June 12, 1852

 3124164293_b3d771db50Lace bonnet

June 12th Sat  Jane has left and gone to Mr Savages

Mrs Patterson is here yet  Cousin Susan Orr

and Harriet Mitchell came to the other part

of the house this morning  I have spent the

afternoon there and Augusta stoped there awhile

Have finished my bonnet & lined & trimmed

Susans last summer bonnet

Jane McHanna, the Irish servant whom Evelina had fired the previous day, found immediate employment in the village at the home of William and Hannah Savage. Mr. Savage worked at the shovel factory; Mrs. Savage was a homemaker with a teenage daughter, Abby.  Mrs. Savage, unfortunately, was ailing, and needed help around the house.

That Jane found another position so quickly speaks not just to the circumstances of the Savage family, but also to her own capabilities.  She may have been more adept than Evelina had lately given her credit for, and others knew it. By 1855, Jane would be working for Oliver Ames Jr. and his wife Sarah Lothrop Ames, a couple with high standards. How would that play out for the two sisters-in-law?

But meanwhile, Evelina had Mrs. Patterson to depend on, and a whole afternoon in which to finish her – and Susan’s – latest bonnets.  She also got to sit and visit in the other part of the house with Sarah Witherell, where both were visited by Susan Orr, Harriett Mitchell and the young bride, Augusta Pool Gilmore.  Did Augusta share the information that she was now in her first trimester of pregnancy? Probably not, and impossible to know, but fun to imagine the conversation if she did.

October 29, 1851



Wednesday Oct 29.  I have been what I call puttering

about house most all day and have accomplished

but very little.  papered the fireboard and pasted

the loose places in Franks chamber  Mr Scott

has painted the sitting room & closet

Mrs Hubbel & Ames came from New York this morning

H O A Orr came for Susan this afternoon  Mr

Walton is there. Mrs Holmes and Abby called

Mr Ames came home from Boston to night

Many comings and goings in North Easton today, under a cloudy sky.  Almira Ames, widow of George, an Ames cousin, arrived from New York with a Mrs. Hubbel in tow. They came for a visit with the obliging Sarah Witherell and Old Oliver Ames in the other part of the house.

Susan Orr, meanwhile, who had been staying with Sarah Witherell and her father for almost a month, was picked up this afternoon by her brother, Hector Oakes Orr. Susan, age 53, and Hector, age 51, were first cousins of Sarah Witherell and her siblings on the Angier side of the family.  Susan and Hector were two of five children of Susanna Angier Ames’s sister, Mary and her husband, Dr. Hector Orr, of Bridgewater. Their shared grandparents were Oakes and Susanna (Howard) Angier.

Evelina’s niece on the Gilmore side, Abigail Williams Torrey, paid a call with Harriet Holmes (the neighbor who had been so ill back in August). A Mr. Walton floated somewhere in the picture; Evelina’s inclusion of his name is a bit vague. And chugging along in the background of the various calls was Mr. Scott painting the woodwork in the sitting room. Evelina concentrated on papering a fireboard when she wasn’t attending to the influx of visitors. For readers who don’t have fireplaces, a fireboard was a piece of wood, textile or ironwork fitted to the opening of a fireplace for periods when the fireplace wasn’t being used.  Fireboards made from wood, most common in the countryside, were often decorated with wallpaper or painting.


* 19th century papered fireboard, Pennsylvania, courtesy of 1stdibs.com.


October 21, 1851


Tues Oct 21st  Have been scraping off the paper again

to day and getting ready for the painters

Have been to work some on the sleeves

of my cashmere have sewed part of the 

trimming on.  Hannah called to ask

me to take care of her babe for her to go

to Boston tomorrow  Was in the other part

of the house part of the afternoon 

The house continued to be in some upheaval this morning as Evelina scraped more wallpaper off of the parlor walls in order to get “ready for the painters.” Her arms and hands must have ached with the effort. Soon enough she broke away from that task and turned to her sewing, probably with relief. For some time she had been working on a new wool dress and today sewed some trim on.  Did she add fringe, or piping, or lace? Or did she add the ribbon she’d been looking for lately?

The bad weather from the weekend had disappeared. According to Old Oliver’s daily chronicle “there was a large fog this morning + after it went of[f] it was verry warm wind brisk from south west Mr Arnold came here to day to sleight the shop at great pond.”

Hannah Lincoln Gilmore, wife of Evelina’s nephew Alson “Augustus” Gilmore, came by to ask her aunt to babysit the next day. Evelina, always a friend to younger women, agreed to watch Hannah’s infant son. It’s worth noting that in order to ask that favor, Hannah had to walk over from the village to physically appear at Evelina’s house. That, or she could have written a note and asked someone to deliver it.  There was no phoning, no texting, no emailing, no instant messaging. Instead, there was a knock on the door and a face-to-face request. That’s how it was done in 1851.

Evelina wound up the day with a visit to Sarah Witherell and her houseguest, Susan Orr, in the other part of the house.


October 18, 1851


Herman_Melville_1860Herman Melville

Sat Oct 18  Have been to Boston with Mr Ames to day &

have bought Paper for the sitting room &c &c

went into all the stores where there were ribbons

to match my dress could not find a good one

Did not get near all the things I wanted

Lavinia came here to night.  Mrs S Witherell

& Miss S Orr called a few moments

It was a full Saturday for Evelina. She accompanied her husband into Boston and while he probably visited customers and took orders for shovels, or collected payments from various vendors, Evelina went shopping. She purchased new wallpaper for the sitting room and more. She was on a tear to refurbish the old homestead – or at least her half of it – yet wasn’t able to “get near all the things” she wanted.  She searched for ribbon, too, maybe to go with the new cashmere dress that she and Julia Mahoney only recently finished.

