July 2, 1852



Friday July 2d  Sewed on Susans clothes & new strung

her coral necklace then went to transplanting

moss pinks and work untill noon  The gardener

has hoed & weeded my flower garden  This afternoon 

went into school with Mrs Witherell.  Mr Brown & Miss 

Clark have closed  The school appeared well.

After school went into Edwins to tea  Augustus

& wife were there came home & made a boquet of flowers


The day was sunny and windy and Evelina took advantage of practically the whole morning to work in her flower beds. She transplanted flowers with relative ease because a hired gardener had “hoed and weeded” everything for her. Wasn’t she lucky! Plus she had blossoms enough at the end of the day to arrange a “boquet” for the house.

Evelina also did some sewing for her daughter. Of particular interest is that Evelina restrung a coral necklace belonging to the girl. Susie was fortunate to own such a necklace; coral was a popular gemstone, and had been for centuries. It was colorful, exotic and could hold a high polish. By this era in fashion, such a necklace was usually sold as part of a set, suggesting that Susie may have owned a pair of coral earrings or a brooch as well. Earrings had increased in popularity as hair styles were lifted off the ears to expose the lobes, but Susie seems a little young to wear a set. Perhaps not. Having jewelry to wear was, obviously, a sign of wealth and status.

Yet Susie was still a schoolgirl, coral necklace or no, and this afternoon, school let out for summer. Susie and her cousin, Emily Witherell, were free of lessons for the time being, and they were probably happy about it. Evelina and Sarah Witherell went to the school, perhaps to get a report from the teachers or simply to acknowledge the occasion with their daughters and bring them home.



April 21, 1852


Examples of 19th c. lunch pails*


Wednesday April 21st  It still continues to rain through not as

hard as yesterday  Have been to work on

Susans dresses altering them  Went with

Mrs S Ames to the store  Susan has carried

her dinner to school three days and thinks

it something nice  Swept my chamber and put

it in order

The heavy rain of the past two days wasn’t giving up easily. Old Oliver wrote that “it raind considerable last night + the wind blew hard and it is cloudy + rainy this morning + the water is verry high.”**

Despite the weather, the Ames women continued many of their usual routines: sewing, of course, and housework, but errands, too. Evelina and her sister-in-law Sarah Lothrop Ames went to the company store in the village. Little Susie Ames went to school, as she had even during the worst part of the storm. Instead of coming home for dinner in the middle of those rainy days, however, she carried her meal to school and ate there.  No school cafeteria or hot lunch program in those days! She thought it “something nice” to stay at school for the midday meal.

Courtesy of the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian

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

April 5, 1852




April 5th Monday  Went into the garden this morning and

found my tulips were coming up through the coal

scraped it off and set out a few that I got in

Olivers garden.  Went with Orinthia to Edwin

Manlys garden about three Oclock. he had gone

to Mr Clapps.  We rode there and met him on

the way stoped awhile and had a chat on plants

in general  The school commenced this morning

by Mr Brown & C Clark

Tulips! How welcome was the sight of the curl of green shoots “coming up through the coal.”

Forget the laundry.  Never mind the sweeping and dusting. Someone else could do the breakfast dishes. Without so much as a glance at her sewing workbox or the pile of mending, Evelina was in her garden.

She scraped the coal covering away and “set out a few” more plants. After midday dinner, she and Orinthia headed to Edwin Manley’s nursery north of the village only to find that Mr. Manley had himself headed out to look at plants at the home of Lucius Clapp in Stoughton. The two women rode on and finally came across Mr. Manly en route. With carriage and on horseback, the three avid gardeners paused in the roadway and “had a chat about plants.” Spring had truly begun.

March 17, 1852

 IMG_0085Modern photograph of two private homes on Oliver Street in Easton, originally built in 1852 as part of the temporary structure for the shovel factory.*

March 17

1852  Wednesday.  Passed the day at Mothers with Amelia

and Susan   Carried Augusta to her fathers

and afternoon she and Rachel came down

to see us  Miss Foss closed her school Sat.

