June 7, 1852


June 7th

1852 Monday  Mrs Patterson went to Bridgewater

to see about her things that she left

there and returned this afternoon  Jane has

done the washing and I have been very busy

about house all day.  Mr Scott  Holbrook

and another painter have been here painting

the back entry chamber & Franks chamber

Scott has grained the stairway & painted the stairs


Dry weather continued, which was bad for the crops but good for the laundry. The white sheets and shirts must have dried quickly in the “midling warm”* sunshine and light southern breeze.  Today would prove to be Jane McHanna’s last turn at washing the Ames family’s clothes.

Old Oliver, meanwhile, spent part of his day, at least, observing someone’s construction project, as “Capt Monk began to move the hous[e] where Tilden lived to day.”* We don’t know who Capt. Monk was, but we do know that a team of oxen had to be assembled for that task. Were any of Oliver’s oxen used?  Did he lend a hand? It’s doubtful that he would have observed in silence, his instinctive leadership and irrefutable expertise too compelling not to use, or be asked for.

The Tilden whose house was being moved was probably Francis Tilden, a teamster who worked for the Ameses. He looked after the oxen. When an Old Colony Railroad line was extended to North Easton a few years later, in 1855, Mr. Tilden would become the expressman.  He would trade in his oxen for a rail car and spend the rest of his life conducting the train back and forth between Boston and North Easton. Oliver Ames Jr. often rode it, calling it “Tilden’s train.”

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

May 26, 1852



Wedns  May 26th  Jane has done part of the ironing  I have

put down the carpet in the front chamber & sitting

room and the bedroom carpet partly down and 

got the rooms in pretty good order  Mr Scott

& Holbrook commenced painting in the other

part of the house yesterday   Mrs Patterson

staid at home to do her washing & ironing

Mr Ames went to Bridgewater West


Spring cleaning continued; Evelina laid carpet today, often one of the last chores on the list. She could almost check the sitting room off the list, and seemed pleased that the house was “in pretty good order.”

Another spring ritual, this one involving bird hunting, may or may not have taken place on this date; by 1852, it may have been outlawed.  But the hunt, which always took place on the last Wednesday in May, was recent enough to have included various Ameses, if we assume they chose to participate.  Town historian William Chaffin describes the ritual in his 1886 History of Easton:

“At different times in the history of the town rewards were offered for killing crows and blackbirds, which were supposed to be very destructive to corn […]

“Scarcely two generations ago [which would place the event somewhere as late as the 1840s] the custom prevailed of young men choosing sides, and each side on a given day starting out and killing all the birds they could. The day chosen was the old ‘Election day’ so called, the last Wednesday in May, once the time for the convening of the State Legislature, and which came to be known as ‘Nigger ‘lection.’  It was one of the greatest holidays of the year for the boys. […] [T]hose taking part in the shooting started out at daybreak and killed as many birds as possible.  They usually met at some appointed place before dinner, to count the birds and see which side had won the victory.  In North Easton, the rendezvous was at Howards’ store […]

“The understanding was that only harmful birds should be killed; but it was easy to include nearly all birds in this category, because, it was argued, bobolinks and swallows destroyed bees, and robins stole cherries, etc. In some places the party beaten paid for the dinner and drinks of all.”*

In the 21st century, it’s difficult to fathom both the wanton waste of this offensively-nicknamed holiday, and the glee that evidently accompanied it. That hunting has an appeal, we don’t question, but that songbirds were the quarry is hard for modern folks to accept. **


William Chaffin, History of Easton, Massachusetts, 1886, pp. 776-777

** This editor freely confesses to being a birder and particularly fond of bobolinks.

April 27, 1852


Tues April 27

1852  Mr Scott & Holbrook have painted the 

cook room worked all the forenoon getting 

it ready and this afternoon in the garden

The gardener came up from the shop and

set out the currant bushes farther from 

the brook and some Honeysuckle from Mr Swain 

and Lakes   Rachel came to Edwins I called to

see her and carried Augusta some plants.


Evelina shuttled around the house and grounds today, keeping track of indoor painting and outdoor gardening and, most likely, everything in between. A gardener arrived on assignment from the shovel factory to plant some honeysuckle bushes that Evelina had acquired from two obliging neighbors, the Swains and the Lakes. The gardener also help her move some currant bushes back from Queset River, the little brook behind the Ames property.

The Queset, which historian William Chaffin found to be “a pleasant-sounding name,”* is only the most recent name for the stream that runs from north to south through Easton. It was first identified by that name around 1825.  In earlier days it was known as the Mill River, and, before then, the portion particular to North Easton was called Trout Hole Brook.  One would have to go back to the early 18th century, before water privileges had been claimed and dams built, to find trout in the stream.

