October 24, 1852

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Sarah Josepha Hale 

(1788 – 1879)

Sunday Oct 24th  Mrs Davenport, Miss Alger & self

staid at home in the morning and I cooked

a dinner  Martin Carr came home with

them at noon and was here to dine  We all

went to meeting this afternoon  Mrs D & Miss

Alger played and sang and we have had a pleasant evening

Evelina played hostess on this Sabbath Day, staying home from the morning church service to be with her female guests and to cook a dinner. Between services, the men came home for the meal, bringing Martin Carr with them. Martin, who was Oakes Angier’s age, was the son of Caleb Carr, a long-time employee of the shovel shop. Martin was a jeweler by trade; perhaps he knew Edward Davenport, a jeweler in Attleboro, who was staying with the Ameses.

The socializing continued in the evening with tea and entertainment. Both Celestine Davenport and Miss Alger “played and sang.”  What fun to have music in the parlor. Perhaps Susie Ames was inspired by the pleasure that piano playing produced.

Evelina wouldn’t have known it, or acknowledged it particularly if she had, but today was the birthday of Sarah Josepha Hale. Mrs. Hale was the influential editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, the most popular periodical of the day for women. Her first editing job, which she took on as a young widow with five children, was for The Ladies Magazine in Boston. After Ladies merged with Lady’s, in 1836 – 1837, Mrs. Hale moved to Philadelphia and became the “editress,” – a term she preferred – of Godey’s for the next forty years. While there, she published the work of Edgar Allen Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Lydia Sigourney, Caroline Lee Hentz, Washington Irving, Emma Willard and Catharine Beecher – among other authors whose writing has not held up as well through the decades.

Mrs. Hale did more than just read at a desk. While still living in Boston, she established the Seaman’s Aid Society to help the widows and orphans of men lost at sea. She raised a much-needed balance of funds for the completion of the erection of the Bunker Hill Monument, the funding of which had stalled. Though many members of the stymied Monument Association assured Mrs. Hale that she couldn’t succeed, she raised tens of thousands of dollars from individual donors and from a week-long women’s craft fair that she organized at Quincy Market. The latter event alone – the first of its kind – raised more than $30,000 from the sale of domestic goods like homemade preserves, knitted scarves, hand-sewn aprons and caps, and specially donated items. She built the template for that kind of event.

Mrs. Hale also raised money for the maintenance of George Washington’s home, Mt. Vernon, which had fallen into disrepair. She championed the establishment of Vassar, the country’s first female liberal arts college. She promoted the advancement of education and employment for women, tirelessly. Most famous of all, she was able to persuade President Abraham Lincoln to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday, a pet project of hers that she had put forward to a line of presidents before him. Most disappointing of all, Sarah Hale never got on board the women’s suffrage movement. She believed that giving women the vote would lead them into politics, which was too disreputable and crafty a calling for the high moral stature of the true female mind.

There is much to be said about Sarah Josepha Hale. We must not forget that she was also an author. She wrote many of the articles in Godey’s, she penned novels, children’s books, household guides and poems. It was her pen that wrote “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” She was a phenomenal woman for her time.

October 23, 1852

Railway_Station,_Stoughton,_MA

Stoughton Railroad Station, built 1888*

 

1852

Saturday Oct 23d Baked in the brick oven brown

bread cake & pies  After I got the first

oven full I had pies enough for a second

and I put the brown bread with the

stove oven and heat the brick oven again

Oakes A & Susan went to Stoughton after

Fred and then after Miss Alger and she has

given her sixth lesson Mr & Mrs Davenport &

child came this evening from Attleboro

Bread, cake, pies and more pies. There was so much baking going on at the Ames house that Evelina used both ovens, the new cast iron one and the original brick oven – the latter twice. What was all the baking about? Company was coming.

A young couple from Attleboro came for a visit: Edward Davenport, a jeweler, with his wife Celestine and their toddler, Annie. What was their connection to the Ames family? They stayed for several days. Also arriving for a stay was the piano teacher, Miss M. J. Alger. We might wonder how Susie Ames felt about that.

Susie helped pick up Miss Alger, in fact. She and her brother Oakes Angier drove around today, first to the train depot in Stoughton and then to Miss Alger’s house. At Stoughton, they met their cousin Fred Ames, who must have been coming home on a break from Harvard. The depot they went to was the earliest iteration of a train station in that town, built in the mid-1840s for the Old Colony Railroad. It was later replaced; today, the Romanesque stone building erected in 1888 is on the National Register, reminding us of the tremendous role that the railroad played in the second half of the 19th century – and well into the 20th.

What a full house Evelina had tonight. Where did she fit everyone?

