June 29, 1852

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Henry Clay

(1777 – 1852)

1852

Tuesday June 29th  Have had a quiet […] sick day  have

a bad cold & cough and sick head ache

A gentleman here from Pennsylvania

to dine but I did not go to the table

Mr Bartlett here to tea from Maine

Augusta came in and cut her out a

visite & I have written to Melinda to

get some trimming for it  Ottomans came

from Boston

Evelina was sick and probably spent most of the day in bed. She didn’t eat much, missing midday dinner – with company – and possibly skipping tea, too. Perhaps she took a tray of food in her room. She must have begun to feel a bit better, however, as she eventually roused herself to cut out a “visite” for Augusta Gilmore, who came over at the end of the day.  She even wrote to her friend Melinda Orr, in Boston, to find some trim. She could get animated about a sewing project, though not much else appealed to her today.

It was “a fair warm day + verry dry,”* and probably “verry” good for the haying that was underway. Old Oliver and a team of hands would have been outdoors from sunup to sundown.

In the world beyond North Easton, a consummate, outspoken and controversial politician passed away today: Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky, aged 75, died in Washington D. C., of consumption. The Ameses wouldn’t have known this, however, until they read the next day’s newspapers. But most likely they admired Clay, the “Star of the West,” and the founder of the Whig Party. Clay’s biggest opponent back in the day had been Andrew Jackson, who called Clay “the Judas of the West.”  One imagines that Oakes Ames had probably been on the side of Clay’s admirers.

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

July 4, 1851

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July 4th  Have been transplanting some pinks &c to day We have had several heavy showers  Oakes A & Frank rode to Dr Swans to make a call and carry his chaise home  Oliver & wife Harriet & Helen went to Mr Lothrops this afternoon  Mr Ames & self to mothers.  Orinthia has gone to Cohasset with Mr Brett.  Helen came home last night   On the Fourth of July in 1851, the new 31-star flag was raised over America for the first time.  It recognized the addition of California to the union.  Previously known as the California Military District, and before that as the short-lived California Republic, the new state had been officially added back on September 9, 1850, less than three years after gold was discovered there. California’s statehood had been a political struggle in that age of slavery. Only after significant wrangling by Congress and Presidents Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore, did compromise legislation, spear-headed by Senator Henry Clay, finally carry the day. There was to be no slavery in California. The 31-star flag would remain the standard until 1858, when Minnesota joined the union. The nation’s 75th birthday was recognized in Washington, D.C. with a ceremony for the laying of a cornerstone of the new addition to the Capitol. Massachusetts’ own Daniel Webster gave a speech. A long speech it was, in the style of the day, in which, among other things, Webster exhorted his audience to acknowledge that the formation of the United States had wrought “astonishing changes […] in the condition and prospects of the American people” and to advise “ye men of the South” that the progress of the country was worth staying in the union for. Ten years before the Civil War, Webster opined that “the secession of Virginia, whether alone or in company, is the most improbable, the greatest of all improbabilities.”  Webster didn’t live long enough to see how wrong he had been. Back in Easton, the shovel shop was closed. Many employees may have tried to picnic despite the rain. In the Ames family, most everyone had someplace to go. Evelina and Oakes rode to the Gilmore farm to visit Evelina’s mother. Oakes Angier and Frank Morton, no doubt tired from their long day yesterday, took the borrowed chaise back to Caleb Swan. Oliver Ames Jr., his wife Sarah and daughter Helen rode over to Sarah’s parents’s house, taking Harriett Ames Mitchell with them. Where was her husband, Asa? Where were her young children? With the Mitchell in-laws in Bridgewater, perhaps. Why weren’t they all together? Even Orinthia Foss was out and about, gone to Cohasset with a Mr. Brett.   * If you want to see other designs for the 31-star flag, check out the Zaricor Flag collection at flagcollection.com