November 5, 1852

Oliver Ames, Jr.

Oliver Ames, Jr.

(1807 – 1877)

Friday Nov 5th Susan has taken her ninth lesson

in music and I fear she is rather dull

does not call her letters well at all

Mrs Swain called this afternoon to settle

with me about her things and to night sent

me as a present as much as a half bushel […]

quinces  We passed the evening in Olivers

After stopping by to pay for the mourning apparel Evelina had picked up in Boston, Ann Swain sent Evelina two pecks of quinces to further thank her for her kindness. This thoughtful gesture may have distracted Evelina from her ongoing annoyance at her daughter’s “dull” piano playing. Susan had not yet learned her scales. At night, Evelina and Oakes, and perhaps other family members, “passed the evening” next door at Oliver Ames Jr’s.

Today, in fact, was Oliver Ames Jr.’s 45th birthday. He and his wife, Sarah Lothrop Ames, lived next door to Oakes and Evelina. At this juncture, Oliver Jr. was serving his first term as State Senator; he would serve a second term in 1857. According to Reverend William Chaffin, who knew the Ames family well, “Oliver Ames stood among the foremost in his reputation for a manly and unblemished character and for business ability…a strong, substantial, able, and honorable man.”****

The third of Old Oliver’s eight children, Oliver Jr. had originally been the brother who tinkered with the possibility of a career away from the shovel factory. In his teens, he suffered a “severe fall,”**** and was unable to work. He was sent to the Franklin Academy in North Andover after which he began to read law with William Baylies, Esq., of West Bridgewater. Reading and debating – good lawyering skills, both – had always been sources of pleasure for Oliver, but “[t]he confinement of office proving unfavorable to his health, together with the increasing demands of business at home,”**** he returned to North Easton. In 1833, he married Sarah Lothrop, the daughter of the Honorable Howard Lothrop and Sally Williams Lothrop. They had two children, Frederick Lothrop and Helen Angier Ames.

Relative to his brother, Oakes, Oliver Jr was reckoned to be “pretty dignified, and takes a good deal after his father, but Oakes is always ‘hail fellow well met.”** Another contemporary acquaintance of both men said simply that Oliver Jr. was “the conservative one.”***They made a good business pair. Over time, Oliver Jr. and Oakes, under the watchful eye of their father, turned the shovel shops into an industrial powerhouse, even as they groomed the next generation, Oakes Angier, Oliver (3) and Fred, to take over when the time was right. They invested in technological improvements and hired more help, especially from the newly arrived Irish population. They improved supply and delivery; in 1855, Oliver Jr. helped create the Easton Branch Railroad spur from Stoughton to North Easton.  In 1863, he oversaw the creation of a railroad line through the Great Cedar Swamp to Raynham. His interest in railroads led him to join his brother in the plan to build a transcontinental railroad when Oakes, by that time a U. S. Congressman, was tapped by Lincoln to lead the way.

The rest, as they say, is history. Both brothers became “deservedly famous”*****for their involvement with the Union Pacific. More than one contemporaneous historian has noted: “In 1866, Oliver Ames was elected president of that railroad, an office he held with significant ability until March, 1871.  During this time the road passed through some of its stormiest days and severest trials. His sound judgment, great business capacity, and inflexible integrity were of immense service in carrying this great enterprise safely through difficulty and peril to final success.”*****

On this dark autumn night in 1852, the “difficulty and peril [and…] success” lay ahead for both brothers as they sipped tea with their wives and watched “a few flakes of snow” fall.*

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

**“Ames at Easton: The Shovel Makers and Their Works. Life and Habits of the Congressman. Cursed Abroad – Applauded at Home,” The Boston Times, February, 1873

***Josiah Bushnell Grinnell, Reminiscences of Forty Years, 1891, Boston, p. 137

****William Chaffin, History of Easton, Massachusetts, 1886, p. 655.

*****Duane Hamilton Hurd, History of Bristol County, Massachusetts, Vol. II, 1883, pp. 430 – 431 (also Chaffin, p. 656)

October 23, 1852

Railway_Station,_Stoughton,_MA

Stoughton Railroad Station, built 1888*

 

1852

Saturday Oct 23d Baked in the brick oven brown

bread cake & pies  After I got the first

oven full I had pies enough for a second

and I put the brown bread with the

stove oven and heat the brick oven again

Oakes A & Susan went to Stoughton after

Fred and then after Miss Alger and she has

given her sixth lesson Mr & Mrs Davenport &

child came this evening from Attleboro

Bread, cake, pies and more pies. There was so much baking going on at the Ames house that Evelina used both ovens, the new cast iron one and the original brick oven – the latter twice. What was all the baking about? Company was coming.

