December 31, 1852

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Evelina Orville Gilmore Ames 

(1809 – 1882)

Thursday Dec 31st  This the last day of the year

and the last that I shall write in this 

book  Mrs Witherell Emily Mrs Ames

& Oliver & wife dined here & spent the

afternoon  father is not well and did

not come  This evening we have all

been to the lecture at the meeting house

Mr Pierpont recited a poem  The Scholars hope

and it was very fine  We have a box from Burlington

filled with presents I had a basket

of moss in a leather frame from Mrs

Mills & a ribbon from cousin Harriet

Susan an emery and she is disappointed

says they always send an emery

Thus ends the second year

that I have written in this book of nonsense

 

This is the last day of Evelina’s diary, and aren’t we sorry! No more sifting through the pages and peeking through the keyhole at the domestic life of the Ames family in the 1850’s. Although we know that Evelina kept other diaries in other years, specifically during the 1860’s, we don’t know if she wrote steadily. No other diaries by her are extant.

We do know something about the remaining trajectory of Evelina’s life, however. After she closed the cover on her so-called “book of nonsense,” she lived another thirty years. By the end of the 1850’s, her sons Oakes Angier and Frank Morton had married and begun to have children (see below). Frank would move to Canton (and Boston) but would stay in close contact with his brothers, who stayed in North Easton. Middle son Oliver (3), the last of her sons to leave home, would marry in the spring of 1860, build a home nearby (since razed) and raise a large family. Daughter Susan would marry wool merchant Henry W. French in January 1861, but the couple would have no issue. That must have been a disappointment to them and to Evelina.

Over the years left to them, Evelina and Oakes would enjoy the arrival of and periodic proximity to 19 grandchildren (three of whom would not survive childhood). In birth order, those grandchildren were:

Maria Hobart Ames Harte

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maria Hobart Ames (Mrs. Richard Hickman Harte, 1856 – 1918), first daughter of Oakes Angier and Catharine Hobart Ames

 

Frank Angier Ames

Frank Angier Ames (1857 – 1918), first son of Frank Morton and Catherine Copeland Ames

 

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Oakes Ames (1858 – 1859), first son of Oakes Angier and Catharine Hobart Ames

 

Alice Lurana Ames

Alice Lurana Ames (Mrs. Edward Crosby Morris, Mrs. George Frederick Chapman, 1859 – 1934), first daughter of Frank Morton and Catherine Copeland Ames

 

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Oakes Angier Ames (1861 – 1862), second son of Oakes Angier and Catharine Hobart Ames

 

Charlie Oakes Ames

Charles Oakes Ames (1861 – 1864), second son of Frank Morton and Catherine Copeland Ames

 

William Hadwen Ames

William Hadwen Ames (1861 – 1918), first son of Oliver Third and Anna C. Ray Ames

 

Oakes Ames

Oakes Ames (1863 – 1914), third son of Frank Morton and Catherine Copeland Ames

 

Evelina "Lena" Orville Ames Hall

Evelina Orville Ames (Mrs. Frederick Garrison Hall, 1863 – 1940), first daughter of Oliver Third and Anna C. Ray Ames

 

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Anna Lee Ames (Mrs. George Manning Nowell, 1864 – 1934), second daughter of Oliver Third and Anna C. Ray Ames

 

Hobart Ames

Hobart Ames (1865 – 1945), third son of Oakes Angier and Catharine Hobart Ames

 

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Susan Evelyn Ames (Mrs. Thomas Taylor, 1867 – 1949), third daughter of Oliver Third and Anna C. Ray Ames

 

Lilian Ames Chatman

Lilian Ames (Mrs. Harry Lorenzo Chapman, 1870 – 1925), fourth daughter of Oliver Third and Anna C. Ray Ames

 

Winthrop Ames

Winthrop Ames (1870 – 1937), fourth son of Oakes Angier and Catharine Hobart Ames

 

Anna Copeland Ames Hall

Anna Copeland Ames (Mrs. George Edward Hall, 1870 – 1908), second daughter of Frank Morton and Catherine Copeland Ames

 

