November 11, 1852


Louisa May Alcott

(1832 – 1888)

Thursday Nov 11th

Ann & Catharine has cleaned the shed chamber

and sitting room chamber & I have been 

putting draws & closets in order.

Mr Ames & self at Olivers to tea  Mr &

Mrs Swain & Mrs Meader there

Commenced Susan an Angola yarn stocking


For Evelina, this was a productive day. Her servants, Ann Shinkwin and Catharine Murphy, cleaned the shed and the sitting room, while she herself reorganized “draws & closets”. She must have felt quite satisfied having put two key rooms in order. Come evening, she and her husband went next door to tea where they visited not only with the Oliver Ameses, but also with Ann and John Swain and Ann’s mother, Sarah Bliss Meader. Mrs. Meader was from Nantucket; she must have been visiting in the wake of the death of little John Swain.

For Louisa May Alcott, a 19th century author who should need no introduction, this was an important day. Some literary sources have it that Miss Alcott, using the name “Flora Fairfield,” published her first story, The Rival Painters: A Story of Rome, on this exact date, when the author was barely twenty years old. However, closer examination suggests that The Rival Painters first appeared back on May 8 in The Olive Branch, a periodical published in Boston from 1836 through 1857.  A second story, easily confused with the first, was The Rival Prima Donnas, which was published on this date in 1854 in The Saturday Evening Gazette, earning the author five dollars.

Regardless of the scholastic disagreement over the first appearance in print of Louisa May Alcott, we can imagine that Evelina was exposed to her writing at various times from this year onward. Surely Evelina read other short stories and novels by this increasingly famous author. If she developed an affection for the author’s work, Evelina would have read Little Women, Little Men, and Jo’s Boys and been as familiar with the triumphs and travails of the March family as devoted readers still are 160 years later.

*A fine resource for readers wanting to know more about Louisa May Alcott is “Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women,” by Harriet Reisen, New York, 2009.



November 8, 1852


Monday Nov 8th  Ann & Catharine washed this morning

and I have been making part of my

quince preserve and some marmalade

Mr & Mrs Swain & Mrs Meader spent

the afternoon in fathers and Mr Ames

& self were there to tea. Mrs [entry incomplete]

“[T]his was a fair good day. it was Town meeting day and Wade Daily was chosen Representative, Free soil.” wrote a pleased Oliver Ames. Although the national election for president had been held the previous week, voting men from Easton gathered to vote on local issues and perhaps to hear the formal results from last week’s election. We must remember that voting, and vote counting, was a manual affair.

Historian William Chaffin gives us the run-down, confirming Old Oliver’s account:

“Horace Mann, the Free Soil candidate for governor, received one hundred and eighty-eight votes in Easton, one more than the Whig candidate, John H. Clifford; and on a second ballot, and with the help of the Democrats, the Free Soil candidate for representative, Wade Daily, was elected.”

Wade Daily, elected to the General Court of Massachusetts, was an older member of the community, a veteran of the War of 1812. A “master carpenter,” according to Rev. Chaffin, Mr. Daily was responsible for the erection in 1816 of the church building that housed Luther Sheldon and his congregation. He had also served as a selectman in the early 1830s.  As a Free Soiler – meaning he wasn’t in favor of the spread of slavery – Wade Daily rated high in Old Oliver’s opinion. He and his wife of sixty years, Ruth, are buried in the Easton Central Cemetery.

Back at home, the women, who did not attend town meeting or participate in the political decisions of the town, were busy in the kitchen washing the weekly laundry and making preserves. All gathered for tea.

October 7, 1852



Oct 7th Thursday  Have been cutting out some shirts

for bosoms.  Catharine Murphy has made

four window curtains for my front chamber

Mrs Witherell Mrs S Ames & self passed the

afternoon & evening at Mr Swains  Mr Ames 

came to tea and Oliver rode down after us and 

stopt awhile Mr & Mrs Meader are there &

Ellen Meader  Augustus wife went to Boston


There was quite a bit of socializing today, prompted in part by good weather. “[T]he 7th was a fair pleasant day + verry warm,” noted Old Oliver Ames. Henry David Thoreau, some 40 miles to Oliver’s north, was more discursive about the sunshine:

I sit on Poplar Hill. It is a warm Indian-summerish afternoon. The sun comes out of clouds, and lights up and warms the whole scene. It is perfect autumn. I see a hundred smokes arising through the yellow elm-tops in the village, where the villagers are preparing for tea. It is the mellowing year. The sunshine harmonizes with the imbrowned and fiery foliage.**

The elm trees such as the ones that Thoreau mentions would also have been seen by Old Oliver. In fact, they would have been seen across the state and beyond. Once upon a time, American Elms were ubiquitous in the United States.They were tall trees with a wine-glass profile and a graceful green canopy. In the 20th century, however, most of them were wiped out by Dutch Elm disease. The existence of “Elm Streets” in communities around the country attests to the fact that elms were once as common as maples or pines. As Thoreau suggests, many a small town lived under their shade.