A young couple from Attleboro came for a visit: Edward Davenport, a jeweler, with his wife Celestine and their toddler, Annie. What was their connection to the Ames family? They stayed for several days. Also arriving for a stay was the piano teacher, Miss M. J. Alger. We might wonder how Susie Ames felt about that.

Susie helped pick up Miss Alger, in fact. She and her brother Oakes Angier drove around today, first to the train depot in Stoughton and then to Miss Alger’s house. At Stoughton, they met their cousin Fred Ames, who must have been coming home on a break from Harvard. The depot they went to was the earliest iteration of a train station in that town, built in the mid-1840s for the Old Colony Railroad. It was later replaced; today, the Romanesque stone building erected in 1888 is on the National Register, reminding us of the tremendous role that the railroad played in the second half of the 19th century – and well into the 20th.

What a full house Evelina had tonight. Where did she fit everyone?

*Image from 1901, courtesy of Wikipedia

 

 

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 11, 1852

Coffeepot

 

 

June 11th Friday  This morning had quite a fuss with

Jane about her coffee & beef &c and cannot put

up with such work and to night have engaged

a new girl  Helen & self carried Mr & Mrs

Orr to the Stoughton cars this afternoon […]

We went to the shops this morning & called

on Augustus Abby & Mrs Witherell

 

A red letter day for Evelina: She fired Jane McHanna. In Evelina’s mind, Jane’s work had fallen off – particularly when compared to the accomplishments of Mrs. Patterson – and today, after a “fuss” about breakfast, Jane had to go. Their relationship had ever had its ups and downs; today it ended.

The kerfuffle between Evelina and Jane must have been observed, or overheard, by houseguests Robert and Melinda Orr. Perhaps their presence influenced Evelina’s decision to dismiss Jane, Evelina wanting to exhibit higher standards of domestic efficiency than Jane was used to producing. However it came about, the result was that Jane would go. Evelina found a replacement by nightfall, but would Jane be equally lucky?  A lone woman without means, could she find a new position quickly?

The morning’s upset may have lingered in Evelina’s mind throughout the day, but she continued to entertain her Boston guests according to the means at her disposal. Besides calling on various family members, they walked around the shovel works, a tour which would have interested Robert Orr.  He lived in Boston, but his family in Bridgewater and elsewhere had worked with iron for many years.

In the afternoon, Evelina and her niece Helen Angier Ames “carried” the Orrs to the railroad stop in Stoughton and bid them goodbye. It was one month ago today that George Witherell died.

May 16, 1852

lclapp-1

1852

Sunday 16th May Mr Whitwell preached a funeral sermon

and very good  At noon mother Henrietta

and self spent at Mr Whitwells  After meeting

Mr Ames Susan & I rode to Mr Clapps made

quite a long call  he has but a very few 

flowers in blossom, pansys were very pretty

Have engaged a trellis of him

The last formal recognition of the death of fourteen year old George Witherell took place in the Unitarian church this Sunday when the minister “preached a funeral sermon.”  Different from the ritual text that probably defined the graveside service just three days earlier, the sermon was presumably a collection of thoughts about death in general and the death of the young man in particular.  Reverend Whitwell knew the family well and, being an articulate and thoughtful wordsmith, must have offered the family some personal comfort and consolation.

Evelina appeared to be recovering her strength. With her husband and daughter, she rode to Stoughton after church to visit Lucius Clapp, where they made “quite a long call.” Evelina discussed flowers and a trellis. Was this trellis ordered in place of the one at the front door that was being built only ten days earlier?  Or was this a new trellis entirely, designed perhaps for the garden?  Was this the year of the trellis?

