December 24, 1852

Image from Aunt Louisas Alphabet book - Alphabet og Games and Sports, London, 1870

The Yule Log, English illustration, ca. 1870

Friday Dec 24th  Have finished the sack for Susan

and I feel that I have a good job done

Catharine has basted the lining & outside

of my dress together  Ann & Catharine

went to Canton this afternoon. Alson &

wife came up this morning to go to the lecture

they stopt at Augustus & Henrietta & Helen came

here   Malvina here to tea.  Mr Ames went to Boston

lecture by J C Parks

on the dignity of labour

Some people were preparing for Christmas, but Evelina wasn’t one of them. As we saw last December, the Ames family didn’t celebrate Christmas, certainly not the way we celebrate it in 2015. Nor did other Unitarians and fellow Protestants in New England. Catholics celebrated it, however, and this afternoon, Irish servants Catharine Murphy and Ann Shinkwin departed for Canton where they must have had family or friends to meet. They wouldn’t return until late the next day. In one sense, Christmas to the Ameses meant a lack of servants and no work – or reduced production, perhaps – at the shovel shop. It was a holiday with a negative impact.

So in the Ames compound, life went on as usual, even on Christmas Eve. Evelina sewed and Oakes Ames went into Boston. A few Gilmore relatives, including Evelina’s youngest nieces, Henrietta Hall Gilmore and Helen Jane Gilmore, came by. There was a lecture in town which Evelina’s brother Alson and his wife Henrietta Williams Gilmore attended in which Mr. J.C. Parks spoke on “the dignity of labour.” An interesting theme for a day when much of the work force was so-called idle. Surely the quiet at the factory got under Old Oliver’s skin, but with his usual understatement, he only mentioned the weather in his journal:  “[I]t raind ¾ of an inch last night it was cloudy in the forenoon + fair in the afternoon wind south west and it took the snow + ice all off.”*

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

December 21, 1852


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 17, 1852


Friday, Dec 17th  Had a north east storm and a very rough

night and I was quite sick got into Boston

about ten and went to the Marlboro Hotel

to breakfast sick and tired. Went out shopping

bought Delaine for a double gown & morning

dress  Home in the stage at the usual time

This evening attended a lecture by Dr Holmes

on lectures & lecturing  Mrs Ames here to tea


“[I]t snowd last [night] about 3 inches and there was some rain with it – and it raind most of the forenoon and in the after noon it was verry foggy + warm + the snow about all gone there was an inch of water in all – Oakes + his Wife got home + Mrs George Ames with them”*  This is the only place in his entire decades-long journal that Old Oliver mentions his daughter-in-law and, per the custom of the day, he doesn’t even mention Evelina by name. The weather, however, he describes in detail.

Evelina describes a “very rough” trip from New York to Boston, one that made her ill. Yet she managed to recover after breakfast at the Marlboro Hotel. This trip is the only time in Evelina’s diary that she mentions dining in restaurants, first in New York and again in Boston. Dining out was not something that was done by women like her; restaurants generally catered to men, who could go out in public unaccompanied. But as Evelina was traveling with her husband, she was an acceptable customer. This exposure to aspects of the men’s normal world was a true adventure for her.

Not one to miss an opportunity to shop, Evelina bought some fabric in Boston before catching the stagecoach home. Back in North Easton, she seemed to settle back in quickly, perhaps unpacking and visiting around the immediate family, members of whom would have wanted to know about Oakes Angier’s departure. Almira Ames came for tea, and Evelina still had energy enough to attend an evening lecture in the village. The woman had stamina.

The lecturer that night was none other than Oliver Wendell Holmes, famous Boston physician, professor and poet – “a confirmed generalist”  who “regarded his eclecticism as a mark of intellectual superiority.”** Besides lecturing on lectures, he also gave talks about medicine and poetry. They were generally interesting and well attended, as they must have been to pull a fatigued Evelina out to listen to him.***


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

**Louis Menand, The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America, New York, 2001, p.58

***Information of Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809 – 1894) courtesy of Wikipedia; identity researched by reader Jessica Holland.

October 15, 1852


Friday Oct 15th  We had a very stormy forenoon and

I presume Mrs Mower did not start for home

Miss Alger came this afternoon to give her

fourth lesson and Mother returned home

with her Emily got ahead of Susan fast of 

a lesson but Susan now got up with her


North Easton and its environs had crummy weather for the middle of October. After a night of steady rain, along came “a little snow there was an inch.”* Everyone would have been wet and cold, and forced to reckon with the approach of winter.

Evelina was probably correct that her friend Louisa Mower was unable to depart for Maine, whether by rail or ship. Despite the weather, however, Miss Alger, the piano teacher, slogged up from her home in southeastern Easton to give Susie Ames and Emily Witherell their lesson. On her trip home, Miss Alger took old Mrs. Gilmore back to the family farm.

