September 18, 1852

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Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman, a/k/a “Nellie Bly”

(1864 – 1922)

Sat Sept 18  Mrs Stevens returned to Boston this

morning and I fear she has had a miserable visit

there has been no quiet since she has been here

I have engaged a new girl Louisa McAvoy

but do not believe she will stay long. Went

to see Mrs Southworth about her & to tell her not

to come back but she has gone after her clothes and I 

must try her

Evelina saw Mrs. Stevens off this morning with what were probably mixed feelings. She liked the woman, and worried that Mrs. Stevens’ visit had been “miserable,” because there had been so much housework and lack of rest for her guest. Yet she may also have been ready to see her go. At one point, Evelina had been a little jealous of her friend. She also probably felt the relief that most hostesses feel when guests depart; however likable the company has been, the return to familiar routine is nearly always welcome.

A new servant, Louisa McAvoy, was on the scene. Evelina evidently used the services of a Mrs. Southworth to find the new girl. Was Mrs. Southworth part of an employment agency for household help, or was she simply someone who knew where and how to find Irish servants? The latter option seems more likely. While commercial recruitment agencies did exist in urban areas, North Easton would have been too small to sustain one. But the question remains: who was Mrs. Southworth?

In another few decades, the intrepid Nellie Bly would report on the issue of employment difficulties for women. A reporter for The New York World, Bly was famous for her stories and exploits, including traveling around the world by herself in 72 days, and feigning madness in order to get inside an insane asylum to report on conditions.  In 1889, she explored the scheming of various employment outfits in New York City. The headline ran:

Nellie Bly Exposes a Snare for Swindling Poor Women; A Contemptible Scheme to Rob Needy Girls Who Seek Employment; Heartless Women Who Promise to Find Work for Scarf-Makers and Lure Them Into Their Clutches; Demanding Pay for Instruction They Never Give, and, After Taking the Last Penny, Turning Them Out with No Effort to Secure Employment; Sad Stories of the Wretched Swindle from the Lips of Helpless Girls and Bereaved Mothers.*

Let us hope that Mrs. Southworth was both reliable and honest with the women she placed, unlike the tricksters that Nellie Bly exposed.

*The New York World, February 3, 1889

 

 

September 17, 1852

Brig

*

Friday Sept 17  Mrs Stevens has done some ironing to

day and I have been busy about house ironing

and one thing and another & have seen but very

little of her since she came  It has been hurry

burly all the time  We were at tea at Olivers

Abby came here but as we were there she

stopt & in the evening Mr Torrey came

Mrs S Ames has gone to watch with Mrs Savage

With the help of Mrs. Stevens, a houseguest, ironing continued, along with Evelina’s usual choring and “one thing and another.” According to Evelina’s misspelled expression, the household was all hurly-burly, full of commotion and tumult.  Later in the day, the two women – and other family members, presumably – enjoyed tea next door with Sarah Lothrop and Oliver Ames Jr. And even later, Col. Torrey stopped in for another visit.

In a California newspaper, there was an article about a missing ship, the Schooner Penelope. The vessel bore no direct relation to the Ames family (although an Ames relative, Cyrus Lothrop, would eventually own ships, including one named for Helen Angier Ames), but the article’s conclusion that the ship had been lost at sea was very much indicative of the perils of travel at the time. The Penelope had last been seen the year before by a sister ship as both headed into a bad storm.

Newspapers in coastal cities like San Francisco or Boston often carried such reports of ships that set sail and were never heard of again, much as our modern television and internet news sources carry coverage of airline disasters like the Malaysian flight that went missing over the Pacific. We may have our own disasters in the air and at sea, but the latter hazards were naturally more common in the 19th century, and the means of discovering, much less communicating, the fates of the vessels that disappeared were limited. After a certain amount of time had passed with no word of a particular ship, people had to assume the worst, and know that their sailor sons or husbands, or passengers for whom they waited, had drowned. The following from the Daly Alta California in San Francisco conveys the demise of the Penelope:

The American schooner Penelope, Capt. Austin K. Dodge, cleared from this port on the 14th of October, 1851, for San Juan del Sud, with 40 passengers. It is believed that she sailed the next day. Capt. Mann, of the brig Lowell, which sailed from this port on the same day, reports having seen the Penelope about the 5th of November, off Cape St. Lucas, just previous to a terrific hurricane, which lasted but a quarter of an hour. After the driving mist which accompanied the gale had lighted up, the Penelope was not visible. Capt Mann felt confident at the time that the vessel had foundered.

