November 14, 1852


Sunday Nov 14  Went to church all day

Mother Augustus wife & self went

to Mr Whitwells at noon  she gave

us a cup of tea cake &c &c  Oakes A

Orinthia & Lavinia rode to see Ellen Howard

John & Rachel spent the day at Edwins

I called there with Orinthia and at Mr



Evelina and her family were very sociable this Sunday at intermission and after church. But today’s entry is most notable because it’s the last one in which Evelina mentions Orinthia Foss (at least for the diaries we have.) Orinthia was a twenty-year-old schoolteacher from Maine who boarded with the Ames family for a time in 1851. She and Evelina got to be great  – and sometimes mischievous – friends despite their age difference. After Orinthia moved to Bridgewater to teach, the friendship faded. Yet the two women remained companionable on those occasions like today when their paths crossed.

Orinthia would not remain in Massachusetts much longer, although we don’t know for certain when she returned to Maine. We do know that by the end of the decade, she had married a widower named Dana Goff, a railroad conductor living in Farmington, Maine. With that marriage, she gained a teenage stepdaughter, Julia, and soon became a mother of her own two boys, Herbert Dana and Ralph. Like other mothers before her, she had the sorrow of losing Herbert Dana at an early age, but was able to raise Ralph. Around 1880, the Goffs moved to Auburn where Mr. Goff became a real estate agent.

By 1910, Orinthia was a widow living with her younger sister, Florida (or Flora) Foss Hill in Auburn. She died in Newcastle, Maine, of heart disease, when she was 84. She is buried in the Goff family plot in Auburn, Maine.

October 15, 1852


Friday Oct 15th  We had a very stormy forenoon and

I presume Mrs Mower did not start for home

Miss Alger came this afternoon to give her

fourth lesson and Mother returned home

with her Emily got ahead of Susan fast of 

a lesson but Susan now got up with her


North Easton and its environs had crummy weather for the middle of October. After a night of steady rain, along came “a little snow there was an inch.”* Everyone would have been wet and cold, and forced to reckon with the approach of winter.

Evelina was probably correct that her friend Louisa Mower was unable to depart for Maine, whether by rail or ship. Despite the weather, however, Miss Alger, the piano teacher, slogged up from her home in southeastern Easton to give Susie Ames and Emily Witherell their lesson. On her trip home, Miss Alger took old Mrs. Gilmore back to the family farm.

How did the girls do on the fourth lesson? Evelina wrote an observation, then crossed it out. Why? Despite that strike through the writing, we can still read that Emily was pulling ahead of Susan in her scales and overall skill. Did Evelina write that in a fit of pique, perhaps, and change her mind later? Was she disappointed in her daughter, or annoyed at her niece?


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

October 14, 1852


Cambridgeport, ca. 1854*

Thursday Oct 14th Mrs Mower left for Maine this

morning or rather she is to stop over night in 

Cambridgeport and home tomorrow  Mrs Witherell &

Mrs S Ames came in for an hour or two this afternoon

I feel that I have not seen Mrs Mower as much

as I wish  I have given her my winter bonnet

3 dollars in Cash and other things & paid her

passage from Boston

Louisa Mower, an old friend of Evelina, left for home. Evelina bought Louisa the ticket from Boston to Maine, gave Louisa some cash and her own old bonnet.  Evelina was often generous to friends and family this way – to the females, at any rate. She looked after the women she cared about and in her entry today, she sounds a bit sad to see this particular friend depart.

“[T]his was a cloudy cool day wind north east and some misty just at night”* wrote Old Oliver in his journal; he doesn’t suggest it, but the sky and wind portended a winter storm, the first of the season. Louisa’s travel to Maine would be delayed on account of it.

Cambridgeport, where Louisa was staying while waiting, is a neighborhood within the city of Cambridge that today borders the Charles River east from Massachusetts Avenue to Central Square. In the 19th century, it was part wetlands, part residential, and part transportation hub. It was the site of the relatively new Grand Junction Railroad and Depot Company, which connected trains heading west and north – a line that’s still active in our 21st century. A few years later, Cambridgeport was also the location of the F. A. Kennedy Steam Bakery, where Fig Newtons and Lorna Doones were born.


