November 29, 1852

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Monday Nov 29  I was intending to go to Boston to day

but as the weather was rather unfavorable

early this morning did not but it has been

a beautiful day.  Father has six hogs killed

and we have one.  Rode down to Mr Whitwells

to see her cloak and get the pattern.  Malvina

has come to spend the night with Susan

Mr Ames has presented me with a pr of Silver butter

knives  it is 25 years to day since we were married

 

Evelina and Oakes Ames celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary on this date. They had been married on Thanksgiving Day, November 29, 1827.  During the first part of the 19th century, Thanksgiving was a common time for couples to marry, as family members were already gathered for the annual feast, and a qualified leisure prevailed since most agrarian obligations were set aside for the winter. There was time to celebrate.

Oakes and Evelina’s wedding would have been a simple one, at home, not unlike one described by an English couple who happened to attend a nuptial ceremony in western Massachusetts in 1827:

“They found a company of kin and neighbors crowded into a farmhouse parlor, some perched on benches, others sitting on chairs ‘as if they were pinned to the wall.’ The bride and groom, with their bridesmaid and groomsman, sat facing the minister, who pulled up ‘a chair before him, on the back of which he leant.’ He then motioned for the company to rise, joined the couple’s hands together and led them through a brief exchange of vows. Most American couples were wed by a clergyman at the home of the bride, in such informal ceremonies of republican simplicity.”*

Oakes was the first of his brothers, and Evelina the last of her sisters, to marry. The couple moved right into the Ames family home, one-half of which had been remodeled to accommodate the newlyweds. Twenty-five years later, they were still in that homestead, as well as four-children-and-many-dollars richer, richer enough for the old groom to buy the old bride a pair of silver butter knives.

Evelina had intended to go into Boston, but couldn’t. Instead, she had to content herself with riding down to see the minister’s wife, Eliza Whitwell, to borrow a pattern for a cloak. Earlier, she had seen a cloak that her sister-in-law, Sarah Lothrop Ames, had bought and she wanted one, too. She would make her own, however, rather than order something bespoke from Boston.

Evelina also notes that her father-in-law has butchered some hogs, yet Old Oliver himself mentions nothing about it – at least on this date in his journal. He does say that he killed six hogs three days later, December 2. It’s possible that Evelina was writing some of these entries several days after the fact, and may have been confused as to dates. Or she may have been anticipating the slaughter.

 

*Jack Larkin, The Reshaping of Everyday Life, New York, 1988, p. 63

October 13, 1852

 

Blackstrapmolasses

Molasses

Wednesday Oct 13th  Baked this morning in the brick oven

Went with Mother & Lavinia over to Edwins

to get her receipt for making molasses ginger

snaps  left them to see over the house and came

home to have Susan ready to take her third

music lesson  Miss Alger came about nine.

Mother & Lavinia & self rode over to call on Mrs

E Keith. Augustus & wife  Mr Torrey & Abby spent the 

evening  Malvina spent the night with Susan

Ginger snaps came out of the old brick oven this morning and, although Evelina had baked them countless times before, she was trying out a new recipe borrowed from Augusta Pool Gilmore. No doubt the lovely fragrance of baking wafted into the parlor where Susan was taking her piano lesson from Miss Alger.

Although the recipe was different, the use of molasses was not. Molasses was a staple in most American kitchens and had been from colonial days onward. Molasses is the residue from the evaporated sap of sugar cane, available in varying degrees of sweetness and hue. In the days before refined sugar granules gained preference, molasses was the definitive sweetener in most homes.

Molasses was also the substance from which rum was made and, as such, was a primary factor in the historic “Triangular Trade” that went on in England, Africa, and the West Indies. It involved slavery. England sold rum in Africa in return for slaves, whom they took to the West Indies to work on the sugar plantations to produce molasses and unrefined sugar. The sugar stuffs then came to America so the colonies could make rum. On top of that, England established a tax on the colonies for the imported sugar which was one of the many grievances that led to the American Revolution.

Botanic historian Judith Sumner writes:

[T]he early American economy was deeply tied to sugar production; in eighteenth and early nineteenth century New England, the sugar trade promoted shipbuilding and spawned a rum industry with serious social ramifications.  Colonies also traded lumber, grains, meat, livestock and horses to supply the sugar plantations in the West Indies, where the owners concentrated exclusively on sugar production.”*

The connection of sugar cane to slavery did not go unnoticed. By the nineteenth century, “sugar was avoided by those who abhorred slavery because of the complex trading triangle that revolved around slaves, molasses, and rum […] Antislavery pamphlets illustrated cruel sugar plantation practices, where slaves were tethered to weights to prevent their escape and prevented from eating sugar cane by wearing heavy head frames.”* Some abolitionist households boycotted the use of sugar.