After arriving at San Juan he remained there some weeks, but received no tidings as to her fate. As nothing has yet been heard of her there is every reason to apprehend that she was lost at that time, and every soul on board perished. […]

Both the Penelope and Lowell were fitted out and sailed from Pacitic Wharf. Captain A. K. Dodge, of Beverly, Mass.; 1st mate, F. H. Choate; 2d mate, Thomas J. Fisher; the first mate from Salem, Mass., and the second from Boston. W. H. Nicolsen’ cook, from New York, aud James Brickley, John Smith, Manuel Silva, Joseph Frank and George Covell, seamen.**

The relatives of anyone who went to sea always had to worry.

 

*A brigantine is a type of schooner, distinguished by its sail configuration.

 

**http://www.maritimeheritage.org/ships/Schooner-Penelope-1852

 

September 15, 1852

Cake

Wednesday Sept 15th  Mr & Mrs Oliver Ames Helen & Miss Hobart

here to tea  Made cake & baked it in the stove

Mr Torrey made a long call here just after

dinner  He is quite neighbourly about this

time  Mrs Stevens need not take the credit of it

Augusta is not quite as well  sent for me to

come there & has had the Dr again

Oliver went to Providence this morning to the fair

 

Evelina baked a cake in her new cast-iron stove, something she was proud to note.  That was a real change for her, as before this she had used the family’s old, built-in brick oven for her baking. New technology in the kitchen was changing her ways.

The cake must have been a success; she served it at tea. Her husband and sons, minus Oliver (3), were present. Sarah Lothrop Ames and Oliver Ames Jr. came over from next door, too, bringing their daughter Helen Angier Ames and her friend, Catherine Hobart, with them. This was the last night of Catherine’s visit and it was sweet that her host and hostess took her next door for tea. Was there a conscious design behind the invitation and acceptance? Had the elders noticed a spark between Catherine and Oakes Angier Ames? Had Evelina contrived to make this happen? Were the young folks self-conscious on the occasion? Or was it just an average family gathering that inadvertently portended something more?

Catherine wasn’t the only guest. Mrs. Stevens was still visiting the Ameses and, inadvertently or otherwise, had made Evelina a little jealous. Col. Torrey, Evelina’s former brother-in-law – now a widower – had been calling more often than usual, and Mrs. Stevens had evidently volunteered the possibility that his attention was directed at her. Evelina, however, as we read from her rather ungracious entry, is reluctant to let her guest get any “credit.” Generous as she could sometimes be, Evelina was not inclined to share her friendship.

Across the street, meanwhile, young Augusta Pool Gilmore had had a relapse of her intestinal disorder, known in that day as “Cholera Morbus.” Certainly, her family and friends were worried about her.

 

September 14, 1852

Grapes

Tuesday Sept 14th  Alson came this forenoon and carried

mother home  I have ironed 13 fine shirts made

grape jelly and have been hard at work all

day  Mr Torrey came and staid a long while

talking over the news of the neighborhood

Mrs Stevens & self called on Augustus & wife and

went over [to] Mr Carrs where they have commenced

mowing  Mr Torrey & Abby were away, door fastened

New carriage & Buggy chaise came to night

 

Evelina didn’t stop moving today. She saw her mother depart for home, ironed a baker’s dozen of shirts, made grape jelly, did her usual picking up around the house, entertained guests, and paid a call on her nephew and others. It’s hard to imagine that her kitchen could accommodate the ironing of white shirts and the boiling of purple jelly at the same time, yet we read that this was so.

We readers should also note that for once, it’s Evelina, and not her father-in-law, who tells us that there is mowing going on in the neighborhood. The men were working quickly, one imagines, as “there was Some frost last night.”* Officially, it was still summer, but winter was on the far horizon, and preparations were underway.

And there was new equipage! A carriage and a buggy or chaise arrived. Who had just bought them?  Old Oliver?  Oakes or Oliver, Jr., or one of the sons, or all of the above? How, exactly, might the ownership of the vehicles have worked?

 

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

 

September 13, 1852

Towel

Monday Sept 13th  Catharine has washed all the fine

clothes & towels &c  We had 26 towels and 21 shirts

Hannah got up about nine or ten and went to

work some  I have starched most of the clothes

Have passed the afternoon in the other part

of the house with Mother & Mrs Stevens.  William

& Angier are there came three or four days

since

With the addition of all the new men’s shirts that Evelina had been sewing, the laundry this week was heaping. Two servants worked on the wash, while Evelina set items in starch. Fortunately, the day was sunny and the laundry could be hung outside. It was a busy Monday around the wash tubs.

On or close to this date in 1852, a campaign biography of Franklin Pierce was published in Boston by Ticknor, Reed and Fields. The Life of Franklin Pierce was written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, a friend of Pierce since their days at Bowdoin College. The purpose of the bio was to present the Democratic candidate to the voting populace at large, particularly in the areas of the country, such as the burgeoning northwest, where he was less well known. Publishing a biography was a typical campaign strategy at the time for major presidential contenders.