*Image from 1901, courtesy of Wikipedia

 

 

October 21, 1852


Sarah Emily Witherell                                           Susan Eveline Ames French

Emily Witherell                                                                                   Susan Ames

 

1852

Thursday Oct 21st  Miss Alger came to day to give

her fifth lesson and Susan is now as far

as Emily but unless she takes more

interest it will be very hard for her

to keep up with her.  Mrs Witherell feels

to blame Miss Alger that she does not

give Emily longer lessons

 

Relationships among the females who lived under the roof of the Ames homestead were becoming strained. Susie Ames wasn’t much interested in learning to play the piano, while Emily Witherell was. Yet the cousins took their lessons together, yoked into learning side by side. Emily was facile and wanted more challenging fare, but was slowed down by Susie’s reluctant participation. The disparity in the girls’ interest and ability was no doubt challenging for poor Miss Alger. The situation wasn’t helped by the mothers hovering over the girls as they took their lessons.

The two mothers had their own set of expectations. Sarah Witherell, who had endured so much loss in her life, had nourished hope that her daughter would develop a taste and talent for music. Evelina probably felt the same way, hoping to see her daughter become “accomplished.” Sarah was unhappy that Miss Alger wasn’t giving Emily enough to do, and, also, was surely displeased with Susie holding Emily back. Evelina had to be disappointed by Susie’s disinterest, nervous, perhaps, that she had made an expensive mistake in buying a piano. Evelina was learning, probably not for the first time, that a parent can have aspirations for a child that the child doesn’t share or follow.

All was not lost, however. For all the initial struggle, both girls eventually learned to play piano with some credibility, yet neither grew up to be a great pianist. They never outshone their older cousin, Helen Angier Ames, who had started earlier and, evidently, concentrated harder on perfecting her skill. Family historian Winthrop Ames, who was a first cousin once-removed of the three pianists, noted that by 1861, at the “Unitarian meeting-house […] Helen, Emily and Susan took turns in playing the reed organ, though Helen was acknowledged to be the best performer.”*

 

Winthrop Ames, The Ames Family of Easton, Massachusetts, 1938, p. 130

 

October 20, 1852

piano_voice_guitar_lessons

Wednesday Oct 20th  Have been expecting Miss Alger

all day but she has not come  Have been

trying to assist Susan some about her

music lessons and it hinders me about

my work very much  I wish it was not

such an effort for her to practice.

A gentleman here to dine from New York.

 

It’s easy to imagine the affable Oakes Ames inviting visitors to dine. He was a sociable man, for all his competitive spirit, and had a fine sense of humor.  He knew that his wife took pride in her home, that she could act the hostess and that she – or her servants – prepared a midday meal hearty enough to feed him and his grown sons. How much warning he might have given her that he was bringing someone over from the shovel office for dinner, we can’t know. But Evelina seemed prepared to feed guests as well as her own family, and she no doubt welcomed the gentleman from New York.

The meal preparations were usually left to the servants, of course, although Evelina supervised. Today, however, her focus was on her daughter and the new piano. She was unhappy with Susan’s evident disinterest in the instrument. The girl wasn’t practicing her scales and lessons as she should have been.

When Evelina and her sister-in-law, Sarah Witherell, purchased the pianos and arranged for Susan and Emily to take lessons, Evelina likely had imagined that she was doing her daughter a favor, giving her a gift that she herself had never gotten. But Evelina was disappointed, as things didn’t turn out the way she expected. Susan wouldn’t practice so, for now, Evelina had to intervene and “assist.”

 

October 15, 1852

9378923_3

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 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 6, 1852

IMG_0444

Oct 6th  Wednesday  Miss Alger came to day to give Emily

& Susan their first lessons in music  Made

tomato ketchup and doing one thing and another

about house  Have sewed but very little

Mrs Swain called and invited me to visit her

tomorrow  I called on Mrs Milo Williams

to inquire about the girl that has been living with her

Ketchup, or catsup, was on the stove today. The tomatoes from the garden were ripe and ready to be preserved. The resulting ketchup would be bottled and put in the cellar or the buttery for use at the dinner table over the winter. Sarah Josepha Hale approved of the condiment:

This is a very good and healthy flavor for meats, sauces, &c.  Take two quarts of skinned tomatos, two table-spoonfulls of salt, two of black pepper, and two of ground mustard; also one spoonful of allspice, and four pods of red pepper.  Mix and rub these well together, and stew them slowly in a pint of vinegar for three hours.  Then strain the liquor through a sieve, and simmer down to one quart of catsup. Put this in bottles and cork tightly.*

While the aroma of tomatoes filled the house, Susie Ames and Emily Witherell sat down at their pianos today for their first music lesson. Aside from singing that must have happened from time to time, the sound from the new piano keys would have been the first music ever to be heard in the Ames parlor. As far as we know, no one else in the house played an instrument. We in the 21st century take for granted our ability to access and listen to a broad range of music in our homes via stereos or ITunes, on CDs or over the radio. In 1852, in a small parlor in a clapboard house on the main street of a country village, making music must have been almost magical. Only at church or at an occasional band concert would Susie or Emily have otherwise listened to live music, and now they were learning to make it themselves.