The waterways of Easton have frequently changed over the years, as needs have altered and other sources of power been identified.  In 1852, water power was still essential to the shovel shops, and many dams – including the one that had almost breeched the dam during the heavy rainstorm of the previous week – were depended upon to produce the water flow needed to keep the factory going – and the currant bushes growing.

William L. Chaffin, History of Easton, Massachusetts, 1886, pp. 10 – 11.

**Douglas Watts, at losteaston.blogspot.com, is a conservation writer who would like to turn the Queset back into an active trout stream.


March 5, 1852


Charred Wood


March 5th Friday  Have been mending pants most all

day that were worn at the fire  Lavinia

went to Augustus’ this forenoon and Augusta

went this afternoon.  Mr Scott & Holbrook have 

finished painting the entry and chamber

got through about four Oclock.  I was in

Olivers about an hour this afternoon.  This 

evening received another letter from Harriet Ames


The women of Easton had work to do, too, in recovering from the factory fire.  Surely Evelina wasn’t the only housewife in North Easton who had to repair or clean clothes worn by their husbands, brothers or sons the night of March 2. Needles were out and laps were full as women all over town tended to the rips, tears and soot. Conversation probably centered on the fire as they worked.

The day itself was cloudy and cold, the smell of the charred buildings dampened by a light snow that fell overnight. Yet the cleanup continued. As the men worked at the site, hauling timbers and shoveling up debris, their blackened soles left ashy footprints in the snow, footprints that quickly turned into grime. Many a man was made to wipe or remove his shoes before entering his house for midday dinner.

Evelina stayed focused on her domestic responsibilities. Mr. Scott and Mr. Holbrook were back on task in her parlor, painting and papering, and finished up at the end of the afternoon. Evelina spent some time next door with Sarah Lothrop Ames, and got a letter from cousin Harriet Ames, with whom she had been corresponding lately. And perhaps under her direction, her niece Lavinia and niece-in-law Augusta were looking after their sister-in-law, Hannah Lincoln Gilmore, who was laid low with a mouth infection and a weaning baby. Fire or no fire, life was moving forward.


March 4, 1852

Shovel Shop Pond And The Island North Easton, MA

Replacement buildings on a section of the Ames shovel complex


March 4 Thursday  Scott & Holbrook are setting glass at

the shop to day  They have the front entry partly

painted  I carried my work into Edwins this

forenoon  mended O Angiers shop coat  This afternoon

have been to Mr Torreys with Augustus & Lavinia

Called a few moments on Hannah  She has a 

sore mouth and is weaning her child

Evelina addresses her day calmly, as always keeping her distance from the goings-on at O. Ames & Sons. Most other residents of North Easton were still reeling, no doubt, from the huge fire that had burned down a majority of shovel factory buildings over the night of March 2. The sun was shining and the wind was out of the north west, pushing around remnant smoke still rising from the ruins of the complex of wooden buildings. Shovel shop employees had no regular job to go to and the owners had some serious decisions to make, fast.

Clean-up from the huge fire was underway, probably by the labor of the very men whose factory jobs had been temporarily eliminated. The men who had been painting and papering at the Ames’s house, for instance, were co-opted to set glass at the shop, suggesting that new panes of glass – the originals probably having been blown out by the fire – were going into the windows of the one or two buildings that had survived.

As town historian Ed Hands points out, “the Ames family and the neighborhood rebounded quickly.”*  Old Oliver and his sons Oakes and Oliver Ames Jr. made a two-fold decision. The first was to create temporary structures to house the manufacturing so that shovel making could resume as quickly as possible.  The second was to create “new, permanent stone shops,”* sturdy, nonflammable structures that could outwit any new fire.

There was insurance money to cover at least some of the rebuilding. Sources differ on the amount of damage that the fire inflicted, but suggest it was between $30,000 and $40,000. The amount of insurance coverage is also uncertain. Old Oliver “states that there was $3,000 worth of insurance on the buildings”** but, according to industrial historian Greg Galer, it’s likely that the Ameses had increased insurance coverage on the factory back in November, 1851. Whatever the actual dollar cost was, “[t]he company bounced back quickly from the devastation, and seemingly without significant financial trauma.”**

*Edmund C. Hands, Easton’s Neighborhoods, Easton, 1995, p. 163

** Gregory Galer, Forging Ahead, MIT, 1989, p. 249


March 2, 1852


March 2nd Tuesday

1852 March  Have been assisting Mr Scott paper[ing]

again to day  Worked untill past nine

and feel very tired.  The paper is all on

except a patch or two here & there  Francis brought

Lavinia up to Edwins this afternoon  Mr Holbrook

has finished the first coat of paint in 

the sitting room chamber

To begin with, the day was normal. Winter weather continued: “there was a little mist this morning + it froze as it fell and the ground was slipery, wind north East. it was cloudy and a little stormy all day – it cleard of[f] in the evening.”* Evelina was not tempted to go out.  She stayed indoors, focused on redecorating the downstairs.

