October 7, 1852

elm-yellows

 

Oct 7th Thursday  Have been cutting out some shirts

for bosoms.  Catharine Murphy has made

four window curtains for my front chamber

Mrs Witherell Mrs S Ames & self passed the

afternoon & evening at Mr Swains  Mr Ames 

came to tea and Oliver rode down after us and 

stopt awhile Mr & Mrs Meader are there &

Ellen Meader  Augustus wife went to Boston

 

There was quite a bit of socializing today, prompted in part by good weather. “[T]he 7th was a fair pleasant day + verry warm,” noted Old Oliver Ames. Henry David Thoreau, some 40 miles to Oliver’s north, was more discursive about the sunshine:

I sit on Poplar Hill. It is a warm Indian-summerish afternoon. The sun comes out of clouds, and lights up and warms the whole scene. It is perfect autumn. I see a hundred smokes arising through the yellow elm-tops in the village, where the villagers are preparing for tea. It is the mellowing year. The sunshine harmonizes with the imbrowned and fiery foliage.**

The elm trees such as the ones that Thoreau mentions would also have been seen by Old Oliver. In fact, they would have been seen across the state and beyond. Once upon a time, American Elms were ubiquitous in the United States.They were tall trees with a wine-glass profile and a graceful green canopy. In the 20th century, however, most of them were wiped out by Dutch Elm disease. The existence of “Elm Streets” in communities around the country attests to the fact that elms were once as common as maples or pines. As Thoreau suggests, many a small town lived under their shade.

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

**Henry David Thoreau, Journal, courtesy of http://hdt.typepad.com/henrys_blog

 

 

October 4, 1852

searchsearch                                             weal_03_img0569

                       Roger B. Taney                                                                   Benjamin Robbins Curtis                

(1777 – 1864)                                                                       (1809 – 1874)

Oct 4th Monday  Catharine Middleton & C Murphy washed

Mrs Norris and all of us dined with Mrs Witherell

and staid there untill about four and then

Mrs Norris and self went to Augustus’ to tea and

passed the evening  Mrs Lincoln is there

intends spending the winter  I do but very

little sewing have made a pr of plain cambric sleeves to day

 

 

It was the first Monday in October which in North Easton meant another washday. At the Ames compound, the Irish servant girls, Catharine Middleton and Catharine Murphy, tied their aprons on, filled the wash tubs and went to work. The slight rain did not interfere.

In Washington D.C., on this first Monday in October, nine white male justices put on their black robes and also went to work. A new session of the U.S. Supreme Court got underway. Led by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney of Maryland, the 1852-1853 term would deal with, among others, the case of Cooley vs. Board of Wardens of the Port of Philadelphia. That decision would confirm the right of states to regulate commerce within their own boundaries. We might imagine that this decision had an impact on businesses such as the shovel works that shipped merchandise.

Taney and three other members of the court – John McLean of Ohio (the longest-serving), James Moor Wayne of Georgia, and John Catron of Tennessee – had been appointed by Andrew Jackson in the 1830’s. Two other justices, John McKinley of Alabama and Peter Vivian Daniel of Virginia, had been appointed by Martin Van Buren and had served almost as long. Newer to the bench were Samuel Nelson of New York, appointed by John Tyler in 1845, and Benjamin Robbins Curtis of Massachusetts, appointed by Millard Fillmore the previous year, 1851.

Associate Justice Curtis was the first and only Whig ever to serve on the Supreme Court. A graduate of Harvard, he was also the first justice to have a formal law degree. The justices up until that time had either “read law” as apprentices or attended law school without getting their degree.  Curtis would further distinguish himself in 1857 when the Taney Court handed down the infamous Dred Scott decision that determined that a black man had no rights of citizenship. Curtis and John McLean dissented from that majority decision, with Curtis so upset that he resigned from the court. He is the only justice to date to resign from the Supreme Court on a matter of principle.

 

 

January 20, 1852

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Jan 20th Tuesday  Have made Susan two pr of fur cuffs

one pair for school and one for best.  Hannah called

for me to go with her to call upon Augusta, went

with her found Julia Pool there stoped but a few

moments. This evening Mrs Witherell Emily & Mrs

S Ames brought in their work and passed the evening

They say I never give them the credit of coming here

at all. I certainly will this time

In what Evelina considered to be a rare occurrence, her two sisters-in-law, Sarah Witherell and Sarah Ames, “passed the evening” at Evelina’s. The women brought their work boxes or baskets and sewed together, young Emily and perhaps young Susie with them. Usually, Evelina went over to one of their sitting rooms.

