November 21, 1852

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Lady’s Cloak**

Sunday Nov 21st  have been to church and at

intermission went with Mother into Mrs John

Howards.  Have invited Mr & Mrs Whitwells

family to dine here Thanksgiving

After church read & heard Susan practice

her lesson a while  Edwin & wife came

in this evening and I went to Augustus with 

them

 

This Sunday before Thankgiving “was a fair sunny day wind northerly + cool.”* The Ames contingent headed to church as usual and at intermission spread out to different informal gatherings. We don’t know where the men of the family went, or what Susie did, but we do know that Evelina took her elderly mother to the home of John and Caroline Howard, where they would have been offered a cup of tea and a piece of pie or cake.

After church, Evelina heard her daughter practice the piano. Like yesterday, the friction and anxiety between the two over the piano lessons seemed to have dissipated. At least, Evelina doesn’t mention having to force Susan to practice.

Evelina also did a little reading. If she picked up her copy of the November issue of Godey’s Lady’s Book, she would have noticed, among many essays, stories and poems, a short article on women’s cloaks:

Never was there a season in which there was so great a variety of graceful cloaks to choose from. Not the heavy, cumbrous garment that once enshrouded and hid all grace or outline in the female figure, but light, yet ample costumes, that answer every purpose of warmth for walking or driving...**

Cloaks were in. If Evelina needed proof that her sister-in-law Sarah Lothrop Ames had a nose for fashion, there it was. Only a week earlier, Sarah had been in Boston buying a cloak for her daughter Helen. There were many styles to be seen, including the one in the illustration, in the Alboni style. Will Evelina get one for herself or her daughter?

 

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

** Godey’s Lady’s Book, , Cloaks and Mantles, November 1852, pp. 476 – 477

November 17, 1852

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Girl’s dress, mid-19th century

Wedns Nov 17th  Miss Alger has been here to

day and has given her 12th lesson and 

dined here.  Mrs S Ames & self have been

to North Bridgewater  Emily & Susan

went with us  I got Susan a plaid

dress but do not feel satisfied with it

 

In the 19th century, girls often wore plaid; Susan Ames was no exception. Her mother got her a plaid dress in North Bridgewater (today’s Brockton) but ended up unhappy with the purchase. Did Evelina buy an actual dress or the material to make the dress? Probably the latter, as this is what she has done previously. Also, we must remember that “off-rack” clothing really was not yet on the market.

One thing we don’t read about today is the ongoing tussle between Evelina and her daughter over the piano. The teacher, Miss Alger, had been at the house for the 12th lesson for Emily and Susan, and there is no mention of lack of skill or failure to practice on Susie’s part. She must have been getting the hang of the new instrument and perhaps was even beginning to enjoy it.

After the lesson, Susan and Emily got to ride to North Bridgewater on the shopping excursion with Evelina and their aunt, Sarah Lothrop Ames. There must have been no school on this day, so the girls got to enjoy the sunshine.

 

 

November 13, 1852

Turnip

Sat Nov 13th  Have cleaned the parlour

but did not take up the carpet

gave it a thourough sweeping and

washed the paint  Miss Alger has

been here and given the girls their

eleventh lesson  Mrs Oliver Ames

has been to Boston  got Helen a cloak

 

Evelina stayed indoors today, perhaps envious that her sister-in-law Sarah Lothrop Ames was shopping in Boston. Sarah bought her daughter Helen a cloak. Do we imagine that Evelina might soon head for the city to buy one for her daughter Susan?

Old Oliver, meanwhile, was still busy outdoors on several fronts, including the harvesting of turnips, as he reported: “this was a fair day but pritty chilly we got in some [of] our turnips to day*”. Turnips were an important vegetable crop that kept well over the winter, making it a staple in most households. Botanist Judith Sumner notes that “as early as 1609, colonists […] cultivated turnips. […] Cold weather improved their flavor, so it may not be coincidental that a November 1637 letter from John Winthrop to his wife instructed her to harvest their crop while he was away.”** Native Americans adopted the vegetable themselves, preferring it to other edible roots that they had previously gathered.

Turnips were still standard fare at the 19th century New England dinner table, typically prepared just as Sarah Josepha Hale suggests:

Turnips should be pared; put into boiling water, with a little salt; boiled till tender; then squeeze them thoroughly from the water, mash them smooth, add a piece of butter and a little pepper and salt.***

Surely there would be mashed turnips served at Thanksgiving.