With Mr. Scott in the lead, Evelina helped put wallpaper up in her parlour.  She must have had to take down the framed prints and new looking-glass in order to do this. The sitting room, too, was being repainted.

Evelina stayed up late, becoming “very tired,” and evidently ready to go to bed as she wrote this entry.  Yet a good night’s sleep would elude her. Indeed, few people in the village of North Easton would be able to sleep through the night of March 2, 1852.

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

March 1, 1852




March 1st Monday March has come in like a lamb.

It has been a very busy day with me.  Mr

Scott & Holbrook came to paper the front entry

And I have been waiting on them & trimming

paper &c this afternoon have assisted Mr Scott

about papering & Holbrook has commenced

painting the sitting room chamber

Apropos of much of Northern hemisphere weather this time of year, a common saying is “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.” Evelina knew this old, English saw and seemed happy to have it proved wrong. She was getting the jump on spring, too, as workmen arrived to paper the entry and paint the sitting room. She was redecorating again.

Victorians had many sayings and proverbs, including quite a few that mentioned animals. The lion and lamb of March had plenty of company in the proverb department:

When an ass is among monkeys, they all make faces at him.

A wild goose never laid a tame egg.

When the cat is away, the mice will play.

Like the cat/mouse saying, other adages are still familiar to us in the 21st century, if phrased differently:

If wishes would bide, beggars would ride.

None are so deaf as they that will not hear.

When poverty comes in at the door, love flies out at the window.

Surely, the next one was dear to Evelina’s heart:

Spend not where you may save; spare not where you must spend.

This list of sayings, found in an almanack from 1851, goes on and on. Just a few more:

Woe to the preachers who listen not to themselves.

Say well is good, but do well is better.

Whether you boil snow or pound it, you will have but water from it.

A soldier, fire, and water, make room for themselves.

All truths must not be told at all times.


*Moss Valley Almanack, Courtesy of rootsweb.ancestry.com




October 25, 1851




Sat Oct 25th  Mr Scott & Holbrook have been to work

all day papering the parlour and they have got

it papered only from the little entry door

around to that corner of the mantlepiece.

Mr Smiley worked here about two hours to day

put on the border in the parlour as far as it [was]

papered and some paint on top of the closet

shelves.  I have trimmed the paper and &c.


The wallpaper in the illustration above is an example of a mid-19th century pattern that might have been available in Boston, where Evelina purchased her new paper for the parlor. Two men, Mr. Scott and Mr. Holbrook, did some papering today, but not fast enough to suit Evelina. She was so eager to have the paper up that she helped by trimming some of it herself.  What did the workmen think about that? Mr. Smiley, who only seemed to work a few hours at a time, applied a border to what paper had been put up and painted a few shelves.

Oakes Ames was probably absent today, as Saturday was his usual day to be in Boston taking orders for shovels. Sons Oakes Angier and Frank Morton would have been at the factory across the street, honing their skills in the manufacture of shovels. Little Susie was probably at school.


*Example of mid-19th century wallpaper, courtesy of adelphiapaperhanging.com

October 23, 1851


Thursday Oct 23rd   Mr Smiley Scot & Holbrook came

to paint to day.  Mr Smiley whitewashed

the parlour & sitting room & painted two

windows in the sitting room  has been to work

all day  Hannah & Eddy called this morning

Augustus & wife & self have been to the funeral

of aunt Alger this afternoon  Have passed

the evening in Olivers  Bridget ONeal came this


Contractors filled the old house again today to paint and continue the refurbishment of the downstairs.  The parlor, where company met, and the sitting room, where Evelina sewed, were both being redecorated. We don’t know who Mr. Smiley and Mr. Scott were, but we believe that Mr. Holbrook’s first name was Randall; of the three men, Mr. Scott and Mr. Holbrook would continue off and on to paint various rooms at the Ames’s from this date until June, 1852.

New to this bustle of repainting was Bridget O’Neil, a servant who only arrived in the morning. She was probably taking the place of the recently departed Ellen. She was also the same Bridget who had worked for the family earlier in the year.  Where had she gone in the interim?

On a sad note, Evelina attended a funeral today for a Gilmore relative, an aunt in the Alger family. She went with her nephew and his wife, Hannah.  Later, she went next door to visit with Sarah Lothrop Ames.  Those post-tea evenings were beginning to take place after dark . Very soon tea itself would be served after the sun had gone down.  Daylight and warmth would diminish.  As Old Oliver noted in his journal , “this was a fair day wind north west and grew cold towards night.”