*Image courtesy of

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


July 5, 1852



Frederick Douglass

(1818 – 1895)

1852 July 5th Monday  Orinthia & Lavinia went to Boston with

lots of others this morning  Orinthia is going to Maine 

on a visit  Mary came to sew or to see what she

can do. I have been sewing some to day and hope 

now that I shall be able to [do] more than I have

Have finished my brown muslin.  Augusta

has been here in this afternoon and this evening

we have been to see the fire works at Mr Russels

The nation was 76 years old. The Fourth of July having fallen on a Sunday, however, the celebration of it was deferred to Monday. Thus Evelina and Oakes and, no doubt, their sons and daughter went to Mr. Russell’s tonight to watch some fireworks. Others traveled into Boston, perhaps to see the fireworks there.

Mr. Russell may have been Edwin Russell, a shoemaker. The Ameses knew the family, certainly, as all three sons had attended a funeral back in January for Edwin’s father, Frank. If it was Edwin who hosted the fireworks, his may not have been as elaborate as those that would be seen in Boston, but he was following a tradition established by John Adams at the very beginning of the republic.

In a letter to his wife, Abigail Adams, on July 3, 1776, John Adams described his grand vision for a commemoration of the nation’s birthday.  It was to be celebrated “with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of the Continent to the Other from this Time forward forever more.” His vision was realized by 1777 when both Philadelphia and Boston – and other cities or towns, perhaps – set off Fourth of July Fireworks. A tradition was born.

Not everyone celebrated the nation’s birthday, however, as Frederick Douglass, probably the country’s most prominent African-American, pointed out on this date* in a speech now famously known as “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”  He said:

“I am not included within the pale of glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us.  The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me.  The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine.  You may rejoice, I must mourn.”**

Douglass eloquently  described the fissure between white lives and black, yet he did “not despair of this country. There are forces in operation which must inevitably work the downfall of slavery…” ** He rightly predicted its elimination, but even he could not have predicted the carnage and destruction that the end of slavery would cost.

Frederick Douglass, “What, to the Slave, is your Fourth of July?,” various dates cited for this speech: July 5, 1852 or 1854.


June 29, 1852


Henry Clay

(1777 – 1852)


Tuesday June 29th  Have had a quiet […] sick day  have

a bad cold & cough and sick head ache

A gentleman here from Pennsylvania

to dine but I did not go to the table

Mr Bartlett here to tea from Maine

Augusta came in and cut her out a

visite & I have written to Melinda to

get some trimming for it  Ottomans came

from Boston

Evelina was sick and probably spent most of the day in bed. She didn’t eat much, missing midday dinner – with company – and possibly skipping tea, too. Perhaps she took a tray of food in her room. She must have begun to feel a bit better, however, as she eventually roused herself to cut out a “visite” for Augusta Gilmore, who came over at the end of the day.  She even wrote to her friend Melinda Orr, in Boston, to find some trim. She could get animated about a sewing project, though not much else appealed to her today.

It was “a fair warm day + verry dry,”* and probably “verry” good for the haying that was underway. Old Oliver and a team of hands would have been outdoors from sunup to sundown.

In the world beyond North Easton, a consummate, outspoken and controversial politician passed away today: Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky, aged 75, died in Washington D. C., of consumption. The Ameses wouldn’t have known this, however, until they read the next day’s newspapers. But most likely they admired Clay, the “Star of the West,” and the founder of the Whig Party. Clay’s biggest opponent back in the day had been Andrew Jackson, who called Clay “the Judas of the West.”  One imagines that Oakes Ames had probably been on the side of Clay’s admirers.

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

April 22, 1852



Thursday April 22  Worked a very little in the garden

not very pleasant but looks more like fair weather

Sewed a little on my black silk dress

Called with Augusta on Hannah & her sister

Sarah, Abby and at Willard Lothrop, Sampsons

A Pratts Holmes and at the store.  afterwards at

Olivers & Edwins carried a pr shoes to mend

A little sewing, a little gardening, and a great deal of socializing filled the hours of Evelina’s day today. After being pretty well pent up by several days of stormy weather, Evelina was ready to go out.