As we see, sugar processing and molasses production have an often unhappy history in the United States. And we haven’t even touched on Boston’s Great Molasses Flood of 1919.

*Judith Sumner, American Household Botany, 2004, pp. 206-207

October 2, 1852

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Oct 2d Saturday  Have had quite a party this after 

noon  Mrs Norris, Mrs Mower, Miss Foss, Linscott

& Lavinia here to dine & Hannah Augusta Abby

& Malvina here to tea  Carried Augusta out to

ride the first that she has been out for a long time

We have been to the shops and making calls

and I have done no sewing to day  Mrs Mower

went home with Lavinia  Made my peach preserves

Mr Ames came home from New York

 

 

Friends of Evelina descended on the house today, some for dinner and some for tea. Carriages full of females trotted along Main Street, coming or going to the Ames residence. Evelina’s friend, Orinthia Foss and her fellow school teacher, Frances Linscott, came from Bridgewater and spent the night. Niece Lavinia Gilmore arrived to help with house guests Melinda Norris and Louisa Mower, the latter from Maine. At tea time, Evelina’s sister-in-law Hannah Lincoln Gilmore and two nieces, Abby and Melvina Torrey, joined the group. For the second time this week, many women filled the parlor. We might imagine that Evelina was really enjoying herself.

What did the men of the family do to cope with all the socializing? Join the crowd or disappear into the office next door? What must Oakes Ames have thought when he walked in, home from his business trip?

Augusta Pool Gilmore, who had been ailing for many weeks now, was on the mend. She, too, came for tea and later was taken out for a drive. Like yesterday, the weather was mild and sunny and Augusta must have felt reborn to finally get out of her sick room and back with the living.

Even with a big midday meal and many for tea, the servants – and perhaps Evelina herself – still managed to put up some peach preserves. What a busy kitchen!

 

May 14, 1852

Susan Eveline Ames French

Susan Eveline Ames (French)

1852

May 14th  Susan ten years old to day.  Her father & 

I have promised her 10 dollars each if she will

be a good girl and keep herself neat till her

next birth day.  Have been to work some on

Susans delaine dress altering it The gardener

laid out my verbena and I set out some slips

From the house  Malvina came to stop the night

Helen had her face lanced  Not pleasant

 

 

Last year for her birthday, Susie Ames had a little party.  Not so this year, her birthday coming too close on the heels of the death of her cousin George Witherell. Instead, her parents made her a generous promise of “10 dollars each,” if she behaved well and kept “herself neat” for the next year. Those were high expectations for a child, even a Victorian one.

Next door, Helen Angier Ames was still suffering from her own difficult ailment, that of a swollen face. Was it an abscess, or a boil, or something else? The doctor came again to see her and this time lanced her face. Not a pleasant procedure, one imagines. Otherwise, in the main house, family members seemed to be settling back into the normal domestic routine.  Eveline sewed and gardened; her verbena and more went into the ground, despite the continued stormy weather.

 

January 3, 1852

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1852

Jan 3d Saturday 

Finished my old hood and ripped Susans

old one & washed the lining and have partly quilted

it once again  Have spent all the afternoon in 

mending Franks shop coat.  Sewed this evening

untill nearly ten have not read at all

Mrs Witherell received news last night that her

father Witherell is not expected to live and she has gone

to see him.

Three-and-a-half years earlier, Sarah Ames Witherell had lost her husband, Nathaniel Witherell, Jr.  Now, she had the sad duty of traveling to Boston to say goodbye to her husband’s father, Nathaniel Witherell, Sr. Someone must have written a letter to tell her he was ill and, ever dutiful, Sarah Witherell responded quickly to the news.  Off she went.

Better news was that today was the birthday of one of Evelina’s many nieces, Mary “Melvina” (or “Malvina” as Evelina spelled it) Torrey. The youngest daughter of Evelina’s late older sister, Hannah Howard Gilmore Torrey, Melvina turned 11. Her father was Col. John Torrey, a high-profile personage in North Easton, of whom Evelina often writes. Melvina and her sister, Abby Torrey, were great favorites of Evelina; Melvina is the niece to whom Evelina gave a bloomer hat the previous summer.