Katie Eveline "Eva" Ames Royce

Katie Evelyn Ames (Mrs. Frederick Page Royce, 1872 – 1944), third daughter of Frank Morton and Catherine Copeland Ames

 

Harriet Elizabeth Ames Hall

Harriet Elizabeth Ames (Mrs. George Edward Hall, 1873 – 1948), fourth daughter of Frank Morton and Catherine Copeland Ames

 

Katharine "Kitty" Hobart Ames Spalding

Katharine “Kitty” Hobart Ames (Mrs. Philip Leffingwell Spalding, 1874 – 1949), second daughter of Oakes Angier and Catharine Hobart Ames

 

Oakes Ames

Oakes Ames (1874 – 1950), second son of Oliver Third and Anna C. Ray Ames^

 

In 1863, Oakes Ames was elected to the U.S. Congress as Representative for Massachusetts Second District. He would serve five consecutive terms, much of it effectively and actively, being especially involved in the building of the transcontinental railroad. He served during the critical era of the Civil War and the ensuing Reconstruction, and voted in favor of the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth amendments. He lived much of the time in Washington, D.C. in modest quarters. Evelina also spent at least some of her time with him, keeping house and attending appropriate social functions. During her time in the capitol, she would have gone to the White House for at least some of the many receptions there, and met the Lincolns, the Andrew Johnsons, and perhaps the Grants. When her brother-in-law Oliver Jr visited, as he had occasion to do on railroad business, they would attend church together.

Yet Evelina also maintained the family residence in North Easton, which Susan and Henry French moved into on an undetermined date. Matters changed when, in 1870, Evelina suffered a stroke while in Washington. She was partially paralyzed, and in July of that year Oakes brought her back home on the train where her brother-in-law noted that Evelina “has had a Paralytic Shock which has crippled her very much walking with great difficulty.”**

Trouble with paralysis would hinder Evelina’s mobility for the remainder of her days, and probably prevented her returning to Washington for the remainder of Oakes’s service there. She wasn’t with him when he went through the great difficulties spawned by his work on the Union Pacific and the ensuing Credit Mobilier scandal. The two corresponded, however, and one intimate letter from Oakes to Evelina was saved. On January 18, 1873, he wrote:

Dear Wife:

I sent you a telegram today that all will come out right. Don’t feel uneasy on my account, as there will be no stain on my reputation, whatever others may do. Am sorry that you feel so badly. Remember the scriptures say that “whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth.” You must see by that passage that I am in high favor in the right quarter. The committee are in session this evening, and I must close. Good night! Borrow no trouble on my account. My health is good. – Yours, Oakes***

Family lore has it that Evelina waited for the arrival of that telegram – and others, possibly – by sitting at the window in her corner bedroom watching out for the telegraph boy. When Oakes finally returned to North Easton for good in February 1873, he only lived for a few more months.

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After Oakes died, Evelina continued to live in the old family house, built by Old Oliver back in the day, and made additional, modernizing improvements to it. Sarah and Emily Witherell had departed their part of the house some years earlier and were living at the Hotel Hamilton in Boston, but daughter Susan and her husband Henry lived in the house with her. Evelina continued to see all her children and grandchildren, giving and receiving gifts on birthdays and (finally won over to the holiday) at Christmas. Her health declined, however.

The very last we hear of Evelina is via a memory of her youngest grandchild, botanist Oakes Ames:

I remember my grandmother (paternal) in connection with a birthday afternoon when I was led, half afraid, to the driveway end of our verandah to receive from her hand a box of peppermints and a silver dollar. My grandmother died when I was eight years old. As I see her now in my mind’s eye, she was very much like her portrait. I am sure that at this time, except for a white cap and a white lace at her wrists and throat, she wore no other color than black.***

That Evelina suffered ill health in the decade-plus after her stroke is underscored by her grandson’s second memory of her:

I have only two mental pictures of my grandmother. One, when she was in her phaeton and handed to me my birthday gift. The other when she was in the large livingroom at Martha’s Vineyard where we used to spend the summers. At this time she was in her rocking chair stamping her feet violently on the floor. She was suffering from a nervous tantrum or from pain, I know not which, but I remember being hastily removed from the room by one of my elders. All this must have been before I was eight years old.****

On July 20, 1882, Evelina died at home of “paralysis.” She was buried in the Village Cemetery next to her husband.

