December 26, 1852

Church

Sunday Dec 26  It was very stormy this morning

and I did not decide to go to church untill

it was to late to dress myself & Susan all the

rest went from the three families except father

Elijah Robinson in the other part of the house

came Friday night  It was cleared off very pleasant

Mr, Mrs & Miss Swain Augustus & wife & E Robinson

called this evening

Once again, we see Evelina and her father-in-law differ on their descriptions of the weather. While Evelina found it “very stormy this morning,” Old Oliver wrote: ” it snod a verry little last night and there was a little rain this morning + the snow is all gone there was not rain + snow enough to make more than ¼ inch of water it was fair in the afternoon wind north west”* It was proving to be what New Englanders call an “open” winter – at least so far. It was nearly January, and there was no snow on the ground.

There was no Evelina in church, either, as she just couldn’t bear to go out in the rain. Her daughter also managed not to dress in time. So the two females stayed at home while the males rode off to church. This is our last glimpse of Evelina on the Sabbath Day, as the year will soon draw to a close, obviously, whereupon Evelina’s diary stops. So our final Sunday post is not Evelina listening with rapt attention to Mr. Whitwell’s sermons, or being aware of her husband as he nodded off in the pew, or visiting with the other Unitarian ladies during the midday intermission. It’s Sunday at home.

The next few years at the Unitarian Church in Easton would be much the same as this one. By 1857, however, Rev. Whitwell would not be invited to extend his service there** – we don’t know why. He would be called to serve as minister at the Unitarian Church in Chestnut Hill, outside of Boston, but would remain in touch with the Ames family – even borrowing money from Oliver Jr. at one point (a loan which Oliver Jr. forgave). According to historian William Chaffin, Whitwell’s departure initiated the period when part of the congregation moved its service to North Easton proper:

At the conclusion of Mr. Whitwell’s ministry the Ames family discontinued attendance upon the First Parish Church, as a Unitarian Society had been formed at North Easton village, where they resided. A proposition was made to unite with the latter society in the support of a minister who should supply both pulpits, but the proposition was not carried into effect.***

It’s generally acknowledged that Old Oliver played a leading role in establishing a new Unitarian association in North Easton in a tiny church in the middle of the village (since moved to make room for the Rockery).  Did he also play a role in ending Reverend Whitwell’s tenure?

 

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

**Oliver Ames (3) Journal, Stonehill College Archives, David Ames Collection

***William Chaffin, History of Easton, Massachusetts, 1886, p. 362

December 17, 1852

Waiter

Friday, Dec 17th  Had a north east storm and a very rough

night and I was quite sick got into Boston

about ten and went to the Marlboro Hotel

to breakfast sick and tired. Went out shopping

bought Delaine for a double gown & morning

dress  Home in the stage at the usual time

This evening attended a lecture by Dr Holmes

on lectures & lecturing  Mrs Ames here to tea

 

“[I]t snowd last [night] about 3 inches and there was some rain with it – and it raind most of the forenoon and in the after noon it was verry foggy + warm + the snow about all gone there was an inch of water in all – Oakes + his Wife got home + Mrs George Ames with them”*  This is the only place in his entire decades-long journal that Old Oliver mentions his daughter-in-law and, per the custom of the day, he doesn’t even mention Evelina by name. The weather, however, he describes in detail.

Evelina describes a “very rough” trip from New York to Boston, one that made her ill. Yet she managed to recover after breakfast at the Marlboro Hotel. This trip is the only time in Evelina’s diary that she mentions dining in restaurants, first in New York and again in Boston. Dining out was not something that was done by women like her; restaurants generally catered to men, who could go out in public unaccompanied. But as Evelina was traveling with her husband, she was an acceptable customer. This exposure to aspects of the men’s normal world was a true adventure for her.

Not one to miss an opportunity to shop, Evelina bought some fabric in Boston before catching the stagecoach home. Back in North Easton, she seemed to settle back in quickly, perhaps unpacking and visiting around the immediate family, members of whom would have wanted to know about Oakes Angier’s departure. Almira Ames came for tea, and Evelina still had energy enough to attend an evening lecture in the village. The woman had stamina.

The lecturer that night was none other than Oliver Wendell Holmes, famous Boston physician, professor and poet – “a confirmed generalist”  who “regarded his eclecticism as a mark of intellectual superiority.”** Besides lecturing on lectures, he also gave talks about medicine and poetry. They were generally interesting and well attended, as they must have been to pull a fatigued Evelina out to listen to him.***

 

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

**Louis Menand, The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America, New York, 2001, p.58

***Information of Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809 – 1894) courtesy of Wikipedia; identity researched by reader Jessica Holland.

December 11, 1852

Trunk

Sat Dec 11th  It has been a very stormy day

and O A has been in the house and

we have packed all his clothes  Catharine

has made two night shirts for him

and they are all washed & ready  It has

been a trying day to me  Mr Torrey called

and had quite a chat with mother but

I was busy at the time

 

“[T]he 11th it began to rain in the night + this morning there is a north east storm + rather cold + windy it raind about all day and fell 1 ½ deep,”* wrote Old Oliver Ames in his daily record. The weather was miserable and seemed to match Evelina’s mood as she packed Oakes Angier’s trunk with the help of her servants and, perhaps, Sarah Witherell.  Evelina herself said it was a “trying day.”  She couldn’t even attend to a visit from a favorite, her brother-in-law, Col. John Torrey, and seemed grateful that her mother was available to do the honors of receiving his call.

