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 20, 1852

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Monday Dec 20th  Was puttering about house most of the time

this forenoon  made some cake of sour cream

This afternoon here to tea  Mrs H & A L Ames

Mrs Witherell Emily & father & Oliver & wife

Have cut a pattern from Mrs Whitwells

cloak for Susan  Have not done much

sewing of course

Life seemed to be getting back to normal. The servants did the laundry while Evelina puttered about the house and did a little baking. In the evening, the family assembled for tea at Evelina and Oakes’s. Sarah Ames Witherell, Emily Witherell, Oliver Ames Jr., Sarah Lothrop Ames, and Old Oliver himself attended. So did Sally Hewes Ames and Almira Ames, who were still visiting; Almira would stay at the Ames compound well into the new year. Missing were Fred and Helen Ames – off at school, presumably – and Oakes Angier, of course.

The family was weighed down by personal difficulties: Oakes Angier an invalid in far-off Cuba and Sally Hewes Ames fed up and seeking divorce, not to mention the lingering loss of George Oliver Witherell earlier in the year. Perhaps other concerns occupied their thoughts, too. Like many other families, the Ameses drew strength from simply standing together. In the same way they had risen from the fire at the shovel factory back in March, they would do their best to prevail over the latest adversity. What a year it had been for them.

Yet on the horizon, a greater ill loomed which it is our readers’ advantage to know and the Ames family’s innocence not to foresee. Eight years later, on this exact date, the State of South Carolina would issue a proclamation of secession from the United States, kicking off the calamitous American Civil War.

 

December 1, 1852

 

1852_Duvotenay_Map_of_the_West_Indies_-_Geographicus_-_WestIndies-duvotenay-1852

Map of West Indies, including Cuba, 1852

Wedns Dec 1st  Oakes & Oliver got left last night

Oakes A went to consult Dr Bigelow and he

advised him to spend the winter in Cuba

He has been raising more blood for two

or three weeks but has said nothing about it.

Mrs S Ames came into Boston this morning

I have selected some silver forks & a pr of spoons

and left them to be marked

 

Bad news today. Oakes Angier was coughing up blood again, and had been, for much of November. Evelina hadn’t known it, although how she missed the evidence of bloody handkerchiefs in the weekly laundry is a question. The servant girls might have guessed it. Oliver (3) must have had an inkling, especially after the two brothers spent so much time together attending a Thanksgiving dance in East Bridgewater. Oakes Angier would have been challenged to dance lively reels and converse in a crowded room without coughing.

How Evelina could have missed the signs became an irrelevant question in the face of the proposed remedy. Oakes Angier had been advised to go to Cuba. For consumptive patients, travel to a different climate was common therapy (for those who could afford it), and Cuba was known as a “site of recuperative possibilities.”* Other ailing Bostonians of means, like Sophia and Mary Peabody some years earlier, had taken the cure there. And William Rice, the vice-president elect, was there even as the Ameses were discussing the situation.  The Peabody sisters recovered; the vice-president would not.

Despite the reassurances that Cuba was the best place for Oakes Angier, to Evelina it must have seemed as far away as the moon. Oakes Angier would have to sail there. Where would he stay? He would be gone for months, if not years. He might never come back. Even as Evelina busied herself with dropping off some silver flatware to be monogrammed, she had to be preoccupied with this unfortunate turn of events.

 

*John George F. Wurdemann, Slaves, Sugar and Colonial Society, p. 107

 

November 22, 1852

Rests

Monday Nov 22d  Ann & Catharine washed and 

I was at work putting things in order

about house. They finished cleaning

the cookroom after washing that they

commenced Saturday.  Catharine fixed

Olivers woolen jacket for him. This even[ing]

have heard Susan practice and she does well

and Im quite encouraged about her

 

Evelina seemed content this Monday. The servants were doing the laundry and she was tidying up the house, going from room to room to dust, sweep and put “things in order.” She would have said that she and her servants moved among the cook room, the buttery, the sitting room, the parlor, the entry, and the bed chambers. Using modern nomenclature, we would say she cleaned the kitchen, the pantry, the den, the living room, the front or back hall, and the bedrooms. Most of her words for the rooms in her house are dated, although not entirely unfamiliar to the modern reader.

Linguists hold different views on the etymology of words for parts of the house. Most agree that kitchen, for instance, derives from the Latin word for “to cook,” coquere, by way of Old English and cyoene, the Dutch keuken, and/or the German Kuche. Both words share the same root, but why kitchen came to be preferred to cook room is unclear.

