December 23, 1852

santa-in-sleigh-with-reindeersanta-claus-reindeer-public-domain-super-heroes-dfpwrpfw-e1387694367744

 

Thursday Dec 23d  Have been at work part of the

time on Susans sack & part of the time

fixing work for Catharine  She has got Susans

skirt ready for gathering and run the breadths

of my raw silk  Helen came home in

the stage to night Heard Susan practice

an hour this evening she does not take as

much interest as I could wish

 

Orville L. Holley, editor of theTroy [N.Y.] Sentinel, didn’t know who had written the poem. It had been sent in by a friend of the anonymous author. But Holley was looking for good Christmas copy, so on this date in 1823, he published A Visit from St. Nicholas,* with “cordial thanks to whoever had sent him these Christmas verses.”* He knew the piece was good, but he couldn’t have imagined the lasting fame it would receive. He couldn’t have foretold how iconic Twas the Night Before Christmas would become.

It would be another fourteen years, more or less, until the public discovered the name of the author. He was Clement Clarke Moore, a professor of oriental and Greek literature at General Theological Seminary in New York City and author of several academic works such as Compendious Lexicon of the Hebrew Language. He was also a poet, and the father of nine children. He had written A Visit from St. Nicholas for his older children and read it to them on Christmas Eve, 1822. A friend of the family had heard the poem, copied it, and sent it to the newspaper. Aren’t we lucky she saved it? Professor Moore, by the way, was born in 1779 and died in 1863 – the same life span as Old Oliver Ames.

Did Evelina know this poem? Was she familiar with St. Nicholas, Santa Claus and other Christmas lore that immigrated from the Old World to the New? Reader that she was, she was bound to know about Christmas. But so far in her life, it was a holiday that others, and not she, celebrated.

Her grandchildren would one day know the poem by heart. Dash away, dash away, dash away all!

 

*Information on Clement Clarke Moore and A Visit from St. Nicholas can be found at http://www.poetryfoundation.org

 

December 18, 1852

Stage

 

Sat Dec 18th  Had a good nights rest but still feel

very much fatigued and cannot make up

my mind to do much  Miss Alger came to give

the 17th lesson and stopt to dinner.

Mrs Horatio Ames & son Horatio came in the 

stage to night  She has left her home and

how unhappy she must be

With the demanding travel of the last several days, and the emotional drain of seeing her son off, Evelina was “very much fatigued” today. She fell back into a routine of sorts, noting that Miss Alger gave another piano lesson to Susie Ames and Emily Witherell and stayed for midday dinner. But she had trouble engaging in her usual occupations: sewing, choring, mending or reading.

A new difficulty arrived, evidently to everyone’s surprise. Sally Hewes Ames and her eldest son, Horatio Ames Jr., arrived by stagecoach from Connecticut, bringing the news that she had left her husband Horatio. She intended to divorce him. Divorce! In a era when such an act was rare and invariably scandalous, Evelina’s foremost reaction was to feel sorry for her sister-in-law. “How unhappy she must be.”

Old Oliver records none of this drama, only the day’s weather, noting that it “was a cold day + a high north west wind + much the coldest day we have this season.” Winter was finally beginning to bite.

October 28, 1852

 

Stage

Thursday Oct 28th  Miss Alger dined in the other

part of the house and myself and family

have been there to tea  Helen came home

in the stage and Oliver & family were there

also.  Oliver Miss A Susan and Augusta called

with me this evening at Mr Torreys & Augustus

Made half bushel more of barberries

A rather docile day, this was, “a pritty warm day for the season,”* according to Old Oliver. Evelina cooked more barberry preserves but otherwise was mostly occupied in social activity. She and the extended family took tea in the other part of the house at her father-in-law’s table, under the management of his daughter, Sarah Ames Witherell. Afterwards, Evelina and a group called on her brother-in-law, Col. Torrey, in the village.

Helen Angier Ames returned home from boarding school; her brother Fred had just come back, too, from Harvard.  He took the train to Stoughton while she rode in the stage coach. His mode of transportation was the way of the future, hers of the past.

