November 24, 1852

matthew_perry

Matthew C. Perry

Wedns Nov 24 Have heat the oven three times

to day and baked squash & apple pies brown

bread gingerbread & cake of sour cream and

it is very good  Miss Alger has given

her thirteenth lesson  Horatio & Gustavus

came in the stage  Augusta spent part 

of the evening here

The brick oven, heated up three times, would have helped warm the house on this day before Thanksgiving, as “it was the coldest day we have had yet.”* Evelina was pleased with a new recipe for sour cream cake, probably a pound cake that used sour instead of sweet cream. Many smart cooks had discovered that this kind of recipe was a good way to use up cream that had turned. It was very Yankee not to let the cream go to waste. And while Evelina was baking, the servants Catharine and Ann were working, too, setting the table, cutting up vegetables, trussing the turkey. The kitchens at the Ames compound  and across New England were busy, busy, busy.

While housewives focused on preparations for the Thanksgiving feast, a major diplomatic mission got underway. Commodore Matthew C. Perry, commander of the East India Squadron, departed Norfolk, Virginia to sail to Japan. His mission was to secure a trade treaty, no easy task with the notoriously secluded island nation. President Millard Fillmore had authorized Perry to open the ports to American trade, by show of force – also known as gunboat diplomacy – if necessary. Despite the ill wishes of the Dutch, who were already trading there, Perry was ultimately successful.

 

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

November 18, 1852

5251656_f520

Thursday Nov 18th  Catharine & Ann have cleaned

the buttery and it has taken them both all

day and I see to putting most of the dishes

back  Mixed my meat for mince pies

Wrote a note to Mrs Ames to send by

Mr Swain tomorrow with a gold thimble

Called in Olivers  Augusta there this evening

 

For all the sewing that Evelina did, this is the first entry where she mentions a thimble. The approximate particulars seem to be that Evelina asked her sister-in-law, Sarah Lothrop Ames, to get a gold thimble to be sent – as a gift? – to Ann Swain. Sarah Ames must have been planning to go to Boston the next day. Readers, your interpretation?

Whatever the circumstances were around this gold thimble, there’s no question that women used thimbles to sew. A thimble was worn on the tip of the finger to push the needle through the fabric. Simple enough, and time-honored. Thimbles have been found dating from BC, the earliest ones made of metal or leather or wood. Brass eventually became a standard material, although versions made of glass, ceramic, or even whalebone were made as well. Silver and gold, of course, were at the high end of the spectrum and often became heirlooms. Although the sewing machine would soon enter the market and alter the sewing habits of most women, thimbles would remain a tool for anyone using a needle and thread.

Not all the day was spent on sewing concerns. Evelina and her servants cleaned the buttery (or pantry) and made mincemeat. Old Oliver and his men were still outside where, in a “chilly” wind, they “finisht geting the manure of[f] our hog yard.” Surely everyone was pleased to finish that noisome task.

 

 

October 23, 1852

Railway_Station,_Stoughton,_MA

Stoughton Railroad Station, built 1888*

 

1852

Saturday Oct 23d Baked in the brick oven brown

bread cake & pies  After I got the first

oven full I had pies enough for a second

and I put the brown bread with the

stove oven and heat the brick oven again

Oakes A & Susan went to Stoughton after

Fred and then after Miss Alger and she has

given her sixth lesson Mr & Mrs Davenport &

child came this evening from Attleboro

Bread, cake, pies and more pies. There was so much baking going on at the Ames house that Evelina used both ovens, the new cast iron one and the original brick oven – the latter twice. What was all the baking about? Company was coming.

A young couple from Attleboro came for a visit: Edward Davenport, a jeweler, with his wife Celestine and their toddler, Annie. What was their connection to the Ames family? They stayed for several days. Also arriving for a stay was the piano teacher, Miss M. J. Alger. We might wonder how Susie Ames felt about that.

