August 10, 1852


Ames Machine Shop, built in1857


Aug 10th Tuesday Was sewing & puttering about one thing

and another untill about four Oclock

Mrs Witherell Mrs A L Ames & self spent the 

afternoon at Mrs Sheldons.  Mrs Johnson Swan

Williams, Howard and their brother Thomas were

there had a very pleasant visit.  On our return

found Mrs Dorr at Fathers and called to see her


“Sewing & puttering” filled Evelina’s hours up until near tea-time, at which point she, Sarah Ames Witherell, and Almira Ames went out to see some friends. They called on Sarah Sheldon, wife of the Congregational minister, where they saw several members of the Johnson family, including Louisa Johnson Swan, Nancy Johnson Howard, Ann Johnson and Thomas Johnson. It was “a very pleasant visit.”

Families often visited in groups, as we see in this entry and as we have seen from previous visits made by the Ames women. The Ameses went to see the Gilmores, or the Kinsleys, or the Howards, and vice versa. Families in the same town knew one another, or knew of one another, and had much in common. Whether or not everyone agreed about everything (which they didn’t – witness the old division between the Congregationalists and the Unitarians,) there was nonetheless a level of familiarity among long-established families in a given area.

Families worked in groups, too, most obviously on the numerous farms that still dominated the landscape. Yet as industrialization began to replace, or at least compete with, the agrarian lifestyle, members of the same family (at least those members who didn’t move away) often opted to work in the same trade. The Ames family is a prime example. Old Oliver developed an artisanal business that became a commercial factory. By the middle of the 19th century, artisanal businesses that were to thrive – such as the Ames Shovel Company – were becoming industrialized. Products were developed and produced, workers were hired and trained on the job, and the whole outfit was managed by members from one family. In Old Oliver’s case, he appointed certain sons and certain grandsons to take leadership roles.

Industrial historian Greg Galer has studied this work pattern. He writes, “kinship was a critical aspect of early industrial development. As manufacturers faced a growing national market in which to sell their products and acquire their raw materials they also found an increasingly unfamiliar body of people from whom they required trustworthy relationships. By using kin in some of these roles Ames eased the transition to these anonymous markets. Kin also played an important part in the management of the main shovel-making operation and affiliated enterprises located elsewhere…”

Family was everything.

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

** Gregory Galer, Forging Ahead, MIT, 2001, p. 5



March 30, 1852



March 30th  Tuesday  Spent the forenoon puttering about

the house doing nothing at all.  Have been to

carry Orinthia to Mrs John Howards.  Mrs S Ames

went with us and we called at Mrs Reed, Whitwell

J. Howard  Mrs Merrill and Mrs Hills  Mrs Ames

stoped here to tea and spent the evening.  Louisa

Swan was at home and Ann Johnson.  Augusta called

Hannah called for a moment this forenoon

Apparently, there was no sewing today; perhaps Evelina’s fingers were sore from working the heavy moreen fabric the day before. She hardly seemed to mind “doing nothing at all,” however, and gave the afternoon over entirely to calling, an occupation she enjoyed. She, her sister-in-law Sarah Lothrop Ames, and guest Orinthia Foss called on Caroline Howard, Abigail Reed, Eliza Whitwell, Mrs. Merrill and Mrs. Hills. They may have called on some younger fellow Unitarians, too: Louisa Swan (daughter of Dr. Caleb Swan) and Ann Johnson.

Calling was an essential component of social life in the 19th century, as we’ve noted before.  Some women thrived on it, others only tolerated it, but just about every woman exercised the obligation to call on their friends and neighbors, as due. In Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel, “Little Women,” an entire chapter is devoted to two of the March sisters, Amy and Jo, making calls. Amy enjoyed them, but had to persuade Jo to join her:

“Now put on all your best things, and I’ll tell you how to behave at each place, so that you will make a good impression.  I want people to like you, and they would if you’d only try to be a little more agreeable. Do your hair the pretty way, and put the pink rose in your bonnet; its becoming, and you look too sober in your plain suit.  Take your light kids and the embroidered handkerchief. […]

“Jo […] sighed as she rustled into her new organdie, frowned darkly as she tied her bonnet strings in an irreproachable bow, wrestled viciously with pins as she put on her collar, wrinkled up her features generally as she shook the handkerchief, whose embroidery was as irritating to her nose as the present mission was to her feelings; and when she had squeezed her hands into tight gloves with two buttons and a tassel, as the last touch of elegance, she turned to Amy with an imbecile expression of countenance, saying meekly, –

“‘I’m perfectly miserable; but if you consider me presentable, I die happy.'”*

*Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

August 10, 1851




Aug 10th Sunday  As usual have been to church to day

Mr Whitwell preached.  Went to the

methodist meeting house to a sing at 5 Oclock

got sick of it and went home at recess.

