June 4, 1851

Thread

1851

June 4th Wednesday  This morning Mr Lothrop

brought me a calf head and as Jane was Ironing it has

taken me some time to prepare it  Went in to Olivers

to assist Sarah about making her cake for the sewing

Circle.  It met there this afternoon and they had a

goodly number  I have cut two shirts

for Mr Ames and put them into the sewing circle to

make  We have had a pleasant meeting

Even as cows all around town and country were giving birth, some of their calves were slated for slaughter.  In sheer numerical, if unfortunate, terms, not all calves had a place on a farm. Females, once grown, could breed and produce milk, but the males had less of a role, unless they had the lines and build to become fine steers or oxen.  Male calves in particular had good market value as veal and thus were often culled. The arrival of a calf’s head for the dinner table signaled that some culling was going on.  Mr. Lothrop may have been DeWitt “Clinton” Lothrop, a farming brother of Sarah Lothrop Ames and manager of the Lothrop property.

The cook rooms at both houses on Main Street were bustling today. Not only was Evelina preparing the calf’s head, but Jane McHanna was ironing near the stove, keeping her irons hot and using the kitchen table as the ironing surface. In Sarah Lothrop Ames’s kitchen, there was much preparation for the afternoon meeting of the Sewing Circle. Evelina went next door to help Sarah with a cake.

No memory of her own failed meeting back in February seemed to cloud Evelina’s enjoyment of today’s Sewing Circle, even when her sister-in-law’s parlor welcomed “a goodly number.” She was able to put a couple of shirts into the pile of work and had a pleasant time.

 

May 24, 1851

Calf

 

May 24th Saturday.  Have been about the house at work

most of day.  After dinner carried my old sitting

room carpet out on the grass to wash the spots

and worked awhile in the garden  About two

Oclock Orinthia came.  She walked to Mr Elijah

Howards before breakfast and he brought her up 

She stoped to dine with Abby.  We called at the

store and at Mr Holmes.  Cow calved.

Housework and gardening informed most of Evelina’s day until a visit from Orinthia in the afternoon, at which point Evelina put down the stained carpet pieces or sat up from weeding to welcome back her young friend. The two women went shopping in the village at the Ames company store, and called on Harriet Holmes.  They must have been glad to be back together, even though Orinthia had only left a week earlier. Perhaps Abby Torrey joined them on their errands and calls.

Evelina’s work on the old carpet took place out of doors, somewhere in the yard of the house on Main Street. It only made sense to wash a large piece of rug outside in good light with a place for the water to run off.  The job was messy by definition, but needed to be done and to Evelina, how the project might have looked to passersby was perhaps less important than how effectively the spots were removed. Front yards were becoming more formal, so perhaps Evelina worked on the carpet in the back of the house where the laundry, presumably, was hung, out of sight of the street. We might imagine that Sarah Lothrop Ames, next door, would certainly be discreet in her management of a similar task, a task, in fact, she would most likely delegate to others.

Old Oliver had to have been pleased today. One of his cows calved, adding to his herd. It’s curious that Evelina, who rarely mentions the agricultural side of their lives, made mention of what must have been a predictable springtime event. She wasn’t often engaged by the external activities of either the farm or the factory.  She stayed focused on her house and her yard, but today something about the new calf drew her attention.

February 18, 1851

yoke-of-oxen

Feb 18  Tuesday  After doing my usual mornings work sit

down to sewing on Susans work   She sewed with me

and counted stiches again  She will do pretty well

and keep quite steady when we count stiches

This afternoon went into Olivers to assist on Helens

quilt but found it most done.  Was called home

to see Mr Whitwell   Abby & Malvina Torrey & their 

cousin Mrs Fullerton  called  Pleasant

Sewing lessons for eight-year old Susie Ames continued today.  She seemed to be getting the hang of the needle as long as she counted her stitches.  This meant calculating and maintaining an equal number of stitches per inch of sewing. After the lesson was through, Evelina tripped next door to help with the making of a quilt. She discovered that the work was pretty well complete, however, which was just as well as she was called back home to sit with Reverend Whitwell, who came to visit.  More follow-up to the Sewing Circle meeting?

Outside, away from this cozy domesticity, Old Oliver was clomping around looking at oxen to buy.  He found a pair that he particularly admired and seemed pleased with his purchase:

“this was fair day  wind about west and not cold   I bought a yoke of oxen to day of a Mr Whitcom of East Randolph for $125-00 they are a handsom red + look a good deal alike.  he said they would be 6 years old this spring comeing   the off one girts 7 feet + 2 inches + the nigh one 7 feet   they weighed after drinking with yoke on 3220 lb.  the man  said he had them for twins”

And while Old Oliver dealt with the farming side of the Ames enterprises, Oakes and his three sons were no doubt busy at the shovel works, the young men continuing to learn the ins and outs of manufacturing, much as little Susie was learning to be domestic.   The futures of all four offspring were being lined up.

January 18, 1851

Lid

/51 Jan 18 Saturday  I was very lazy this morning as usual after

being in Boston.  We tried out the suet & salted the 

quarter of beef & boiled the tripe  Jane has been

busy all day but I have not done much.  Have mended

the stockings painted Susans wooden dolls head & arms

Mr Robinson has at last finished painting our chimney

pieces.  it is 5 weeks since he commenced them & I could

not nail down the carpet  Mr Ames has been to Boston.  Pleasant.