In another ten years, Melvina would marry an older man, Sanford Blake Strout, who also lived in the village of North Easton, on Center Street. She would bear two sons, Byron Howard Strout and Havilen Torrey Strout.

 

Illustration from Godey’s Lady’s Magazine, 1851

 

December 17, 1851

Sleigh

Dec 17th  Wednesday.  Mary went to ironing this

morning and Jane did the housework and I have been

knitting on Susans hood have got the front done and 

commenced the back  Abby spent the afternoon

& Malvina came in past eight  Jane ironed 7

shirts this afternoon  Very cold weather

Old Oliver Ames didn’t always agree with his senior daughter-in-law, but on this day he and she shared the same opinion about the temperature outside. “[T]he coldest day we have had this winter,” he wrote in his journal. Not surprising that Evelina and her servants stayed inside and focused on their indoor domestic responsibilities. All three women seemed to have recovered from their recent colds and illness and they probably wanted to keep it that way.

Some people went outside, though.  Evelina’s nieces, Abby and Malvina Torrey, spent part of their day with her.  They must have walked over from the village – a short walk, fortunately, in the windy, freezing sunshine.  Other Eastonians who were out and about would have moved around best in their sleighs, as a buildup of snow had hardened into a smooth, slick surface on the roadways.  Old Oliver himself may have gotten around that way.  He noted that “light slays run pritty well now.”

 

September 21, 1851

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Sunday Sept 21st  Have been to meeting  Mr Ames & self came

home at noon and Horace Pool came with us

and they rode up to the great pond where they are

building a new floom.  Brought Abby Torrey from

meeting & carried her back  She & Malvina are spending 

a week at Alsons  Miss Latham & her brother Edward

came to our meeting this morning and to the other 

part of the house after  I called into see them

The new flume going in at Great Pond was attracting local attention. After church, Oakes Ames and Horace Pool rode up to see it. Oakes had been in Boston when his father, Old Oliver, had begun the work, and no doubt he was curious to see the progress.  No one would have been working on it today, as it was Sunday.

The flume was intended to harness water power for the shovel factory. It was basically an inclined ditch lined with stones and boulders to shunt the water along. Some flumes – such as those used in lumbering – are lined with wood, but that wasn’t likely to be the case here, given the scarcity of wood, the availability of stones, and the expectation of longevity. Old Oliver’s oxen must have been used to haul the many stones, and man-power used to put each one in place.  The channel itself would have been dug with Ames shovels, naturally.

Evelina, perhaps moving about slowly on sore feet, went to church and caught up with various friends and family members, including nieces Abby and Malvina Torrey. She popped into the other part of the house – the section lived in by Old Oliver and his daughter Sarah Witherell – to greet some visitors there.  She was settling back into her routine after the Boston holiday.

Photograph of an old flume, blogoteca.com/afonsoxavier, courtesy of Hadrian

 

 

August 28, 1851

17 Alexander Jackson Davis (American architect, 1803-1892),  Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. 1850

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Thursday Aug 28th  Have done but very little sewing to day.

Mrs Fullerton Abby & Malvina here to tea.  Mr & Mrs

Whitwell called.  Mr Whitwell walked up and sent

Mr Tilden with a carriage for his wife.  Mrs Hyde

Mrs James Mitchell & Mrs Watson came from E Bridgewater

& Mrs Watson & Peckham to the other part of the house

to tea. Alson here to dinner & tea

Frederick left for Cambridge this morning

There was much socializing in North Easton today, but it paled in importance when compared to the departure of Frederick Lothrop Ames for college. Though only 16 years old, Fred  was entering Harvard College as a sophomore, making him a member of the class of 1854.

A notable nineteenth-century commentator would arrive at Harvard just after Fred had graduated.  Henry Adams, Class of 1858, would have this to say about the college in Cambridge before the Civil War:

“Harvard College, as far as it educated at all, was a mild and liberal school, which sent young men into the world with all they needed to make respectable citizens, and something of what they wanted to make useful ones. Leaders of men it never tried to make. Its ideals were altogether different. The Unitarian clergy had given to the College a character of moderation, balance, judgment, restraint, what the French call mesure, excellent traits, which the College attained with singular success, so that its graduates could commonly be recognised by the stamp, but such a type of character rarely lent itself to autobiography. In effect, the school created a type, but not a will. Four years of Harvard College, if successful, resulted in an autobiographical blank, a mind on which only a water-mark had been stamped.”**

