. As Chaffin points out, however, “[t]he toll-gate naturally became unpopular.” It was closed in October of 1851.

How Evelina came to possess $800 from the road is unclear. Was this a regular dividend that Evelina received, or was the family compensated for the road’s discontinuance? That Evelina passed this money on to her niece, however, is a clear demonstration that for all her economical instincts, Evelina was capable of great generosity.

 

*William L. Chaffin, History of Easton, Mass, 1866, pp. 454 – 458.

June 20, 1851

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20 June Friday.  Worked in the garden after breakfast until

half past eight.  After getting things in order for

dinner went to work on the hair cloth cover again

untill about two Oclock when Amelia & Samuel

came.  Mr Whitwell called and we had quite

a pleasant chat  Sent Samuel for Abby and

she came to tea and staid untill nine

The last few days have been very pleasant

 

As previously noted, Evelina was one of eight children.  Five of her siblings were deceased by the time she was writing in this diary, including her younger brother, Joshua Gilmore Jr.  He had died about two years earlier at age 35.  Today, his widow Amelia and one of their two living sons, Samuel Gilmore, came to visit.

No longer having a home of their own, assuming they had had one before Joshua died, Amelia and Samuel boarded with the Algers, a farming family in the south eastern quadrant of Easton, near the Gilmore farm.  They stayed with the Gilmores, too, from time to time while an older son, Charles (all of twelve years old,) may have hired out to another farm.  Amelia, presumably left without much income after her husband died, worked occasionally as a nurse, staying with families in households where someone was chronically or terminally ill.

What happened to young widows, or old widows, for that matter, when they found themselves bereft? For many, the former assurance of house or farm was threatened and lost. Some women remarried and regained footing and security with a new husband and his relatives.  Those women who didn’t remarry had to rely on their own relatives, their late husband’s relatives, and their own skills. In an age when few women were employed outside the home, survival could become a real challenge.

 

 

June 14, 1851

Evelina Gilmore Ames

Evelina Gilmore Ames

June 14 Saturday

This is my birth day and it is very pleasant

weather.  Worked in the garden awhile in the

morning then baked in the brick oven.  Made

brown bread sponge & cup cake pies &c.

This afternoon have been to North Bridgewater

and paid Howard & Clark 16 dollars for bed

stead & lounge 50 cts for Castors.  Emily gave

me a box & Harriett a pr of Elastics

 

The diarist herself celebrated a birthday today, number 42.  She was born in 1809 on a farm in the southeastern quadrant of Easton, not far from the Raynham town line.  She was the seventh of eight children. Her parents, Joshua and Hannah Lothrop Gilmore, named her Evelina Orville after the heroine of Fanny Burney’s popular novel, Evelina, or the History of a Young Lady’s Entrance Into the World. In the book, pretty, fictional Evelina, after various comic travails, wins the heart of handsome, rich Lord Orville; did the real Evelina’s parents hope for similar material success for their youngest daughter?

In birth order, Evelina’s brothers and sisters were John, Arza, Daniel, Alson, Hannah, Rhoda, and Joshua Jr.  By the time Evelina reached 40, only John and Alson, and their mother, were still living. Evelina’s siblings carried mostly family names, meaning that Evelina’s name was a departure. Her grandson, Winthrop Ames, noted in 1937 that “Evelina, in its later form of Evelyn, has been a favorite female first name since Evelina Orville Ames first introduced it into the family when she married Oakes Ames in 1827.”*

As a eighteen-year old bride, Evelina moved to North Easton, right into the Ames homestead, a portion of which had been made over to accommodate the newlyweds. Still living at home at that point were most of her siblings-in-law: Oliver Jr., William Leonard, Sarah Angier Ames (aged 13 and, obviously, not yet married to Nathaniel Witherell), John Ames and Harriett Ames (who was only eight years old.) What a full dinner table they must have had!

The next quarter century flew by, as the years do, full of arrivals and departures.  Her children came into the world, even as family members on both sides departed it.  Only now, it seems, did Evelina lift her head from the home-making tasks that were always at her elbow to consider ways to fill the rare discretionary time that began to open up to her.  Flower gardening became one pleasant elective; writing in a diary was possibly another.

 

 

*Winthrop Ames, The Ames Family, 1937