Came to Mothers this morning and to

night came home with us.  Carried cloth

and cut out a bleached shirt  Amelia worked

on the sleeves.

Evelina spent a pleasant day with her mother and several relatives. Her friend Orinthia Foss came to stay for a time. Evelina’s father-in-law, Old Oliver Ames, was completely focused on the rebuilding of the shovel shops. He seemed pleased to report:

“this was a cloudy day wind northeast. + in the afternoon it was cold + chilly. the roof is on the stone shop + the windows are in + the down stream end finisht- + the piece from that to the water shop is up + the roof shingled + the walls are boarded – one hundred + eight feet of the handeling shop is up and part of it clapboarded. the polishing shop is up and the roof shingled and the sides boarded + partly clapboarded the hammer shop is up + the sides + ends boarded and the roof and two thirds sleighted”**

This is one of the longest entries that Old Oliver ever wrote in his journal. He was clearly proud of the progress that had been made in the two weeks since the fire that destroyed almost all. The factory would soon be back on its feet, and planning for more permanent stone buildings could move forward. The wooden buildings that went up so fast would have another use after the stone buildings were erected, that of housing for some of the shovel workers. They would be moved from the original site by the pond and become residences. As you can see from the illustration, some of them are still used today.


* Image taken by Gregory Galer, Forging Ahead, MIT, 2001, Figure 50

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

December 31, 1851



Wednesday Dec 31st  This morning sit down early to knitting

my hood  Have it all finished ready for the lining.  About ten 

Oclock went into the school with Mrs. Witherell.  Mr Brown

has closed his school to day.  Passed the afternoon & evening at Olivers

Mr & Mrs Wm Reed  Mr & Mrs J Howard, Whitwell & A Gilmore were there.

Susie Ames and Emily Witherell may have been happy today to reach the end of their school term. Class, dismissed!  1851, dismissed!

Just how the Ames family celebrated the departure of the old year and arrival of the new, we don’t know. Old Oliver, with his usual terse assessment of the day, merely noted that “this was a cloudy day and some cooler + misty + foggy.” The cool mist he saw would develop into a huge rain storm over night, preventing folks from moving around much.

A group of friends and relatives gathered for tea next door at the home of Oliver Ames, Jr. and his wife Sarah Lothrop Ames. Besides Evelina and Oakes, at the party were Reverend William Whitwell and his wife Eliza, Reverend William Reed and his wife Abigail, Jason Guild Howard and his wife Martha, and Evelina’s brother Alson Gilmore and his wife Henrietta.  In just a few more years, a group like this might have sung the beloved  Auld Lang Syne to mark the occasion. In fact, a version of Auld Lang Syne, written in 1855 and called Song of the Old Folks would become “the tradition of the Stoughton Musical Society to sing […] in memory of those who had died that year.”*

Out with old, in with the new. What a year it would be for the Ames clan.


October 6, 1851



Monday Oct 6th  Went down to Dr Swans before 7 or 8 Oclock

so that I might find him at home and he has given

me some powders  When I came back found the

dishes washed and put away  Jane has been remarkable

smart  I have finished my striped french print

and have worn it this afternoon  Mr Brown

commenced school again to day  Passed the evening

at Mr Holmes with Susan


Evelina sought help today from Dr. Caleb Swan, who gave her “some powders” for her nettlerash. She would have mixed a dosage with water and swallowed it.  What was the actual medicine that she ingested? Did it contain the laudanum that was often dispensed to women in that era? Whatever it was, it seemed to make Evelina feel a bit better.

Jane McHanna, the Ames’s servant, washed the breakfast dishes for Evelina while she was at the doctor’s. Jane usually did the cooking and Evelina typically did the washing up, but in this case Jane must have recognized how sick Evelina was.  Evelina was grateful for the assistance and praised Jane for being “remarkable smart.”

The day progressed well afterwards. Little Susie returned to school where Eratus Brown was her teacher. Did she miss her old teacher, Orinthia Foss? Evelina sewed and finished making a “striped french print” dress. Stripes were in fashion that fall, as the illustration above from Godey’s Lady’s Book shows. The illustration also shows that distortion of the female figure for advertising purposes was every bit as popular in 1851 as it is in 2014. The length of the woman’s legs in the drawing is improbable, unless she is standing on stilts under that full skirt. Look at her tiny foot sticking out from the hem!

