November 5, 1852

Oliver Ames, Jr.

Oliver Ames, Jr.

(1807 – 1877)

Friday Nov 5th Susan has taken her ninth lesson

in music and I fear she is rather dull

does not call her letters well at all

Mrs Swain called this afternoon to settle

with me about her things and to night sent

me as a present as much as a half bushel […]

quinces  We passed the evening in Olivers

After stopping by to pay for the mourning apparel Evelina had picked up in Boston, Ann Swain sent Evelina two pecks of quinces to further thank her for her kindness. This thoughtful gesture may have distracted Evelina from her ongoing annoyance at her daughter’s “dull” piano playing. Susan had not yet learned her scales. At night, Evelina and Oakes, and perhaps other family members, “passed the evening” next door at Oliver Ames Jr’s.

Today, in fact, was Oliver Ames Jr.’s 45th birthday. He and his wife, Sarah Lothrop Ames, lived next door to Oakes and Evelina. At this juncture, Oliver Jr. was serving his first term as State Senator; he would serve a second term in 1857. According to Reverend William Chaffin, who knew the Ames family well, “Oliver Ames stood among the foremost in his reputation for a manly and unblemished character and for business ability…a strong, substantial, able, and honorable man.”****

The third of Old Oliver’s eight children, Oliver Jr. had originally been the brother who tinkered with the possibility of a career away from the shovel factory. In his teens, he suffered a “severe fall,”**** and was unable to work. He was sent to the Franklin Academy in North Andover after which he began to read law with William Baylies, Esq., of West Bridgewater. Reading and debating – good lawyering skills, both – had always been sources of pleasure for Oliver, but “[t]he confinement of office proving unfavorable to his health, together with the increasing demands of business at home,”**** he returned to North Easton. In 1833, he married Sarah Lothrop, the daughter of the Honorable Howard Lothrop and Sally Williams Lothrop. They had two children, Frederick Lothrop and Helen Angier Ames.

Relative to his brother, Oakes, Oliver Jr was reckoned to be “pretty dignified, and takes a good deal after his father, but Oakes is always ‘hail fellow well met.”** Another contemporary acquaintance of both men said simply that Oliver Jr. was “the conservative one.”***They made a good business pair. Over time, Oliver Jr. and Oakes, under the watchful eye of their father, turned the shovel shops into an industrial powerhouse, even as they groomed the next generation, Oakes Angier, Oliver (3) and Fred, to take over when the time was right. They invested in technological improvements and hired more help, especially from the newly arrived Irish population. They improved supply and delivery; in 1855, Oliver Jr. helped create the Easton Branch Railroad spur from Stoughton to North Easton.  In 1863, he oversaw the creation of a railroad line through the Great Cedar Swamp to Raynham. His interest in railroads led him to join his brother in the plan to build a transcontinental railroad when Oakes, by that time a U. S. Congressman, was tapped by Lincoln to lead the way.

The rest, as they say, is history. Both brothers became “deservedly famous”*****for their involvement with the Union Pacific. More than one contemporaneous historian has noted: “In 1866, Oliver Ames was elected president of that railroad, an office he held with significant ability until March, 1871.  During this time the road passed through some of its stormiest days and severest trials. His sound judgment, great business capacity, and inflexible integrity were of immense service in carrying this great enterprise safely through difficulty and peril to final success.”*****

On this dark autumn night in 1852, the “difficulty and peril [and…] success” lay ahead for both brothers as they sipped tea with their wives and watched “a few flakes of snow” fall.*

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

**“Ames at Easton: The Shovel Makers and Their Works. Life and Habits of the Congressman. Cursed Abroad – Applauded at Home,” The Boston Times, February, 1873

***Josiah Bushnell Grinnell, Reminiscences of Forty Years, 1891, Boston, p. 137

****William Chaffin, History of Easton, Massachusetts, 1886, p. 655.

*****Duane Hamilton Hurd, History of Bristol County, Massachusetts, Vol. II, 1883, pp. 430 – 431 (also Chaffin, p. 656)

November 2, 1852

490px-William_Rufus_DeVane_King_1839_portrait

William R. King

(1786 – 1853)

Tuesday Nov 2d  Sewed on cambric sleeves for

Susan this forenoon very quietly with

Miss Alger  It has rained since Saturday

morn but this afternoon has cleared 

off Mrs Ames & self have been to Mr

Swains & called at Doct Wales & Augustus

Miss Alger & O Angier took tea in Olivers

 

Back from her quick day trip into Boston, Evelina spent the morning “very quietly” in her sitting room, sewing. The piano teacher, Miss Alger, was still visiting.  Outside, “it rain[ed] by spells […] wind north east it stormd all the forenoon and was cloudy about all day – there has bin one inch + a quarter of water fell since Sunday”*

After midday dinner, when the storm had stopped, Evelina and her sister-in-law, Sarah Lothrop Ames, went out to check on Ann and John Swain, whose infant son had died on Saturday. Evelina would have taken with her the mourning accoutrements she had purchased for Ann in the city. No doubt the Ames women continued to comfort the forlorn parents. From the Swains they paid other calls in North Easton, to the home of Ephraim and Maria Wales and to see Evelina’s nephew, Alson “Augustus” Gilmore and his wife Hannah. Hannah had lost her infant son Willie back in the summer. The women would have had much to talk about.

