February 7, 1852



Charles Dickens, ca. 1852

(1812 – 1870)


1852  Sat  Feb 7th  Orinthia Miss Burill Susan & self called this

morning on Mrs J Howard, Whitwell & E Howards

left Susan at Mr Howards, came home with Frank

from a sing this evening.  Abby Augusta & Helen were

here awhile this afternoon  Helen went out to Bridgewater

last night and came up with Mr & Mrs James Mitchell this

forenoon  Orinthia went home about five and this

evening we have been into Olivers.  Mr Mitchell returned at nine.


This was a non-stop sociable Saturday for Evelina; she, her daughter Susan, dear companion Orinthia Foss, and another young schoolteacher, Miss Burrell, made calls all morning long. In the afternoon, she entertained three of her nieces and in the evening, visited next door at Oliver Jr and Sarah Lothrop Ames’s house. Chat, chat, chat.

In the larger world of letters, Charles Dickens turned 40 years old today. Even at mid-career, he was known as “The Inimitable,” so great was his talent, so voracious his readers. Evelina loved his work and benefited from his prolificacy.

By this point in Dickens’ life, among the books he had already published were The Pickwick Papers, Nicholas Nickleby, various Christmas novellas including A Christmas Carol, Dombey and Son, and David Copperfield, which Evelina had read the previous year. At this time he was composing Bleak House which, like most of his novels, was published in serial form over many months. Its first episode would come out in March, 1852, and run through September, 1853.

Still waiting to be born were future classics such as Hard Times (which targeted Unitarianism, among other entities), Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, Our Mutual Friend – and more. Dickens wrote articles, made speeches, toured, and even acted. He was a high-profile tour de force with a fertile imagination and a thirst for success. Ralph Waldo Emerson, who heard Dickens speak in Boston, compared the author’s ability to “a fearful locomotive to which he is bound and can never be free from it nor set to rest.”*

*Ralph Waldo Emerson, quoted in Annie Field’s diary, 1868.





January 15, 1852


Charles Wentworth Upham

(1802 -1875)


Jan 15 Thursday  Spent some time this forenoon in reading

the papers and fixing Susans work & pasted some pictures on

a mahogany box.  Called on Mr Whitwell, Reed & 

Howard with Mrs S Ames.  Evening to a lecture on

education by Mr Upham of Salem at the meetinghouse

hall. a very good lecture and a goodly number

present for a snowy evening.  Had two tripes from father.

The guest lecturer at the meetinghouse was, presumably, Charles Wentworth Upham. A minister and politician from Salem, on the north shore of Boston, Upham had traveled no small distance to deliver a “lecture on education.”  Well spoken and well read, he had written, some years before, a history of the witch trials in Salem. Lately, however, Upham had been speaking on the progress of normal schools, which were schools that taught teachers. Education was on his mind.

Also on Upham’s mind was politics. He was a Whig, which may have been his connection to the Ames family and Unitarian congregation in Easton. Previously Upham had been a member of the Massachusetts State Senate, and within the year would become Mayor of Salem. From 1853 to 1855, he would be a representative to the U.S. Congress, but would fail to be reelected.

Upham was married to Ann Holmes, a sister of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. He had been at Harvard with Ralph Waldo Emerson with whom he corresponded later in life.  Their friendship faltered, however, over Transcendentalism, which Upham disliked. Upham also famously acted against Nathaniel Hawthorne, leading the local fray in getting Hawthorne, a Democrat, fired from his politically-appointed job at the Salem Custom House.

Some disliked Upham; Charles Sumner called him “that smooth, smiling oily man of God.”* What did the Ameses think?


*Carlos Baker, Emerson Among the Eccentrics, New York, 1996.

November 24, 1851


Monday Nov 24  Mary the new girl came last night and

she has done the washing very well it has

been very pleasant and they are all dry and brought 

into the house  Another town meeting to day and 

the Los & free soilers joined and elected Mr. Silvester

for representative.  The whigs are not a little agrieved

Mended Oakes Angiers coat  Frank Heath has

been getting the boards ready for the porch

More bad news for the disintegrating Whigs. In Easton,“there was a Town meeting for the chois of representative and the freesoil + Democratic parties united + chose a locofoco Galon Silvester”. The new representative from Bristol County for the General Court of Massachusetts was Galen Sylvester, a carpenter and former selectman.

Originally from Vermont, Sylvester was a member of the Locofoco faction of the Democrats, which had developed in the 1840s in protest against Tammany Hall in New York City. Their hero was Andrew Jackson. Their name came from some friction matches they once used to light candles to illuminate an evening meeting that had been interrupted when Tammany men turned off the gas lights on them. By 1851, the label had become somewhat derogatory. Ralph Waldo Emerson said of them, ” “The new race is stiff, heady, and rebellious; they are fanatics in freedom; they hate tolls, taxes, turnpikes, banks, hierarchies, governors, yea, almost laws.”** By the middle of the 1850s, the “Los” were no longer a viable political group.

