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 25, 1852

Godeys

Sat Dec 25th Christmas. Have had to do the

housework and have had a busy time of it

Henrietta called in for an hour or two

and then Miss Alger came and was here

to dinner  Alson & wife & Edwin & wife here

to tea.  The girls came in the stage

My feet trouble me so much that I can

scarcely go about house  Sent Mrs Whitwell a delaine dress

 

Christmas Day was pretty much a non-event at the Ames compound. Like last year, the household followed a fairly normal routine. Old Oliver grumped about the poor weather and “bad carting.”* At Evelina’s, the servants were in Canton, at church presumably, with family and friends. They returned via stagecoach late in the day. Before they came back, Eveline “had a busy time” with the meals and cleaning, balancing the latter with a social call from her sister-in-law Henrietta Williams Gilmore. She also must have facilitated another piano lesson – the 19th one – for her daughter Susan and niece Emily. The indefatigable Miss M. J. Alger arrived to teach and stayed for dinner.

Outside of puritanical New England, the celebration of Christmas was on the ascendant. Periodicals like Godey’s and Gleason’s referred to the holiday with poems, stories, and illustrations. Families and friends exchanged gifts, although with much less commercial goading than today. And the following Christmas, 1853, President-elect Franklin Pierce would put up the first-ever Christmas tree in the White House.**

For all their disinterest in what they saw as a Catholic holiday, members of the Ames family did show small signs of acknowledging the occasion. Here and there, they exchanged gifts; we saw it last year and see it again. Evelina made a gift to the minister’s wife, Eliza Whitwell, of a wool dress. As the years would go by and the generation of Fred, Oakes Angier and the others gained primacy, Christmas would come to resemble the holiday that we know, replete with gifts and church pageants and family dinners – but not while Old Oliver was alive.

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

**Credit for the first Christmas tree at the White House is disputed by historians. Some say Benjamin Harrison was the first president to put one up, in the late 1880s.

 

December 22, 1852

new-england-clam-chowder-3-550

 

Wednesday Dec 22d  Miss Alge[r] came again to day

to give another lesson which makes the 

18th  She stopt to dinner we had fish

chowder & I had to attend to it while she

was giving Susan her lesson and did not hear

it  The families all took tea at Olivers

I have done but very little on Susans sack

Susan scratched Emilys Pianno

 

Readers might wonder how Oakes Angier Ames was faring on his voyage to Cuba. We’ll learn later that by this date, he had reached Charleston, South Carolina and was to depart this day for Havana.

So much attention had been focused lately on Oakes Angier Ames that we also might wonder what the other two Ames sons were up to. Local historian William Chaffin obligingly tells us. They were helping form a local militia:

A charter for an infantry company, signed by Governor Boutwell, was secured December 3, 1852, and the company was organized on the 22d. The following officers were chosen: William E. Bump, captain; Francis Tilden, first lieutenant; Oliver Ames, 3d, second lieutenant; John Carr, third lieutenant; Rufus Willis, fourth lieutenant. This company and one then recently formed at Canton were organized as the second battalion of light infantry, second brigade, and first division, the Easton company being known as Company B.

Of this battalion Oliver Ames, 3d, was chosen adjutant. He was afterward promoted to be major, and the lieutenant-colonel; and Frank M. Ames was made quartermaster and then major. The State furnished this company with fifty guns, bayonets, and other accoutrements, besides swords for the officers.  The record book states that the State also forwarded “1 Brass Kittle drum in good order, and 1 Fife, crooked and unfit for use.”*

A militia, typically, is a group of civilian volunteers who band together, with some kind of government blessing and support, to supplement a regular military army. Such militias had formed before in Easton and elsewhere and, according to Chaffin, a “military spirit began to revive again in 1852.”* What was motivating this activity? Were the young men responding to the increased agitation between the North and the South, or were they simply feeling their oats?

Susan Ames was feeling something today, too.  By accident or design, she scratched her cousin Emily’s piano. Not good. Evelina may not have witnessed the incident, as she was busy in the kitchen making fish chowder for dinner. The chowder was partaken of by the family and by the piano teacher, who often timed her lessons around the midday meal. Perhaps a regular meal was part of her pay.

 

*William L. Chaffin, History of Easton, 1866,  pp. 512 – 513

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 18, 1852

Stage

 

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 25, 1852

Turkey

Nov 25

[…] Thanksgiving  Mr & Mrs

Whitwell Father Mrs Witherell Emily Horatio &

Gustavus dined at tea here.  Michael &

sister & Ann Oral at the second table.

Mr W went home at half past three to

marry a couple   Oakes A Emily & Susan went

with him After they left this evening Mrs

Witherell & self called on Mrs Dow in Olivers

Mr & Mrs Dow & family Mr & Mrs H Lothrop & Cyrus

at Olivers 

“[T]his was thanksgiving day,” wrote Old Oliver Ames, after a brief notation that the day “was fair in the morning but clouded up in the afternoon”. Evelina and her servants prepared a feast that fed at least fifteen people. The whole Oakes Ames family was there, naturally, and so was Old Oliver. Dining with them were Sarah and Emily Witherell, Reverend and Mrs. Whitwell, brother Horatio Ames and his youngest son Gustavus, the latter two having arrived from Connecticut the day before. At the “second table”  – which likely means a second seating – the servants partook. Catharine Murphy and Ann Shinkwin were presumably present, as was Michael Burns (Old Oliver’s coachman/ostler), his sister and Ann Orel, a young Irish girl who worked for Sarah Witherell.

Family gathered next door, too. The Oliver Ameses, meaning Oliver Jr.,Sarah Lothrop Ames and their children Fred and Helen, shared the repast with two of Sarah’s brothers, Henry and Cyrus, along with Henry’s wife Eleanor and long-time friends, the Dows. Quite a gathering, all told, as family members dined and visited.

Sarah Josepha Hale, the patron saint of Thanksgiving, describes her understanding of the origin of Thanksgiving in a novel she wrote in 1827 and republished in 1852:

“Soon after the settlement of Boston, the colony was reduced to a state of destitution, and nearly without food. In this strait the pious leaders of the pilgrim band appointed a solemn and general fast. […] The faith that could thus turn to God in the extremity of physical want, must have been of the most glowing kind, […] On the very morning of the appointed day, a vessel from London arrived laden with provisions, and so the fast was changed into a Thanksgiving.”

This may have been the version of Thanksgiving that Mrs. Hale used to persuade Abraham Lincoln to make it a national celebration. It also may have been the story of Thanksgiving with which the Ameses were most familiar.