July 23, 1851



Wednesday July 23  Have been sewing before noon to day working on

different articles among the rest have made

Susan a pair of short cuffs of cambric

trimed with a wide insertion and edging

Aaron Hobart & Charles Mitchell came to the other part

of the house & dined When they returned Mrs Witherell

Mitchell, Mrs S Ames & self went to Mr James Mitchells to tea

Met Mr & Mrs Judge Mitchell Mrs & Miss Hyde & Aunt Orr there

Sewing was in the forefront of Evelina’s activities lately while gardening seemed to disappear.  Perhaps the heat and the weeding were too much, perhaps her favorite blooms had gone by and she had lost interest. Then, too, she simply may have neglected to record the time she did spend in the flower beds. Whatever the cause, Evelina was back indoors in the mornings, needle in hand.

Her social life, always a little more active in the summer, continued to thrive. She noted that Charles Mitchell, younger brother-in-law of Harriett Mitchell, and Aaron Hobart dined with Old Oliver and Sarah Witherell. This entry is the first mention of the Hobarts, a family that would become intimately involved with the Ameses in the future.  Aaron was the eldest son and namesake of Judge Hobart, a former congressman, and his wife Maria, who lived in East Bridgewater. Recently returned from working in New Orleans, Aaron became “actively identified” with the local Carver Cotton Gin Company**. His youngest sister, Catherine, was at school with Helen Angier Ames in Dorchester.

It was to East Bridgewater that the ladies went today for tea. Evelina and her sisters-in-law met with Judge Nahum Mitchell, also a former congressman and a contemporary of Old Oliver, his wife Nabby, and others.  The Mitchells were related to the Orr family, and one of their daughters (Mary Orr Mitchell Ames) was married to an Ames cousin in Springfield. Needless to say, many of the long-established families in southeastern Massachusetts had intermarried over time and thus were related in long-distance ways.

*Judge Nahum Mitchell
** Plymouth County Massachusetts Archives



July 1, 1851



Tues July 1st  Worked in the garden a long while

this forenoon weeding & transplanting.

This afternoon trimmed Susan a straw and

horsehair bonnet that I purchased at Boston

Sat  Asa & Charles Mitchell came to 

the other part of the house this morning

Charles left this afternoon  I have not seen

Asa as yet

The wound on Evelina’s finger and thumb seemed better today; she spent most of her morning in the flower garden and, after dinner, trimmed a new bonnet for her daughter, Susan.  Straw bonnets were worn in the summer, naturally, and horsehair was a reinforcing fabric that could be used year round. Evelina had to be an expert by now on using horsehair, so adding ribbon or cloth flowers to it would be pretty easy for her, even with a sore hand.

Old Oliver, who seldom took note of the comings and goings of his children or his in-laws, reported in his journal that “Asa Mitchell came here to day from Sharon Pennsylvania.”  Asa was the husband of his youngest daughter, Harriett, who had been staying in Easton and Bridgewater by herself with her three children since the middle of April.  Asa worked in coal, an occupation that seemed to lead him – and his family – around western Pennsylvania and northern Ohio.

Evelina took note of Asa’s arrival; her curiosity was almost palpable as she awaited her turn to see him.  He and his brother Charles visited with Old Oliver and Sarah Witherell first thing.  What did they discuss?

* Horsehair and straw bonnet, modern construction from 1860s design; blog.historicalfashions.com, June 12, 2010, “Couture Historique” by Lindsey Slaugh

May 29, 1851




May 29th Thursday  Worked in the garden upon weeds untill about

eleven Oclock & then put clean curtains up in the

sitting room & dining room.  have taken up the 

carpet & had the dining room cleaned

Early this afternoon changed my dress and sit down

to sewing which I have not done before for a long

while  worked on Susans dresses that Julia cut.

It has rained all the afternoon had fire in furnace


Today was an anniversary of sorts.  According to Old Oliver Ames, exactly one year earlier, Sarah Witherell and Sarah Ames had been injured in a carriage accident: “Sarah + Olivers wife went to Foxborough today and they got hove out of the carriage + hurt some.”  Fortunately, no lasting harm seems to have occurred to either woman.

What had happened?  Had their horse taken a fright and tried to run away? Carriage accidents were usually the result of horses bolting, spooking or crashing.*  Sudden noises – a dog barking, a wave crashing, a flock of birds lifting off, a train whistle – could startle a horse and make it run. Some statistics suggest that horse travel was more dangerous than today’s car travel. For a time, in cities like New York and Chicago, more people per capita were killed in horse-related accidents than are killed now in automobiles.  Travel, then as now, was risky.

Probably oblivious to any recollection of last year’s accident, Evelina managed to spend several hours weeding in her flower garden before rain arrived. In the afternoon she bent to some sewing and worked on dresses for Susan.  Given how fast children grow, Susie’s dresses needed to be completed sooner rather than later.  No doubt Evelina put tucks into these newest clothes for her daughter, intending to make them last.


