June 8, 1852



Patent drawing for Nancy Johnson’s Hand-cranked Ice Cream Machine, 1843


June 8th Tuesday  Baked in the brick oven pies

cake & brown bread and have been to work

about the house all day untill the stage

came and brought Mr & Mrs Orr  It rains

quite hard and I did not expect them

Mrs S Ames & Mrs Witherell called this

evening  Had some ice cream frozen in 

the new freezer

Evelina baked and did indoor chores all day, but as active as she was she must have been attentive to the arrival of much-needed rain.  Old Oliver certainly was, recording that “towards night there was considerable rain, wind south west.”* It was so rainy, in fact, that Evelina imagined that her expected houseguests wouldn’t come.  But Robert and Melinda Orr braved the elements and arrived from Boston via stagecoach.

The Orrs were the couple with whom Evelina often stayed when she went into the city.  She and Melinda were good friends, but the connection between the two families ran even deeper, all the way back to Bridgewater and the days of ironwork there when Robert Orr’s ancestor, also named Robert, was a maker of scythes and other tools. The Ameses and the Orrs had often crossed paths.

Evelina was ready to welcome Robert and Melinda to her home and had prepared ice cream for the occasion. The ice cream would have been made in a hand-cranked freezer and probably kept cold in the new ice closet. Although it was a specialty that took time and elbow-grease to prepare, it was not quite the novelty that we might imagine.

Ice cream had been around since Colonial days, brought in by the Quakers and quickly adopted by the likes of Ben Franklin and George Washington.  By 1813, it was served at the inauguration of James Madison. In 1836, an African-American and former White House chef named Augustus Jackson – also known as the Father of Ice Cream – created a variety of ingredients and improved the over-all techniques. Less than ten years later, in 1843, a Philadelphian named Nancy Johnson received the first patent for a hand-cranked ice cream freezer. Americans took to it in droves, and the frozen dessert only got better as time went by.

When did someone think to serve ice cream with pie? Did Evelina?


June 1, 1852


Franklin Pierce (1804-1869)

Photograph by Matthew Brady


Tuesday June 1st  Have been to Boston with

Mrs Witherell Mrs S Ames Helen & Emily

Called at Mr Orrs the first place met

the other ladies at half past nine at Mr

Daniells & Co.  Was trying to get a bonnet

most all day at last got materials for a lace 

one  Went to Doe & Hasletons about my consol

Mrs Norris met us at half past two

Most of the Ames females decamped North Easton today and went into the city.  Even Sarah Witherell, dressed in black, rode into Boston to go shopping. Were her sisters-in-law hoping to cheer her up with an outing?

While Evelina and “the other ladies” went about Boston “most all day” in earnest pursuit of bonnets, furniture and more, a group of politicians was gathered in Baltimore some 400 miles south. The Democrats were holding their national convention for the nomination of their next presidential candidate.  Among the ten to twelve gentlemen in the running were Senators Lewis Cass of Michigan, Daniel S. Dickinson of New York, Henry Dodge of Wisconsin, Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois and Sam Houston of Texas, Governor Philip Allen of Rhode Island, former Secretary of State James Buchanan, and former Senator Franklin Pierce of New Hampshire. The latter, a dark horse candidate, was chosen.

Franklin Pierce would win the next election and serve as President from 1853 through 1857. Known as “Handsome Frank,” a sociable fellow with a difficult personal life and a probable addiction to alcohol, Pierce was an accomplished politician and fierce opponent of abolition. Once in office, he signed the inflammatory Kansas-Nebraska Act, then failed to be renominated for a second term. His purported response was “There’s nothing left to do but get drunk.”

After the Democrats’ gathering, another presidential convention would shortly be held in the same Baltimore hall, the Maryland Institute for the Mechanical Arts.  This time, the Whig Party would meet and nominate Gen.Winfield Scott, hero of the Mexican-American War.  Scott was the candidate that the Ames men would support.  The Ames women couldn’t vote, of course.

April 24, 1852


Sat 1852

April 24  Mrs Ames returned last night I came

from Boston to night.  Like my things pretty well

have bought me some bronze candelabras

drugget a lot of gentlemans hose &c &c

Got through with my shopping about three

and went to Mr Orrs.  Lucia Harris is

there Mrs Witherell & Ames came to see my

things in the evening

The bronze candleabras that Evelina bought in Boston today were purchased, in all likelihood, for the parlor. They were a formal throwback to the time when candles were used for lighting, which was the period that began when the Pilgrims first arrived and lasted to the early part of the 19th century.  By 1852, however, oil lamps and very soon, kerosene lamps, were becoming standard fare for lighting. They were more economical than candles.

Burning candles, then, was something of a “retro” effort that honored the grace and warmth of the familiar candlestick, and suggested that the homeowner had enough money to burn candles if he so chose. No smudgy little whale oil lamp for the parlor or the dinner table, though oil lamps of varying styles and efficiency might operate in the rest of the house. In the room in which company was entertained, the candleabras would glow, and brag.