* Sarah Josepha Hale, The Good Housekeeper, 1841, p. 71

October 3, 1852

Play

Oct 3d Sunday  We have all been to meeting to day

Mrs Norris Mr Ames & self came home at noon but did not

have a dinner cooked  After meeting Frank carried Miss Linscott

& Orinthia to Bridgewater & Melinda & self went to Mothers and

called on Miss M J Alger while Frank went to carry them home

Mrs A[l]ger had her piano & played Horatio Jr is here came last night

More comings and goings today. Everyone went to church, of course, but afterwards dispersed in different directions. Frank Morton Ames obliged the young, single ladies in the group by driving them home to Bridgewater. While he headed east, Evelina and her friend Melinda Norris rode south to the family farm to visit the elderly Mrs. Gilmore. They also stopped to visit Miss M J Alger, the woman who would be giving piano lessons to Susie Ames and Emily Witherell. She, or her mother, played a piano for them.

Old Oliver reported that “this was a fair pleasant day for season Oakes came home from N. York las[t] night.” Oakes Angier stayed behind, on business or pleasure we don’t know. Evelina reported, as her father-in-law did not, that Horatio Ames Jr. was back for a visit. He was the son of Horatio Ames, a brother of Oakes and Oliver Jr. It’s unclear if Horatio Jr. was living in Boston at this point or was still in Connecticut at the family home there.

 

 

September 26, 1852

IMG_1175_ParkPhaeton

A Phaeton owned by a Boston family, ca. 1850

 

Sunday Sept 26th  Stormy to day and only one carriage

has been to church  I was not well and staid

at home  Susan Went  It has cleared off pleasant

Frank Susan & self have been to mothers and

called to see Miss Alger about giving lessons

Have written a letter this evening to

Mrs Mower  Have not read at all to day

 

Old Oliver reported that “there was a little sprinklin[g] of rain to day.”* Evelina said it was “stormy.” The weather was in the eye of the beholder, it would appear. But Evelina wasn’t feeling well, so perhaps her condition affected her view out the window as she watched the lone carriage head south to the meeting house. She was feeling so poorly that she didn’t even read.

Both the weather and her spirits seemed to improve in the afternoon. With son Frank and daughter Susan, Evelina rode south to see her mother, Hannah Lothrop Gilmore, at the family farm.  While in the vicinity, she “called to see Miss Alger about giving lessons.’ Piano lessons, she meant; Susie was going to play an instrument. The new piano had been bought primarily for Susan’s benefit, just as the one bought by Sarah Witherell – and Old Oliver, presumably – was primarily for the benefit of Emily Witherell. Under the paid guidance of Miss Alger (probably the M J Alger who had visited the house earlier in the month), the young cousins would learn to play.

Evelina and Sarah Witherell must have been delighted to see their daughters getting music lessons, something that neither of them had likely access to when they were growing up.

 

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

 

September 19, 1852

Abbott H. Thayer, Angel, 1887, oil Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of John Gellatly

Abbott H. Thayer, Angel, 1887, oil
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of John Gellatly

 

Sunday 19th Sept  Have been to meeting as usual, rode

home at noon alone with Alson  Rode in

our new carriage for the first time & like it

very well  Mr Dawes & Miss M J Alger called

since meeting  Augusta is more unwell again

and is in great pain and sick to her stomach

Edwin came in after me and I have been there

since Mr Dawes went away

The new carriage took various Ameses to church this morning, and the ride went “very well.” Was it Oakes’s horse Kate who pulled the reins? Evelina herself came home at noon with her brother; perhaps they had something about their mother to attend to. Perhaps Evelina was preparing for company later in the day, or was tending to serious matters in the village.

Hannah Savage, a neighbor, died today after months of illness. Surely, those who knew her were grateful that she was finally out of her misery. Her slow decline from tuberculosis had taxed not only her body and soul, but the goodwill and resources of her family and friends. Consumption was truly a wasting disease.

There was more illness nearby. Augusta Pool Gilmore still hadn’t gotten the best of a gastrointestinal disorder that had kept her in bed for almost three weeks, and today she had a serious relapse. She was in her second trimester of pregnancy, too, which had to have everyone worried. As soon as Evelina said goodbye to her guests, she hurried over to tend to poor Augusta.