On this same date in 1865, when Evelina’s life had changed, and she and Oakes were in Washington, D.C. while Oakes served as U.S. Congressman from Massachusetts, Oakes was called to the White House.  Winthrop Ames, who once possessed the diary in which Evelina recorded her days in Washington, tells us that Evelina wrote “today Mr. Lincoln sent for Oakes to come to the White House.  He went immediately after dinner and talked with the President until after midnight.’ ”

Winthrop went on to add, in his own words:

“Ames reported that the President said to him then, and in later conferences, ‘Ames, you take hold of this. If the subsidies provided are not enough to build the road ask double and you shall have it. Take hold of it yourself.’ And he added,’by building the Union Pacific, you will become the remembered man of your generation,’ The President said further that if the railroad could be so far completed that he might take a trip over it when he retired from the Presidency it might be the most memorable occasion in his life. Alas! his next railroad trip was to be in the funeral car that bore him to his grave in Springfield, Illinois.”*

*Winthrop Ames, The Ames Family of Easton, Massachusetts, 1937, p.

 

January 10, 1852

Oakes_Ames_-_Brady-Handy

 Portrait of Oakes Ames by Matthew Brady 

1852

Jan 10th Saturday  Mr Whitwell & Ames have not met again

to day  Mr W called just as Augusta Helen Susan

& self were in the sleigh to take a ride  We have

called at mothers  Mr Horace & John Pool, Edwin

& wife here to tea  Swept the parlor this morning

and put the house in order partially frosted a loaf of cake

for Augusta having made one of hers carried the frosting

over and made her a call while heating it

The boys presented their Father a gold pen & pencil

Oakes Ames turned 48 years old today, as did the local Unitarian minister, William Whitwell.  Last year and again this year, Evelina was unsuccessful in getting the two men together to celebrate. Oakes Angier and Frank Morton gave their father a gold pen and pencil to mark the occasion, a fine gesture.

As Oakes closed in on the half-century mark, he presumably began to look beyond the confines of the work he and his brother Oliver Jr. did for the shovel company. The next generation, in fact, was being groomed to run O. Ames & Sons; Oakes Angier, as eldest son of the eldest son, was on deck to superintend the company whenever Oakes and Oliver Jr. decided to step down. He was learning every aspect of the manufacturing process. Oliver (3) and Fred Ames were at college, Oliver presumably honing the skills he would need to take over his father’s role in managing sales, while Fred was on a path to being the financial clerk or CFO we might say today. Frank Morton Ames was learning a variety of skills, too, although he was seen more as a spare man waiting to step in should his cousin or either older brother fail somehow.

What could Oakes do with his tremendous talent and energy? Clearly, the roiling politics of the day interested him. By 1860, his gregarious nature, quick comprehension and thirsty ambition led him to accept the nomination and election to Massachusetts Governor Andrew’s Council as representative from Bristol County. Two years later, by “a large popular vote,”* Oakes Ames was then elected to the Thirty-Eighth U. S. Congress, where he would serve for four terms.

In 1872, according to circumspect historian, Reverend William L. Chaffin, Oakes “declined a renomination.”* He died in May, 1873, shortly after the conclusion of Credit Mobilier, a national political scandal for which many held Oakes culpable. At the time, his natural candor and fearlessness worked against him and he was unable to dodge the political manuevering that placed most of the blame on him. That same brave honesty, coupled today with calmer, historical perspective, has since served to cast Oakes Ames in a better light.

William L. Chaffin, History of Easton, Massachusetts, 1886, p. 654

 

 

December 10, 1851

Thread

 

Dec 10th  Wednesday.  Mrs S Witherell S Ames and

self have spent the day quilting at Mrs Reeds

on a quilt that belongs to the sewing circle  Have

had a fine time.  Met quite a number of

ladies there. Had a taste of Mrs Howards mince

pie  We stopt the evening.  Mrs Witherell

J R Howard & Mr Harrison Pool came  We carried

Mrs Elijah Howard home

Although Evelina had reported the conclusion of the Sewing Circle season on November 5, today “quite a number” of Unitarian women met again to work on a quilt. They worked all day and into the evening, making the event even more sociable than usual.  Caroline Howard and Nancy Howard were among Evelina’s friends who attended and enjoyed tea and mince pie.

In New York City, meanwhile, Oakes Ames would have been wrapping up his business affairs and preparing to return home, having been away since the 3rd of the month.  Surely, not every moment of his trip had been devoted to shovels. He was no drinker, so the bartenders in the city wouldn’t have poured him any whiskey, but, like his wife, he was sociable.  He might have joined friends or clients for dinner. He also might have done favors for family or friends from home.