Both sisters-in-law came over at the end of the day to see what Evelina had bought, and it’s hard to imagine they were interested in the “gentlemans hose &c.” They came over to check out the new candleabras.

April 23, 1852

Boston, early 1850s, partial panoramic view

 Partial view of Boston and Cambridge from the Bunker Hill Monument, early 1850s*


Friday April 23d  Went to Boston with Mrs S Ames

Called on Mrs Stevens did not stop with

her more than 15 minutes. Went to Mr Orrs

at night  Julia is there with her babe she

grows nicely and Julia is quite smart

I was about a great deal and was very

much fatigued but had a good […]

comfortable day

Evelina had not been out of Easton for more than two months.  Her last trip to Boston had been in the middle of February, when she’d traveled in with her son Oliver (3) and shopped for prints for the parlor.  That was before the fire at the shovel shop. With so much time having elapsed, she must have been eager to get to the city again.

She traveled into town with her sister-in-law, Sarah Lothrop Ames. They may have called together on family friend Mrs. Stevens, but they likely went their own ways afterwards. As usual, Evelina stayed with the family of Robert and Melinda Orr, where she visited their daughter Julianne Orr Harris (Mrs. Benjamin Winslow Harris) and her new baby, Mary, at whose birth Evelina had been present. Both mother and daughter seemed healthy.

Boston was probably bustling at this time of year, trees at the bud and the air cold but promising. The partial view of the city in the illustration above, made about this time, shows a city that was growing west and south. Between 1840 and 1850, its population had grown from 93,383 people to 136,881. By 1860, the count had reached 177,840. In this vista, railroads are visible, and a Back Bay sits ready to be completely filled..

The view was captured from the top of the Bunker Hill Monument, itself a recent feature of the landscape. Replacing an earlier monument also dedicated to the Revolutionary War battle in Charlestown, it was completed in 1842 and dedicated in 1843. Antiquarian Samuel Gardner Drake (and one of the founders of the New England Geneaological Society) published the panorama in his The History and Antiquities of Boston  in 1856 .


*Partial image of Panorama of Boston and Cambridge from top of Bunker Hill Monument, from The History and Antiquities of Boston, published in 1856 by Samuel Gardner Drake

February 13, 1852


Fire engine


Feb 13th  Friday  Have been to work on Olivers shirt

that I was intending to finish last week and have not

got it done yet  have scarcely got over my

Boston jaunt.  Carried my sewing into the other

half of the house awhile  Brother Oliver returned

from Boston to night & says the large machine

shop just back of Mr Orrs was burned last night

Mrs Witherell here about two hours this evening

A serious fire happened in Boston, as Oliver Ames Jr. reported when he got home. The family probably read about it in the city newspapers, including The Boston Atlas:

“FIRE. – Firemen Injured. – About 10 o’clock last night a fire was discovered in the upper part of a five story brick building, in the rear of No. 24 Kingston street. The fire broke out upon the upper floor, used for chair painting. The flames spread rapidly, and in a few minutes the roof fell in, pressing portions of the walls over the sides, the falling bricks injuring five firemen who were upon ladders directing the streams upon the fire, two of them very badly indeed. The third story was improved by the “Boston Laundry,” and was burnt out. The second story, occupied as Fox’s machine shop, and the first by Horace Jenkins, mason, were thoroughly drenched with water. The building, a sham built concern, is owned by Willard Sears. The wind was quite high and the weather freezing cold at the time, and the firemen deserve great credit for their well directed and energetic efforts in subduing the devouring elements, – and it is with pain and regret that we have to record injury to so many of their number: – John Smith, of Hydrant No. 2, very severely in the back and shoulders; Christian Karcher, Engine C. No. 1, badly bruised; Abraham Ross and James McCullis, of Hydrant Co. No. 3, bruised. Charles Ricker, of same company, received a severe injury in the back. It was reported that Smith’s and Ricker’s injuries are of a very serious nature. They were all carried into houses nearby, and medical aid procured.”

Then as now, fire was deadly serious.  John Smith died of his injuries three days later, Boston’s first modern fireman to suffer a Line of Duty Death.**

*The Boston Atlas, February 12, 1852

**http://www.bostonfirehistory.org, accessed Feb. 11, 2015

February 9, 1852



Architectural Rendering of Boston Art Club, ca. 1882

Feb 9th  Monday  Went to Boston with Oliver  spent

the forenoon in looking at pictures.  dined at

Mr Orrs.  Afternoon Mrs Stevens & Mrs Morse

went with us to look at pictures.  purchased 

two engravings one of them painted  returned to

Mr Orrs and spent the evening in playing 

cards  Very fine weather

Evelina’s boring Sunday in North Easton gave way to a few fun days of shopping in Boston. Leaving Jane McHanna to manage the house in her absence, she traveled into the city accompanied by her middle son, Oliver (3), the only son who wasn’t working. The two of them spent the day looking at “pictures” – prints and paintings, probably – and ended up buying two engravings. That one was “painted” meant that it had been hand-colored.

Where did they shop? At a gallery? At an artist’s studio? Amory Hall on Washington Street was one facility that accommodated artists at the time.Who was selling engravings in 1852? Readers, do you know?

