October 29, 1852

255px-Daniel_Webster_-_circa_1847

Daniel Webster

(1782 – 1852)

1852 Friday Oct 29th  Mr Dawes came from Boston

about ten Oclock  Miss Alger expected

him before and began to feel uneasy

They went to the shops after dinner

Helen Susan & Emily went to the shop

& then rode to call at Mr Roachs

They were all in here this evening to

hear Mr Dawes play on the guitar  Mrs S

Ames & self called Swains, to see their child

Mrs Lothrop & Brett called with her babe

 

Old Oliver must have been an admirer of Daniel Webster, else why would he mention the man in his daily weather journal? He wrote, “the 29th was a verry plesant warm day. it clouded up some toward night – Daniel Webster was buried to day”.

Daniel Webster, lawyer, diplomat, statesman, orator and Whig leader, was indeed buried on this day. He had died three days earlier after a fall from a horse and was buried with “impressive ceremonies”* at Marshfield, about 35 miles east of Easton. Considered by many to be one of the finest senators ever, Webster had also been a Secretary of State, U.S. representative, constitutional lawyer par excellence, and a devoted preservationist of the union. To the latter end, he co-authored and spoke eloquently on behalf of the Compromise of 1850, which included the controversial Fugitive Slave Act. As a result, he lost the support of many New Englanders; abolitionists washed their hands of him.

On this day in Boston, however, it would have been hard to find his enemies. According to a newspaper account the next day, a united citizenry mourned:

Boston never before presented – probably never will present – such a funeral aspect as was worn in her streets yesterday. Most of the stores and shops were closed, as well as the institutions, offices, and markets, and a large proportion of the city was dressed in the habiliments of wo. [sic] Though the work was only voluntarily the act of individuals, it was very general – Washington, Hanover, and many other streets being covered in black, interspersed with mottoes, flags, portraits, and other mementoes, as the taste of each led him to adopt and carry out.  It was one of the last acts which Boston can perform to express her sorrow for the loss of the great statesman, and it is praise enough to say that it was well and appropriately done. The streets were thronged nearly all the day, crowds of people being present from other places, – and our young men wore the insignia of mourning which had been adopted, and grieved countenances were observed at every turn of the street…*

 

*New York Times, October 28, 1852

 

October 24, 1852

search

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 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

December 31, 1851

Dismiss

 

Wednesday Dec 31st  This morning sit down early to knitting

my hood  Have it all finished ready for the lining.  About ten 

Oclock went into the school with Mrs. Witherell.  Mr Brown

has closed his school to day.  Passed the afternoon & evening at Olivers

Mr & Mrs Wm Reed  Mr & Mrs J Howard, Whitwell & A Gilmore were there.

Susie Ames and Emily Witherell may have been happy today to reach the end of their school term. Class, dismissed!  1851, dismissed!

Just how the Ames family celebrated the departure of the old year and arrival of the new, we don’t know. Old Oliver, with his usual terse assessment of the day, merely noted that “this was a cloudy day and some cooler + misty + foggy.” The cool mist he saw would develop into a huge rain storm over night, preventing folks from moving around much.

A group of friends and relatives gathered for tea next door at the home of Oliver Ames, Jr. and his wife Sarah Lothrop Ames. Besides Evelina and Oakes, at the party were Reverend William Whitwell and his wife Eliza, Reverend William Reed and his wife Abigail, Jason Guild Howard and his wife Martha, and Evelina’s brother Alson Gilmore and his wife Henrietta.  In just a few more years, a group like this might have sung the beloved  Auld Lang Syne to mark the occasion. In fact, a version of Auld Lang Syne, written in 1855 and called Song of the Old Folks would become “the tradition of the Stoughton Musical Society to sing […] in memory of those who had died that year.”*

Out with old, in with the new. What a year it would be for the Ames clan.

http://www.americanmusicpreservation.com/SongoftheOldFolks.htm