 

 

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

**Judith Sumner, American Household Botany, Portland, Oregon, 2004, p. 30

*** Sarah Josepha Hale, The Good Housekeeper, 1841, p. 74

 

November 10, 1852

Jar

Wedns Nov 10th Catharine […]

& Ann have both been ironing

all day and have got it all done  I have not

done a great deal but fuss round the

house  Have covered my jelly &c with

brandy paper  Alson called and brought 

a [illegible] to exchange  Abby spent

the evening  Miss Alger has given her 10th

lesson dined here

Evelina continued to be a bit cross today. Yesterday she was tired of cooking preserves, today she covered those jelly jars with brandy paper and continued to resent having to “fuss round the house.”At least the servant girls finished the ironing – that was a point of satisfaction. Perhaps Evelina was reacting to the shorter days and lower sunlight, although Old Oliver reported that on this particular day, the weather was “verry pleasant”* throughout the afternoon.

Miss Alger the piano teacher came to give Susie Ames and Emily Witherell their piano lessons, and stayed to dinner. Evelina doesn’t say how her daughter did, which may be a sign that Susie was finally getting the hang the instrument.  No doubt Miss Alger was doing her best to teach Susie and Emily, but she was getting paid and fed – often. For Evelina to be spending the money and effort and to have her daughter not succeed was simply not acceptable. Susie had to learn.

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

November 6, 1852

 

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Saturday Nov 6th  Had a hard time with Susan

to make her practice and understand her

lesson.  About eleven went with Susan 

to carry Miss Alger home  Dined at Alsons

left there about half past three but did

not get home untill dark  Stopt at Mr

Algers & at Copelands for Tumblers & at Morse

factory got half lb thread & twine

 

The struggle between mother and daughter continued, Evelina trying to get Susan to practice her piano and Susan resisting. Miss Alger, the piano teacher who had been staying with the Ameses, may have been relieved to return home. We might imagine that Susie was equally relieved to see her go. Mother and daughter rode together to take Miss Alger to her residence in the southeastern quadrant of Easton. After Miss Alger exited the carriage, did Evelina scold? Did Susie cry? How did the discussion go, or did they maintain injured silence? Or sidestep the topic altogether?

The ride back to North Easton was long (and “rather chilly,” according to Old Oliver*), in no small part because Evelina and Susan stopped for midday dinner at the family farm, visiting Evelina’s mother, brother and family. It was late in the afternoon when they finally left, but nonetheless they stopped just north of the farm – would this be Alger’s Corner? – and bought some glassware for the house. They forked left onto Washington Street and stopped at the Morse Factory for thread and twine.  A half pound of thread is a great deal of thread, if you come to think of it. Was the weight of a spool – or spools – included?

The tumblers were what we would call drinking glasses today. The term tumbler, of uncertain origin and now out of use, meant a flat-bottomed glass with no handle or stem.  The tumblers that Evelina bought were most likely pressed glass, as opposed to hand-blown glass. The latter had been slowly replaced in the marketplace since about 1825.

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

 

 

November 5, 1852

Oliver Ames, Jr.

Oliver Ames, Jr.

(1807 – 1877)

Friday Nov 5th Susan has taken her ninth lesson

in music and I fear she is rather dull

does not call her letters well at all

Mrs Swain called this afternoon to settle

with me about her things and to night sent

me as a present as much as a half bushel […]

quinces  We passed the evening in Olivers

After stopping by to pay for the mourning apparel Evelina had picked up in Boston, Ann Swain sent Evelina two pecks of quinces to further thank her for her kindness. This thoughtful gesture may have distracted Evelina from her ongoing annoyance at her daughter’s “dull” piano playing. Susan had not yet learned her scales. At night, Evelina and Oakes, and perhaps other family members, “passed the evening” next door at Oliver Ames Jr’s.

Today, in fact, was Oliver Ames Jr.’s 45th birthday. He and his wife, Sarah Lothrop Ames, lived next door to Oakes and Evelina. At this juncture, Oliver Jr. was serving his first term as State Senator; he would serve a second term in 1857. According to Reverend William Chaffin, who knew the Ames family well, “Oliver Ames stood among the foremost in his reputation for a manly and unblemished character and for business ability…a strong, substantial, able, and honorable man.”****

The third of Old Oliver’s eight children, Oliver Jr. had originally been the brother who tinkered with the possibility of a career away from the shovel factory. In his teens, he suffered a “severe fall,”**** and was unable to work. He was sent to the Franklin Academy in North Andover after which he began to read law with William Baylies, Esq., of West Bridgewater. Reading and debating – good lawyering skills, both – had always been sources of pleasure for Oliver, but “[t]he confinement of office proving unfavorable to his health, together with the increasing demands of business at home,”**** he returned to North Easton. In 1833, he married Sarah Lothrop, the daughter of the Honorable Howard Lothrop and Sally Williams Lothrop. They had two children, Frederick Lothrop and Helen Angier Ames.

