November 30, 1852


Hanover Street, Boston, ca. 1872*

Tuesday Nov 30th  Oakes A Oliver & self went to

Boston to the Webster funeral.  Called at

Mr Orrs & Melinda went with me to see Selina

Selina & self saw the procession from A A Gilmores

room in Hanover St. We called on Pauline

and on Mrs Dorr  Spent the evening at

Mr Butlers his mother brother & sister there


After a false start the day before, Evelina rode into Boston today – she and thousands of others, evidently. The city was hosting an official memorial service for Daniel Webster, the great senator who had passed away a month earlier. It was “a fair good day for the season”* so Evelina, Oakes Angier, and Oliver (3) had easy traveling.

Senator Webster was eulogized at Faneuil Hall, with a prayer led by Reverend Samuel Kirkland Lothrop, the pastor of Brattle Street Church in Boston, and the main oration delivered by George Stillman Hillard. Hillard, an admirer of the late Webster, was a senator in the Massachusetts Legislature. Harvard-educated, he had been a law partner of Charles Sumner, had edited – for a time – the Unitarian publication, Christian Register, and eventually would became the first dean of Boston University Law School. He was well known for his oratory.

Hillard spoke at length about Daniel Webster, his speech published and distributed afterwards. Many in the nation were still feeling the loss of the great senator, whether or not they had agreed with him.  President Millard Fillmore, who was about to send his final State of the Union Address to Congress, included a brief lament of the man:

Within a few weeks the public mind has been deeply affected by the death of Daniel Webster, filling at his decease the office of Secretary of State. His associates in the executive government have sincerely sympathized with his family and the public generally on this mournful occasion. His commanding talents, his great political and professional eminence, his well-tried patriotism, and his long and faithful services in the most important public trusts have caused his death to be lamented throughout the country and have earned for him a lasting place in our history.***

Evelina and her sons didn’t attend today’s service, but they did observe the procession along Hanover Street, which is now part of the North End.

*Image courtesy of Boston Public LIbrary

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

***Millard Fillmore, State of the Union Address, Dec. 6, 1852, courtesy of

January 18, 1852



Jan 18 Sunday  Has snowed quite hard all day.  The

gentlemen all went to meeting & Mrs S Ames & Emily,

Mrs Witherell staid at home because she looks so bad

& Susan & self on account of a cold & cough  Have

read The Vale of Cedars by Grace Aguilar & have

written a letter to Pauline Dean.  Made a long

call in the other part of the house this evening.  Mrs

S Ames there with me

Feeling under par, Evelina and her daughter stayed home from church today while the men of the house pushed through the “fine cold dry snow”** to get to meeting. Sarah Witherell stayed home, too, still recovering from having had her teeth pulled.  It was a luxurious opportunity for Evelina – and Susie and Sarah, perhaps – to sit and read in relative quiet.

Evelina’s choice (which she probably read in serialized form in a periodical, as the tale wasn’t published in book form until 1853) was The Vale of Cedars or The Martyr’s Tale by Grace Aguilar. It was a tale of a Jewish father and daughter trying to hide from the Spanish Inquisition in 1479. The “Vale of Cedars” was their hideout. Eventually discovered and imprisoned, the daughter resisted the church’s demand that she convert to Catholicism.  Thus, the “Martyr’s Tale.”  The dramatic plot with its medieval overtones, exotic location, and anti-catholicism probably captivated Evelina, just as the author meant it to. Aguilar included these words from Byron’s [Oh! Weep for Me] in her introduction to the book:

“The wild dove hath her nest – the fox her cave –

Mankind their country – Israel but the grave.”

George Gordon, Lord Byron

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

October 5, 1851


Oct 5th Sunday  Mr Whitwell has gone to Philadelphia and

we have no meeting and Mr Ames self & Susan

staid at home  Oakes A & Charles Mitchell went

to N Bridgewater to meeting  Wm & Mr B Scott

came to the other part of the house this morning.

Mrs Latham & Aaron Hobart this afternoon.  I have

been writing most all day  Am not at all well

It has been a beautiful day.