How did the girls do on the fourth lesson? Evelina wrote an observation, then crossed it out. Why? Despite that strike through the writing, we can still read that Emily was pulling ahead of Susan in her scales and overall skill. Did Evelina write that in a fit of pique, perhaps, and change her mind later? Was she disappointed in her daughter, or annoyed at her niece?


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

April 6, 1852


Harriet Beecher Stowe

(1811 – 1896)


April 6th  Tuesday  We have had one of the driving

snow storms of the season  the snow is very

much banked.  We have been reading Uncle

Toms Cabin  Susan has read to us most of the

time  have been sewing & mending.  Orinthia hemmed

a black cravat for O Angier and sewed some

on Susans pink apron.  Have made a little needle

book for mother

Yesterday, Evelina and Orinthia had been in Evelina’s garden planting flowers. Today the two women sat indoors “sewing & mending” because the unstable spring weather had brought on “one of the driving snow storms of the season.” According to Old Oliver, the snow “was all in heaps and the wind blowing verry hard from northeast” *

Yet the women weren’t disconsolate. While they sewed, Evelina’s daughter Susan read aloud to them from Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a popular new novel. Originally published in serial form in the National Era, an abolitionist periodical out of Washington, D. C.,  the full book had just been published in Boston by John P. Jewett and was on its way to becoming the best selling work of fiction of the 19th century.

Written by Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, or a Tale of Life Among the Lowly tells the story of two Kentucky slaves, Tom and Eliza, who are forced to leave their home plantation and make their way in a hostile society, one sold south, the other escaping north. It was a tale that gripped readers north and south, within the country and abroad, and provoked various imitations, interpretations and theatrical iterations. It has never been out of print.

Mrs. Stowe was not only an author, mother of seven children and wife of a Biblical scholar and educator; she and her husband were also active abolitionists. For a number of years they had lived in Cincinnati, Ohio, an active depot for escaping slaves, where they were participants in the Underground Railroad and personally helped hide slaves on the run. When the Fugitive Slave Act was enacted in 1850, Mrs. Stowe was distraught. She wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin in protest.

How might Evelina have liked Uncle Tom’s Cabin?  Very much, one suspects. Though hardly an active abolitionist, Evelina was sympathetic to the slaves. After the Civil War, she even tried to hire some freed black women to come work for her but, according to her grandson Winthrop Ames, the plan never worked out.

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

March 25, 1852



March 25  Thursday  Quite a heavy snowstorm this 

morning but it soon cleared and the sun came out

bright and for a short time the trees were clothed

with snow and were realy beautiful to behold

Have been mending quite a number of 

garments that were laid by from time to time

thinking I would mend them at a more convenient 

opportunity but that time seldom comes especialy

if it is what I dislike to do

Evelina had a quiet day, within and without. The snowstorm and its immediate aftermath produced a beautiful hush over the village. The trees in her backyard, along the Queset, were “clothed in snow,” and “beautiful to behold.”  This would be one of the last snowstorms of the season.

It was a lack of activity, perhaps, that made Evelina introspective today. She was more apt to describe her days in external terms, as in what she did and where she did it; but on this day she looked inward and faulted herself for not doing her duty. Because mending was so disagreeable to her, she was apt to procrastinate in tending to it. On this quiet day, she had no excuse not to do it.


*Photograph by John S Ames III

February 28, 1852


Thomas Nast’s first rendition of the Republican party’s symbol, early 1870s


Feb 28th Saturday  It has been a stormy uncomfortable 

day  Mother is quite unwell & rather homesick

Mrs Witherell spent two hours here this

forenoon  I have finished the flannel

skirt that I commenced Jan 30th and put

a cape top to an old one  Mr Ames has

been to Boston as usual says the slab will be here Monday

Evelina stayed indoors today, sewing, of course, but also tending to her elderly mother, who seemed fretful and “unwell.” The whole town was subjected to what modern weather forecasters would call ” a wintry mix.”  According to Old Oliver, the day began “a snowing this morning wind south east but the snow is dry – it snowd + haild untill about 4 O clock + than began to rain + raind pritty fast untill some time in the night when it cleard of[f] with the wind north west and + cold and the wind blew verry hard”*

In another section of the country also known for its harsh winters, this date in history (plus two years) marks the genesis of our country’s Republican party. According to political historian Robert Remini, “[o]n February 28, 1854, a number of Free-Soilers, northern Whigs and antislavery Democrats met in Ripon, Wisconsin, and recommended the formation of a new party to be called “Republican.”**  Several months later, on July 6, after Congress passed the controversial Kansas-Nebraska act, the nascent group met again in Jackson, Michigan, where they “formally adopted the new name and demanded the repeal of the Kansas-Nebraska and Fugitive Slave Acts and the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia.”

It wouldn’t take long for the Ames men, former Whigs, to join the new political party.

