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 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 27, 1852

Prisoner

Monday Dec 27  Catharine & Ann washed and I have

commenced my dresses early for Julia

Mr & Mrs Swain & his sister came unexpectedly

into the other part of the house this afternoon

and the evening I have been there  Mrs A L

& Mrs S Ames have been to Sharon this afternoon

Mrs Ames says all the reports about Mr Clarke

abusing his wife are true and he has broken her jaw

in three places  He is in the house of correction

 

Almira Ames and Sarah Lothrop Ames rode to neighboring Sharon and back today and returned with a tale of domestic violence. A Mr. Clarke had been put in jail for beating his wife. Evelina listened closely to the news, lingering over the specifics of the injuries he inflicted on poor Mrs. Clarke, whose jaw was broken in three places. That’s a serious injury in any period, but in 1852 the capacity for proper repair of such breakage was limited at best. Orthopedic surgery was in its infancy and wouldn’t improve until doctors learned more about bone breakage during the Civil War.

The “house of correction” which housed the abusive Mr. Clarke was, simply put, the local jail. In Massachusetts the terms “jail” and “house of correction” were and are used interchangeably. Elsewhere the term “house of correction” was more narrowly defined to mean a holding place for people who were awaiting trial, or for vagrants – not a residential prison, in other words. However it may be defined, it meant at least temporary detention behind bars for Mr. Clarke.

Historians differ on society’s treatment of domestic violence in the nineteenth century. Most people believed that the government – even the local government – had no role in domestic concerns. But people also believed strongly in the moral authority of women and were loathe to tolerate physical transgressions against the weaker sex. Thus was Mr. Clarke put behind bars.

Other than this news, life at the Ames compound was trotting along as usual. It was laundry day – the last one that we shall read of – and the Irish servants were busy at their wash tubs, hot water boiling on the stove. Evelina sewed, of course, and got some pieces ready for Julia Mahoney, the dressmaker. Old Oliver noted that “in the evening there was a little snow.”

 

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 9, 1852

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Dressing case, mid-19th c.*

Thursday Dec 9th  Mrs Witherell & Mrs Ames

have been to Boston and Oakes A came

home with them  Mrs Norris has a present

from Mr Norris of a beautiful dressing case

Have got the forks & spoons &c from Bigelows

for which they charge 77 dollars 77 cts

Miss Alger brought Mother & Lavinia up

yesterday  Lavinia & Edwin & wife were here

and I went [to] Augustus after Mother this forenoon 

 

Evelina seemed to be in better spirits, perhaps because Oakes Angier returned from Boston. She was savoring every minute with him before he left for Cuba.

Her sisters-in-law, Sarah Ames Witherell and Sarah Lothrop Ames, had also been in the city. They returned with the news that Caleb Norris, son-in-law of Robert and Melinda Orr, had given his wife, also named Melinda, a dressing case for her 28th birthday. Norris was a dry goods merchant and the young couple lived with her parents on Columbus Avenue. Given Norris’s connections in wholesale and retail, he must have been able to procure his wife a fine box, perhaps at a friendly price. However he managed it, he impressed the Ames women mightily.

A dressing case was a fashionable item for women**, one that could be placed on a dressing table or clasped closed to travel. Most cases, such as the one in the illustration, contained bottles and vials to hold perfume and lotion, and brushes and combs for the grooming of increasingly complicated hairstyles. All items deemed necessary for the beautification and maintenance of a woman’s hair, face and hands were thoughtfully and expensively included, topped off in this case with silver lids.

Their friends weren’t the only ones spending money on luxury items. Evelina tells us what it cost to buy some new flatware and have it monogrammed: $77.77. In today’s dollars (2015), that would amount to approximately $2,430. The Ameses were becoming quite wealthy to be able to spend that amount. The purchase certainly overpowers that 75 cent crumb brush that Evelina received from her nephew Fred, but to her credit she seemed equally pleased with both acquisitions.

 

*courtesy of http://www.antiquebox.org 

** There were also dressing cases for men, with different contents, naturally.

December 6, 1852

 

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Havana Harbor, ca. 1851

Monday Dec 6th  This day have commenced fixing Oakes

Angiers clothes ready for him to go to Cuba

We were all in the other part of the 

house to dine likewise Oliver & wife

Went when dinner was ready and spent

the afternoon & evening probably the last time

we shall all be there together for months

 

The family had decided. Oakes Angier Ames, suffering from what everyone believed to be pulmonary tuberculosis, would leave home, his cold New England home, to try to recover his health in hot, humid Cuba. Twenty-three years old, he was about to travel farther than anyone in his immediate family had ever traveled, to seek not fortune, but well-being. Everyone in that family (and probably a few beyond it) felt a part of his journey. One of their own was leaving home.

Evelina was emotional about Oakes Angier’s pending departure. She had periods of barely being able to cope, but today she seems to appreciate how much time family members were spending together, dining, visiting and having tea, “probably for the last time we shall all be together for months.” Being separated for only “months” was putting the best possible spin on the situation, for every person in that family surely knew that Oakes Angier might never recover or return.

Cuba, meanwhile, must have been the topic of some of the family’s conversation. The political relationship between the United States and the island, which was then a colony of Spain, was uneasy because of a few recent episodes of the island’s Captain-General refusing to accept mail and passengers from the United States. That disagreeable situation was being resolved through an appeal to Spain.

But a larger consideration prevailed in the rhetoric of some southern politicians who were looking for a way to annex Cuba and reinforce the practice of slavery there. So far, their agitation had been unsuccessful. In his State of the Union address – delivered this day to Congress – President Millard Fillmore wrote clearly of his disinterest in acquiring Cuba:

[B]e assured that the United States entertain no designs against Cuba, but that, on the contrary, I should regard its incorporation into the Union at the present time as fraught with serious peril.

Were this island comparatively destitute of inhabitants or occupied by a kindred race, I should regard it, if voluntarily ceded by Spain, as a most desirable acquisition. But under existing circumstances I should look upon its incorporation into our Union as a very hazardous measure. It would bring into the Confederacy a population of a different national stock, speaking a different language, and not likely to harmonize with the other members. It would probably affect in a prejudicial manner the industrial interests of the South, and it might revive those conflicts of opinion between the different sections of the country which lately shook the Union to its center, and which have been so happily compromised.

Expressing the prevalent and unchallenged racism of the time, Fillmore wrote optimistically of the future of the United States. Cuba aside, Fillmore believed that the political division between the North and the South had been solved by the Missouri Compromise of 1850. He was certainly wrong. What did Oakes Angier Ames make of it all?

 

*Millard Fillmore, State of the Union Address, 1852

 

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