Feeling as poorly as she did, Evelina was probably grateful not to attend church. Her rash was so irritating that she had trouble sitting still, yet lacked the vigor to move around much. Too, she had worked hard the day before putting up fruit preserves and may have felt tired from the effort. She wasn’t “at all well.”

Letter writing occupied her, and probably helped take her mind off her discomfort, just as playing with dolls had distracted little Susie when she was ill. Evelina often corresponded with several female friends and relatives, like Louisa Mower and Orinthia Foss in Maine, cousin Harriet Ames in Vermont and Pauline Dean, whose home address we don’t know. Which friends did she write to today?

Other family members were more active, despite the cancellation of the usual church service. Son Oakes Angier Ames rode over to North Bridgewater with Charles Mitchell (a younger brother-in-law of Harriett Ames Mitchell) to attend meeting there. Old Oliver and Sarah Ames Witherell, in the other part of the house, received several visitors, including Aaron Hobart.  Susan Orr was still visiting there, and may have been the draw for some of the new visitors.

September 4, 1851



Thurs Sept 4th  This morning Orinthia left for Maine

& Pauline for Roxbury in the stage.  Mr Ames &

Oliver via Mansfield to Providence.  Oliver is

delighted with the idea of going to school & I am

sure he will improve his time  It seems

very lonely to day I have taken the bedstead down from

the boys chamber to clean it swept the parlour & washed

most all the windows in the lower part of the house both sides

Guests and family departed the Ames compound in North Easton today. Schoolteacher Orinthia Foss left to return to Maine, probably to Leeds where her parents and two younger siblings lived.  Houseguest Pauline Dean, left, too, taking the stage with Orinthia as far as Roxbury. Her final destination was unknown.  The most noteworthy departure, however, was that of 20-year-old Oliver Ames, middle son of Oakes and Evelina.  He was going to college.

Oakes Ames, after having resisted giving his son a college education, had evidently made a decision to let Oliver go. Father and son traveled together to Providence.  Perhaps Oakes helped his son find his living quarters, perhaps he explored the campus at Brown in an attempt to know it for himself, if he didn’t know it already. Sarah Lothrop Ames’s brother from Detroit, George Van Ness Lothrop, had once attended the school; Oakes and Oliver must have known that.

Established in 1764, Brown was the third oldest college in New England. Manning Hall, the neoclassical building shown in the photograph above, was the newest building on campus. No doubt it was a building that Oliver went into often, for it held both the library and the chapel. The president of the college at the time was Francis Wayland, a Baptist minister, who was stern but beloved and progressive.

As Evelina noted, Oliver was immensely pleased to be going to Brown, and she, in turn, seemed pleased for him. She was confident that he would study hard and do well.  Her pride didn’t protect her from feeling
“very lonely” today, though.  Choring was the only antidote she could imagine to liven up the quieter house.




Manning Hall, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island

September 3, 1851


Wednes Sept 3d  Alson came this morning & brought

Orinthia and staid to dinner and carried Mrs Stevens

home with him  Orinthia has been packing her clothes

Mrs Stevens stiched three more collars for me & Mrs

Witherell two that are for Frank.  Abby Torrey called

this afternoon &c and on her return Orinthia & I went

to the store  Pauline passed the afternoon with Helen

Orinthia Foss was packing her clothes, getting ready to return home to Maine. What prompted the departure isn’t clear. Did she lose her job, or was she called home on family matters? She would return to North Easton eventually, but did she know that when she left?  How did she feel about leaving this town where she had lived for six months? How did Evelina feel about the loss of her young friend, even temporarily?

Orinthia wasn’t the only one with a trunk to be packed. Oliver Ames (3), too, was a day away from departure and had a trunk into which his mother – and others, perhaps – were placing his new collars and mended shirts. Last minute sewing was still going on, but by this time the trunk would have been nearly full of the clothes that Oliver would need for a term at college.

