December 30, 1852

Sunset

Thursday Dec 30th  Mrs A A & Mrs Edwin Gilmore & Abby

& self have passed the day at mothers.  We

got there at 1/4 past 10 Oclock very early I 

call that.  Abby has a very bad boil on her

shoulder  After I got home this evening

went into Olivers & Mrs A L Ames came

in and we stopt untill nearly ten Oclock

Miss Alger has given her 20th lesson

dined in the other part of the house

 

Evelina spent the day with her mother, eighty-year-old Hannah Lothrop Gilmore. Other Gilmore women were present, too: Hannah Lincoln Gilmore, Augusta Pool Gilmore, and Abigail Williams Torrey (a Gilmore niece). They assembled at the family farm for what appears to have been simply a sociable gathering. We might imagine, however, that at least one of the women held a piece of sewing or mending in her lap as they sat and talked. Back at the house in North Easton, meanwhile, Sarah Witherell had the responsibility of overseeing the girls’ piano lesson and hosting the piano teacher for dinner.

The year was drawing to a close, and this entry is the next-to-last one that Evelina will make in her diary. A sad closure – not for Evelina, but for us readers. Over the two years of posting Evelina’s diary, a virtual community has gathered in its own sociable way to watch life pass in North Easton in a time long gone. In addition to hundreds of readers from across the U.S., readers from around the globe – most notably Australia, Brazil, Germany, South Korea, the UK, Italy and Canada – have stopped in regularly to see how Evelina was faring. Not a few of you are direct descendants of Evelina and Oakes, or Old Oliver and Susannah. In the course of writing this blog, it has been clear that you and others, whatever your address, feel a strong bond with the early “Shovel Ameses” of North Easton, and with the town itself.

As she made her daily entries, Evelina could have had no way of knowing that hundreds of us – strangers to her – would one day read her diary. She couldn’t have imagined it, which is a good thing, for then she might have written for an audience instead of for herself. We would find more craft and less honesty in the daily dispatches. As it has happened, we’ve been allowed to interpret and imagine – but not invent – her life. We hope we’ve done it right. Perhaps in the future, the missing diaries will come to light and we’ll be able to learn more about the family. We might be able to clarify or enhance or even contradict the inferences we might have made. History is a fluid thing.

Thank you, readers, for following along and contributing to our understanding of Evelina and her time. Please join Evelina one more time tomorrow as we take a look at how the rest of her life unfolded.

 

December 25, 1852

Godeys

Sat Dec 25th Christmas. Have had to do the

housework and have had a busy time of it

Henrietta called in for an hour or two

and then Miss Alger came and was here

to dinner  Alson & wife & Edwin & wife here

to tea.  The girls came in the stage

My feet trouble me so much that I can

scarcely go about house  Sent Mrs Whitwell a delaine dress

 

Christmas Day was pretty much a non-event at the Ames compound. Like last year, the household followed a fairly normal routine. Old Oliver grumped about the poor weather and “bad carting.”* At Evelina’s, the servants were in Canton, at church presumably, with family and friends. They returned via stagecoach late in the day. Before they came back, Eveline “had a busy time” with the meals and cleaning, balancing the latter with a social call from her sister-in-law Henrietta Williams Gilmore. She also must have facilitated another piano lesson – the 19th one – for her daughter Susan and niece Emily. The indefatigable Miss M. J. Alger arrived to teach and stayed for dinner.

Outside of puritanical New England, the celebration of Christmas was on the ascendant. Periodicals like Godey’s and Gleason’s referred to the holiday with poems, stories, and illustrations. Families and friends exchanged gifts, although with much less commercial goading than today. And the following Christmas, 1853, President-elect Franklin Pierce would put up the first-ever Christmas tree in the White House.**

For all their disinterest in what they saw as a Catholic holiday, members of the Ames family did show small signs of acknowledging the occasion. Here and there, they exchanged gifts; we saw it last year and see it again. Evelina made a gift to the minister’s wife, Eliza Whitwell, of a wool dress. As the years would go by and the generation of Fred, Oakes Angier and the others gained primacy, Christmas would come to resemble the holiday that we know, replete with gifts and church pageants and family dinners – but not while Old Oliver was alive.

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

**Credit for the first Christmas tree at the White House is disputed by historians. Some say Benjamin Harrison was the first president to put one up, in the late 1880s.

 

December 23, 1852

santa-in-sleigh-with-reindeersanta-claus-reindeer-public-domain-super-heroes-dfpwrpfw-e1387694367744

 

Thursday Dec 23d  Have been at work part of the

time on Susans sack & part of the time

fixing work for Catharine  She has got Susans

skirt ready for gathering and run the breadths

of my raw silk  Helen came home in

the stage to night Heard Susan practice

an hour this evening she does not take as

much interest as I could wish

 

Orville L. Holley, editor of theTroy [N.Y.] Sentinel, didn’t know who had written the poem. It had been sent in by a friend of the anonymous author. But Holley was looking for good Christmas copy, so on this date in 1823, he published A Visit from St. Nicholas,* with “cordial thanks to whoever had sent him these Christmas verses.”* He knew the piece was good, but he couldn’t have imagined the lasting fame it would receive. He couldn’t have foretold how iconic Twas the Night Before Christmas would become.

