June 30, 1852

Stage

Wednesday June 30th  Mr Ames left home this morning

for New York and Conn  Mrs James Mitchell

her mother & Grace came to father Ames & I

called into see them  Mrs Mitchell made 

quite a long call in here and at Olivers

Mrs Almira Ames came by the stage

to night from Conn she left New York

about four weeks since

Oakes Ames went to New York and Connecticut today on shovel business, as his father and wife each noted in their diaries. He wasn’t the only Ames on the road, either. Almira Ames, widow of cousin George Ames, arrived in North Easton from Connecticut and New York. Oakes probably went by “the cars,” as they called the railroad, while she definitely traveled in a stagecoach. Their separate modes of travel demonstrate the transformation that was taking place in transportation.

The railroad was moving in and would shortly become the dominant mode for long-distance transportation for the rest of the century and beyond. As Mrs. Penlimmon, a character developed by popular author Fanny Fern, opined only two years later:

‘The days of stage coaches have gone by.  Nothing passes for muster now but comets, locomotives and telegraph wires. Our forefathers and foremothers would have to hold the hair on their heads if they should wake up in 1854. They’d be as crazy as a cat in a shower-bath, at all our whizzing and rushing. Nice old snails!”*

How life was changing.

In more local traffic, Harriet Lavinia Angier Mitchell came to call with her mother and daughter on Old Oliver and Sarah Witherell in the other part of the house, on Evelina, and on Sarah Lothrop Ames next door. Mrs. Mitchell was a cousin of Old Oliver’s late wife, Susannah Angier Ames.

Fanny Fern, Fern Leaves from Fanny’s Port-Folio, ca. 1854, p. 50

March 23, 1852

SurvChain

 Gunter’s Chain**

March 23

1852 Tuesday. Alson and wife dined here and spent

the afternoon at Edwins  He has been running

out lines for Edwin & Melvin Randall  Orinthia

went home with them.  Was at tea in Edwins

& this evening with Augusta at Augustus’

Augustus has gone to New York.  Susan is staying

there to night went just after dinner.  Oliver & wife

went to Boston this morning   Rained untill early night.

The Gilmore clan was moving around today. Evelina’s nephew, Alson “Augustus” Gilmore, was headed for New York City on business for his boot company or the Ames shovels, or both. Evelina’s brother (and Augustus’s father), Alson Gilmore, and his wife, Henrietta Williams Gilmore, had midday dinner at the Ames house. Alson was in the village helping another son, Edwin Williams Gilmore, and an Easton man, Melvin Randall, run out lines.

The phrase “running out lines” is open to interpretation (ice fishing is a possibility!), but the most likely meaning is that ground was being measured, perhaps for the new factory buildings soon to be built. A running measure is the cumulative distance in a straight line from a fixed point. The standard instrument used to get a running measure, at least in the 18th and 19th centuries, was a Gunter’s chain. It was used in conjunction with a compass and a transit (for establishing straight lines) to measure ground.

Invented by an English clergyman and mathematician, Edmund Gunter, around 1620, the Gunter’s chain “played a primary role in mapping out America.”** The Army Corps of Engineers would have owned such chains in bulk. The chain’s 100 lines measure 4 poles, or 66 feet, or 22 yards, depending on how you care to count it. Eighty chains equal one mile.

The Gunter’s chain, however, helpful as it was, was apt to be hand-made and thus subject to variation. It was eventually replaced by the more accurate surveyor’s tape.

By the way, for those readers who follow the game (or watch Downton Abbey), the length of a cricket pitch is exactly one chain.

*Thank you, Frank Mennino, for your assistance on today’s blog.

**Image from Colonial Williamsburg, courtesy of http://www.history.org

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

 

 

 

 

December 3, 1851

 

 

railnet1850

Dec 3d  Wednesday.  Mr Ames started for New York by

way of Boston.  I went to Boston with him dined

at Mr Orrs  Melinda went for Selina and

she passed the night there with me.  I was very

busy shopping all day  In the evening Mr & Mrs

Norris  Selina & self played cards  Past eleven

when we retired.  Mr & Mrs Byram were there

 

As Old Oliver wrote at one point in his journal, “Oakes went to New York the 3rd of this month to settle up our accounts.”  With his natural bonhomie and sharp talent, Oakes was the best salesman on the Ames team.  On this trip, he would be away for eight days, delivering invoices, collecting payments, checking on inventory and bringing new orders back home.

Evelina accompanied her husband into Boston, where they stopped for midday dinner at the Orrs’ before Oakes boarded his train. He would have traveled to New York by way of Springfield, or else taken the Old Colony line down to Fall River where steamboats picked up passengers to complete the trip to New York City.  Evelina, meanwhile, stayed in Boston to shop and enjoy a bit of socializing with the extended Orr family. She played cards past her bedtime.

Back in Easton, shovel making and farm work went on as usual.  Old Oliver, as always, noted the weather: “this was a fair day wind north west + cold. ”  He added that  “we kild 4 hogs to day everage wate 356 lb sold to the workmen at 7 cents a pound those we sent to boston sold for 7 ¼ cents”.  He sold some of the fresh pork to his workmen, probably through the Ames store, and sent the surplus to Boston to be sold.

 

 

 

October 29, 1851

1157676_l

*

Wednesday Oct 29.  I have been what I call puttering

about house most all day and have accomplished

but very little.  papered the fireboard and pasted

the loose places in Franks chamber  Mr Scott

has painted the sitting room & closet

Mrs Hubbel & Ames came from New York this morning

H O A Orr came for Susan this afternoon  Mr

Walton is there. Mrs Holmes and Abby called

Mr Ames came home from Boston to night

Many comings and goings in North Easton today, under a cloudy sky.  Almira Ames, widow of George, an Ames cousin, arrived from New York with a Mrs. Hubbel in tow. They came for a visit with the obliging Sarah Witherell and Old Oliver Ames in the other part of the house.

Susan Orr, meanwhile, who had been staying with Sarah Witherell and her father for almost a month, was picked up this afternoon by her brother, Hector Oakes Orr. Susan, age 53, and Hector, age 51, were first cousins of Sarah Witherell and her siblings on the Angier side of the family.  Susan and Hector were two of five children of Susanna Angier Ames’s sister, Mary and her husband, Dr. Hector Orr, of Bridgewater. Their shared grandparents were Oakes and Susanna (Howard) Angier.

Evelina’s niece on the Gilmore side, Abigail Williams Torrey, paid a call with Harriet Holmes (the neighbor who had been so ill back in August). A Mr. Walton floated somewhere in the picture; Evelina’s inclusion of his name is a bit vague. And chugging along in the background of the various calls was Mr. Scott painting the woodwork in the sitting room. Evelina concentrated on papering a fireboard when she wasn’t attending to the influx of visitors. For readers who don’t have fireplaces, a fireboard was a piece of wood, textile or ironwork fitted to the opening of a fireplace for periods when the fireplace wasn’t being used.  Fireboards made from wood, most common in the countryside, were often decorated with wallpaper or painting.

 

* 19th century papered fireboard, Pennsylvania, courtesy of 1stdibs.com.