June 29, 1852


Henry Clay

(1777 – 1852)


Tuesday June 29th  Have had a quiet […] sick day  have

a bad cold & cough and sick head ache

A gentleman here from Pennsylvania

to dine but I did not go to the table

Mr Bartlett here to tea from Maine

Augusta came in and cut her out a

visite & I have written to Melinda to

get some trimming for it  Ottomans came

from Boston

Evelina was sick and probably spent most of the day in bed. She didn’t eat much, missing midday dinner – with company – and possibly skipping tea, too. Perhaps she took a tray of food in her room. She must have begun to feel a bit better, however, as she eventually roused herself to cut out a “visite” for Augusta Gilmore, who came over at the end of the day.  She even wrote to her friend Melinda Orr, in Boston, to find some trim. She could get animated about a sewing project, though not much else appealed to her today.

It was “a fair warm day + verry dry,”* and probably “verry” good for the haying that was underway. Old Oliver and a team of hands would have been outdoors from sunup to sundown.

In the world beyond North Easton, a consummate, outspoken and controversial politician passed away today: Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky, aged 75, died in Washington D. C., of consumption. The Ameses wouldn’t have known this, however, until they read the next day’s newspapers. But most likely they admired Clay, the “Star of the West,” and the founder of the Whig Party. Clay’s biggest opponent back in the day had been Andrew Jackson, who called Clay “the Judas of the West.”  One imagines that Oakes Ames had probably been on the side of Clay’s admirers.

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

February 2, 1852



Monday Feb 2d  Worked about house untill about twelve

and went into Olivers to dine with my whole family

and mother.  Alson came this afternoon & carried

mother home.  All took tea at Olivers.  Mrs S Ames

Oliver Fred & self passed the evening at Mr Swain

Worked some on flannel skirt this afternoon […]

carried Susans stocking to Mr Swains.


We know about February 2; it’s Groundhog’s Day.  In 1852, it was no such thing, at least not in New England. In the Pennsylvania Dutch communities of the mid-Atlantic states, however, some folks had begun to claim that the behavior of a groundhog on this date could prognosticate the weather for the remainder of the winter. This practice was first formally celebrated in 1887, in Punxsutawny, Pennsylvania, and continues today.

More common for this date was the celebration of Candlemas, a holy day in the Christian Church that honored the presentation by Mary of Jesus at the temple. Roman Catholics called it the fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. Unitarians had no name for it because Unitarians, like some other Protestant sects, didn’t acknowledge ecclesiastical feast days.

Yet there was a saying regarding this time of year that New England farmers – Old Oliver, a Unitarian, included – would have been familiar with:

“Half your wood and half your hay, You should have on Candlemas Day”

Candlemas falls between winter solstice and vernal equinox. It’s a day that turns the corner on winter, and heads for spring. It’s a day to take stock and hope you have enough wood left to keep warm and enough hay remaining to feed your animals for the rest of the winter.