 

 

*Genealogy of the Ames Family of North Easton, Massachusetts, ed. Chilton Moseley Ames and William Motley Ames, 1998

**Oliver Ames, Jr., Journal, July 17, 1870, Private collection.

***Ames Papers, Frank Morton Ames scrapbook, Baker Library, Harvard University

****Oakes Ames: Jottings of a Harvard Botanist, ed. Pauline Ames Plimpton, Cambridge, 1979, pp. 37-38

^Photographs of grandchildren courtesy of Stonehill College Archives

 

 

December 30, 1852

Sunset

Thursday Dec 30th  Mrs A A & Mrs Edwin Gilmore & Abby

& self have passed the day at mothers.  We

got there at 1/4 past 10 Oclock very early I 

call that.  Abby has a very bad boil on her

shoulder  After I got home this evening

went into Olivers & Mrs A L Ames came

in and we stopt untill nearly ten Oclock

Miss Alger has given her 20th lesson

dined in the other part of the house

 

Evelina spent the day with her mother, eighty-year-old Hannah Lothrop Gilmore. Other Gilmore women were present, too: Hannah Lincoln Gilmore, Augusta Pool Gilmore, and Abigail Williams Torrey (a Gilmore niece). They assembled at the family farm for what appears to have been simply a sociable gathering. We might imagine, however, that at least one of the women held a piece of sewing or mending in her lap as they sat and talked. Back at the house in North Easton, meanwhile, Sarah Witherell had the responsibility of overseeing the girls’ piano lesson and hosting the piano teacher for dinner.

The year was drawing to a close, and this entry is the next-to-last one that Evelina will make in her diary. A sad closure – not for Evelina, but for us readers. Over the two years of posting Evelina’s diary, a virtual community has gathered in its own sociable way to watch life pass in North Easton in a time long gone. In addition to hundreds of readers from across the U.S., readers from around the globe – most notably Australia, Brazil, Germany, South Korea, the UK, Italy and Canada – have stopped in regularly to see how Evelina was faring. Not a few of you are direct descendants of Evelina and Oakes, or Old Oliver and Susannah. In the course of writing this blog, it has been clear that you and others, whatever your address, feel a strong bond with the early “Shovel Ameses” of North Easton, and with the town itself.

As she made her daily entries, Evelina could have had no way of knowing that hundreds of us – strangers to her – would one day read her diary. She couldn’t have imagined it, which is a good thing, for then she might have written for an audience instead of for herself. We would find more craft and less honesty in the daily dispatches. As it has happened, we’ve been allowed to interpret and imagine – but not invent – her life. We hope we’ve done it right. Perhaps in the future, the missing diaries will come to light and we’ll be able to learn more about the family. We might be able to clarify or enhance or even contradict the inferences we might have made. History is a fluid thing.

Thank you, readers, for following along and contributing to our understanding of Evelina and her time. Please join Evelina one more time tomorrow as we take a look at how the rest of her life unfolded.

 

December 28, 1852

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Federico Mialhe, Album Pinteresco de la Isla de Cuba and The Gates of Montserratte, Havana, Cuba, ca. 1850*

 

Tuesday Dec 28th  Catharine & self have been to work on

our dresses  Have cut & made the sleeves & got

the skirts made &c  This afternoon have spent

in the other part of the house   Mr Ames

there to tea  Oliver & wife dined there

on Turkey  Received another letter from

Oakes Angier  He was to leave for Havana

last Wednesday

 

A letter from Oakes Angier arrived today, evidently at least the second one he had written since departing two weeks earlier. If, as he wrote, he was leaving Charleston on Dec. 22, then by this date, he was just about landing in Havana. He may have continued to sail south on the Steamship James Adger or he may have boarded the Steamship Isabel which, at that time and for at least a decade more, ran regularly between Charleston and Havana, with stops in Savannah, Georgia and Key West, Florida. The Isabel carried mail as well as passengers. The year before, it had even carried the famous Jenny Lind to the island for a concert.