Relative to his brother, Oakes, Oliver Jr was reckoned to be “pretty dignified, and takes a good deal after his father, but Oakes is always ‘hail fellow well met.”** Another contemporary acquaintance of both men said simply that Oliver Jr. was “the conservative one.”***They made a good business pair. Over time, Oliver Jr. and Oakes, under the watchful eye of their father, turned the shovel shops into an industrial powerhouse, even as they groomed the next generation, Oakes Angier, Oliver (3) and Fred, to take over when the time was right. They invested in technological improvements and hired more help, especially from the newly arrived Irish population. They improved supply and delivery; in 1855, Oliver Jr. helped create the Easton Branch Railroad spur from Stoughton to North Easton.  In 1863, he oversaw the creation of a railroad line through the Great Cedar Swamp to Raynham. His interest in railroads led him to join his brother in the plan to build a transcontinental railroad when Oakes, by that time a U. S. Congressman, was tapped by Lincoln to lead the way.

The rest, as they say, is history. Both brothers became “deservedly famous”*****for their involvement with the Union Pacific. More than one contemporaneous historian has noted: “In 1866, Oliver Ames was elected president of that railroad, an office he held with significant ability until March, 1871.  During this time the road passed through some of its stormiest days and severest trials. His sound judgment, great business capacity, and inflexible integrity were of immense service in carrying this great enterprise safely through difficulty and peril to final success.”*****

On this dark autumn night in 1852, the “difficulty and peril [and…] success” lay ahead for both brothers as they sipped tea with their wives and watched “a few flakes of snow” fall.*

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

**“Ames at Easton: The Shovel Makers and Their Works. Life and Habits of the Congressman. Cursed Abroad – Applauded at Home,” The Boston Times, February, 1873

***Josiah Bushnell Grinnell, Reminiscences of Forty Years, 1891, Boston, p. 137

****William Chaffin, History of Easton, Massachusetts, 1886, p. 655.

*****Duane Hamilton Hurd, History of Bristol County, Massachusetts, Vol. II, 1883, pp. 430 – 431 (also Chaffin, p. 656)

November 3, 1852

Thread

Wednesday Nov 3d  The girls took their eigth

lesson this forenoon and I sat with

Susan to see her take hers so that I 

could assist her some if required

We have been to the funeral and 

then Mrs S Ames and self went to the sewing

circle at Mr Clarkes,  Miss Alger took

tea with Witherell.  Lavina Wms called

Susie Ames and Emily Witherell took another piano lesson this morning. Evelina, still determined that her reluctant daughter was going to learn to play the new instrument, “sat with Susan” in the parlor as she had her lesson. Miss Alger, the teacher, had tea with Sarah Witherell later in the day. The two women might have discussed how the girls were faring with their lessons; with Evelina out of the house, it would have been easier to discuss the fact that Emily was the stronger student.

Evelina and Oakes, presumably, and other Ameses attended the funeral of the Swain baby. John H. Swain Jr. had died on Sunday from “Teething,” much to his parents’ sorrow. Today, the sun was out, though the wind blew, as folks gathered around the little grave.

Afterwards, Evelina and her sister-in-law, Sarah Lothrop Ames, rode to the monthly Sewing Circle at the home of “Mr Clarke.”  He may have been Daniel Clark, a carpenter, whose wife was Elvira Clark and whose daughter, Elizabeth, had played the piano at the meeting house the summer before last. The piano again! Evelina couldn’t get away from other mothers whose daughters did well at the piano. How frustrated she must have felt about her own daughter.

 

October 27, 1852

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Wednesday Oct 27  Miss Alger has given the

girls the seventh lesson and Susan

makes hard work of practicing and 

I am sorry that she is so unwilling

Mrs S. Ames, Miss Alger Oakes A and

self have passed the afternoon at Mr

Nahum Williams  Mrs Rollins is at

her fathers  Mrs H & C Lothrop were there

 

“[T]his was a mild day & little hazy wind southerly.”* Once night fell, a full moon shone down on the rooftops, dooryards and unpaved streets of North Easton, lighting the byways even after curfew. The day itself was unremarkable, although Susan Ames grudgingly endured yet another piano lesson. Evelina bemoaned her daughter’s intransigence.

Evelina did pay a rare visit to Nahum Williams, “a farmer at Easton.”**Accompanying her were the ever-present piano teacher, Miss Alger, as well as Sarah Lothrop Ames and Oakes Angier Ames, the latter an unusual participant in the women’s sociable errand. They visited not only Nahum but his wife Amanda (nee Lothrop) and their daughter, Sarah Elizabeth Rollins. Also present were some Lothrop women – possibly Mrs. Henry Lothrop and Mrs. Clinton Lothrop. Sarah Lothrop Ames was probably related to Amanda.

