December 19, 1852

disunion_goodheart_divorcepaper-blog427

Classified ad, New York Herald, March 30, 1861

1852

Sunday Dec 19th  Have not got over the effects of my

journey yet and did not feel like going

to meeting was intending to have a quiet 

time reading but Mrs. H Ames came in

soon after they left and staid untill after

the[y] got home. Talking over her trouble & by

her account Horatio is very much to blame

and no one could live with him

Still recovering from her recent trip to New York, Evelina was hoping for some “quiet time” at home while others went to church. She had just settled in with something to read when her sister-in-law, Sally Hewes Ames, came in. Sally needed to talk, and Evelina had no choice but to listen.

Sally stayed for hours “talking over her trouble” with her husband Horatio. As would be shown in the divorce documents, Horatio committed adultery “with divers women in New York.”** He was verbally cruel to her and their children. “No one could live with him” was the consensus of the women.  But divorce!

Divorce wasn’t easy in the nineteenth century. Like today, divorce laws varied from state to state and were typically quite strict. The process was intrusive, recriminative and not for the faint of heart. When the century began, in many places divorce could only be obtained through an act of the state legislature. By mid-century, however, the laws were loosening up, but still varied widely. Indiana, for instance, was the Reno of its day:

During the 1850s, Indiana was widely condemned as a Midwestern Sodom for its relatively lax statutes. Couples there obtained divorces on any grounds that a judge ruled “proper” – attracting a flood of applicants from out of state. The editor Horace Greeley lambasted the Hoosier State as “the paradise of free-lovers” whose example would soon lead to “a general profligacy and corruption such as this country has never known.” (In 1859, its legislature finally voted to require a year’s residency before allowing a divorce suit to be heard.)[…]

South Carolina stood at the other extreme. Since the Revolution, the Palmetto State had refused to permit divorce for any reason whatsoever. Although a court might, very rarely, grant an annulment, most disgruntled spouses had no recourse except to abandon each other. (In fact, South Carolina did not pass its first divorce statute until 1949.) In many states, including New York, divorce was often only granted on condition that neither spouse could remarry – which was supposed to safeguard public morality by ensuring that no one could trade in an old partner for a new one. In North Carolina, the “guilty party” was forbidden to remarry during the lifetime of the “innocent party.” *

Sally Hewes Ames would obtain her divorce in Connecticut, in August 1853. She was set free, but at great cost; the rift permanently altered the relationship of Horatio with his children. Horatio himself remarried in 1856.

What might Old Oliver have thought about this episode? He doesn’t say, only remarking that this Sunday “was a cloudy day most of the time wind south west + not col – Horatio s Wife + Horatio Jun r are here”***

*Adam Goodheart, Divorce, Antebellum Style, NYT, March 18, 2011, The Opinionator

**Gregory Galer, Robert Gordon, Frances Kemmish, Connecticut’s Ames Iron Works, New Haven, 1998, p. 157

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

December 18, 1852

Stage

 

Sat Dec 18th  Had a good nights rest but still feel

very much fatigued and cannot make up

my mind to do much  Miss Alger came to give

the 17th lesson and stopt to dinner.

Mrs Horatio Ames & son Horatio came in the 

stage to night  She has left her home and

how unhappy she must be

With the demanding travel of the last several days, and the emotional drain of seeing her son off, Evelina was “very much fatigued” today. She fell back into a routine of sorts, noting that Miss Alger gave another piano lesson to Susie Ames and Emily Witherell and stayed for midday dinner. But she had trouble engaging in her usual occupations: sewing, choring, mending or reading.

A new difficulty arrived, evidently to everyone’s surprise. Sally Hewes Ames and her eldest son, Horatio Ames Jr., arrived by stagecoach from Connecticut, bringing the news that she had left her husband Horatio. She intended to divorce him. Divorce! In a era when such an act was rare and invariably scandalous, Evelina’s foremost reaction was to feel sorry for her sister-in-law. “How unhappy she must be.”

Old Oliver records none of this drama, only the day’s weather, noting that it “was a cold day + a high north west wind + much the coldest day we have this season.” Winter was finally beginning to bite.

December 17, 1852

Waiter

Friday, Dec 17th  Had a north east storm and a very rough

night and I was quite sick got into Boston

about ten and went to the Marlboro Hotel

to breakfast sick and tired. Went out shopping

bought Delaine for a double gown & morning

dress  Home in the stage at the usual time

This evening attended a lecture by Dr Holmes

on lectures & lecturing  Mrs Ames here to tea

 

“[I]t snowd last [night] about 3 inches and there was some rain with it – and it raind most of the forenoon and in the after noon it was verry foggy + warm + the snow about all gone there was an inch of water in all – Oakes + his Wife got home + Mrs George Ames with them”*  This is the only place in his entire decades-long journal that Old Oliver mentions his daughter-in-law and, per the custom of the day, he doesn’t even mention Evelina by name. The weather, however, he describes in detail.

Evelina describes a “very rough” trip from New York to Boston, one that made her ill. Yet she managed to recover after breakfast at the Marlboro Hotel. This trip is the only time in Evelina’s diary that she mentions dining in restaurants, first in New York and again in Boston. Dining out was not something that was done by women like her; restaurants generally catered to men, who could go out in public unaccompanied. But as Evelina was traveling with her husband, she was an acceptable customer. This exposure to aspects of the men’s normal world was a true adventure for her.

Not one to miss an opportunity to shop, Evelina bought some fabric in Boston before catching the stagecoach home. Back in North Easton, she seemed to settle back in quickly, perhaps unpacking and visiting around the immediate family, members of whom would have wanted to know about Oakes Angier’s departure. Almira Ames came for tea, and Evelina still had energy enough to attend an evening lecture in the village. The woman had stamina.

