October 19, 1851


Sunday Oct 19  Last night was very stormy, rained very fast

and heavy wind.  This evening is very pleasant

but it has rained all day so that none of the 

family went to meeting  Alson came after Lavinia

about three Oclock  I have been reading most

all day “Olive”  It is rather interesting but wish 

I had spent the day more profitably

Evelina’s father-in-law, Old Oliver Ames, also recorded the day’s bad weather in his daily journal: “it began to rain last night + this morning there is a north eas[t] storm + the wind blows verry hard. it stormed nearly all day but was clear at night – there was an inch + a half of water fell”

According to the weather record for 1851 – the first year that Atlantic hurricanes were officially tracked – the storm that Evelina and Old Oliver describe was Tropical Storm #6. It made landfall in Rhode Island, thus its impact on nearby North Easton would have been severe. Despite the rain and wind, the buildings in the Ames complex appear to have come through fine. Old Oliver would have mentioned it otherwise.

For the fourth week in a row, Evelina missed church. One Sunday, there had been no service; on two other Sundays, she had been ill and today, weather prevented attendance. She was probably missing her weekly dose of religious direction from Reverend Whitwell and social interaction with her fellow Unitarians.  She occupied herself by reading “Olive,” which was most likely a domestic novel in the genre that she often read.  It would have been the kind of book that Old Oliver called “love trash.”

April 20, 1851



April 20  Sunday  Another severe storm it snows some

but most of the day it has rained in torrents

Not one of the family have been to church.

The children have been pretty wide awake for 

the sabbath and made not a little noise.  Harriet

& Anna were here to supper  had Lobster.

Rec d a letter from Pauline this morning.

The weather this April just wouldn’t quit.  The prospect of all the Ameses trapped indoors yet again by “another severe storm,” is dreary.  Surely Evelina missed being able to get to church. Oakes could escape to his office, at least, but Evelina was in the house with many family members. The little children coped, however. After their train trip, Frank, John and Anna Mitchell seemed delighted with the relative freedom and novelty of visiting their relatives. They romped and played, making “not a little noise.”

Lobster was served for supper, a change of pace from more usual fare of beef, bread and pie. Until very recently, lobster had been considered a dish fit only for the lower classes, a sure sign of poverty. It was so cheap that it was often served in prisons. In the novel Little Women, Amy March was embarrassed when a handsome young man bumped into her on the omnibus while she was carrying one in her basket.  Only at mid-century did the crustacean’s “vulgar size and brilliancy”* begin to appeal to the more affluent. Whether Evelina served it because it was beginning to be fashionable to do so or because it was still a very economical meal is hard to say.  Certainly, it was easy enough to obtain. Oakes probably picked it up the day before while in Boston.

The indefatigable Sarah Josepha Hale offered a recipe for stewing lobster that included the direction: “If you have no gravy, use more butter.” She also suggested that lobster could be eaten cold, “with a dressing of vinegar, mustard, sweet oil, and a little salt and cayenne. The meat of the lobster must be minced very fine; and care must be taken to eat but a little of this dish.”**


*Louisa May Alcott, Little Women, 1868-1869

** Sarah Josepha Hale, The Good Housekeeper, 1841



April 16, 1851



April 16th Wednesday  Robinson had papered the 

bedroom to day but has not done it well at all.  I have

finished the carpet and put it down and 

got the room in order and it looks like another

place.  It stormed very hard last night and 

a high wind, and to day we are having the

hardest storm that I ever recollect.  Rains very

fast & wind high.  Augustus not here.

Light house on Minots rock blown down

Today’s foul weather made history. Like Evelina, Old Oliver reported it in his journal as remarkable. [T]he water is quite high I never knew the wind blow so hard for so long a time together”  It was a hard storm indeed, hard enough to take down the new lighthouse off of Cohasset, Massachusetts:
“[E]asterly winds began blowing around April 8, 1851. […] The storm increased in fury and, by the 16th, was causing considerable damage ashore. At Minots Ledge, the two assistant keepers kept the bell ringing and the lamps burning, but just before midnight on the 16th they cast a bottle adrift containing a message for the outside world in case they failed to survive. The high tide at midnight sent wave after wave through the upper framework of the weakened structure.

What actually happened then will never be known. Probably about 11 p.m. the central support snapped off completely, leaving the top-heavy 30-ton lantern tower held only by the outside piling. Then just before 1 a.m. on April 17, 1851, the great Minots Ledge Lighthouse finally slid over toward the sea. One by one the eight iron pilings broke until only three remained. The keepers, probably realizing that the end was near, began pounding furiously on the lighthouse bell. This was heard by residents of the Glades. With the tower bent over, the remaining supports now gave way and the great tower plunged into the ocean.

The body of Joseph Antoine was washed ashore later at Nantasket.  Joseph Wilson managed to reach Gull Rock, probably mistaking it for the mainland. Here he apparently died of exhaustion and exposure.”


* http://www.uscg.mil/history/weblighthouses/LHMA.asp