Having gotten past last night’s quarrel with Oakes, Evelina seemed to sympathize with her husband and the other Whigs over their loss. But she was again focused on her domestic responsibilities, keeping her eye on a new servant, Mary, who had done a good job with the laundry. Evelina was also minding the work of a carpenter named Frank Heath, who was building or repairing a porch.


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

**Bill Kaufman, The Republic Strikes Back, The American Conservative


May 3, 1851




May 3d Saturday  Early Orinthia & I went to work on the flower

beds to lower them.  We cut the center bed down

about three or four inches and have got some of

the others done I worked most all the forenoon

moving plants Have been to N Bridgewater this

afternoon with O A & Frank Have engaged 

a new bedstead for my chamber and a small one

or a lounge in the dark bedroom  


Although we don’t know how Evelina arranged the flowers in her garden, she gives us a clue today about the overall formation of her plantings.  She and Orinthia Foss worked on a central bed with other beds placed around it.  This kind of design was very common in the 18th century and into the 19th. It could well have been the pattern of a garden that Evelina’s mother-in-law, Susannah Angier Ames, might have started in the yard.  Susannah had died five years earlier; Evelina could have inherited the design and was in the process of making it her own. Sarah Witherell, her sister-in-law who lived in “the other part of the house,” was apparently less interested in gardening than Evelina, so Evelina made most of the decisions about the flower beds on the property.

Any good gardener knows that personal flower gardens are as unique as snowflakes.  No one is exactly alike. Even a repetitious scheme with a central bed surrounded by a formation of other beds will differ from gardener to gardener.  Some central bed gardens have each bed replicate the plantings in the other beds, so that a particular pattern of flowers is repeated.  Other central gardens, such as the John Jay garden in the illustration above, feature different groupings in each square.

How did Evelina approach her garden?  We might guess that her taste was broad and reactive rather than predetermined.  She planted a wide variety of flowers, so her garden undoubtedly featured a sampler of colors, shapes and textures.  Certainly, her taste was less formal than her sister-in-law, Sarah Lothrop Ames.  At their property next door, particularly after they built their new house in 1863, Oliver Jr and his wife hired a gardener and cultivated more modern Victorian plantings. Their gardens were probably less rambunctious than Evelina’s, featuring formal walkways, lengthy borders and other haute designs.  Anyone who knows their house, Unity Close (which still stands today), will know that later generations of Ameses, under the guidance of landscape architect, Fletcher Steele, built upon that landscape.

On another front entirely, Ralph Waldo Emerson gave a speech today in Concord on abolition.  That speech is in the collection of the Concord Library, should anyone care to track it down.**


*18th-19th c. garden at John Jay Homestead Historic State Park, New York, from themarthablog.com


April 13, 1851




April 13th Sunday.  Have been to church all day Frank

staid at home in the morning Mrs G Ames went

with us to meeting all day and liked Mr Whitwell

I staid at noon with Mother most of the time

Called at Mr Whitwells with Louisa Howard

Mrs Dr Deans & Mrs H Pool. Mrs Whitwell

has no help now & is not very well. rather cold

On this cold spring day, the Ames family, minus Frank Morton, went to church with Almira Ames, widow of Oakes’s cousin George Ames.  Perhaps Almira joined Evelina and her mother during the midday intermission when many women were welcomed into the parsonage by Eliza Whitwell, wife of the minister. Eliza was under the weather but still was under a social obligation to open her house to fellow Unitarians who could not get home and back during the pause between the morning and afternoon services.

Mrs. Dr. Deans, otherwise known as Hannah (Wheaton) Deans, wife of Dr. Samuel Deans, was also present at the Whitwell’s.  The “Dr.” title in front of her name didn’t mean that Hannah was a physician; far from it. It meant that she was married to a physician.  She was a daughter of old Daniel Wheaton who lived out on the Bay Road.

Evelina often admired Rev. Whitwell’s sermons but seldom related their content. In these tumultuous months following the enactment of the Fugitive Slave Law, did Mr. Whitwell ever speak about slavery or abolition? We know that other Unitarian ministers were quite vocal about abolishing slavery.  On this same Sunday in Philadelphia, three hundred miles to the south, Rev. William H. Furness gave a discourse on the Fugitive Slave Law, speaking from the pulpit with all the authority that his robed position could give him.  A graduate of Harvard and friend of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Furness was, like William Whitwell, an accomplished theologian.  He was also a passionate abolitionist; was Reverend Whitwell?


*First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia, ca. 1886