That Oliver was going away to study at Brown was just shy of miraculous.  At 20, he was old to be going, for one thing; in the nineteenth century, the average students were teenaged, like Fred Ames at Harvard. But more than that, his father Oakes had not wanted him to go. According to one 19th century acquaintance of Oliver, Oakes “had inherited some measure of that Puritanical contempt for the liberal arts.” After completing prep school, Oliver had been directed to work at the factory, “to learn the trade of shovel-making. But the desire for a higher education remained strong, and when at the end of his five years apprenticeship he had mastered the trade, his father yielded to his solicitations, and allowed him to enter Brown University.” * Oliver had earned his ticket out.

* Hon. Hosea M. Knowlton, “Address,” Oliver Ames Memorial, 1898, pp. 98-99


September 2, 1851


Tuesday Sept 2d  Again this morning sat down quite early to 

sewing for Oliver cut him out 5 dickeys & finished 

one that was cut last autumn.  Mrs Stevens stiched

2 of them.  Mrs Stevens Pauline & self passed the

afternoon with Mrs Witherell  The weather is

very unpleasant & cold and this evening it rains


The northeast wind of yesterday brought no good weather with it.  The ladies stayed indoors and sewed clothes for Oliver (3), only breaking stride enough to move in the afternoon to the other part of the house to do more of the same. Most likely, Sarah Witherell sewed with them.

Evelina noted today that she worked on dickeys, or shirt fronts, for her son.  She finished one that she had cut out almost a year earlier, which begs the question: Where had she kept it all that time?  Where did she store the fabric, thread and trim for her multiple projects? She had a workbasket, certainly; any sewing woman in that time and place would have had one.  But a workbasket was just that, a basket, or a box.  It might hold a thimble, scissors, needles, a bodkin, an emery bag, plus “tapes, and buttons, and hooks and eyes, and darning cotton, and silk winders, and pins, and all sorts of things,* but it wouldn’t hold bolts of cloth or unfinished, flounced skirts. The yards of fabric and dickeys-in-progress, the aprons to be hemmed and the chemises to be sewn together, would be stored elsewhere. Where?

Perhaps Evelina had shelves in a corner closet to hold her projects, or maybe she laid claim to a particular chest of drawers in the sitting room. When she was working on large projects, such as the cover for the lounge she made earlier in the summer, perhaps the piece simply lay out in one of the rooms until completed. Was she tidy or messy? How did she manage? She may have wished for a room that could be just hers for her projects.  With that large family, and all the houseguests they welcomed, an extra room wasn’t likely to be available.



* Susan Warner, The Wide, Wide World, p. 40



September 1, 1851



Sept 1st Monday  Jane & Ellen washed and have done most

of the housework and I have been to work on Olivers

clothes have sewed pretty steady to day.  Pauline has

been sewing on a pr of Muslin undersleeves that

I gave her but has not finished them.  Mrs Stevens

covered some button and sewed them with Olivers vest

& mended the buttonholes


Sewing was “pretty steady” today as the date of her son Oliver (3)’s departure for college loomed nearer. Evelina was mending everything and making new items like collars and dickeys. She tried to mark Oliver’s clothes so that they wouldn’t get lost – a time-honored effort by many a mother when a child leaves for college. How did she mark the clothes, though, in those days before indelible ink markers?  There were certainly no “iron-ons” and probably no manufactured name-tags that would have been sewn in by hand, either.  Her most likely solution would have been to embroider Oliver’s initials or name on the inside or underside of each piece of apparel. That sounds like a lot of work.

Houseguest Pauline Dean accompanied Evelina and sewed some on a pair of new undersleeves while another guest, Mrs. Stevens, helped cover the buttons of a vest belonging to Oliver. Clothes must have been everywhere, as laundry was being washed while all this sewing went on. It was Monday, and Jane McHanna and another servant named Ellen had the stove going and the tubs full. The “fair day” and north east wind that Old Oliver noted in his journal would have helped dry the clothes.

Old Oliver also noted that he “went to Canton to day with Mr Clark + others to put in the stone bridges below the shop.” Can any of our local historians identify these bridges?  Are they still in place? The shop, which was originally built in 1847 to supplement the factory in North Easton, is no longer standing. The image above was taken circa 1965.

* Ames Shovel Shop on Bolivar Street, Canton, Canton Historical Society, from Arthur Krim’s Historical Buildings of Canton, Vol. II.