It was back to domestic life today after an enjoyable trip to the city.  No more dining on oysters. The kitchen was humming with more familiar fare as Jane McHanna processed a huge gift of meat that Old Oliver had sent a few days back.  She may have kept it cold in the snow or in an ice house until today when they had time and table top to deal with it.

“Ox beef is considered the best,” noted Sarah Josepha Hale in her 1841 guide, The Good Housekeeper.  Lucky for Evelina’s family that Old Oliver raised his own oxen. Jane salted it, salting or “corning” being a time-honored way to preserve it. Typically, the beef was placed in a container – likely a barrel – and covered with a brine solution.  One recipe for brine in an 1858 cookbook* called for four gallons of water, two pounds of brown sugar and six pounds of salt.  Beef stored this way could keep for months.

The suet, which, strictly defined, is the fat from around the kidneys, was “tried,” meaning that it was boiled and rendered into lard.  The tripe, from the stomach, was boiled as well.  The odor from both these boilings was strong and would have been noticed throughout the house.

By her own confession, Evelina didn’t get too involved with anything going on in the kitchen today, leaving it to Jane’s good offices. Instead, she puttered here and there, unpacking, doing a little mending, painting her daughter’s wooden doll and standing over Mr. Robinson’s shoulder as he finally completed painting the mantels.   We might describe her day as “re-entry.”  Oakes, meanwhile, was in Boston on shovel business.

* Mary Peabody Mann, Christianity in the Kitchen

January 13, 1851

Washing

/51 Jan 13  Washing day of course, and I have been

about house in the morning as usual.  A Augustus dined

with us, come up in the stage.  Made a hair cloth back to

another rocking chair  Went to Mr Whitwells with Mr

Ames this evening, met with Alson & wife.  It is a

beautiful moonshiny evening and we have had a

pleasant ride and have enjoyed myself very much.  Mr &

Mrs Whitwell I like very much  Father killed another

yoke of oxen to day and we have a quarter & the tripe.

Boiled that we had last week to day.

Monday is Wash Day.  This might be a Yankee commandment, were there a written code.  History has it that the first day the Pilgrims got off the Mayflower was a Monday, and the first thing the women did after all those weeks at sea was to wash their clothes.  The timing stuck, and remained a custom for centuries.  On Mondays at the Ames house, Jane McHanna washed the family clothes and linens while Evelina did almost everything else in terms of housework and cooking.  Evelina was not fond of putting her hands into soapy water.

The roads around town must have improved.  This evening, Evelina and Oakes finally got over to the Whitwells’ house, presumbly for a delayed acknowledgment of Mr. Ames and Mr. Whitwell’s shared birthday.  Evelina clearly enjoyed herself.  Another couple was there: Alson and Henrietta Gilmore. Alson is Evelina’s older brother.  He owns the old family farm in the southeast corner of Easton, just north of the town of Raynham.  He and his wife have six children together, as well as a son from Alson’s first marriage.  This is Alson “Augustus” Gilmore, who had midday dinner at the Ames house today.  Augustus lives in Boston as the year opens but will soon move back to North Easton.  He does courier work for the Ames brothers.

Evelina is close to her nieces and nephews; their presence in her life, and her affection for them, is evident throughout the diary.  Less certain is the regard that other members of the Ames family held for the Gilmores; family lore has it that the two families moved in different social circles and that even into the 20th century, the Gilmore clan was looked down on by members of the Ames clan. From Evelina’s happy description of the day, however, we can surmise that she was unaware, on this lovely, “moonshiny” night, anyway, of any discrimination.

January 6, 1851

Ox

/51 Monday Jan 6

Jane commenced washing this morning but was taken sick

and had to leave it.  And I had to do the housework again

Father killed two oxen & gave us the tripe  Went to North

Bridgewater this afternoon in a sleigh with S A, Helen 

and E Quinn.  A A Gilmore here to tea had business in

the office  Bought patch for a quilt for Susans bed   run

it together this evening  Received a letter from 

O Foss  She says Roland A has come from California

Jane McHanna was under the weather this Monday morning – perhaps from yesterday’s drive in the frigid air – and unable to manage the laundry and housework.  In the kitchen, something had to be done with the fresh tripe that arrived from Evelina’s father-in-law. Considered a delicacy, the tripe would soon be served at the midday dinner table.

As was typical for this time of year, Old Oliver slaughtered a yoke of oxen and distributed the meat and offal among the family. As he described it, “we kilt a yoke of oxen to day I had of Charles Gurney the off one weighed 1475 and the other 1330.”  Now 71 and retired from the shovel business, Old Oliver spent much of his time raising oxen. (Farming, too, as we’ll see later.)  He was evidently quite fond of them, and they were extremely useful in the family business for transporting raw material and finished shovels.  Oxen were a common sight in North Easton in 1851; anyone inside the Ames house would have heard ox carts rumbling by on the road.

The weather had improved and  housework couldn’t keep Evelina at home this afternoon.  Off in a sleigh to North Bridgewater she went with Sarah Ames, Sarah’s daughter Helen and a neighborhood dressmaker, Elisa Quinn.  The women were most likely on the hunt for fabric.  Evelina found quilting material, and after tea was over that night, began to put together a quilt for her daughter, Susan.