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

Robert Remini, The House: The History of the House of Representatives, 2006, p. 150  

(NB: A source cited in Wikipedia in February, 2015, says that the date for this meeting in Ripon was March 20)

January 19, 1852


Fashion illustration from Godey’s Lady’s Book, 1850



Jan 19th Monday  Susan washed the dishes and after doing

my usual mornings work commenced sewing some pieces

of fur that was taken off my cloak for Susan a muff

to carry to school.  Finished it before dark and in

the evening made over her best muff and it looks

as well if not better than when new. feel very well

satisfied with my days work  Very cold.


The snow continued today. According to Old Oliver Ames, “it snowd all last night + more than half the day to day and it was a verry cold storm – it did not snow fast any part of the time and all that has come now will not measure more than 6 inches on a level. it drifted considerable and is dry + light.”*

Susan Ames probably would appreciate the muff that her mother was making for her to keep her hands warm.  She already had one for “best” to wear to church, but this one would be for everyday. Made from recycled pieces of fur off her mother’s cloak, Susie would be making quite a fashion statement for a nine-year-old school child, most of whose classmates would likely have worn mittens.  Even Meg and Jo March had to walk to their jobs without muffs, holding instead warm popovers fresh from the oven to keep their fingers from numbing up.

At day’s end, Evelina was “very well satisfied” with the muffs she had reworked.  The household today appears to have been running well which would have amplified Evelina’s happy mood. Jane McHanna must have worked some magic to get the laundry done despite the snow storm.

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

January 18, 1852



Jan 18 Sunday  Has snowed quite hard all day.  The

gentlemen all went to meeting & Mrs S Ames & Emily,

Mrs Witherell staid at home because she looks so bad

& Susan & self on account of a cold & cough  Have

read The Vale of Cedars by Grace Aguilar & have

written a letter to Pauline Dean.  Made a long

call in the other part of the house this evening.  Mrs

S Ames there with me

Feeling under par, Evelina and her daughter stayed home from church today while the men of the house pushed through the “fine cold dry snow”** to get to meeting. Sarah Witherell stayed home, too, still recovering from having had her teeth pulled.  It was a luxurious opportunity for Evelina – and Susie and Sarah, perhaps – to sit and read in relative quiet.

Evelina’s choice (which she probably read in serialized form in a periodical, as the tale wasn’t published in book form until 1853) was The Vale of Cedars or The Martyr’s Tale by Grace Aguilar. It was a tale of a Jewish father and daughter trying to hide from the Spanish Inquisition in 1479. The “Vale of Cedars” was their hideout. Eventually discovered and imprisoned, the daughter resisted the church’s demand that she convert to Catholicism.  Thus, the “Martyr’s Tale.”  The dramatic plot with its medieval overtones, exotic location, and anti-catholicism probably captivated Evelina, just as the author meant it to. Aguilar included these words from Byron’s [Oh! Weep for Me] in her introduction to the book:

“The wild dove hath her nest – the fox her cave –

Mankind their country – Israel but the grave.”

George Gordon, Lord Byron

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

January 6, 1852



Augusta Pool                                       Lavinia Gilmore


Tues Jan 6 th

A heavy snow storm commenced about

10 Oclock  Mrs Witherell & her children have been

to the funeral in a waggon had a hard time getting

home.  Augusta and Lavinia have been at Edwins

house getting it in order for housekeeping.  This

evening have helped me stone raisons for cake  Edwin

came with them to tea

The bad weather continued, bringing snow that Sarah Witherell and her children, George and Emily, had to fight their way through as they returned from a funeral in a wagon. As Sarah Witherell’s father, Old Oliver, noted, it “snowd all day and in the evening. it was a damp snow and fell level.

Evelina was safe inside, out of the weather. With her were her 19-year-old niece, Lavinia Gilmore, and Augusta Pool, a 22-year-old who was about to marry Lavinia’s brother, Edwin. The two young women had been at Edwin’s house for much of the day, “getting it in order.” How exciting, and perhaps a little scary, for Augusta to be getting married and moving into a new house in the village of North Easton.  She had always lived out in the country, not far from the Gilmore farm, which is how she got to know Edwin.  In fact, Augusta’s older brother, John Pool, was married to Rachael Gilmore, Lavinia and Edwin’s older sister. They would be double-siblings-in-law. (There must be a more official word for the relationship when a brother and sister from one family marry a sister and brother, respectively, from another family.)

When they finished today’s work at Augusta’s new home, the two girls walked over to Evelina’s to help her stone raisins for the wedding cake.  Evelina may have put the raisins in a little warm water to plump them up before popping the seeds out.  Edwin, groom-to-be, joined the women and the rest of the family for tea once the men all arrived home from work.


* Photographs courtesy of The Easton Historical Society, with thanks to Frank Mennino, curator