May 29, 1852

Buttonhole

1852

Sat May 29th  Have had the woodhouse cleaned of the old

chips ready for the ice closet  Baked rhubarb and 

custard pies and this afternoon Mrs Patterson has

cleaned the tin.  Mr Scott painted the china closet

over the second time between the shelves and the 

walls of the porch  I have varnished the oil cloths and 

desks tables &c &c  finished Augustas button holes

Baking, sweeping, scrubbing, painting, varnishing, and sewing were each on the domestic agenda today. Last year’s spring cleaning, which had been steady enough, seemed lackluster compared to the fierce pace of this year’s effort. Evelina didn’t necessarily complete each task personally – Jane McHanna, Mrs. Patterson, Mr. Scott and others helped – but she oversaw each piece of it. She was right in there. Today, it looks as if the only time she sat down was when she helped Augusta Pool Gilmore with her buttonholes.

Evelina excelled at making buttonholes and, at one time or another, helped other women, like Sarah Lothrop Ames next door, sew them. She must have taken pride in that particular skill, just as she must have had a real sense of accomplishment at all the tasks that were dealt with today. The to-do list got shorter.

As Evelina helped her young neighbor with needle and thread, the aroma from the baking would have competed with the fumes of the varnish.  Happily, it was fair and warm outside and hopefully, she opened the windows to let fresh air in.

 

May 28, 1852

images-1

1852  May 28th

Friday  This forenoon cleaned the shed chamber  Mrs

Patterson assisted me and helped about house

down stairs  I baked cake & brown bread

in Mrs Witherells oven and Mrs McHanna

made a custard & some rhubarb pies.

Augusta brought her dress in and I partly

made the button holes  Oakes A went to Boston

yesterday returned to night

Time for rhubarb. The edible plant, with its long red stalks, was coming up in the garden and needed to be harvested and cooked. Household advisor Lydia Maria Child had this to say about it:

“Rhubarb stalks, or the Persian apple, is the earliest in gradient for pies, which the spring offers. The skin should be carefully stripped, and the stalks cut into small bits, and stewed very tender.  These are dear pies, for they take an enormous quantity of sugar.  Seasoned like apple pies Gooseberries, currants, &c., are stewed sweetened and seasoned […] in proportions suited to the sweetness of the fruit; there is no way to judge but by your own taste.  Always remember it is more easy to add seasoning than to diminish it.”*

Jane McHanna made today’s pies and a custard, too. Evelina baked her usual cake and brown bread. Spring cleaning was not forgotten, however, as Evelina and Mrs. Patterson cleaned out the shed. One wonders what they found in there after the long winter.

The younger generation, meanwhile, was stirring. Augusta Pool Gilmore came over from across the street to get Evelina’s help on a dress she was making.  Oakes Angier Ames struck farther afield, going into Boston for the night.  The 23-year-old was there on shovel business, presumably, and, being conscientious, he would have accomplished whatever task he was sent in to do. But he was young, too, and may have enjoyed the freedom of being on his own in the big city.

*Lydia Maria Child, The American Frugal Housewife, 1829, p. 51

 

 

April 28, 1851

CarumCarvi

 

1851

April 28th Monday  Have had Mrs Connors here to help

about washing, Janes finger being sore  She came

at half past 6 and left about half past two charged

42 cts.  I helped about the washing  Willard Randall

came this afternoon to work over the earth in the

flower garden.  Frank came from the shop about

five and worked some on the beds.  I have set out

some carraway roots that Alson gave me.  Helen came

home with Cyrus

 

According to some calculations, the 42 cents that Mrs. Connors was paid to do the Ames’s laundry translates to a labor value of $13.20 today. Mrs. Connors was paid little better than a nickel an hour. Evelina worked on the washing today, too, much as she disliked it.

Once the laundry was set out to dry, Evelina got back to the garden.  Her son Frank Morton helped her when he got home from work; he seemed to enjoy being in the garden as much as she did. That, or helping his mother till the soil was his assigned chore. Willard Randall, another shovel shop employee and member of the extensive Randall clan, came up again to continue working “over the earth.”  Was Willard pleased to walk up to the Ames’s yard to turn over the soil in the boss’s wife’s flower garden? Did he have a garden of his own at home that needing tending?

The caraway roots that Evelina picked up on Saturday at the Gilmore farm went into the ground today, probably in an area close to the kitchen, a time-honored location for every housewife’s herb garden.  The rhubarb and horseradish would go in there too.

Helen Angier Ames, the niece who lived next door, returned home today from boarding school in New Bedford.  Her uncle, Cyrus Lothrop, “carried her” home, as the phrase went.

 

April 21, 1851

 

Doctor

1851

Monday April 21st  I have ripped my blue & orange

Delaine dress & washed & ironed it ready to make over

It was quite pleasant this morning & Jane got her

clothes all dried but this afternoon & evening it storms

again. Frank has been unwell for a few days

with his throat & headache.  Dr Swan called & I paid

him 50 cts.  Mrs S Ames sick and had the Doctor

Frank helped me set out some rhubarb roots

A sunny morning sent Evelina out of doors and into her garden, which must have been muddy after all the recent rain. With the help of son Frank Morton, she put in some rhubarb.  Nearby, Jane McHanna hung the Monday wash and managed to get it dry before more wet weather arrived in the afternoon.

Frank had been unwell, as had Sarah Lothrop Ames next door and each had a call from a doctor. In those days, doctors would typically call on patients in their homes. Physicians kept offices, of course (usually in their own homes,) but generally treated people by traveling to them rather than the other way around. This practice was commonplace well into the 20th century.

Dr. Caleb Swan was Evelina’s physician of choice.  Besides being generally considered quite competent, Swan was “suave, genial and agreeable.”*  His bedside manner must have been calm and attentive. He had studied at Harvard and then apprenticed under a practicing physician, apprenticeships being standard training regimen at that time. A popular man in town, he was involved occasionally with local and state politics.  “Intensely opposed to the Know Nothing” party, he was a “pronounced anti-slavery man.”* He had a large family, and four of his sons became physicians like him.

Elsewhere in the world of shovels, Old Oliver oversaw work on a shop they kept in Bridgewater, where men were “sleighting the roof.”  Slate was the preferred roof material for owners who were concerned with the possibility of fire.

*William Chaffin, History of Easton, 1886