Like the Erie Canal, the stagecoach was on its way out. A mode of transportation that had been imported from England, early American stagecoaches were not much more than sturdy passenger wagons. As the need for travel conveyances increased, the stagecoach evolved, improved in comfort and efficiency and became widespread. In 1827, in the middle of what is considered the “Golden Age” of the stagecoach, the Abbott and Downing Company of New Hampshire built the first of an eventual 700 Concord stagecoaches. A Concord stagecoach was considered to be the best of the breed, “a cradle on wheels,” as Mark Twain described it. Pulled by a good team of horses or mules, a Concord stagecoach could travel from 6 to 8 miles per hour.

In remote areas, especially in the less well settled areas of the Wild West, the stagecoach remained important, but it couldn’t beat the faster and far more efficient railroad. Passengers trains had arrived and were growing exponentially. In 1847, Abbott and Downing ceased operations, although its famous stagecoaches remained in use for a few decades yet.

 

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

 

 

August 9, 1852

06_01_002623.LARGE

Map of Bristol County, Massachusetts, 1852*

1852

Aug 9th Monday  Part of the forenoon was working

about the house & cut out some work.

This afternoon started to go to Taunton

and got as far as brother Alsons when it rained

poringly and we were obliged to ride into

the barn untill it slacked a little so that we

could get into the house  Spent the afternoon 

there.  It was quite pleasant when we came 

home.  Mrs Witherell A L Ames & S Ames were with me

 

On the 1852 map of Bristol County, illustrated above, the town of Easton sits at the very top. Its eastern border abuts Plymouth County, which was the home of Bridgewater (today’s Brockton), West Bridgewater, and more. On Easton’s northern line sits Stoughton in Norfolk County. To its immediate south lies Raynham, home of many Gilmore cousins. We often read of Evelina traveling to these three vicinities – Bridgewater, Stoughton and Raynham –  to see family, friends, and vendors.

To the west of Easton lies Mansfield – where Oakes and Oliver (3) caught the stagecoach for Providence – and Norton. Further south, on a NNW/SSE axis, is the somewhat bow-tie-shaped town of Taunton. Taunton in the 19th century was known locally as “Silver City,” for its silver manufacturing, being the home of Reed & Barton, F. B. Rogers and others. We seldom hear of Evelina heading there, but for some reason, she and her sisters-in-law were traveling there this afternoon.

The ladies never got to Taunton, however, as an abrupt rain shower came down “poringly” while they were en route. “Good showers,”**too, according to Old Oliver, the kind of showers he’d been looking for most of the summer. When the rain commenced, the women drove their vehicle into Alson Gilmore’s barn and waited, then hurried into the house when “it slacked a little.” And there they sat, visiting with the Gilmores.

With the notable exception of Boston, to which Evelina traveled several times a year, this map pretty well represents the geographic scope of Evelina’s life to date. The northern portion of Bristol County and its abutting towns constituted her largest neighborhood, her network of friends and family, her travel pattern, her home. That was her world. It would soon get larger.

 

*Courtesy of the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center, Boston Public LIbrary

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

June 30, 1852

Stage

Wednesday June 30th  Mr Ames left home this morning

for New York and Conn  Mrs James Mitchell

her mother & Grace came to father Ames & I

called into see them  Mrs Mitchell made 

quite a long call in here and at Olivers

Mrs Almira Ames came by the stage

to night from Conn she left New York

about four weeks since

Oakes Ames went to New York and Connecticut today on shovel business, as his father and wife each noted in their diaries. He wasn’t the only Ames on the road, either. Almira Ames, widow of cousin George Ames, arrived in North Easton from Connecticut and New York. Oakes probably went by “the cars,” as they called the railroad, while she definitely traveled in a stagecoach. Their separate modes of travel demonstrate the transformation that was taking place in transportation.

The railroad was moving in and would shortly become the dominant mode for long-distance transportation for the rest of the century and beyond. As Mrs. Penlimmon, a character developed by popular author Fanny Fern, opined only two years later:

‘The days of stage coaches have gone by.  Nothing passes for muster now but comets, locomotives and telegraph wires. Our forefathers and foremothers would have to hold the hair on their heads if they should wake up in 1854. They’d be as crazy as a cat in a shower-bath, at all our whizzing and rushing. Nice old snails!”*

How life was changing.

