December 21, 1852


Tuesday, Dec 21st  Mrs Horatio Ames left this morning

for Taunton where she is going to stop a week

or two  Catharine & self have quilted the

lining for Susans sack  We were about

it most all day  This evening have been

in awhile to see Mrs Ames & Witherell

It was the darkest day of the year: winter solstice. Sally Hewes Ames departed for friends or relatives in Taunton, her life in upheaval as she sought a divorce. Would she ever spend time with her husband’s relatives again? Was this the last she saw of them? One wonders how her relationship with Horatio’s family would play out.

Evelina tried again to settle back into her normal routine in North Easton. Picking up a needle and thread and sewing “most all day” probably felt like heaven to her. After the drama and disruption of the past three weeks, she was back doing what she did best: sew. She and her servant Catharine Murphy put together a winter sack, or apron-like jumper, for Susan Ames. They quilted it to make it warmer and sturdier.

In the evening, Evelina sat with her sisters-in-law, Sarah Lothrop Ames and Sarah Ames Witherell. They certainly had much to talk over. Old Oliver, meanwhile, recorded the day’s weather: “[I]t raind a verry little last night and this morning there is a thin coat of snow + ice on the ground wind north east + chilly it snod a little about all day but did not gain much.”*

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

December 20, 1852


Monday Dec 20th  Was puttering about house most of the time

this forenoon  made some cake of sour cream

This afternoon here to tea  Mrs H & A L Ames

Mrs Witherell Emily & father & Oliver & wife

Have cut a pattern from Mrs Whitwells

cloak for Susan  Have not done much

sewing of course

Life seemed to be getting back to normal. The servants did the laundry while Evelina puttered about the house and did a little baking. In the evening, the family assembled for tea at Evelina and Oakes’s. Sarah Ames Witherell, Emily Witherell, Oliver Ames Jr., Sarah Lothrop Ames, and Old Oliver himself attended. So did Sally Hewes Ames and Almira Ames, who were still visiting; Almira would stay at the Ames compound well into the new year. Missing were Fred and Helen Ames – off at school, presumably – and Oakes Angier, of course.

The family was weighed down by personal difficulties: Oakes Angier an invalid in far-off Cuba and Sally Hewes Ames fed up and seeking divorce, not to mention the lingering loss of George Oliver Witherell earlier in the year. Perhaps other concerns occupied their thoughts, too. Like many other families, the Ameses drew strength from simply standing together. In the same way they had risen from the fire at the shovel factory back in March, they would do their best to prevail over the latest adversity. What a year it had been for them.

Yet on the horizon, a greater ill loomed which it is our readers’ advantage to know and the Ames family’s innocence not to foresee. Eight years later, on this exact date, the State of South Carolina would issue a proclamation of secession from the United States, kicking off the calamitous American Civil War.


December 19, 1852


Classified ad, New York Herald, March 30, 1861


Sunday Dec 19th  Have not got over the effects of my

journey yet and did not feel like going

to meeting was intending to have a quiet 

time reading but Mrs. H Ames came in

soon after they left and staid untill after

the[y] got home. Talking over her trouble & by

her account Horatio is very much to blame

and no one could live with him

Still recovering from her recent trip to New York, Evelina was hoping for some “quiet time” at home while others went to church. She had just settled in with something to read when her sister-in-law, Sally Hewes Ames, came in. Sally needed to talk, and Evelina had no choice but to listen.

Sally stayed for hours “talking over her trouble” with her husband Horatio. As would be shown in the divorce documents, Horatio committed adultery “with divers women in New York.”** He was verbally cruel to her and their children. “No one could live with him” was the consensus of the women.  But divorce!

Divorce wasn’t easy in the nineteenth century. Like today, divorce laws varied from state to state and were typically quite strict. The process was intrusive, recriminative and not for the faint of heart. When the century began, in many places divorce could only be obtained through an act of the state legislature. By mid-century, however, the laws were loosening up, but still varied widely. Indiana, for instance, was the Reno of its day:

During the 1850s, Indiana was widely condemned as a Midwestern Sodom for its relatively lax statutes. Couples there obtained divorces on any grounds that a judge ruled “proper” – attracting a flood of applicants from out of state. The editor Horace Greeley lambasted the Hoosier State as “the paradise of free-lovers” whose example would soon lead to “a general profligacy and corruption such as this country has never known.” (In 1859, its legislature finally voted to require a year’s residency before allowing a divorce suit to be heard.)[…]