Although Hawthorne, who was famous as the author of The House of Seven Gables, readily admitted that this kind of writing was “remote from his customary occupation,”* he threw himself into the project. He softened Pierce’s well-known pro-slavery stance by emphasizing his friend’s peaceful and pragmatic nature. He explained Pierce as believing that slavery would disappear on its own without human intervention. It needed no management or interference. In sour jest, some abolitionists and others responded that this biography was Hawthorne’s best work of fiction yet.

As we know, Pierce did get elected; perhaps the campaign biography helped. With gratitude, Pierce appointed Hawthorne to a consulship in Liverpool, a lucrative post. Hawthorne needed the money. The two men remained friends for the rest of their lives, until Hawthorne’s death in his sleep in May, 1864, while visiting the Pierces.

*Nathaniel Hawthorne, Life of Franklin Pierce, Boston, 1852, Introduction.

September 10, 1852

Conductor

Friday Sept 10th  Mother Mrs Stevens Susan & self rode to

the shops this morning.  Mother seemed as delighted

as a child  we called on Mrs Shepherd also invited 

her to come here Saturday  Have passed the

afternoon at Mr Torreys Augustus & wife were

there  Mr Torrey very sociable & clever

Oakes A returned home from Burlington yesterday

and is looking much better

Oakes Angier Ames returned to Easton today, looking healthier than when he had left three weeks earlier. Family members would have hoped that the 23-year-old had recovered from his lung ailment in the fresh air of Vermont, that his indisposition hadn’t proved to be consumption. No doubt, he hoped that, too.

Another male relative also arrived in town; although not traveling together, both men must have arrived by train at Boston, then Stoughton or Taunton, and then traveled by carriage to North Easton. William Leonard Ames “came here from Minesota the 10th,”* bringing with him his five-year old son, Angier Ames. He had left his wife back in St. Paul with their older son, William Leonard Ames Jr., and their youngest child, Oliver Ames. William visited Easton periodically and always stayed with his father. He and Oakes Ames did not get on well, as we have seen before, and we can perhaps infer from Evelina’s failure to mention his arrival that she wasn’t keen on William, either.

With her friend Mrs. Stevens in tow, Evelina took her mother and daughter out on a number of calls. Her mother enjoyed the ride around the new shop, and all seemed to enjoy an afternoon visiting Col. John Torrey in the village. He was a widower of Evelina’s late older sister, Hannah. Evelina seemed to be planning a special tea for the following day, perhaps in honor of Mrs. Stevens.

 

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

September 9, 1852

Sarah Ames Witherell

Sarah Ames Witherell  (Mrs. Nathaniel Witherell, Jr.)

(1814 – 1886)

Thursday Sept 9th  This has been a very warm day indeed

and not much air stirring  We went in to see

Augusta awhile this forenoon and found her

rather more comfortable  This afternoon have

been sitting in the parlour chamber sewing it

being the coolest place  Mrs Witherell & Mrs

S Ames came in awhile  Mrs W watched with Mrs

Savage last night

Evelina and her father-in-law agreed that this day and the one before “were fair days + […] verry warm indeed.” Oppressively hot for September, we might think.  Evelina, her mother Hannah Lothrop Gilmore and her friend Mrs. Stevens went across the street early in the day to check on the ailing Augusta Pool Gilmore and must have been pleased to find her “rather more comfortable.” Back to the house it was, where the three ladies moved into the parlor to sew. Usually they would work in the less formal sitting room, but the parlor perhaps offered less direct sunlight. It was “the coolest place.”

Evelina’s sisters-in-law, Sarah Lothrop Ames and Sarah Ames Witherell, paid a call. It was Sarah Witherell’s 38th birthday. A widow for only four years, her most recent year hadn’t been a happy one: she had burned her foot badly, had all her teeth pulled, lost her elderly father-in-law and, most awful of all, lost her fourteen year old son, George, to rheumatic fever. Yet she was moving through the proscribed stages of real mourning in a seemingly graceful way. She was still taking care of her father, Old Oliver, and her one remaining child, Emily, and was ever helpful around the family compound. As we see from the diary entry, Sarah had spent the previous night watching over the dying Hannah Savage. “Dignified,” is how one family friend described her, and we readers might add “dutiful” and “kind” as well.

In another decade, after her father had passed on, Sarah and her daughter Emily would move into Boston and take up residence there at the Hotel Hamilton. Sarah would continue in a quiet way to participate in both family and city life, and would enjoy traveling with her sister Harriet. Her brother Oliver Jr would make it a point to look after her.