Evelina and Oakes returned to Easton in time to welcome niece Lavinia Gilmore for the night. As they traveled back from the city, they may have noticed the sky beginning to cloud up, pushed along by winds from the south. After their return, Sarah Witherell and her houseguest, spinster Susan Orr, popped in from the other part of the house, perhaps to ask what wallpaper Evelina had selected.

Far away, in London, 500 copies of a new novel called “The Whale” were published today in three small volumes. In a month, the same book, written by young American author Herman Melville, who dedicated it to his friend Nathaniel Hawthorne, would be published in New York with an added title: “Moby-Dick.”  Evelina never mentioned it, but might she have read it?

October 13, 1851


Oct 13th  Susan washed the […] dishes this morning and 

went to sewing quite early made the sleeves

to my cashmere dress and pocket made and

have got all ready for Julia to cut the waist in 

the morning.  Spent most of the afternoon in the

other part of the house  Mrs Willis died about

one or two Oclock this afternoon


“[V]erry warm and sultry like dog days” was Old Oliver’s assessment of today’s unseasonal weather. Evelina didn’t complain about it, nor did she mention any discomfort from the nettlerash that had plagued her for the last ten days.  Perhaps the burning and itching was finally subsiding.

Mrs J. Willis died today. There were a few women in North Easton who might have been this person; a possible candidate was a 44-year-old woman named Hannah Willis who lived in the Pauper’s House with her probable father-in-law, James Willis, and a child named James W. Willis. She had done some sewing for Jane McHanna back in March.

Evelina herself spent the morning with a needle and thread, making the sleeves and pocket for a cashmere dress.  She planned to use the services of Julia Mahoney to sew the waist. In the afternoon she went to the other part of the house, presumably to visit with her sister-in-law Sarah Witherell and a guest, Susan Orr. Given the heat and her slow recovery, Evelina moved around surprisingly well.

October 9, 1851


Thursday Oct 9th  Jane has been sick to day went to bed directly

after washing the breakfast dishes and I had to get

dinner  After dinner she was much better and was

able to […do] the dishes  This afternoon I have passed

in Olivers with Miss S. Orr.  Mrs Witherell & Mitchell

Mr Ames & William there to tea Have trimmed

Susans bonnet with dark ribbon


Jane McHanna was sick.  The domestic team at the Oakes Ames house was barely operational, what with Evelina herself still feeling the effects of a mean case of nettlerash. But between them, the two women, servant and mistress, managed to make meals appear on the dinner table in a timely fashion. Did the men of the house appreciate the extra effort going on behind the kitchen door?

Tea was a special event today, served next door at Oliver, Jr. and Sarah Lothrop Ames’s. Present were five of Old Oliver’s six surviving children: Sarah Witherell, Harriett Mitchell, Oakes Ames, William Leonard Ames, and the host, Oliver Ames, Jr. William was visiting, if not from New Jersey, then from his current way station on his journey to Minnesota. Harriett, too, held visitor status;  she and her children were about to return to her husband in Pennsylvania. Only Sarah Witherell, Oakes, and Oliver Jr. lived in North Easton and saw one another regularly.

Missing from the group was Horatio Ames, who lived down in Connecticut. No one’s favorite sibling, some – Oakes, particularly – may even have appreciated his absence. Interesting that Old Oliver himself isn’t mentioned as being present.

Another guest who was also there at this rare gathering of the clan was Miss Susan Orr, a long-time family friend (or relative?) who had known the group when they were children. She could remember Oakes Ames as a baby. Susan had been staying with Sarah Witherell and Old Oliver for about ten days. Meanwhile, a different Susan, only nine-years-old, got her bonnet trimmed with a new ribbon.


October 7, 1851


Tuesday Oct 7th  Have been at work on the dark french

print  This forenoon swept the chambers and put Franks

chamber in order that he left.  Carried my work

into the other part of the house while  My humour

troubles me so that I can scarcely sit still.  Was quite 

sick awhile this evening  We have had very cold

weather for the season for a number of days


Whatever powdered medicine Dr. Swan gave Evelina on Sunday wasn’t working. Her “humour” troubled her all day and she was especially ill in the evening. Her nettlerash made her uncomfortable and sick. With some asperity, she noted the recent “very cold weather,” which wouldn’t have helped her frame of mind.  It’s interesting to note that her father-in-law, Old Oliver described this very same day as “a fair warm day wind northerly part of the day + southerly part of the day.” It’s likely that Evelina’s perception was colored by her overwhelming personal discomfort.

Does any reader think Evelina that might be suffering from shingles?

Nonetheless, she kept busy.  She swept the house and tidied up after her youngest son, Frank. She sat down to sew, though must have found it difficult to concentrate when her skin itched and burned.  She went into the other part of the house, where Miss Susan Orr, an elderly friend (or relative?) from Bridgewater was visiting. No doubt she sought conversation to take her mind off of her own troubles. Perhaps she wished her nephew, George Oliver Witherell, a happy birthday. He turned 14 on this date.