January 5, 1852

Abbott H. Thayer, Angel, 1887, oil Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of John Gellatly

Abbott H. Thayer, Angel, 1887, oil
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of John Gellatly



Monday Jan 5 th

Another stormy Monday and we have not been 

able to put our clothes out  Susan washed the

dishes this morning and Jane has done the rest

of the work.  I have finished Susans hood and 

it looks very nice  Mrs Witherell came from

Boston to night  Mr Witherell died about six

yesterday morning


Old Oliver was keeping track of the stormy weather, noting that “it raind + snowd all last night. the snow fell about 2 inches deep + is a snowing now wind north east but it does not blow so hard as it did yesterday. it snowd untill about 3 O clock but was cloudy all day.” One imagines that he had his face close to the window panes of his sitting room – or accounting office, perhaps – as the snow fell outside.

Sarah Witherell returned from Boston in that same snow and wind, having managed to reach her father-in-law’s bedside before he passed away. She would gather her children and return to the city for the funeral.

Evelina, meanwhile, sewed and supervised household chores. “Another stormy Monday” meant that wet laundry was dried in the kitchen and around the house, near heat registers and the air tight stove that helped keep Evelina’s plants from freezing. Parts of the house were draped with white sheets and garments, the floors or carpets wet beneath them. Susie Ames helped some by doing the dishes, a chore that was becoming her regular responsibility. Jane McHanna, of course, bore the lion’s share of the work, with the laundry and “the rest.”



December 23, 1851



Tuesday Dec 23  Julia has been here to day to make Susans cotton

& wool Delaine  I have not sewed much with her

was choring about the house most all the forenoon

painted over some boxes for Mr Scott to grain.  made

the skirt & cuffs to Susans dress then went to knitting

on my hood which I commenced last evening.  Julia

cut and made and gathered the skirt and basted 

it on to the waist, the sleeves are not made


Old Oliver’s wintry weather report for this day suggests a scene worthy of Currier & Ives:”[T]his was a cloudy day + a verry little fine snow. wind north west it cleard of[f] about sunsett. what snow fell to day + last night was 1 ½ inch.” The countryside was covered with snow, appropriate enough for the first full day of winter.  And winter was a season much illustrated by the 19th century printmakers, Nathaniel Currier and James Ives.  Working out of New York, the firm produced enormously popular hand-colored lithographs of mostly American scenes. Currier began the prints in 1835 and was joined by Ives, who had been the firm’s bookkeeper, in 1856. The men soon developed a stable of artists and produced prints through the rest of the 19th century and into the early 20th. Evelina would have been familiar with Currier & Ives images, in the same way that many mid-20th century Americans were familiar with the illustrations of Norman Rockwell. The images were everywhere.

Many, if not most, Currier & Ives prints were scenes of the outdoors. On this day at the Ames’s, however, the action was all indoors, as the women chored, painted, sewed and knitted. Dressmaker Julia Mahoney was at the house to sew a wool dress for nine-year-old Susan Ames. That a child Susie’s age was having a dress made by a “professional” rather than her own mother was certainly a sign of the Ames’s wealth. Helen Ames, Susie’s fifteen-year-old cousin next door, often had her dresses made by Julia. Evelina was keeping up with her sister-in-law, Sarah Lothrop Ames, in providing the best for her daughter.


December 7, 1851


Dec 7th Sunday.  This has been an uncomfortable stormy

day but we have all been to meeting  Mother

was expecting to go home but none of Alsons

family were out and she came back with us

Edwin called this evening.  We passed the

noon very pleasantly though there were but 

few ladies out.  We are to meet Wednesday

at Mr Wm Reeds to quilt


A snow storm today did not keep Evelina or her children home from church. Her husband, Oakes, may have been away and thus not present to drive the carriage, but anyone of Evelina’s three grown sons would have driven it for her. Propriety and patriarchy aside, she herself could have driven it, former farm girl that she was.

Not many others ventured to the Unitarian church in the bad weather, including her brother Alson, who was to have taken elderly Mrs. Gilmore back home to the farm. There were “but few ladies,” but those who did attend got the word that the Sewing Circle would reconvene the following Wednesday. Evelina herself felt a cold coming on as she traveled through the falling snow, which Old Oliver reported eventually accumulated to “about an inch + a half of snow southerly but cold.

Exactly ninety years from this quiet day, on another ordinary Sunday, an American navy base on a Hawaiian island was bombed by Japanese planes. Evelina could never have imagined such an event. Although she was certainly familiar with the U. S. Navy and, too soon, would become familiar with war, she had probably never heard of Pearl Harbor.  Nor could she have fathomed the flying machines that attacked it.  A speedy carriage ride along an unpaved road behind Old Kate or a trip into Boston on a train car moving maybe 20 miles per mph was about as fast as she ever went. How things changed in the century ahead.