May 28, 1851



Wednesday May 28  Another busy day about house and what have

I done  I am sure I cannot tell how I do spend

my time  I have lengthened the valance for the 

new bedstead which took some time  Mrs Witherell

and Mrs S Ames have been to Dr Washburns to

have something done to their teeth.  Mrs Ames had

a new one put in  I have planted some Asters

Alousom & princes feathers &c.  Very pleasant

Either Evelina was getting absent-minded or her work load was so varied today that she just couldn’t keep track of all that she did. “What did I do all day?” she wondered when she sat down in the evening (or the next morning, perhaps) to record the day’s events in her diary.

For one thing, she worked on the textile that was to go with the new bedstead, a task that had to have been more pleasant than what her sisters-in-law, the two Sarahs, faced. They went to see a dentist, Dr. Nahum Washburn in Bridgewater. Dentistry in the nineteenth century was primitive compared to what it is today, and often involved extraction as a solution to toothache. A visit to the dentist was nothing to look forward to. Sarah Ames came home with a new tooth tucked somewhere in her mouth.

Working in her flower garden, of course, was another way Evelina spent her time. Today’s new plants included asters, alyssum, and prince’s feathers, a trio of choices that offered different texture and size.  Was she putting in seeds or seedlings?

May 7, 1851


Wednesday May 7th  Orinthia went to Boston this morning

with Abby Torrey after she left I went into Olivers

on an errand and stopt a long while as I am

sure to do when I ought not and then went into the

other part of the house to bid Mrs Stetson good

by (as Mrs S Ames and Frank went with her to Bridgewater)

and Mrs Lincoln Drake rode up and saw me by

the window and I was obliged to see her, thus the day passed

and I accomplished very little Went with Mrs Witherell

to the sewing circle at Daniel Clarkes


The Sewing Circle held its monthly meeting today, this time at the home of Daniel and Elvira Clark.  Roughly contemporary in age to Oakes and Evelina, the Clarks were members of the Unitarian Church.  Daniel was a carpenter who occasionally did work for the Ames family. Elvira, like Evelina, was a housewife with teenaged children.  She and Evelina visited together last Sunday during the intermission between sermons.

So much socializing went on today that Evelina had to chastise herself – “I am sure to do what I ought not” – when she spent too much time next door visiting her sister-in-law, Sarah Lothrop Ames. Sarah must have been feeling better; although she didn’t go with Evelina and Sarah Witherell to the Sewing Circle, she had improved enough not only to have a good, long chat with Evelina, but also to have an outing to Bridgewater, which she was “carried to” by her nephew Frank Morton Ames.

Evelina stopped in at Sarah Witherell’s to say goodbye to Mrs. Stetson, a friend of the family who was departing for Bridgewater, too. She then was spotted by Caroline Torrey Drake, a friend who stopped in for a visit. Mrs. Drake, a woman in her early fifties, was the mother of eight children: five girls followed by three boys.  Her first child was born when she was 20, her last child when she was 45.  Now that’s childbearing!




February 1, 1851

Ames Home and Office, North Easton, Massachusetts ca. 1852 - 1862

Ames Home and Office, North Easton, Massachusetts
ca. 1852 – 1862

Feb 1st  Saturday  Sit down to mending again this morning

Mended a pr of kid gloves and a number of other things

Went into the other part of the house with mother

to tea  worked on panteletts finished two prs.  Mrs Packard

and Mrs Rhoda Fuller called there  Mr Ames has been 

to Boston & brought home Ladys Books Grahams & Harpers

& International Magazines & 1/4 lb Angola yarn.  Have been

reading in the magazines this evening.  Cloudy & warmer

Evelina often mentions going into “the other part of the house,” which was a section of the house on the southern side in which Old Oliver, a widower, lived with his widowed daughter Sarah Witherell and her children.  This section was created when Old Oliver turned the original (ca. 1812) dwelling into a duplex in 1827 on the occasion of the marriage of Oakes and Evelina.

In 18th century New England, family custom often dictated that the eldest son inherit the family homestead and, in order to effect that, houses were sometimes renovated to allow two families to live side by side until the transfer of property came to pass.  That this practice was becoming less prevalent in the 19th century meant nothing to Old Oliver who, independent and conservative, still had his feet in the 18th century in certain ways.  His home would go to his eldest son, and he would eventually provide homes for his other children as well.

In the above photograph of the Ames House on Main Street, we can see the original home in the center, a building that is divided in two on the inside, with Old Oliver’s doorway facing toward the camera (behind the middle tree).  The entryway for Oakes and Evelina faces the street.  To the left of the house is the attached office, where Oakes and Oliver Jr and others kept track of business matters.  It was known as the Counting House.

In the background to the right is the house Old Oliver built for Oliver Jr and wife Sarah Lothrop Ames on the occasion of their marriage in 1833.  In 1863, they would tear this down and rebuild a more modern and formal abode, one that still stands today. The old homestead, which housed generations of Ameses in its time, was torn down in 1951, approximately 100 years after this photograph was taken.