December 2, 1852

Fire

Thursday Dec 2d  Have been very nervous to day

thinking about Oakes A   cannot reconcile myself

to his leaving home.  Have done as well as I

could about taking care of the hog but made

poor headway  Augustus & wife  Edwin & wife

Mrs Witherell & Mrs S Ames all came unexpectedly

to spend the evening and I have not even changed

my dress. But who cares?  Miss Alger has

given her 14th lesson

 

Back in North Easton, Evelina was still rattled by the bad news her son had received. She tried to deal with a butchered hog that her father-in-law sent her but could barely cope.

Oakes Angier had been told he had consumption. He was advised to go to Cuba, whose warm, humid climate was believed to be good for pulmonary tuberculosis. No other effective treatment was available. The Ames men – Oakes Ames, certainly – would have been active today investigating possible arrangements. Oakes and Oliver Jr. had a business associate, a shipping merchant named Elisha Atkins, who traded in sugar in Cuba, at a port called Cienfuegos on the southern side of the island. Perhaps they contacted him for advice.

All the Ameses, and the Gilmore clan, too, were upset by the diagnosis. Family members on both sides “all came unexpectedly” at night to show affection and alarm for Oakes Angier, the eldest cousin of his generation. The family pulled together, although Evelina was too shocked to appreciate the support, too sad to rise to the occasion. “I have not even changed my dress,” she noted pitifully.

Completely preoccupied by Oakes Angier’s illness, the folks at the Ames compound may not have paid much attention to the news that the Chickering Piano Company building in Boston had caught fire and burned to the ground.

“3 o’clock A.M. — Thursday Morning — The whole of the manufactory—an immense block structure, five stores high—is one mass of ruins. Mr. Jonas Chickering owned the building, and occupied all of it except the stores, which were improved by Messrs Thomas &Merriam, grocers, Edward Butman, crockery ware dealer, Amos Cummings, grocer. Very little property, in the building was saved. The devouring element spread through the building with terrific rapidity and soon the heated walls began to fall so as to endanger the lives of those who approached.

The building occupied the space on Washington street, between Norfolk place and Sweetser court. A portion of the side wall on Sweetser court first fell doing no injury, and the gable end of the side wall, on Norfolk place, fell over and crushed in the roof of the brick building on the opposite corner, which was on fire, and forced out the gable end. Both buildings were now one mass of fire, presenting an awfully grand sight. A part of the wall on Washington street, next fell and the flames swept across Washington street, threatening the destruction of the Adams House and other buildings on the opposite side, but they were saved. The attic windows of the Adams House were badly scorched.

The greater portion of the wall on Norfolk street next fell over on the opposite building, crushing it completely to pieces, and the walls of the next adjoining northerly, a three story, old fashioned block, and buried underneath the ruins, two watchmen, named Alfred Turner and Benjamin F. Foster, of the Boylston division. A large force immediately set to work to remove the rubbish, and after some time, were able to converse with Turner, and in an hour’s time reached one of his arms, but before the ruins could be cleared away, he fell into the cellar, and not just before putting our [news]paper to press been dug out. Foster, it is supposed lived but a short time.

The building on the corner of Norfolk place, opposite Chickering’s was five stories high, belonged to Deming Jarvis, and was occupied, the store by P.R. Morley, plumber, and the upper stories by Mr. Ladd, pianoforte key maker. They saved but a small amount of their stock. The building was insured. The old brick building next adjoining, which was leveled to the ground by the falling wall was occupied by Mrs. Wyman, as a boy’s clothing store and a dwelling house.”*

Was the Chickering Piano Company the place where Evelina and Sarah Witherell had purchased their pianos?

*

November 27, 1852

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Example of cambric sleeve

Nov 27th Saturday  Have been sewing quite

steadily to day and so has Catharine  We

have made a pair of cambrick sleeves for

Susan & self and mended lots of clothes

Mrs Witherell has been in with her

work for about an hour and it is a

rarity  Susan has practiced very well

to day and is gaining quite fast in reading 

her notes

 

Susie Ames was finally getting the hang of playing piano. After the sturm und drang  of the earlier lessons, her mother had to be pleased to hear her practice “very well.” No doubt the piano teacher, Miss Alger, would be happy that her student could finally read the notes.

Inclement weather prevented them from going outside for any reason, at least in the morning. According to Old Oliver, “it raind all last night wind South east and there was 2 1/8 inches of water fell it cleard of to day before noon wind west + not cold”*.  As we might guess, Evelina used the time indoors to mend and sew.  For a time, she had the company of her sister-in-law, Sarah Ames Witherell. As she has suggested before, Evelina felt that both her sisters-in-law did not visit her as often as she would have liked.

Cambric is a light fabric with an open weave, often used for underclothes such as chemisettes. It served well as an undersleeve worn under an outer sleeve of more substantial fabric. It would have been a relatively easy garment for Evelina to sew, especially as her version would have been simpler than the one in the illustration, probably lacking in the eyelet detail.

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

 

November 22, 1852

Rests

Monday Nov 22d  Ann & Catharine washed and 

I was at work putting things in order

about house. They finished cleaning

the cookroom after washing that they

commenced Saturday.  Catharine fixed

Olivers woolen jacket for him. This even[ing]

have heard Susan practice and she does well

and Im quite encouraged about her

 

Evelina seemed content this Monday. The servants were doing the laundry and she was tidying up the house, going from room to room to dust, sweep and put “things in order.” She would have said that she and her servants moved among the cook room, the buttery, the sitting room, the parlor, the entry, and the bed chambers. Using modern nomenclature, we would say she cleaned the kitchen, the pantry, the den, the living room, the front or back hall, and the bedrooms. Most of her words for the rooms in her house are dated, although not entirely unfamiliar to the modern reader.

Linguists hold different views on the etymology of words for parts of the house. Most agree that kitchen, for instance, derives from the Latin word for “to cook,” coquere, by way of Old English and cyoene, the Dutch keuken, and/or the German Kuche. Both words share the same root, but why kitchen came to be preferred to cook room is unclear.

Parlor – or parlour, as the English would have it – is also dated, at least in the United States. It has pretty well disappeared in American English as the name for the most formal room in a house. Derived from parlare, Latin for “to speak”, the term meant a room for speaking, a room in which to hold an audience. In the 18th and 19th century, as a middle class developed and those who could afford to create the space did so, the parlor became a formal room for visitors. In the 20th century, though, as socializing became more casual and diffused by such advances as the telephone and the automobile, the parlor fell away and the living room took over. Other room names – like the buttery – have undergone similar evolutions. We might wonder what people will call the kitchen or living room in the 23rd century.

Evelina’s contentment was also supplied today in no small part by hearing her daughter play the piano. She was “quite encouraged” by Susie’s improved playing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 21, 1852

IMG_0404

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