With her niece-in-law, Augusta Pool Gilmore, she called on another niece-in-law, Hannah Williams Gilmore. There they met Hannah’s sister, Sarah Lincoln, who was visiting from Hingham. They went on to see yet another niece, Abby Torrey, then to the homes of Willard Lothrop (one of Easton’s most active spiritualists), Joel and Martha Sampson, and others.

The Sampsons were a younger couple from Maine with five little children aged eight and under, including three-year-old twins. Joel Sampson worked at the shovel shop and was evidently devoted to Oakes Ames. Twenty years later, on hearing of Oakes’ death, “Joel Sampson, teamster and farmer of the company came home when he heard the sad news, threw himself upon his sofa and announced to his wife that the head and soul of the business was dead, that every thing would go to smash now, and told her to make ready to go back to their old farm and home in Maine, as it was no use to live here any more.”**

Throughout her travels today, Evelina carried a pair of shoes to be mended. In an area of the country well known for its shoe manufacturing, there must have been a good cobbler somewhere in town.


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

**William Chaffin, “Oakes Ames,” p. 2

September 3, 1851


Wednes Sept 3d  Alson came this morning & brought

Orinthia and staid to dinner and carried Mrs Stevens

home with him  Orinthia has been packing her clothes

Mrs Stevens stiched three more collars for me & Mrs

Witherell two that are for Frank.  Abby Torrey called

this afternoon &c and on her return Orinthia & I went

to the store  Pauline passed the afternoon with Helen

Orinthia Foss was packing her clothes, getting ready to return home to Maine. What prompted the departure isn’t clear. Did she lose her job, or was she called home on family matters? She would return to North Easton eventually, but did she know that when she left?  How did she feel about leaving this town where she had lived for six months? How did Evelina feel about the loss of her young friend, even temporarily?

Orinthia wasn’t the only one with a trunk to be packed. Oliver Ames (3), too, was a day away from departure and had a trunk into which his mother – and others, perhaps – were placing his new collars and mended shirts. Last minute sewing was still going on, but by this time the trunk would have been nearly full of the clothes that Oliver would need for a term at college.

That Oliver was going away to study at Brown was just shy of miraculous.  At 20, he was old to be going, for one thing; in the nineteenth century, the average students were teenaged, like Fred Ames at Harvard. But more than that, his father Oakes had not wanted him to go. According to one 19th century acquaintance of Oliver, Oakes “had inherited some measure of that Puritanical contempt for the liberal arts.” After completing prep school, Oliver had been directed to work at the factory, “to learn the trade of shovel-making. But the desire for a higher education remained strong, and when at the end of his five years apprenticeship he had mastered the trade, his father yielded to his solicitations, and allowed him to enter Brown University.” * Oliver had earned his ticket out.

* Hon. Hosea M. Knowlton, “Address,” Oliver Ames Memorial, 1898, pp. 98-99


June 2, 1851




June 2d Monday  This morning being washing day I had to

work about house and have not sewed much

all day  Miss Linscott returned this morning

(I think her to be a very pleasant girl)

Worked in the flower garden a couple hours

this afternoon  Have carried my bonnet to

S Copeland to have it sewed over.  Spent most

of the afternoon in the other part of the house. Very pleasant


Pleasant skies and a light breeze made for easy drying of the Monday laundry.  Old Oliver reported that “it was cloudy + cool in the fore noon + fair + warm in the afternoon wind southwest + west.” He also noted that “Mr Buck went to Ohio.” Who was Mr. Buck? There were many by that name in Easton at the time.

In nearby Maine, something historic happened today, something that surely pleased Oakes Ames and Oliver Ames Jr..  Maine became the first state to enact a statewide prohibition on the sale or manufacture of alcoholic beverages.  Known as the “Maine Law,” the legislation was spearheaded by Neal Dow, the mayor of Portland, and signed by John Hubbard, governor of the state.  The men became known respectively as the “Napoleon of Temperance” and the “Father of Prohibition.”  Neal Dow, a Temperance Whig, was particularly prominent in his life-long campaign to rid the country of drink.