Parlor – or parlour, as the English would have it – is also dated, at least in the United States. It has pretty well disappeared in American English as the name for the most formal room in a house. Derived from parlare, Latin for “to speak”, the term meant a room for speaking, a room in which to hold an audience. In the 18th and 19th century, as a middle class developed and those who could afford to create the space did so, the parlor became a formal room for visitors. In the 20th century, though, as socializing became more casual and diffused by such advances as the telephone and the automobile, the parlor fell away and the living room took over. Other room names – like the buttery – have undergone similar evolutions. We might wonder what people will call the kitchen or living room in the 23rd century.

Evelina’s contentment was also supplied today in no small part by hearing her daughter play the piano. She was “quite encouraged” by Susie’s improved playing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 15, 1852

Flying-Cloud

“Flying Cloud”

Monday Nov 15  Catharine & Ann have washed

and Catharine has finished cleaning 

the front entry  I have got the 

stair carpet down and the entry

looks clean & nice  we get ahead

rather slowly in cleaning house

“[T]his was a fair cold day the coldest we have had this fall the ground froze considerable last night”.* As winter approached, the Ames family turned their focus indoors. Like Evelina, housewives and husbands across New England were looking to get their houses in order and the last outdoor chores finished before winter weather arrived.

Even as the Ameses and others turned inward, more adventurous spirits took to the sea. In fact, throughout 1852, captains and their crews had been making long-distance sailing trips from various ports in the Northeast around the Horn to California. Even as Evelina was beating her carpets, a group of clippers were racing one another over the deep blue to see who could make the best time to San Francisco from Boston or New York. Some newspapers called it The Deep Sea Derby.**

Clipper ships, such as the famous Flying Cloud in the illustration above (which, at 89 days and 8 hours from New York to San Francisco, independently set the record for the fastest trip of any clipper ship) were the vessels of choice for speedy deliver of passengers and cargo. They were thin, full-sailed and sea-worthy, tending to “clip” along rather than plough through the waves. Originally designed to accelerate the tea trade from China, clippers became the ideal ship for ferrying folks to California while the Gold Rush was on.

Donald McKay, a master shipbuilder in East Boston, designed and built many of the finest clipper ships of the day. He designed Flying Cloud, and had several vessels participating in the Deep Sea Derby as well, including Westward Ho, Sovereign of the Seas, and Flying Fish, the latter of which won the contest by making the journey in 92 days. Most ships took more than 100 days to make the journey.

Though the race was spirited, and not without danger, its future was limited. The railroad would push west within a score of years, cutting into the sailing trade, and the creation of the Panama Canal at the turn of the next century would obviate the need to sail around the Horn.

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

**Extensive information about this race can be found at http://www.maritimeheritage.org. 

 

November 8, 1852

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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.

October 26, 1852

 

1860s blue striped muslin dress from St. Albans Museums

Dress with undersleeves, mid-19th c.*

Tuesday Oct 26  We have had a large washing

done to day and not finished untill

after dinner  Miss Alger & self spent

the afternoon in Olivers  Mr Ames

& all the children there to tea  Mr & Mrs 

Whitwell was there an hour or two

I made Susan a pair of undersleeves

and she is delighted with them

 

Because of all the company that had visited over the weekend, the servant girls were unable to launder clothes on Monday. Today, extra sheets and towels were added to the usual load and the washing went on into the afternoon. Not that Evelina rolled up her sleeves; after the midday meal, she and her remaining houseguest, Miss M. J. Alger, went next door to visit with Sarah Lothrop Ames and stayed for tea. All the family partook.

At various points during the day, Evelina had her work box open as she completed a pair of undersleeves for her daughter. Susie was “delighted” with them. Were they a peace offering from mother to daughter, perhaps to make up for Evelina’s insistence on Susan learning to play piano?

We’ve seen Evelina sewing undersleeves before. In the 1850’s and into the Civil War, undersleeves were an essential component of any woman’s dress, fitting independently but securely under the looser outer sleeve of the dress proper. Like the collars of the day, a good pair of undersleeves could be worn with different dresses. Susie must have felt rather grown-up with her new pair.

On the industrial side of American life, meanwhile, today was the 27th anniversary of the opening of the Erie Canal. The technological wonder of its day, it was already becoming obsolete. Railroads had arrived and, through their own capacity for moving freight, would soon obviate commercial use of the canal for many (though not all) industries. Shipping would change – was changing. The very word “shipping” derives from the fact that, initially, more goods moved by water than by land. This would no longer be true in this country or elsewhere in the developed world.

We should remember that Harriet Ames Mitchell, Old Oliver’s youngest daughter, was living in Erie at the time with her husband Asa and their three children.  Did they mark the day?

 

*Image of striped blue muslin dress with undersleeves courtesy of St. Albans Museum, England