We have met Nahum Williams before in Evelina’s pages; some time back, he lost his father, Seth, and various Ames family members had attended the funeral. Sarah Rollins was his recently married daughter; she and her husband had moved to Vermont and were expecting their first child. By 1860, she would return to her parents homes in Easton, possibly widowed, with three children: Ellen, George and Jennie.

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

**Hyde Family Geneaology

October 25, 1852

Ames_machine_shop_1857

Monday Oct 25th We all walked down to the

shops this morning and Mr & Mrs D

left here about ten Oclock and since

Miss Alger & self have had a quiet day

Susan has practiced a good deal but

is rather impatient  We did not

have the washing done

 

Monday morning came around and the Davenports and their child were still in the house. By the time they left, it was too late to start the laundry. So Evelina and the remaining houseguest, Miss M. J. Alger, “had a quiet day.” Quiet except for the sound of Susan Ames practicing her scales on the new piano; she could hardly skip out on practicing when her piano teacher was right there under the same roof. Was this Evelina’s design?

It “was a fair warm day for the season”* wrote Old Oliver in his journal. When Evelina and her company walked across the way to visit the shovel shop, what did they see? Shovels being made, obviously, in the rebuilt section of the factory, down close to the pond. But they also must have stood inside the new Long Shop, where the first-ever steam engine had been installed, ready to be put to use. It may be that a construction crew was still active in the building, putting in the finishing touches. To the visitors – and perhaps to the family, too – the new space must have seemed wondrous: the height of modernity, a model of expansion and a promise of wealth. However much she usually distanced herself from the action at the factory, Evelina must have felt some pride in showing off the progress of the company to her guests.

October 24, 1852

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Sarah Josepha Hale 

(1788 – 1879)

Sunday Oct 24th  Mrs Davenport, Miss Alger & self

staid at home in the morning and I cooked

a dinner  Martin Carr came home with

them at noon and was here to dine  We all

went to meeting this afternoon  Mrs D & Miss

Alger played and sang and we have had a pleasant evening

Evelina played hostess on this Sabbath Day, staying home from the morning church service to be with her female guests and to cook a dinner. Between services, the men came home for the meal, bringing Martin Carr with them. Martin, who was Oakes Angier’s age, was the son of Caleb Carr, a long-time employee of the shovel shop. Martin was a jeweler by trade; perhaps he knew Edward Davenport, a jeweler in Attleboro, who was staying with the Ameses.

The socializing continued in the evening with tea and entertainment. Both Celestine Davenport and Miss Alger “played and sang.”  What fun to have music in the parlor. Perhaps Susie Ames was inspired by the pleasure that piano playing produced.

Evelina wouldn’t have known it, or acknowledged it particularly if she had, but today was the birthday of Sarah Josepha Hale. Mrs. Hale was the influential editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, the most popular periodical of the day for women. Her first editing job, which she took on as a young widow with five children, was for The Ladies Magazine in Boston. After Ladies merged with Lady’s, in 1836 – 1837, Mrs. Hale moved to Philadelphia and became the “editress,” – a term she preferred – of Godey’s for the next forty years. While there, she published the work of Edgar Allen Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Lydia Sigourney, Caroline Lee Hentz, Washington Irving, Emma Willard and Catharine Beecher – among other authors whose writing has not held up as well through the decades.

Mrs. Hale did more than just read at a desk. While still living in Boston, she established the Seaman’s Aid Society to help the widows and orphans of men lost at sea. She raised a much-needed balance of funds for the completion of the erection of the Bunker Hill Monument, the funding of which had stalled. Though many members of the stymied Monument Association assured Mrs. Hale that she couldn’t succeed, she raised tens of thousands of dollars from individual donors and from a week-long women’s craft fair that she organized at Quincy Market. The latter event alone – the first of its kind – raised more than $30,000 from the sale of domestic goods like homemade preserves, knitted scarves, hand-sewn aprons and caps, and specially donated items. She built the template for that kind of event.

Mrs. Hale also raised money for the maintenance of George Washington’s home, Mt. Vernon, which had fallen into disrepair. She championed the establishment of Vassar, the country’s first female liberal arts college. She promoted the advancement of education and employment for women, tirelessly. Most famous of all, she was able to persuade President Abraham Lincoln to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday, a pet project of hers that she had put forward to a line of presidents before him. Most disappointing of all, Sarah Hale never got on board the women’s suffrage movement. She believed that giving women the vote would lead them into politics, which was too disreputable and crafty a calling for the high moral stature of the true female mind.

There is much to be said about Sarah Josepha Hale. We must not forget that she was also an author. She wrote many of the articles in Godey’s, she penned novels, children’s books, household guides and poems. It was her pen that wrote “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” She was a phenomenal woman for her time.