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

**Henry David Thoreau, Journal, courtesy of



November 25, 1851




Tues Nov 25th  Mary has done the ironing to day except

the fine clothes and they look much better than usual

Jane is rather better to day and has washed the dishes

and assisted some about the housework.  I have made a

dickey for Mr Ames. Passed the afternoon at Father Ames

with Mr & Mrs Swain & Mrs Meader  Mrs S Ames,

Fred & Helen came home to night

Family members began to gather in anticipation of Thanksgiving. Fred and Helen Ames came home from their respective schools in Cambridge and Boston, adding animation to the quieter house next door.  Surely their parents, Sarah Lothrop and Oliver Ames, Jr., were pleased to see them.  Oliver (3), away at school in Providence, was getting ready for his travel home.

No one was making merry yet, however.  Everyone still had work to do. The new girl, Mary, did some ironing, evidently better than Jane McHanna usually did.  Jane herself, still recovering from an illness that had laid her low for almost ten days, was able to wash dishes and help out a bit. Evelina, after supervising Mary and Jane, was finally freed up to sew and socialize.  She was in a happier state of mind.

The men of the family were working as well.  While Oakes, Oliver Jr, Oakes Angier, and Frank Morton were at the shovel shop, Old Oliver and some of his men began “a building an ice hous.”**

“About sunsett,” it began to snow.


*Image of a mid-19th century kitchen, Courtesy of

**Oliver Ames, Journal, Courtesy of Stonehill College Archives, Tofias Collection





November 23, 1851



Sunday Nov 23d  Jane with Michaels sister got the

breakfast this morning but after breakfast Jane 

went to bed  I could not go to church this morning

Augustus came home at noon and brought Mr

Davidson  Mrs Meader Hannah & self went

back with him  This evening sat with my shawl

& bonnet on from 6 to 8 Oclock waiting for Mr

Ames to go to Mr Swains and then took them off did not go


For the second time this month, Oakes Ames forgot to take his wife somewhere. On this occasion, they had planned to visit Ann and John Swain.  Evelina had missed the morning meeting and although they had company at noon, and she made it to the afternoon service, she was still eager to get out and socialize. As night fell, she put on her “shawl & bonnet” and waited for her husband to pick her up. He didn’t show. She “did not go.”

Evelina had been disappointed two weeks earlier when Oakes had forgotten her, but the tone of her diary entry on that day had been tolerant. This time, she was likely less forgiving. Once Oakes finally walked in the door, more than two hours late, Evelina must have let him have it. Surely she got mad. Surely they argued.

Oakes’s excuse would’ve been that he’d been off electioneering, just like the last time he forgot to fetch his wife.  The next day was another town meeting and, in anticipation, he’d obviously gotten sidetracked, probably with friends. At least Evelina could be certain that he hadn’t been out drinking; Oakes was a teetotaler. But she would have been left to wonder what the outcome would be of her husband’s absorption into politics, and how it might alter their relationship.

Jane McHanna, meanwhile, was still sick.  Evelina was not having a great week.

*Image courtesy of


November 9, 1851



Sunday Nov 9th  Did not go to meeting to day on account of

Bridgets being sick.  Expected Mr Ames home at noon to carry

me this afternoon but he went off electioneering and 

forgot all about it.  This evening have been to Mrs

Swains with Mr Ames & Susan  Her nurse is there

and her brothers wife and daughter of about Susans

age  Mr & Mrs Meader returned home about a week since


Not only did Oakes Ames stop in Canton for a Whig meeting on Saturday, but he spent Sunday afternoon “electioneering” and forgot to go home at noon to take Evelina to church for the afternoon service.  In personal terms, this was not an auspicious beginning to his political career, but it was certainly indicative of the wholeheartedness and zeal with which he approached politics.  If Oakes and Evelina had, in fact, reached an understanding about his getting into politics – about which we can only conjecture – we have to wonder if that understanding had already been violated.  Yet Evelina’s diary is not particularly dispirited; she writes matter-of-factly and without obvious annoyance.  Perhaps she already understood and forgave her husband’s capacity for preoccupation.

After missing church in the morning because of a sick servant and in the afternoon because of an absent-minded husband, Evelina must have been pleased at last to go out in the evening. She, Oakes and their daughter Susie paid a call on Ann and John Swain, a younger couple who were relatively new in town.  New parents, their infant son was being tended by a nurse, while two relatives, the last remainders of a crowd who had arrived to tend at the birth, were still visiting.  Ellen Meader, a little girl about Susie’s age, was there with her mother, Sarah Bliss Meader, wife of Ann Swain’s brother, Reuben Meader.