It would be another fourteen years, more or less, until the public discovered the name of the author. He was Clement Clarke Moore, a professor of oriental and Greek literature at General Theological Seminary in New York City and author of several academic works such as Compendious Lexicon of the Hebrew Language. He was also a poet, and the father of nine children. He had written A Visit from St. Nicholas for his older children and read it to them on Christmas Eve, 1822. A friend of the family had heard the poem, copied it, and sent it to the newspaper. Aren’t we lucky she saved it? Professor Moore, by the way, was born in 1779 and died in 1863 – the same life span as Old Oliver Ames.

Did Evelina know this poem? Was she familiar with St. Nicholas, Santa Claus and other Christmas lore that immigrated from the Old World to the New? Reader that she was, she was bound to know about Christmas. But so far in her life, it was a holiday that others, and not she, celebrated.

Her grandchildren would one day know the poem by heart. Dash away, dash away, dash away all!

 

*Information on Clement Clarke Moore and A Visit from St. Nicholas can be found at http://www.poetryfoundation.org

 

December 22, 1852

new-england-clam-chowder-3-550

 

Wednesday Dec 22d  Miss Alge[r] came again to day

to give another lesson which makes the 

18th  She stopt to dinner we had fish

chowder & I had to attend to it while she

was giving Susan her lesson and did not hear

it  The families all took tea at Olivers

I have done but very little on Susans sack

Susan scratched Emilys Pianno

 

Readers might wonder how Oakes Angier Ames was faring on his voyage to Cuba. We’ll learn later that by this date, he had reached Charleston, South Carolina and was to depart this day for Havana.

So much attention had been focused lately on Oakes Angier Ames that we also might wonder what the other two Ames sons were up to. Local historian William Chaffin obligingly tells us. They were helping form a local militia:

A charter for an infantry company, signed by Governor Boutwell, was secured December 3, 1852, and the company was organized on the 22d. The following officers were chosen: William E. Bump, captain; Francis Tilden, first lieutenant; Oliver Ames, 3d, second lieutenant; John Carr, third lieutenant; Rufus Willis, fourth lieutenant. This company and one then recently formed at Canton were organized as the second battalion of light infantry, second brigade, and first division, the Easton company being known as Company B.

Of this battalion Oliver Ames, 3d, was chosen adjutant. He was afterward promoted to be major, and the lieutenant-colonel; and Frank M. Ames was made quartermaster and then major. The State furnished this company with fifty guns, bayonets, and other accoutrements, besides swords for the officers.  The record book states that the State also forwarded “1 Brass Kittle drum in good order, and 1 Fife, crooked and unfit for use.”*

A militia, typically, is a group of civilian volunteers who band together, with some kind of government blessing and support, to supplement a regular military army. Such militias had formed before in Easton and elsewhere and, according to Chaffin, a “military spirit began to revive again in 1852.”* What was motivating this activity? Were the young men responding to the increased agitation between the North and the South, or were they simply feeling their oats?

Susan Ames was feeling something today, too.  By accident or design, she scratched her cousin Emily’s piano. Not good. Evelina may not have witnessed the incident, as she was busy in the kitchen making fish chowder for dinner. The chowder was partaken of by the family and by the piano teacher, who often timed her lessons around the midday meal. Perhaps a regular meal was part of her pay.

 

*William L. Chaffin, History of Easton, 1866,  pp. 512 – 513

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 8, 1852

imgres

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 3, 1852

Hog

Friday Dec 3d  Finished taking care of the pork this

forenoon had 60 lbs sausage meat  Weighed

16 lb pork tried it out and it (the lard) weighed 14 lbs

Went to mothers this afternoon with Oakes

Angier as he was going to West Bridgewater

My bonnet came from Boston to night

that I left to be made  Susan practiced

an hour this evening to me & I went into the other 

part of the house

Yesterday Old Oliver “kild six hogs [… and] the everage weight of the whole 12 was 413 pounds the heavyest weighd 489.” Oliver had given each offspring – Oakes, Oliver Jr., and Sarah Witherell – a pig to cut up and preserve. Upset as she was over the news about her eldest son, Oakes Angier, Evelina and her two servants worked to break down their pig into a manageable, edible assortment of pork. Sausage, of course, was a standard way to process and keep pork over time. So yesterday and today, the women cut and grounded meat, ending up with 60 pounds of sausage and 14 pounds of lard.

No doubt Evelina was preoccupied with thoughts of her son, but she may have found some comfort in keeping her hands busy with the necessary chores of the kitchen.  She took the opportunity of riding with Oakes Angier to the family farm, perhaps to share the news with her mother and brother Alson. Oakes Angier rode on to West Bridgewater. Might he have traveled to call on the Hobart family as well? He must have had to tell Catharine Hobart that he was leaving for Cuba and an uncertain future.

Susan Ames, once so rebellious at the piano, “practiced an hour this evening to” her mother. Do we imagine too much to think that she was trying to make her mother happy?