Evelina even felt well enough to go out in the evening with her daughter.  They went over to the Holmes’s where they probably visited with Harriet Holmes, the neighbor who had been so ill earlier in the summer. The Holmeses had a daughter, Mary, who was about Susie’s age.


Fashion plate from Godey’s Lady’s Magazine, September 1851

September 30, 1851


21st century view of apartment building owned by Col. John Torrey, which Augustus Gilmore and his young family moved into in 1851

Sept Tuesday 30  Augustus family left this afternoon for

their new place  his wife went this forenoon

and put down two ca[r]pets and put up two beds

I went about four Oclock and helped her

untill night   passed part of the evening in

the other part of the house  I have been to 

work a very little on my dresses and so

has Ellen  Helen left this morning for school in Boston

It was “a fair day + pritty warm”*, so folks who had stayed inside yesterday because of the rain were able to be out and about today. Evelina must have felt better, too, as she helped her nephew’s wife, Hannah Lothrop Gilmore, set up housekeeping in their new quarters in the village. Practiced mothers, they probably kept their eyes on Hannah’s small sons as they worked.

Helen Angier Ames, fourteen-year-old daughter of Sarah Lothrop and Oliver Ames Jr., left for Boston this morning.  She was going to a new school, the third one this year. Clearly she, or her parents, had had difficulty settling on the right situation. Perhaps this one would be the charm. We don’t know which academy or seminary she was headed to; there were probably several schools to chose from. The Auburndale Female Seminary was one that was established about this time (today is exists as Lasell College) though we have no indication that this was the one, among many, that the Oliver Ameses would have settled on for their daughter.

The Girls High and Normal School started up around the mid-19th century as well.  It was focused on training young women to become teachers, and thus was unlikely to be the institution that Helen Ames went to.  Helen didn’t need to be trained to make a living.  A smaller, private outfit was likely to have been the place for her.

* Oliver Ames, Journal

September 26, 1851



Friday 26th  Mrs S Ames & Mrs Mitchell went into Boston & Cambridge

Wednesday & returned last night  Julia is to work

for Helen to day  they talk of sending her to Boston

to school  I have been to work on my dresses some

to day and have varnished my desk & beaureau

& some other things, taken up some plants 

from the garden  It is very cold and we had 

some frost last night

It had been a week ago today that Evelina, Oakes, and other Ameses had stood in Boston for hours watching a grand parade celebrating the railroad.  Since that time, Evelina had returned home, rearranged furniture and nursed her daughter through an uncomfortable spell of sickness.  She must have finally felt that her life was getting back to normal.

Evelina sewed a bit today, of course, and continued to redecorate, varnishing two pieces of furniture. Even more pressing, however, was her garden. She brought some plants into the house in hopes that they would winter over and, most likely, pulled out other annuals that she had planted months earlier.  She was feeling the cold and noted the frost, although her father-in-law, Old Oliver, contradicted her in his assessment of today’s weather as “cloudy most of the day but not cold.”

Old Oliver also noted that “Horatio was here to day, ” something that Evelina neglected to mention. Horatio and Oakes Ames didn’t get along, so the men would have avoided one another if possible. Perhaps Evelina didn’t see Horatio, although, given his great size and odd voice, he would have been hard to miss. As described by Winthrop Ames, Horatio “was an enormous man, so large that when he walked beside his father he made the latter appear of almost ordinary stature; but with a piping voice which seemed especially incongruous with his great frame.”**

Evelina did quickly see sisters-in-law Sarah Lothrop Ames and Harriett Ames Mitchell who returned from an overnight in the city. Sarah may have been scouting boarding schools for her daughter, Helen.