One imagines that Oakes Ames offered less direction about the trellis than his wife.  What he might have preferred to discuss with Lucius Clapp was their shared interest in the Whig party, or their mutual respect for temperance.  According to one nineteenth century historian, Mr. Clapp was a “kind-hearted”* man with a “modest and retiring nature.”* His politics were informed and liberal:

Formerly a Whig, Mr. Clapp has been identified with the most progressive political creeds. He was one of the original Free Soilers, and chairman of the first Free-Soil meeting held in Stoughton. Since its organization he has supported the Republican party. He has been [a] member of school committees several years, and selectman of Stoughton seven years, and now (1883) holds that position. He has always been pronounced in advocacy of temperance, and has been connected with every movement for the betterment and advancement of his native town. He is an attendant and supporter of the Methodist Episcopal Church.”*

Mr. Clapp and Mr. Ames would have had much to talk over.

 

*D. Hamilton Hurd, History of Norfolk County, Massachusetts, 1884, pp. 424-425

December 4, 1851

Clerk

Dec 4th  Thursday.  Returned from Boston to night

Have got the greater part of the things

I wanted.  could not suit myself in all.

Mother spent yesterday with Augustus & to day

at Mr Torreys returned here this evening

Left Mr Orrs this morning did not dine there

it takes so much time  Julia is at home

It is three weeks [entry ends here]

 

After seeing her husband off on his business trip to New York, Evelina spent yesterday and today shopping in Boston. She seemed satisfied with her purchases, though she confessed that she “could not suit myself in all.” Was she buying cloth or ribbon or other fashion accessories, or decorative items for the refurbished parlor, or foodstuffs for the pantry? It was early December, a time in our own culture when we modern folks are apt to be out (or online) shopping for Christmas presents. Evelina may have been buying Christmas gifts for her family, although that is unlikely, as the Ameses barely recognized Christmas, let alone celebrated it.

Although public opinion in New England was changing, a poor opinion of Christmas prevailed among the Yankees of Evelina’s generation, and certainly of Old Oliver’s. It was based on a Puritan tradition that considered Christmas as “an emblem of popery.”  Yankees “were strongly influenced by the traditions of Calvinism and the routine of the established Congregational church, honoring a certain stoicism, hard work, and stern independence.”  Instead of Christmas, “Thanksgiving was the most important day of the year.”* That would change.

But Evelina must have caught the train back to Stoughton, or the stage home to Easton, empty-handed of the kind of Christmas plunder that her favorite author, Charles Dickens, so famously described.

 

*Jane Nylander, “Our Own Snug Fireside,” 1993, New Haven, p. 8

 

November 13, 1851

Drum

 

Thursday Nov 13th  Have been cleaning the draws in

the beaureaus and have papered the closet beside

the fire place and painted some boxes &c

Ellen Meader […] has been making Susan a visit

this afternoon  The Stoughton band have been

in the neighborhood this evening. They marched 

and played up as far as the house and back to the

school house.  Went to Mr Swains and had coffee &c &c

Mr Ames has been to Boston

Stoughton, Massachusetts, has a wonderful musical legacy, most famously the Old Stoughton Musical Society, a choral group that has been active since 1786. Known in its first hundred-twenty years simply as the Stoughton Musical Society, some of its members referred to it as the “Grand Club”*. When it celebrated its centennial in 1886, Lt. Governor Oliver Ames and Governor George D. Robinson were two notable attendees at a celebratory concert. Oliver (3) was very fond of music; he even took singing lessons in his youth. He must have enjoyed the musical evening.

The long and revered history of the Old Stoughton Musical Society sheds no light on the existence of a Stoughton marching band, however. Evelina’s entry may be the only known mention – at least to date – of such a band.  On this day in 1851 it marched and played instruments through the village of North Easton, presumably after the factory had closed for the day. Why did it stop at the Ames’s house? What was the occasion? Surely the music it played was a welcome change from the usual clanging and hammering that emanated from the shovel shop.

Other than this pleasant interlude, Evelina’s day was ordinary.  While her daughter Susie had a friend over, Evelina cleaned, papered and painted.  Later in the day – perhaps as she accompanied little Ellen Meader home – she had “coffee &c &c” at the home of Ann and John H. Swain.  Oakes Ames spent the day in Boston.

 

Mary Swan Jones, The One Hundredth Anniversary Celebration, 1886