In more local traffic, Harriet Lavinia Angier Mitchell came to call with her mother and daughter on Old Oliver and Sarah Witherell in the other part of the house, on Evelina, and on Sarah Lothrop Ames next door. Mrs. Mitchell was a cousin of Old Oliver’s late wife, Susannah Angier Ames.

Fanny Fern, Fern Leaves from Fanny’s Port-Folio, ca. 1854, p. 50

June 8, 1852

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Patent drawing for Nancy Johnson’s Hand-cranked Ice Cream Machine, 1843

 

June 8th Tuesday  Baked in the brick oven pies

cake & brown bread and have been to work

about the house all day untill the stage

came and brought Mr & Mrs Orr  It rains

quite hard and I did not expect them

Mrs S Ames & Mrs Witherell called this

evening  Had some ice cream frozen in 

the new freezer

Evelina baked and did indoor chores all day, but as active as she was she must have been attentive to the arrival of much-needed rain.  Old Oliver certainly was, recording that “towards night there was considerable rain, wind south west.”* It was so rainy, in fact, that Evelina imagined that her expected houseguests wouldn’t come.  But Robert and Melinda Orr braved the elements and arrived from Boston via stagecoach.

The Orrs were the couple with whom Evelina often stayed when she went into the city.  She and Melinda were good friends, but the connection between the two families ran even deeper, all the way back to Bridgewater and the days of ironwork there when Robert Orr’s ancestor, also named Robert, was a maker of scythes and other tools. The Ameses and the Orrs had often crossed paths.

Evelina was ready to welcome Robert and Melinda to her home and had prepared ice cream for the occasion. The ice cream would have been made in a hand-cranked freezer and probably kept cold in the new ice closet. Although it was a specialty that took time and elbow-grease to prepare, it was not quite the novelty that we might imagine.

Ice cream had been around since Colonial days, brought in by the Quakers and quickly adopted by the likes of Ben Franklin and George Washington.  By 1813, it was served at the inauguration of James Madison. In 1836, an African-American and former White House chef named Augustus Jackson – also known as the Father of Ice Cream – created a variety of ingredients and improved the over-all techniques. Less than ten years later, in 1843, a Philadelphian named Nancy Johnson received the first patent for a hand-cranked ice cream freezer. Americans took to it in droves, and the frozen dessert only got better as time went by.

When did someone think to serve ice cream with pie? Did Evelina?

 

February 16, 1852

Picture frame

Monday Feb 16th

1852

Susan washed the dishes this morning and I was

at work about the house most of the forenoon

Mrs Mary Williams came about eleven Oclock and 

staid to dinner  Called into Olivers and Edwins

with her  She returned to Joshua C Wm about three

and went home in the stage  Oliver tried to get

the coloured engraving smooth in the frame but could 

not  Mended Oakes Angier a vest

 

The new week opened with the usual domestic arrangements: Jane McHanna doing laundry, Susie Ames washing dishes and Evelina choring “about the house” in the morning.  A visitor, Mary Williams, arrived and stayed for midday dinner, then departed mid-afternoon on the local stagecoach .

With her son Oliver’s help, Evelina finished hanging the prints she had bought the week before in Boston. The new pieces of art were quite au courant; etchings, lithographs, and engravings were appearing on parlor walls across the country.  New printing technology – the same that promoted the appearance of so many new periodicals and serial novels – made the production and distribution of art prints easy. The subject matters varied from historical (like the famous image by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze of Washington Crossing the Delaware, first painted in 1851) to religious to geographical to sentimental.  They were decorative and affordable, and the middle class flocked to buy them.

Subject matter, of course, was important; Evelina had purchased one print about Halloween (or All Hallows Eve as it was known). The prints had to be attractive and look handsome on the wall. But the decorative frames that went around the art work counted, too, and “were often considered more important than the prints themselves.”* It’s too bad that Oliver was having difficulty making one new print fit properly in its frame.

* Pierre-Lin Renie, The Image on the Wall: Decoration in the Nineteenth Century Interior, Nineteenth Century Art Worldwide