On the national scene, the day was momentous. As we have read previously in this blog, General Franklin Pierce, a Democrat, was elected President of the United States, defeating Whig candidate General Winfield Scott (incumbent Whig Millard Fillmore hadn’t been renominated) and Free Soil candidate John P. Hale. Easton historian William Chaffin writes: “In 1852 the vote for President was one hundred and seventy-one for Winfield Scott, one hundred and forty-three for John P. Hale, forty-nine for Franklin Pierce, and four for Daniel Webster, who was dead. This vote shows the political complexion of the town, and confirms the statement of the adoption of the Free Soil position by many Democrats.”**

The vice-president-elect was William R. King, a senator from Alabama who believed strongly in the Union. He had helped draft the Compromise of 1850. Unfortunately, King was suffering from tuberculosis and would soon die in office, one of the shortest-termed vice-presidents and the only Alabaman. He was also the only vice-president to take the oath of office on foreign soil; he was in Cuba taking the cure when he was inaugurated.

 

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

**William L. Chaffin, History of Easton Massachusetts, 1886, p. 630

 

October 28, 1852

 

Stage

Thursday Oct 28th  Miss Alger dined in the other

part of the house and myself and family

have been there to tea  Helen came home

in the stage and Oliver & family were there

also.  Oliver Miss A Susan and Augusta called

with me this evening at Mr Torreys & Augustus

Made half bushel more of barberries

A rather docile day, this was, “a pritty warm day for the season,”* according to Old Oliver. Evelina cooked more barberry preserves but otherwise was mostly occupied in social activity. She and the extended family took tea in the other part of the house at her father-in-law’s table, under the management of his daughter, Sarah Ames Witherell. Afterwards, Evelina and a group called on her brother-in-law, Col. Torrey, in the village.

Helen Angier Ames returned home from boarding school; her brother Fred had just come back, too, from Harvard.  He took the train to Stoughton while she rode in the stage coach. His mode of transportation was the way of the future, hers of the past.

Like the Erie Canal, the stagecoach was on its way out. A mode of transportation that had been imported from England, early American stagecoaches were not much more than sturdy passenger wagons. As the need for travel conveyances increased, the stagecoach evolved, improved in comfort and efficiency and became widespread. In 1827, in the middle of what is considered the “Golden Age” of the stagecoach, the Abbott and Downing Company of New Hampshire built the first of an eventual 700 Concord stagecoaches. A Concord stagecoach was considered to be the best of the breed, “a cradle on wheels,” as Mark Twain described it. Pulled by a good team of horses or mules, a Concord stagecoach could travel from 6 to 8 miles per hour.

In remote areas, especially in the less well settled areas of the Wild West, the stagecoach remained important, but it couldn’t beat the faster and far more efficient railroad. Passengers trains had arrived and were growing exponentially. In 1847, Abbott and Downing ceased operations, although its famous stagecoaches remained in use for a few decades yet.

 

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

 

 

October 26, 1852

 

1860s blue striped muslin dress from St. Albans Museums

Dress with undersleeves, mid-19th c.*

Tuesday Oct 26  We have had a large washing

done to day and not finished untill

after dinner  Miss Alger & self spent

the afternoon in Olivers  Mr Ames

& all the children there to tea  Mr & Mrs 

Whitwell was there an hour or two

I made Susan a pair of undersleeves

and she is delighted with them

 

Because of all the company that had visited over the weekend, the servant girls were unable to launder clothes on Monday. Today, extra sheets and towels were added to the usual load and the washing went on into the afternoon. Not that Evelina rolled up her sleeves; after the midday meal, she and her remaining houseguest, Miss M. J. Alger, went next door to visit with Sarah Lothrop Ames and stayed for tea. All the family partook.

At various points during the day, Evelina had her work box open as she completed a pair of undersleeves for her daughter. Susie was “delighted” with them. Were they a peace offering from mother to daughter, perhaps to make up for Evelina’s insistence on Susan learning to play piano?

We’ve seen Evelina sewing undersleeves before. In the 1850’s and into the Civil War, undersleeves were an essential component of any woman’s dress, fitting independently but securely under the looser outer sleeve of the dress proper. Like the collars of the day, a good pair of undersleeves could be worn with different dresses. Susie must have felt rather grown-up with her new pair.