Rev. William Chaffin tells us that Oakes once searched out some socks in New York for his father’s coachman, Michael Burns, whom Chaffin described as “an Irishman of the old style.” Not long after Michael had emigrated to Massachusetts, “his mother, still alive in Ireland, knit him several pairs of socks, and sent them over by a friend of Michael’s.  She supposed that anyone coming over would necessarily ‘see my son Michael.’ But the friend found on landing at New York that he was two hundred miles away.  He wrote Michael telling him that he would leave the socks at a certain address.”

Michael approached Oakes “and asked him if he wouldn’t hunt up the socks and bring them home. It was just the sort of kindness Mr. Ames delighted in, and so when he went to New York he hunted up the socks with some difficulty and brought them to the overjoyed Michael.”*

*William L. Chaffin, “Oakes Ames 1804/1873”, Easton Historical Society, North Easton, 1996, pp. 6-7

 

 

 

 

June 28, 1851

Grapes

June 28th Sat  Have been to Boston to day met Alson

& wife at the depot  Went into the horticultural

exhibition  Saw many fine roses and […]

quite a variety of other flowers a very fine

dish of peaches and beautiful bunches of grapes

Henrietta & I dined at Mr Orrs.  We walked

a great deal   went into Hanover St  Whites bonnet

rooms & Mellons Merchants Row

Evelina traveled into Boston today and met her brother Alson and his wife Henrietta. She may have ridden in with Oakes, who usually went to Boston on business on Saturdays. If he was present, however, he didn’t spend the day with her; he would have had his customers to meet.  She, on the other hand, along with Alson and Henrietta, attended a horticultural exhibition. They saw plantings and all sorts of flowers, including “fine roses,” and displays of fruit that were also “very fine.”

It’s possible that this particular exhibition was that year’s annual presentation by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society. Established in 1829, and going strong today, the society, then as now, offered lectures and presented an annual exhibition in order to further their mission to educate the public about “the science and practice of horticulture.”

After midday dinner at the home of friends, Robert and Melinda Orr, Evelina and Henrietta walked around the city.  They looked into the shops along Hanover Street and Merchants Row, the latter a street that bisected Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market. The two women window-shopped for bonnets at White’s store and, given the horticultural theme of the day, they may have poked their heads in Joseph Breck’s floral emporium, too. They had much to think about on their ride back to Easton that evening.

April 30, 1851

Boot

1851

April 30 Wednesday  Hannah came with Augustus in the stage

and Eddy came with them  I fear she did not 

have a pleasant visit Eddy was not well and very

troublesome. We called at the shoe shop and

at Mr. Torreys.  Abby came home with us to tea

I have sewed some on Susans borage dress but

have not been able to do much. The weather is

pleasant but rather windy

 

The reason for Augustus Gilmore’s continued presence at the Ames home became clearer today. The boot factory (or shoe shop, as Evelina called it) that Augustus had been working to establish was now up and running. Oakes Angier was an original partner, according to Chaffin’s History of Easton:

“In 1851 there was organized in North Easton the firm of A.A. Gilmore & Co., the other members of the firm being Elisha T. Andrews and Oakes A. Ames. They manufactured fine calf-skin boots in a building owned by Cyrus Lothrop. Oakes Ames succeeded to the interest first owned by Oakes A. Ames. In 1870, Messrs Gilmore and Andrews bought out Oakes Ames. This firm, which for some time did quite an extensive business, gave up the manufacture of boots in 1879; but the firm did not dissolve until death broke up the long partnership, Mr. Andrews dying in 1883.” *

The manufacture of shoes was an important industry in southeastern Massachusetts, particularly in the nearby towns of Randolph and North Bridgewater (soon to be known as Brockton). One theory is that shoe-making grew out of a cottage industry begun in the late 18th century, a thrifty, small, household-by-household effort to augment the meager income from subsistence farming by making shoes. It was one way to use the leather from the farm animals who were slaughtered.

New England as a whole was a major producer of shoes throughout the nineteenth century, “with Massachusetts alone responsible for over 50% of the nation’s total shoe production through most of the period.”** The trade continued well into the 20th century, with organizations such as the New England Shoe and Leather Association and the Boston Boot and Shoe Club championing the industry. Some leather manufacturing continues today in the region.

It only made sense that Easton, bustling as it was with the manufacture of goods such as shovels, mathematical instruments and, soon, hinges, would participate in the regional trade of shoe-making. That members of the Ames family were involved seemed to make sense, too.

 

* p.598

**http://www.albany.edu/history/ej/origins.html