The vote in Maine was a result of an aggressive effort by temperance advocates across the country to stop the sale of alcohol. No headway had been made on the national level, so activists had organized to effect change at the state and county level, an effort that resulted in some short-term success and much long-term failure.  They had their work cut out for them.  During the 19th century, the average American consumed at least three times more alcohol than the average American in the 21st.**

Dow’s legislation didn’t hold up. Enforcement was inadequate, bootlegging became rampant and the law was repealed in 1858. The sale of alcohol resumed. The battle in Maine had ended, but the national war over alcohol would last well into the 20th century.

* Neal Dow (1804 – 1897), the “Napoleon of Temperance”

** Wikipedia






February 23, 1851

Map of Maine, 1850

Map of Maine, 1850


Feb 23  Sunday  Have not been to church to day on account

of my cough, although it is a great deal better.

Orinthia staid at home too, having a bad cold and 

being a good deal fatigued.  We have had a nice 

quiet time talking over Maine affairs.  She spent

Thursday night at Mr Mowers.  Have written a long

letter to Louise J. Mower to day.  Mr Whitwell exchanged

with Mr Bradford of Bridgewater.  It is a lovely day.

This was the second Sunday in a row that Evelina missed going to meeting.   She stayed behind ostensibly to keep the new boarder company and to nurse the lingering cough that she admitted to herself was much better.  Was she still avoiding certain people at church, or had she gotten past the Sewing Circle incident?  Whatever her reasoning, she had a pleasant visit with young Orinthia Foss, the new schoolteacher.

Orinthia seems to have hailed from the state of Maine, where the Ames family had vital business connections.  The wooden handles of the Ames shovels came from Maine, where good wood like ash was still plentiful. Massachusetts, on the other hand, in 1850, was fairly well devoid of decent stands of hardwood after two centuries of settlement and development.  Wood from Maine was a critical resource for the Ames enterprise and over the years, one or other of the Ames men made a periodic trip north to examine the supply and cultivate the connections. Oliver Jr., for instance, made a trip to Wayne, Maine, near Augusta, in the mid-1860s.

On her journey to North Easton, Orinthia Foss spent a night with the Warren Mower family in Greene, Maine, a town near today’s Lewiston-Auburn area. Quite wooded, and close to the Androscoggin River as well.   Mrs. Warren Mower was the former Louisa Jane Gilmore born in Leeds, Maine, in 1820. Was she a relative, perhaps? Evelina’s eldest brother, John Gilmore, lived in Leeds, having moved there from Easton in the 1840s.  What was the connection? Whether or not they were related, Evelina and Louisa were clearly friends who corresponded regularly.

February 20, 1851



Feb 20th  Thursday  This morning sat down to sewing quite

early with Lavinia.  worked for Susan and she

sewed some with us  Sent George after Mr & Mrs

Whitwell about one Oclock.  Mr Whitwell attended 

the funeral of James Wells child  Commenced 

raining quite hard & this evening is very dark

The boys & Lavinia & Susan have gone to the 

dancing school at Lothrop Hall

The Thursday evening assemblies, or dancing school, continued. On this occasion, Oakes Angier, Oliver (3) and Frank Morton took their cousin, Lavinia Gilmore, and little sister, Susie, with them.  How exciting for Susan to go along to watch the young men and women dance; probably exciting for Lavinia, too.  She was at the marriageable age of nineteen and, in the manner of the day, was probably hoping to marry soon.  Getting off the farm for a week to stay with her aunt Evelina in the village of North Easton was an opportunity to socialize and perhaps meet someone special.  Did anyone ask her to dance?  Did her male cousins watch out for her?  Did she like what she wore?

Elsewhere in Easton life was not so light-hearted.  Reverend Whitwell officiated at a funeral for the infant son of James and Celia Wells.  James and his brother John, for whom the little boy was named, worked at the shovel factory.  They were originally from Maine.

And, being February, the weather took a dive for the worse.  The young people’s ride home from Lothrop Hall must have been disagreeably wet.  Mr. and Mrs. Whitwell, who had evidently stayed for tea after the funeral, were unable to get home and had to spend the night at the Ames’s house. Young George Witherell was spared the challenge of carrying them back to the parsonage in the dark, windy downpour.