* Courtesy of cherrycroft.blogspot.com

** Winthrop Ames, The Ames Family of Easton, Massachusetts, 1937, p.107

September 5, 1851

Pentax Digital Camera


Friday Sept 5th  Expected to be alone to day and was in

hopes to do some sewing but about ten Oclock

concluded to invite Mrs Latham (who came yesterday

to Father Ames,) to tea and all from the other part

of the house.  Jane made a great fuss about getting

tea having some short biscuit to make and I

got very nervous.  Mrs S Ames staid awhile but

went home to tea


The house on Main Street was relatively empty today.  Son Oliver had left for college and friends Pauline Dean and Orinthia Foss had departed as well.  Her husband Oakes and other sons, Oakes Angier and Frank Morton, were at work and little Susie was at school.  How quiet the house must have seemed, even with the sounds from the factory ringing from across the road. Evelina sat down in solitude to sew and found she wanted something more.

A little tea party was what was needed, she “concluded,” although her servant, Jane McHanna, evidently disagreed.  Jane probably had her own agenda of tidying up after yesterday’s whirlwind of departures and so “made a great fuss” about the extra work. Jane’s irritation ran counter to Evelina’s hopes, and some kind of verbal tussle must have ensued. No wonder that Sarah Lothrop Ames, who had come over from next door, didn’t stay around.

The party must have happened, however, else Evelina would have written otherwise. Jane prepared the meal. Late in the afternoon, family from the other part of the house and their guest, Mrs. Latham, were treated to tea and “short biscuit” and, perhaps, other refreshments.

Short bread or short biscuit or short cake – all names for the same, crumbly finger food – was a typical offering at tea parties, and simple enough to make that many cooks wouldn’t even need a recipe, or “receipt.” Using some of the butter that Evelina had bought just one week earlier, Jane McHanna would have followed a process similar to that described by Lydia Maria Child in her book The American Frugal Housewife:

“When people have to buy butter and lard, short cakes are not economical food. A half pint of flour will make a cake large enough to cover a common plate.  Rub in thoroughly a bit of shortening as big as a hen’s egg; put in a tea-spoonful of dissolved pearlash; wet it with cold water; knead it stiff enough to roll well, to bake on a plate, or in a spider.  It should bake as quick as it can, and not burn.  The first side should stand longer to the fire than the last.”




August 29, 1851


Friday Aug 29th  Alson & Mr Hall came early this

morning and were here to dinner & tea, brought Pauline

with them  Have been mending for Oliver getting his

clothes ready for school  Went with Pauline to Edwins

garden he has not many pretty flowers in blossom has

some fine Dahlias  got 5 lbs of butter at Mr Marshalls

after we came back went into Olivers to hear Pauline

play.  George & wife & Sarah gone to her fathers

The day after Clinton Lothrop’s funeral, Sarah Lothrop Ames, her brother George Van Ness Lothrop and his wife Almira spent the day, at least, at the Lothrop farm with their parents, Howard and Sally Lothrop. They would have had to make long-term plans for the property, now that Clinton wouldn’t be there to tend the family farm.

Alson Gilmore, Evelina’s brother, took his meals at the Ames’s today.  He was working nearby, perhaps with Mr. Hall, helping his son, Edwin Williams Gilmore, build a house. They were putting in the cellar.  Pauline Dean, who must have been staying with or near the Gilmores, returned for a visit. She probably got roped into helping Evelina with the mending.

Evelina had a lot of mending to do, as Oliver (3) was preparing to go off to school.  Like his cousin Fred Ames, he was going to attend an Ivy League college, but in Providence, not Cambridge.  Oliver (3) would be going to Brown, and his mother had to get his clothes ready. Shirt fronts, collars and hose weren’t her only business today, however.  She and Pauline took a break from domesticity and went to Edwin Manley’s to see his garden. There they saw “some fine dahlias.”

Dahlias, which had been introduced in the United States early in the 1800s, had quickly became popular, although not yet listed in Joseph Breck’s Book of Flowers. So successful were they that over the course of the century more than 10,000 varieties were developed or identified and sold. Today, dahlias are still much admired by flower gardeners, yet less than a dozen of those 19th century heirloom examples still exist in cultivation.* The earliest known, White Aster (above) dates from 1879.