While Evelina was dress-making and Oliver Ames Jr and Sarah Lothrop Ames were dining on turkey at Sarah Witherell’s, Oakes Angier was shaking off the damp of his sea voyage and stepping into the soft humidity of Cuba. Did he, like others before and after, settle into a North-American section of Havana called Cardenas, and look out on the beautiful Cardenas Bay? Did he gaze at the mountains across the bay? And did he look at – surely, he looked at – the miles and miles of sugar cane, palm trees and estancias? Did he ride in a volant, a conveyance whose rear wheels were six feet high? Did he make friends?

Most of all, did Oakes Angier get better? Was the change of climate good for him? He did, and it was. Many readers of this blog – some of whom are his descendants – already know that Oakes Angier did, in fact, return home safely, cured of his pulmonary ailment. We don’t yet know exactly when and how he returned, but by the summer of 1855, he would be back in North Easton, married to Catharine Hobart and building his home, Queset House. He would recover.

 

*Images and much information courtesy of http://www.skinnerfamilypapers.com

 

December 21, 1852

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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

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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 12, 1852

 

NYC1852

New York City, 1852

Sunday Dec 12th  We have all been to meeting OAA

came home at noon  Mrs Witherell & self

called to see Mrs Whitwell who was not

well and not out to church  Mother

& Lavinia went home  Mr Ames

& self called to Mr Swains & Augustus

OAA has decided to leave here for NY Tuesday

 

This was Oakes Angier’s last Sunday at church before departing. We might imagine that he was approached by well-wishers at the intermission, or else he escaped the crowd by heading home before they could gather. He might have avoided the afternoon service for that reason, or for fear of having to cough.

Oakes Angier would be sailing from New York City on Wednesday and, cutting it close, decided to depart for the city on Tuesday. There was no time to lose in making last minute arrangements. After church, Evelina and Oakes called on John Swain and Alson Augustus Gilmore, two of Oakes’s most trusted employees.  Did they assist in arranging for passage, or procuring letters of introduction for Oakes Angier? We must remember that none of the travel arrangements could have been quickly accomplished in this age before the telephone and the internet. Such plans were made in person, on foot or horseback. It’s not out of line to think that Oakes and his son had help; it’s possibly why Augustus had gone with Oakes Angier into Boston on Friday, to finalize paperwork necessary for the journey.

Evelina, despite her worries, was able to get out of herself enough to pay a call on Eliza Whitwell, the minister’s wife, who was “not well.” Sarah Witherell went with her.

 

December 11, 1852

Trunk

Sat Dec 11th  It has been a very stormy day

and O A has been in the house and

we have packed all his clothes  Catharine

has made two night shirts for him

and they are all washed & ready  It has

been a trying day to me  Mr Torrey called

and had quite a chat with mother but

I was busy at the time

 

“[T]he 11th it began to rain in the night + this morning there is a north east storm + rather cold + windy it raind about all day and fell 1 ½ deep,”* wrote Old Oliver Ames in his daily record. The weather was miserable and seemed to match Evelina’s mood as she packed Oakes Angier’s trunk with the help of her servants and, perhaps, Sarah Witherell.  Evelina herself said it was a “trying day.”  She couldn’t even attend to a visit from a favorite, her brother-in-law, Col. John Torrey, and seemed grateful that her mother was available to do the honors of receiving his call.

On this exact date in Lexington, Virginia, a young professor at the Virginia Military Institute wrote to his sister Laura Ann, with whom he was very close, offering her advice about getting the better of a recent illness: “I hope that though ill health is your present lot, that notwithstanding you will continue a buoyancy of spirits, and not give way to surrounding troubles.  I too am a man of trouble, yet let the oppressing load be ever so great, it never sinks me beneath its weight.”  It’s too bad that Evelina couldn’t read his advice – she might have been able to bear her sad thoughts better. Although she had never met the professor, she would one day know his name: Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.

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

**Thomas Jackson, Letter to his sister Laura Ann, Courtesy of Virginia Military Institute Archives

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