Oakes A Oliver & Helen Ames went with Orinthia to the

sing and carried her home.  Frank went from 

the sing and carried Ellen H & Louisa Swan to 


Her sons clearly enjoyed music, but Evelina’s appreciation was perhaps not up to theirs, if her reaction to today’s musical gathering is any indication. That, or the singing wasn’t very good.  She “got sick of” the sing at the meeting house and left when she could. Perhaps she was just ready to be at home at the end of a long, hot Sunday and already anticipated the choring and sewing ahead of her tomorrow. She may have had a good book waiting for her.

Oakes Angier, Oliver (3) and Frank Morton were regular attendees at the sings; they enjoyed the music.  They also enjoyed the company of a circle of friends who attended the sessions, including Ellen Howard and Louisa Swan. Frank Morton was the son who drove Ellen and Louisa home, while Oakes Angier and Oliver (3), along with their cousin Helen Angier Ames, drove Orinthia back to the Howard house.

Ellen Howard was the tenth of Elijah Howard’s twelve children (by three wives.) Small wonder that the Howards were willing to board Orinthia Foss for a time; Nancy Howard was quite used to setting many places at what must have been a capacious dining room table. Ellen Howard ended up marrying George Withington, a Unitarian minister who came to town about this time. He ultimately left the ministry and served for many years as Easton’s town clerk.

Louisa Swan was the daughter of Dr. Caleb Swan, who had eleven children by his three wives. Louisa never married; she eventually left Easton for Vermont, where she lived with her sister Ruth who was married to U. S. Senator Justin S. Morrill.

* Currier & Ives,The Morning Ride,”  1859

August 3, 1851

Plaque for Catholic Church



Sunday Aug 3d  Went to the consecration of the Catholic

Church dedicated to The virgin Mary. The bishop &

priest took a pail of water and a cedar twig and went

around the house and sprinkled the foundation with the

water and then the aisles & walls and some of the

congregation got a sprinkling. This afternoon went to

our own church.  Frank carried Orinthia home

Oakes A carried Louisa Swan to the hall under our

church to a sing & carried S E Williams & L Kimball

home from it

By 1850, Easton’s Catholic population, which had been almost non-existent before about 1840, now numbered approximately 150, primarily due to the influx of Irish Catholic immigrants, many of whom went to work at the shovel factory.  The Irish had no church of their own, and had been gathering for worship in a hall belonging to the Ames family on those Sundays when an itinerant priest came to town.  The congregation had outgrown that facility, however, and needed their own house of worship.

The Ames family donated a plot of land on Pond Street to the Catholics so that they could build their own church.  The stone plaque in the photograph above commemorates that first church, built in 1850 and consecrated on this very Sunday in 1851.  Evelina and, presumably, other members of the Ames family attended the consecration, a ceremony to which Evelina paid close attention.  They went back to their own Unitarian church in the afternoon.












AUGUST 1976 [date of plaque]

July 20, 1851




Sunday July 20th  Have been to church all day  Mr Whitwell

preached felt very sleepy and heard but a

little of the sermon  After meeting went over

to the Methodist meetinghouse to a sing.  There are

some fine singers there.  Oakes A & Orinthia called

for Louisa Swan and brought her to the sing & Orinthia

went back to Mr. Howards

The Ames family was Unitarian. Three generations of them, from Old Oliver to little Susie, dutifully attended church almost every Sunday, just as Evelina did today. Their attachment to the Unitarian service, however, didn’t preclude tolerance of other Protestant congregations in town. The Ameses and others were generally friendly with the Methodists who, like the Unitarians, had broken with the “dark and hopeless Calvinism”* that once prevailed in the meeting houses of New England.

The Methodists had a long history in Easton, the first near-one-hundred years of which were recounted in chatty detail by Unitarian minister and town historian, William Chaffin, in his 1886 History of Easton.*  As the Methodists, founded by Wesley brothers John and Charles, gained adherents in the late 18th and early 19th century, the sect took hold in Easton, too, shortly after the demise of the local Baptist Society. In addition to their welcoming services and missionary zeal, Methodists offered something special to congregations everywhere: Music.

The “sing” that Evelina went to today at the Methodist meeting house was a gathering to sing hymns, many of which were written by the Wesley brothers themselves. Also in attendance was at least one Ames son, and probably the other two as well.  The boys enjoyed the sings, both for the music and for the chance to socialize with other young people.  Oliver (3), who was very musical, was particularly fond of the gatherings.

* William Chaffin, History of Easton, 1886.