The lecturer that night was none other than Oliver Wendell Holmes, famous Boston physician, professor and poet – “a confirmed generalist”  who “regarded his eclecticism as a mark of intellectual superiority.”** Besides lecturing on lectures, he also gave talks about medicine and poetry. They were generally interesting and well attended, as they must have been to pull a fatigued Evelina out to listen to him.***

 

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

**Louis Menand, The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America, New York, 2001, p.58

***Information of Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809 – 1894) courtesy of Wikipedia; identity researched by reader Jessica Holland.

December 13, 1852

Valise

 

Monday 

Dec 13th  I have been to work for OAA again to

day as I suppose I shall as long as he stays

as I cannot set myself about any thing

else It is town meeting day and they

have come home not feeling very well satisfied

I have my clothes in the valise so that

I can go to New York with them if I wish

when the time comes but now feel undecided

As the clock ticked down, Evelina was in a quandary. Should she go with her husband Oakes to New York to see their eldest son sail off to Cuba? Distinctly “undecided,” she nonetheless packed a valise. She’d be ready just in case, but right now she couldn’t concentrate on “any thing else” except last minute details for Oakes Angier. He would be leaving tomorrow.

The men, meanwhile, seemed calm. Old Oliver reported on the weather, of course: “[I]t was fair this morning but clouded up about noon and there was about an inch of snow fell in the afternoon wind south west but pritty chilly.”* Chilly or not, Oakes and his sons, probably, attended a town meeting. Evelina doesn’t share the reason for the meeting, only that things didn’t go the way her family members had hoped.

 

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

December 11, 1852

Trunk

Sat Dec 11th  It has been a very stormy day

and O A has been in the house and

we have packed all his clothes  Catharine

has made two night shirts for him

and they are all washed & ready  It has

been a trying day to me  Mr Torrey called

and had quite a chat with mother but

I was busy at the time

 

“[T]he 11th it began to rain in the night + this morning there is a north east storm + rather cold + windy it raind about all day and fell 1 ½ deep,”* wrote Old Oliver Ames in his daily record. The weather was miserable and seemed to match Evelina’s mood as she packed Oakes Angier’s trunk with the help of her servants and, perhaps, Sarah Witherell.  Evelina herself said it was a “trying day.”  She couldn’t even attend to a visit from a favorite, her brother-in-law, Col. John Torrey, and seemed grateful that her mother was available to do the honors of receiving his call.

On this exact date in Lexington, Virginia, a young professor at the Virginia Military Institute wrote to his sister Laura Ann, with whom he was very close, offering her advice about getting the better of a recent illness: “I hope that though ill health is your present lot, that notwithstanding you will continue a buoyancy of spirits, and not give way to surrounding troubles.  I too am a man of trouble, yet let the oppressing load be ever so great, it never sinks me beneath its weight.”  It’s too bad that Evelina couldn’t read his advice – she might have been able to bear her sad thoughts better. Although she had never met the professor, she would one day know his name: Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.

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

**Thomas Jackson, Letter to his sister Laura Ann, Courtesy of Virginia Military Institute Archives

December 8, 1852

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Wednesday Dec 8th  Have been doing to day probably

what I shall while Oakes A stays, to work

on his clothes  He went to Boston this

morning  It is so near the time he is to leave

that I do not like to have him away but 

how little is he sensible to what my feelings are

Miss Alger has given the 15th leson

 

Only one week earlier, Evelina had learned that Oakes Angier’s illness had returned. She had been shocked, rattled, anxious. Today, a week later, she was not much improved and had added a dose of self-pity. She was feeling sorry for herself. While Oakes Angier went off to Boston for the day, probably with his cousin Alson Augustus Gilmore, Evelina stayed at home to mend and sew the clothes he would need for the journey to Cuba. “[H]ow little is he sensible” to her maternal concern and regard, she bemoaned.

Oakes Angier may have been quite aware of his mother’s feelings, and may have wanted a break from them. Fresh air, sunshine and a jaunt into Boston must have appealed to him. He had his own mental adjustments to make to this threat to his young life, independent of everyone else’s personal regard. He had so much at stake.

So mother and son spent some time apart, he exploring some of the larger world he would soon be thrust into, she nursing a heavy heart at home, sewing, of course, perhaps with piano scales running in the background.

The only thing that Old Oliver noted was that it was a “fair good”* day.

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

 

 

December 7, 1852

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Cuban plantation, mid-19th century

Tuesday Dec 7th  Have been mending and to work on

Oakes A clothes again to day.  Catharine has

gone to Canton and is coming back to night.

Edwin & wife were here this evening 

and Augustus called has been persuading

Oakes A to go to Boston tomorrow

Evelina continued to work on Oakes Angier’s wardrobe. She must have been somewhat stymied to prepare for a climate so markedly different from her own. Oakes Angier would need warm clothes for the journey by water, but light clothes for his new life in Cuba. People in the middle of the 19th century generally had smaller wardrobes than today’s people in the same socio-economic class, but still, a variety of shirts, pants, jackets and undergarments had to be readied and packed. How did Evelina manage, operating as she did with so little knowledge of Cuba’s climate and social guidelines?

What did Oakes Angier know about Cuba, for that matter, other than its purported healthful properties? He may have known one or two people who had gone there, or perhaps was in hopes of acquiring a few letters of introduction. He probably knew that sugar plantations were a major industry, especially as Oakes Ames had a business associate, Elisha Atkins, who invested in sugar there. Not to get ahead of the story, but while Oakes Angier was staying in Cuba, he must have spent time on a plantation or at least visited one occasionally. The sugar business did pique his interest, because some twenty years later, after the Civil War, he and his two brothers would buy a sugar plantation in Louisiana. Surely the seed for that purchase was sown when Oakes Angier first saw sugar cane in Cuba.