South Carolina stood at the other extreme. Since the Revolution, the Palmetto State had refused to permit divorce for any reason whatsoever. Although a court might, very rarely, grant an annulment, most disgruntled spouses had no recourse except to abandon each other. (In fact, South Carolina did not pass its first divorce statute until 1949.) In many states, including New York, divorce was often only granted on condition that neither spouse could remarry – which was supposed to safeguard public morality by ensuring that no one could trade in an old partner for a new one. In North Carolina, the “guilty party” was forbidden to remarry during the lifetime of the “innocent party.” *

Sally Hewes Ames would obtain her divorce in Connecticut, in August 1853. She was set free, but at great cost; the rift permanently altered the relationship of Horatio with his children. Horatio himself remarried in 1856.

What might Old Oliver have thought about this episode? He doesn’t say, only remarking that this Sunday “was a cloudy day most of the time wind south west + not col – Horatio s Wife + Horatio Jun r are here”***

*Adam Goodheart, Divorce, Antebellum Style, NYT, March 18, 2011, The Opinionator

**Gregory Galer, Robert Gordon, Frances Kemmish, Connecticut’s Ames Iron Works, New Haven, 1998, p. 157

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

December 18, 1852



Sat Dec 18th  Had a good nights rest but still feel

very much fatigued and cannot make up

my mind to do much  Miss Alger came to give

the 17th lesson and stopt to dinner.

Mrs Horatio Ames & son Horatio came in the 

stage to night  She has left her home and

how unhappy she must be

With the demanding travel of the last several days, and the emotional drain of seeing her son off, Evelina was “very much fatigued” today. She fell back into a routine of sorts, noting that Miss Alger gave another piano lesson to Susie Ames and Emily Witherell and stayed for midday dinner. But she had trouble engaging in her usual occupations: sewing, choring, mending or reading.

A new difficulty arrived, evidently to everyone’s surprise. Sally Hewes Ames and her eldest son, Horatio Ames Jr., arrived by stagecoach from Connecticut, bringing the news that she had left her husband Horatio. She intended to divorce him. Divorce! In a era when such an act was rare and invariably scandalous, Evelina’s foremost reaction was to feel sorry for her sister-in-law. “How unhappy she must be.”

Old Oliver records none of this drama, only the day’s weather, noting that it “was a cold day + a high north west wind + much the coldest day we have this season.” Winter was finally beginning to bite.

November 18, 1851


Horatio, Oakes, and Oliver Ames, Jr.*

Tuesday Nov 18th  Jane is not well at all she has done

the housework and starched the shirts and

ironed a little. I have swept the house most

all over except the parlour and been doing

little here and little there, have not sewed

at all.  I begin to think I never shall.

This evening have cut some more apples to put

to the barberries and picked over the mince pie meat


Evelina’s domestic concerns were disrupted by Jane McHanna’s illness. Although Jane tried to help a little, Evelina did most of the work, and sounded annoyed about it. She wanted to be sewing, not choring.

Today was the birthday of Horatio Ames, second son of Old Oliver and Susannah Ames.  Born in 1805, he had grown up in Easton to become a “towering”** man, yet was considered by most to be less capable than his powerful older brother, Oakes, or his next-youngest brother, Oliver Ames, Jr. Staying close to home, they prospered. Horatio and another brother, William Leonard, on the other hand, left home to find fortune and were less successful.

Horatio’s personality was part of his problem. His behavior could be crass, his attitude pugnacious. Modern historian, Gregory Galer, has noted:

“One obstacle Horatio Ames faced his entire life was others’ negative reaction to him personally.  Horatio was a large man, apparently with a high-pitched voice, and his physical features may have emphasized his irritating tendencies.  However, his direct, aggressive, and often foul-mouthed manner instantly limited his ability to gain supporters.  He seems to have had little tact and poor social skills.”***

As an adult, Horatio married an Easton girl and settled into a house in the village built for him by his father. Soon, however, he and his young family moved away, first to Albany and then to Fall River, Connecticut, where, with others, Horatio established a family-backed ironmaking enterprise.  Over the years, the business would be innovative, the iron it produced would be of better quality than other iron from the area, yet the business would never quite take off. Horatio would strive and struggle, yet never achieve the success of his two brothers back in Easton.

