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