On this exact date in Lexington, Virginia, a young professor at the Virginia Military Institute wrote to his sister Laura Ann, with whom he was very close, offering her advice about getting the better of a recent illness: “I hope that though ill health is your present lot, that notwithstanding you will continue a buoyancy of spirits, and not give way to surrounding troubles.  I too am a man of trouble, yet let the oppressing load be ever so great, it never sinks me beneath its weight.”  It’s too bad that Evelina couldn’t read his advice – she might have been able to bear her sad thoughts better. Although she had never met the professor, she would one day know his name: Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.

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

**Thomas Jackson, Letter to his sister Laura Ann, Courtesy of Virginia Military Institute Archives

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 23, 1852

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Tues Nov 23  Catharine & self have been mending

shirts &c all day  It being very stormy I

thought it a good time to mend

Frederick & Helen came home to night

Susan & self have been in to see them

Fred brought me a crumb brush cost 75 cts

Ann has done the housework and cut

squash & apple for tomorrow

 

“[T]he ground was white with snow this morning, but was a raining + took it all of[f] by noon there was a bout half an inch of water fell”* on this late November day; people in Easton had yet to see a serious snowfall.  Although the storm kept Evelina indoors, the lack of snow was actually a help to travelers like Fred and Helen Ames, who were making their way home for the holiday.

Fred Ames brought his Aunt Evelina a gift. What was better, that she received a crumb brush or that her nephew spent 75 cents on it? That amount would translate to about $17.50 in today’s (2015) market. Either way, she was pleased with the gift, which she would no doubt place with pride on her dining table.

Most of us modern readers probably don’t keep a crumb brush handy at our dinner tables, although we’ve seen modern versions in use in restaurants. But then, most of us probably no longer dine on pressed and laundered tablecloths at home, at least on a regular basis. Placemats are more common. (Readers weigh in here, please.) But in 1852, formal dining on snowy white tablecloths was aspired to as the middle class rose above their agrarian past of eating without linens. The dining room itself became more popular as families found the means to support more servants and rise to a style of living that involved a clear separation between cooking and dining. The notion of today’s open kitchen, where guests sip wine on stools and watch the hostess  – or host! – cook dinner would be absolutely foreign to Evelina. Our lack of damask would shock her and her contemporaries.

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

November 2, 1852

490px-William_Rufus_DeVane_King_1839_portrait

William R. King

(1786 – 1853)

Tuesday Nov 2d  Sewed on cambric sleeves for

Susan this forenoon very quietly with

Miss Alger  It has rained since Saturday

morn but this afternoon has cleared 

off Mrs Ames & self have been to Mr

Swains & called at Doct Wales & Augustus

Miss Alger & O Angier took tea in Olivers

 

Back from her quick day trip into Boston, Evelina spent the morning “very quietly” in her sitting room, sewing. The piano teacher, Miss Alger, was still visiting.  Outside, “it rain[ed] by spells […] wind north east it stormd all the forenoon and was cloudy about all day – there has bin one inch + a quarter of water fell since Sunday”*

After midday dinner, when the storm had stopped, Evelina and her sister-in-law, Sarah Lothrop Ames, went out to check on Ann and John Swain, whose infant son had died on Saturday. Evelina would have taken with her the mourning accoutrements she had purchased for Ann in the city. No doubt the Ames women continued to comfort the forlorn parents. From the Swains they paid other calls in North Easton, to the home of Ephraim and Maria Wales and to see Evelina’s nephew, Alson “Augustus” Gilmore and his wife Hannah. Hannah had lost her infant son Willie back in the summer. The women would have had much to talk about.

On the national scene, the day was momentous. As we have read previously in this blog, General Franklin Pierce, a Democrat, was elected President of the United States, defeating Whig candidate General Winfield Scott (incumbent Whig Millard Fillmore hadn’t been renominated) and Free Soil candidate John P. Hale. Easton historian William Chaffin writes: “In 1852 the vote for President was one hundred and seventy-one for Winfield Scott, one hundred and forty-three for John P. Hale, forty-nine for Franklin Pierce, and four for Daniel Webster, who was dead. This vote shows the political complexion of the town, and confirms the statement of the adoption of the Free Soil position by many Democrats.”**

The vice-president-elect was William R. King, a senator from Alabama who believed strongly in the Union. He had helped draft the Compromise of 1850. Unfortunately, King was suffering from tuberculosis and would soon die in office, one of the shortest-termed vice-presidents and the only Alabaman. He was also the only vice-president to take the oath of office on foreign soil; he was in Cuba taking the cure when he was inaugurated.

 

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

**William L. Chaffin, History of Easton Massachusetts, 1886, p. 630

 

November 1, 1852

Rain

Monday Nov 1st  Went to Boston for Mrs Swain

to purchase mourning  Dined at Mr Orrs

Julia left there this morning  Miss Alger

came home with me  It is very bad walking

in Boston and my clothes covered with

mud rained all the forenoon  Mrs

S Ames & Helen here this evening

 

Even on a somber errand, Evelina never seemed to mind going into Boston. Still, given her recent lack of sleep and the rainy weather, she was kind to take on this sad business. Her goal was “to purchase mourning” clothes for her young friend, Ann Swain. Mrs. Swain had just lost her one-year old son and, as per the mores of the day, needed proper black apparel to mark her loss. If she followed convention, she would dress in mourning clothes for one whole year. She could ask advice from Sarah Witherell if she needed, for Sarah would still have been dressing in black or gray from the death of her own son back in the spring.

Different from her usual extended shopping trip into the city, Evelina went in and came out all in the same day, stopping only long enough to take supper with family friends, the Orrs. Surely the bad weather hurried her along on her errand. Evelina is emphatic about the misery wrought by the rain she endured while shopping, her outfit “covered with mud.”  Back home in Easton, her father-in-law Old Oliver was, as usual, less ruffled about the precipitation: “it raind some last night + has bin misty all day. wind north east.”* We should presume that more rain hit Boston than North Easton.

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