On the industrial side of American life, meanwhile, today was the 27th anniversary of the opening of the Erie Canal. The technological wonder of its day, it was already becoming obsolete. Railroads had arrived and, through their own capacity for moving freight, would soon obviate commercial use of the canal for many (though not all) industries. Shipping would change – was changing. The very word “shipping” derives from the fact that, initially, more goods moved by water than by land. This would no longer be true in this country or elsewhere in the developed world.

We should remember that Harriet Ames Mitchell, Old Oliver’s youngest daughter, was living in Erie at the time with her husband Asa and their three children.  Did they mark the day?

 

*Image of striped blue muslin dress with undersleeves courtesy of St. Albans Museum, England

 

 

 

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 23, 1852

IMG_2471

Sarah Lothrop Ames

(1812 – 1890)

 

Thursday Sept 23th [sic] Have not sewed at all to day Starch

the clothes and ironed some fine shirts

Lavinia washed the clothes that Oliver brought

from Providence & Mr Rathbourne from 

Providence came this afternoon to visit […]

Oliver  He went to Stoughton after him

Mrs Holmes & sister came after some plants

 

It’s unusual to read of Evelina and her servants doing a wash on a Thursday, but so it was. Son Oliver (3) had returned from a trip to Providence with dirty laundry in tow and, more than that, a houseguest headed their way. Evelina had to finish up the laundry and prepare for company. She evidently had help from her twenty-year-old niece, Lavinia Gilmore, who, by washing the clothes of her twenty-one-year-old cousin, demonstrates not only the strict division of labor of the day, but the then-unexamined destiny of spinster daughters and nieces to serve the men of their family.

Next door, Sarah Lothrop Ames celebrated her 40th birthday which, in those times, was the front door to old age. It was her destiny to grow up in Easton, the only daughter of the Honorable Howard Lothrop and his wife, Sally Williams Lothrop. She had nine brothers, which makes us wonder if she, as a singleton girl, was doted on, or depended on, or both. On June 11, 1833, Sarah married Oliver Ames, Jr., third son of Old Oliver and Susannah Angier Ames. In social terms, it was a marriage between two of the town’s important families. The couple moved into their own house, built for them by Old Oliver, next door to the family homestead. They would eventually tear that house down and build a grander one, known to us as Unity Close.

Sarah and Oliver Jr had only two children, Frederick Lothrop and Helen Angier, at a time when a larger family was more typical. We can’t know if their decision to stop at two was happenstance, voluntary, or imposed by medical circumstances. Fred, they raised to go into the family shovel business, much as Oakes and Evelina did with their three sons. Fred was given a full college education, however, as his cousins were not. Helen and her younger cousin, Susan, meanwhile, were raised to be proper young ladies with fine dresses, piano lessons, and good schooling. It is doubtful that Helen ever had to wash her brother’s clothes. There were servants for that.

Like her sisters-in-law Evelina and Sarah Ames Witherell, Sarah Lothrop Ames was a regular church-goer and a conscientious neighbor. She did her duty with the elderly and infirm in the village, and she was a loving daughter to the end with her parents. Her mother, once widowed, developed dementia and incontinence, yet Sarah cared for her until her death. She was close to her children and grandchildren, of whom she had five.

A widow herself by 1877, Sarah would live until 1890, outlasting her husband, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law and all but one brother, Cyrus, to whom she left the use of Unity Close for his lifetime. After his death, it passed to her eldest grandson, Oliver Ames (1865-1929).

 

 

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 12, 1852

Peach

Sunday Sept 12th  A very stormy day and none of the 

family have been to church.  Frank  C Hobart

& Helen went to the meeting house but there

was no meeting  Mr Ames & self laid down

and read “Poor rich man and Rich poor man”

Mother is better  Hannah has been to

[illegible] in the rain but is not able to work.

Cate Hobart, William & Olivers family came in this evening to eat peaches

Bad weather kept most folks indoors on this Sabbath day. Old Oliver reported a more than adequate rainfall: “it raind last night and nearly all day to day wind sotherly and warm   in that has fell yesterday + to day there is one inch + nine tenths of an inch.”* Despite the rain, Frank Morton Ames carried his cousin Helen and her classmate Catherine Hobart to church, but the service was cancelled. They must have had a wet ride down and back, but perhaps enjoyed the journey anyway.

Inside the Ames homestead, things were pretty quiet. Old Hannah Gilmore was feeling better, but servant Hannah Murphy was not. Evelina and Oakes spent some time upstairs and together read a story, probably from one of Evelina’s periodicals. Son Oliver (3) was likely to be reading, too. Perhaps Oakes Angier was reading or resting, in the interest of maintaining the good health he appeared to have regained. Certainly all three sons appeared late in the day, when family from around the compound gathered for tea.  William Leonard Ames and his young son, Angier Ames, who were staying with Old Oliver, popped in from the other part of the house. Oliver Ames Jr., his wife Sarah Lothrop Ames, daughter Helen and friend Catherine, on the other hand, had to cross the wet yard to attend. The big draw appears to have been peaches, a fresh, local and strictly seasonal treat.

*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.