Was Fred Ames stamped by his time at Harvard? He certainly appreciated his years there, and became “warmly interested in everything that pertained to the welfare of Harvard, as evinced by his well-known liberal gifts to several of its departments.”***

 

* Alexander Jackson Davis, “Harvard University,” Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1850

** Henry Adams, Education of Henry Adams

*** Harvard “Report for Class of 1854,” 1894

August 27, 1851

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Wedns Aug 27th  This morning filled the vases with flowers and worked

some about the house and about nine went to Mr

Lothrops with Mrs S Ames to put on the shrouds

Got home about twelve.  Went to the funeral

and to the cemetery  He is the second one that 

has been laid there.  Mrs Fullerton and Abb[y] Torrey

called this evening & Malvina with her bloomer

hat that I gave her

“[A] fair, cool day,” Old Oliver noted in his journal. “Clinton Lothrop buried.” Brother of Sarah Lothrop Ames, a young husband, father, and farmer, Clinton had died of typhus fever. Evelina helped Sarah, Clinton’s only sister, place a shroud on the corpse. In the afternoon, with her husband and family, Evelina attended the funeral service, which would have been at the Lothrop home, and the burial.  Clinton was buried in the new cemetery.

Despite the somber events of the day, Evelina managed to brighten her home with flowers from her garden.  In the evening, her nieces Abby and Malvina Torrey made a call with their relative, Mrs. Fullerton. Malvina wore a “bloomer hat” that Evelina had given her.

The bloomer costume – seen above in the Currier print –  was a fashion phenomenon in 1851. Originally developed by readers of a health publication called The Water-Cure Journal, “Turkish pants” were touted as a healthful alternative to the heavy-skirted dresses and constrictive bodices that women typically wore. They became known as “bloomers” when Amelia Bloomer of Seneca Falls, New York, told the readership of her temperance periodical, The Lily, that she had adopted the style to wear.  She published instructions for making the outfit, and the curious style became a craze.

Although the bloomer costume was admired at first as being healthful, it soon became politicized as women’s reform became prominent in the headlines. To many, the free-flowing bloomers became symbolic of the suffrage movement. Publications that initially praised bloomers recanted as the outfit became more controversial. The fashion held its own through the decade, however, but disappeared after the Civil War, only to revive in the 1890s.

Evelina, sewing maven that she was, had been following the fashion news, but hadn’t opted to make a bloomer costume for herself. With a nod to the trend, however, she acquired a bloomer hat, probably like the one in the Currier print, to give to her ten-year old niece, Malvina.

*Nathaniel Currier, The Bloomer Costume, 1851

August 5, 1851

Haymaking

1851

August 5th Tuesday  Have been sewing part of the day

This afternoon took my work and went to Mr

Torreys with the intention of stopping an hour or two

Abby left this morning for Pembroke & I had a 

long chat with Mr Torrey heard all the news.

On my return called on Mrs Lake found her

about house & quite smart.  Heard that Mrs Holmes

was sick

Haying continued, as Old Oliver noted yesterday in his journal:

“in the morning the wind was south west + there was a verry little sun shine untill about 10 – O – clock when the wind shifted to the north east. + it raind in the afternoon but not butt little we mowd the thin part of the Flyaway and brought it home well. + put it out in small heaps”

Evelina worked on her sewing, as usual, and even carried it with her in the afternoon into the village where she visited Col. John Torrey for “a long chat.”  John Torrey was a widower twice over. He had been married first to an Abigail Williams who died quite young. They had no children. In 1828, Torrey married Evelina’s older sister, Hannah Howard Gilmore, and they had three children, of whom two survived infancy:  Abigail “Abby” Williams Torrey, named for the first wife, and Mary Malvina Torrey. Both girls were close to their Aunt Evelina who seems to have served as a maternal figure after Hannah died sometime in the 1840s.

Col. Torrey was a controversial figure in Easton of whom we know only enough to be curious, and not enough to have that curiosity satisfied. (He should not be confused with another John Torrey who was a prominent botanist in New York in the same era.) Listed as a “Trader” in the census, he earned the title of Colonel by years of service in the local militia. Somewhere along the way Torrey invoked the enmity of a local character and lampoonist named James Adams who wrote a derogatory poem about him. Historian William Chaffin recorded this information without including the piece in question.  Chaffin only said that “Our Hero: A Descriptive Poem,” was published in a sixteen-page pamphlet and was “not merely satirical, but derisive and scathing.”*

* William Chaffin, History of Easton, 1886, pp. 764-765