His personal life didn’t fare much better.  In 1853, his wife Sally Hewes Ames divorced him “on grounds of adultery with ‘divers women in New York.'”**** He was estranged from all three of his children, especially his two “miserable boys,” as he described them.  His eldest son, Horatio, Jr., was accused of attempting to murder him. His daughter Susan disobliged him by marrying a physician named Philander P. Humphrey, of whom Horatio didn’t approve. They moved west to Minnesota, where she, her husband and two of their three children were killed in an uprising on a Sioux reservation.

Horatio remarried in 1856. His second wife, Charlotte Langdon Ames, was sharper than his first wife. She tried to help manage the failing company and, after Horatio died from gangrene early in 1871, she maneuvered to keep his assets for herself.  She was bested by Oliver Ames, Jr., however, in a contentious court battle. Horatio’s business had been built with Ames money, and whatever money was left when he died was going to go right back home to Easton.

In her diary, Evelina seldom mentions Horatio or his wife at the time, Sally. Their families were not close.


*Courtesy of the Fall River, Connecticut Historical Society

**William Chaffin, History of Easton, Massachusetts, 1886, p. 345

***Gregory Galer, Robert Gordon, Frances Kemmish, Connecticut’s Ames Iron Works, New Haven, 1998, p. 157.

****ibid., pp. 158-159

July 16, 1851


Shovel Storage_1 Nov 2010



July 16th  Wednesday  Mrs H Ames left this morning.  Will stop

a day or two at Mr Hinckleys and then venture

home  Gustavus was to meet her in Boston

Have been to work on my silk muslin dress

Julia has been here cutting the waist and it

is so near done that it will not take long 

to finish it.  Edwin & Oliver went to S. Bridgewater

to get patterns for shovel press & Back strap Machine

Evelina seldom referred to the shovel business in her diary.  The factory, the employees, the machines, the products, the day-long sounds that emanated from the shovel shops right across the street from her home went essentially unmentioned. Despite the fact that six days a week, life in North Easton revolved around O. Ames and Sons, the factory that her husband, father-in-law, and brother-in-law owned, and at which her three sons worked, Evelina was mum about the business.

Instead, she kept her attention on the domestic and social events of her own life, recording the tame goings-on of the household, which was, naturally, her sphere of interest and influence. Her focus begs the question, however, of how much of her record was consciously restricted to the quotidian. Did she hear about events at the shovel shop and choose not to include them, or were business details never discussed at the dinner table?  Were shovels excluded from pillow talk at day’s end? Or was she so familiar with the many facets of the shovel business that she took them for granted, dismissed them and looked solely at her own concerns? Was she disinterested or discrete?

That aside, shovel-making slipped into Evelina’s record today.  Her middle son, Oliver (3), and his cousin, Edwin Williams Gilmore, headed to South Bridgewater to fetch patterns and a back-strap machine for the shovel factory. The patterns were probably “dies used in a drop hammer/press that give the curved shape to the previously flat, partially formed blade.”**  The back strap was an object that facilitated the process of attaching the handle to the blade. Oliver and Edwin must have used a wagon to tote the goods back to North Easton.

* Ames shovels, Stonehill College Archives, with thanks to Nicole Casper, CRM, Director of Archives and Historical Collections

** Per Gregory Galer, PhD.

July 15, 1851



July 15 Tuesday  Jane washed this forenoon and about

nine or ten Mother Henrietta Rachel and her

babe came  They went home about 11 Oclock

mother will stop a few days  Gustavus left

yesterday morning  The afternoon Mrs H Ames

passed here  Mrs S Ames had a dress maker & did

not come in

Laundry was done today, a day later than normal because of the extra work involved in tidying up after a weekend of houseguests.  It’s not hard to imagine that such a disruption in the routine made Evelina or Jane McHanna or other members of the household think today was Monday instead of Tuesday.

Just as things were getting back to normal, however, more visitors arrived. Evelina’s sister-in-law, Henrietta Gilmore (Mrs. Alson Gilmore), arrived with Evelina’s mother, Hannah Lothrop Gilmore. As often happened, the senior Mrs. Gilmore came to spend “a few days” with Evelina, her only living daughter.  With them was Henrietta’s daughter, Rachel Howard (Gilmore) Pool (Mrs. John M. Pool or Poole) and her little girl, Ella. Ella, barely one year old, was Hannah Gilmore’s great-granddaughter. Four generations of Gilmore women visited together in the Ames parlor.