Susie helped pick up Miss Alger, in fact. She and her brother Oakes Angier drove around today, first to the train depot in Stoughton and then to Miss Alger’s house. At Stoughton, they met their cousin Fred Ames, who must have been coming home on a break from Harvard. The depot they went to was the earliest iteration of a train station in that town, built in the mid-1840s for the Old Colony Railroad. It was later replaced; today, the Romanesque stone building erected in 1888 is on the National Register, reminding us of the tremendous role that the railroad played in the second half of the 19th century – and well into the 20th.

What a full house Evelina had tonight. Where did she fit everyone?

*Image from 1901, courtesy of Wikipedia

 

 

September 30, 1852

Spiced-Butternut-Squash-Pie-450

Squash Pie*

Thursday Sept 30th  Have swept the parlour

and Catharine has swept the chambers

and we have baked squash and apple pies

in the brick oven.  Hannah Welch came

last night and has done part of the ironing

to day.  this evening she heard her sister

was sick and she has left and gone back 

to Lynn.  Mrs Lincoln called with Hannah

 

Life at the Ames house returned to normal after yesterday’s meeting of the Sewing Circle. Evelina and a servant, Catharine Middleton, swept and tidied up while a new servant, Hannah Welch, tended to the ironing. Hannah would leave abruptly however, never to return, making her one-day employment the shortest on Evelina’s growing list of departed servants.

The household carried on. Today was a baking day, back in the capacious brick oven that Evelina shared with her sister-in-law, Sarah Ames Witherell, in the other part of the house. Squash and apple pies were on the menu, naturally, both being part of the fall harvest. Squash pies were as routine as pumpkin pies; every contemporary cookbook offered a recipe. Sarah Josepha Hale, though critical of pies in general as being too rich, allowed that they were acceptable in the colder months “because then we can bear a rich concentrated diet, better than during hot weather.”** Her recipe:

Pare, take out the seeds and stew the squash until very soft and dry. Strain or rub it through a sieve or colander. Mix this with good milk till it is thick with batter: sweeten it with sugar.  Allow three eggs to a quart of milk, beat the eggs well, add them to the squash, and season with rose water, cinnamon, nutmeg, or whatever spices you like. Line a pie-plate with crust, fill and bake about an hour.**

The rich pies probably hit the spot with the family. Certainly, the timing was perfect because on this night, “there was a pritty havy frost.”*** Fall had arrived.

 

*Image courtesy of  www.lostrecipesfound.com

**Sarah Josepha Hale, The Good Housekeeper, 1841, pp. 81-82

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

May 13, 1851

dried-apples

*

Tues May 13  Mrs Witherell heat her oven and I baked

a loaf of brown bread & some cake & tarts with

her  Orinthia made some sifted dried apple pies

Mr Robinson here to paper the dark bedroom

chamber. Mr Pratt called this morning for Orinthia

to go to meet him & Brown for an examination

We went to Mr Pratts this afternoon and

called at Mr Whitwells

 

Mr. Robinson, all-purpose painter-and-paperer, was back at Evelina and Oakes’s house today to paper one of the bedrooms. It may be the one that Frank Morton Ames had to move out of some days ago while it was being refurbished.

Orinthia Foss, meanwhile, underwent some kind of scholastic examination.  Evidently, she was being considered to teach at the town’s public school system for which she had to undergo at least an interview.  Her interviewer was Amos Pratt, a former school teacher himself, and member of the Easton school superintending committee (the one on which Oakes Angier had hoped to serve, but had missed by one vote.)  Her other interviewer was Erastus Brown, a butcher by trade who also served on the school committee and taught. Not unlike today, some folks from 160 years ago had to pursue more than one trade to make ends meet. Pratt, who lived in the Furnace Village area of Easton, some miles south and west of North Easton, eventually gave up his teaching career to run a mill.

Before being escorted by Mr. Pratt to her interview, Orinthia helped Evelina and Sarah Witherell with baking.  Evelina made brown bread, cake and tarts; Orinthia made an unseasonal apple pie from dried apples. The apples were remnants of last fall’s harvest, and ordinarily Orinthia would have had to plump them up with hot water or cider or some other liquid in order to form the pie.  How the apples would have been “sifted” is a puzzle; did this mean that the apples were in powder form?  All you cooks out there: what is a sifted dried apple pie?

*jeremy.zawodny.com