It’s hardly arbitrary that Oliver (3) was the son who shopped for art with his mother. Besides being the only male in the family at liberty to take his mother into town, Oliver (3) loved art. He would collect paintings, prints and sculpture all through his life, in fact, especially after he and Anna C. Ray had married and built their large homes in North Easton and Boston. Before becoming governor, Oliver (3) traveled a great deal as a salesman for O. Ames and Sons and, in the process, bought art for himself at galleries in New York City and elsewhere. In the 1880s, he was also president of the Boston Art Club, an artists’ consortium begun in 1854 – 1855 that expanded to include wealthy patrons such as Oliver Ames.

December 4, 1851


Dec 4th  Thursday.  Returned from Boston to night

Have got the greater part of the things

I wanted.  could not suit myself in all.

Mother spent yesterday with Augustus & to day

at Mr Torreys returned here this evening

Left Mr Orrs this morning did not dine there

it takes so much time  Julia is at home

It is three weeks [entry ends here]


After seeing her husband off on his business trip to New York, Evelina spent yesterday and today shopping in Boston. She seemed satisfied with her purchases, though she confessed that she “could not suit myself in all.” Was she buying cloth or ribbon or other fashion accessories, or decorative items for the refurbished parlor, or foodstuffs for the pantry? It was early December, a time in our own culture when we modern folks are apt to be out (or online) shopping for Christmas presents. Evelina may have been buying Christmas gifts for her family, although that is unlikely, as the Ameses barely recognized Christmas, let alone celebrated it.

Although public opinion in New England was changing, a poor opinion of Christmas prevailed among the Yankees of Evelina’s generation, and certainly of Old Oliver’s. It was based on a Puritan tradition that considered Christmas as “an emblem of popery.”  Yankees “were strongly influenced by the traditions of Calvinism and the routine of the established Congregational church, honoring a certain stoicism, hard work, and stern independence.”  Instead of Christmas, “Thanksgiving was the most important day of the year.”* That would change.

But Evelina must have caught the train back to Stoughton, or the stage home to Easton, empty-handed of the kind of Christmas plunder that her favorite author, Charles Dickens, so famously described.


*Jane Nylander, “Our Own Snug Fireside,” 1993, New Haven, p. 8


September 18, 1851



Thurs Sept 18  Went to Boston with Oliver & wife

& Helen to the railroad celebration.  In company

with Mr Orrs family went to see the regatta & about

nine Returned and dined at Mr Orrs with Mrs

Witherell Emily Mrs S Ames & Helen  Mrs Stevens

&c  Afternoon went out shopping with them  All

except Mrs Witherell spent the night at Mr Orrs

Evelina traveled to Boston today to join the crowds at the Great Railroad and Steamship Jubilee.  President Fillmore, Senator Daniel Webster and dignitaries from Canada as well as the United States had arrived the day before. Speeches were made and congratulations went all around for the new “railroad communication” between the two countries. On this, the second day of the festivities, races were held, one a “grand excursion in Boston Harbor” in which cutters from both countries raced; Canada won.

The Ameses attended a regatta out at Hull, near Point Alderton (better known today as Point Allerton.) It must have been interesting for the usually land-locked Evelina to be at the shore; she rarely got to see the ocean, as her trips to Boston were typically spent in the retail center of the city.It was to that retail center that she and other ladies in her party went in the afternoon. Time to shop.

Also on this date, some 200 miles southwest of this railroad jubilee, in another thriving retail and business center, a new newspaper was born. The New York Times was founded and sold for 2cents a paper.



Reception of President Fillmore at the Boston and Roxbury lines by the municipal authorities, 1851

June 28, 1851


June 28th Sat  Have been to Boston to day met Alson

& wife at the depot  Went into the horticultural

exhibition  Saw many fine roses and […]

quite a variety of other flowers a very fine

dish of peaches and beautiful bunches of grapes

Henrietta & I dined at Mr Orrs.  We walked

a great deal   went into Hanover St  Whites bonnet

rooms & Mellons Merchants Row

Evelina traveled into Boston today and met her brother Alson and his wife Henrietta. She may have ridden in with Oakes, who usually went to Boston on business on Saturdays. If he was present, however, he didn’t spend the day with her; he would have had his customers to meet.  She, on the other hand, along with Alson and Henrietta, attended a horticultural exhibition. They saw plantings and all sorts of flowers, including “fine roses,” and displays of fruit that were also “very fine.”

It’s possible that this particular exhibition was that year’s annual presentation by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society. Established in 1829, and going strong today, the society, then as now, offered lectures and presented an annual exhibition in order to further their mission to educate the public about “the science and practice of horticulture.”

After midday dinner at the home of friends, Robert and Melinda Orr, Evelina and Henrietta walked around the city.  They looked into the shops along Hanover Street and Merchants Row, the latter a street that bisected Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market. The two women window-shopped for bonnets at White’s store and, given the horticultural theme of the day, they may have poked their heads in Joseph Breck’s floral emporium, too. They had much to think about on their ride back to Easton that evening.