In the afternoon, Evelina had yet another sister-in-law pay a call, this one from the Ames side of the family.  Sally Hewes Ames came to visit one last time before leaving; she planned to return to Connecticut the next day. The women likely sat and sewed together; Evelina almost always had sewing or mending in her hands when socializing at home.  As was her wont, she probably gave something to Sally to work on while they talked. Perhaps even old Mrs. Gilmore sewed with them.

July 12 1851



July 12 Saturday  Have been very much engaged to day

in putting my house in order & have been to work

on the cushion to the lounge, and put the cover

on to the arm.  called in Olivers awhile.  Mrs

H Ames and Mrs Mitchell spent the day there

Mr Norris came in the stage to night & Mr & Mrs

Harris Mrs Norris from Bridgewater, Miss Foss

came with Oakes A who had been that way on an errand

Company! From Boston by way of Bridgewater came the Orr daughters and their husbands. Melinda Orr Norris with her husband Caleb, who had visited Easton just the other day, and Julianne Orr Harris and her husband, Benjamin Winslow Harris, arrived for an overnight stay with the Ameses.  Evelina spent much of the day “very much engaged” in getting the house ready for the two young couples, although she did manage to slip next door to sit with her sisters-in-law. The whole Ames property was full to the rafters.

Everyone had tasks to do today, which wasn’t unusual in that hard-working family. Old Oliver and a crew were outdoors:

“it was cloudy half the fore noon but the afternoon was pritty fair wind north part of the time + south west a part we mowd the high land back of the Factory pond and that on this side of the old pair trees. to day”  Was this mowing a forerunner of haying season?

* Pear tree


July 11, 1851



July 11th Friday  Have been to mothers to day with

Mrs Horatio Ames & Mrs Mitchell & Anna.

Called on Miss Foss with her to come home with

us but E Howard & Miss Williams are to visit

her school tomorrow.  It was late when we 

got to mothers, almost dinner time.

With sisters-in-law Sally Ames and Harriett Mitchell Ames in tow, as well as Harriett’s four-year old daughter, Anna, Evelina rode down see her mother on the family farm. The group probably joined the Gilmores for midday dinner.  Orinthia Foss was to have traveled with them, but she had to prepare for an inspection of her schoolroom.

Sally Ames (who some sources list as Sarah Hewes – another sister-in-law named Sarah!) was the wife of Horatio Ames.  She was up from Connecticut for a few days to visit her in-laws in North Easton, a town she had lived in as a bride and young mother.  Her father-in-law, Old Oliver, had built a house for her and Horatio back in the day, but the couple ended up moving to Falls Village, Connecticut, where Horatio, with marginally more success than his younger brother, William Leonard Ames, built an iron furnace operation underwritten by family funds. It was in Falls Village rather than North Easton that Sally and Horatio raised their three children, Susan, Horatio Jr., and Gustavus.  Their marriage was not a happy one; by the end of this year, Sally would be asking Horatio for a divorce.

*“Residence of H Ames Esq, Falls Village,” from Fagan’s map of Salisbury, 1853, “Connecticut’s Ames Iron Works,” Gregory Galer, Robert Gordon, and Frances Kemmish, New Haven, 1998, p. 133

July 10, 1851


July 10th  Baked in the brick oven this morning

Cassander Gilmore engaged to come here to

day but did not  Mrs Horatio Ames Mrs Witherell

Mitchell and their children father Gustavus &c &c

were here to tea.  Had strawberries from 

Mr King, his last picking.  This afternoon

finished my dress  Alson called

Evelina was quite busy today.  She baked, probably making the usual bread, ginger snaps and a pantry’s worth of pies. Although she doesn’t specify what kind, this was the time of year for rhubarb and her pies may have been made of the very fruit she grew in her back yard. She culled through the last of the available local strawberries, too; there would be no more this season.

Much of this kitchen work was preparation for afternoon tea, which was served to a raft of Ames relatives.  Sally Hewes Ames, Horatio’s wife, was there with her son, Gustavus, along with the Witherells and Father Ames from the other part of the house.  Sister-in-law Harriett Ames Mitchell and her three children were there.  Where was Harriett’s husband, Asa Mitchell? Presumably Oakes, Susie and her three older brothers were at table, too.

When she did get out of the cook room, Evelina finally finished sewing her new dress, and had a visit from her brother, Alson Gilmore.