November 1, 1851




Sat Nov 1st  This morning I patched the paper in the

bedroom that Mr Robinson papered last spring

Henrietta came about ten Oclock and left mother 

and her little girls at Augustus.  I went there this P.M.

and staid a couple of hours.  Mr & Mrs Peckham came

to the other part of the house  Mr Scott has finished

painting the parlour and has done here for the present

I paid him 12 dols, 25 cts for graining


The graining of the woodwork and doors in the downstairs of the house was completed today. As noted earlier, graining is the painting of a surface to resemble wood.  In 1851, popular taste dictated that wood trim from simple pine or ash or other tree be grained to resemble a dressier wood such as mahogany, or curly maple. The illustration above, from a modern decorating company that offers “faux bois,” as graining is also known, shows a hand-painted example of flame mahogany.

The talented Mr. Scott finished his work today, for which Evelina paid him $12.25.  In today’s dollars, the “labor value” of that compensation is $2,680, according to one economic source.** That value is computed using a wage index for unskilled labor; the computation for a production worker compensation would be even higher. That Evelina made note of the expenditure in her personal journal suggests that she thought it was noteworthy – in her own opinion, she either paid too much or she got a good deal.  I suspect the former!

Social life went on as usual today. John and Susan Peckham were back in town and stopped in to see Old Oliver and Sarah Witherell. Evelina’s sister-in-law, Henrietta Williams Gilmore, came into the village from the farm and brought old Mrs. Gilmore to Mr. Torrey’s to visit Alson “Augustus” and Hannah Gilmore.  Henrietta also brought along her two youngest children, eight-year-old Henrietta Hall Gilmore and six-year-old Helen Jane Gilmore.  The two girls were actually half-sisters of 29-year-old Augustus. Their mutual parent, Alson Gilmore, had a spread of seven children from two wives.


Image of mahogany-style graining, Courtesy of, Great Neck, New York.





September 6, 1851


Sat Sept 6th  Alson brought Mrs Stevens before we

were up this morning left his carriage here

while he went to Boston.  We went into Olivers

& passed the afternoon with Mrs Latham & Mrs W & Mrs

Mitchell I called on Mrs Peckham while the others

went to Mr Manly’s garden  Mr Ames brought home

some cuff pins for Alsons wife & Mrs Stevens

Evelina was probably pleased today to lapse back into a sociable, summer agenda.  Family friend Mrs. Stevens arrived at dawn, it would seem, delivered by Evelina’s brother Alson Gilmore on his way into Boston. The two women later went next door to call on Sarah Lothrop Ames and were joined by sisters-in-law Sarah Ames Witherell and Harriett Ames Mitchell and the former’s houseguest, Mrs. Latham.  Chat, chat, chat.

As they had done occasionally throughout the summer, many of the women went up to look at the flowers in Edwin Manley’s garden. The blooms they saw would be among the last for this year.  Evelina eschewed that walk (or ride) and went instead to call on Susan Peckham, wife of John Peckham, clerk for the shovel company.  The Peckhams were about to move, so perhaps Evelina went to see what help she could be, or to say goodbye. Susan Peckham must have been packing things up, a chore that would have made Evelina, who was lately familiar with the bustle of departure, feel right at home.

Oakes Ames spent the day in Boston, as he did almost every Saturday.  He went on business for the shovel company, often returning with orders or payments.  Just as often, he carried out particular errands for his wife.  Yet it’s not clear whether she or he or both, perhaps, suggested the purchase of cuff pins (perhaps what we call cuff links) for Mrs. Stevens and Henrietta Williams Gilmore.  Both women had birthdays around this time.

August 28, 1851

17 Alexander Jackson Davis (American architect, 1803-1892),  Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. 1850


Thursday Aug 28th  Have done but very little sewing to day.

Mrs Fullerton Abby & Malvina here to tea.  Mr & Mrs

Whitwell called.  Mr Whitwell walked up and sent

Mr Tilden with a carriage for his wife.  Mrs Hyde

Mrs James Mitchell & Mrs Watson came from E Bridgewater

& Mrs Watson & Peckham to the other part of the house

to tea. Alson here to dinner & tea

Frederick left for Cambridge this morning

There was much socializing in North Easton today, but it paled in importance when compared to the departure of Frederick Lothrop Ames for college. Though only 16 years old, Fred  was entering Harvard College as a sophomore, making him a member of the class of 1854.

A notable nineteenth-century commentator would arrive at Harvard just after Fred had graduated.  Henry Adams, Class of 1858, would have this to say about the college in Cambridge before the Civil War:

“Harvard College, as far as it educated at all, was a mild and liberal school, which sent young men into the world with all they needed to make respectable citizens, and something of what they wanted to make useful ones. Leaders of men it never tried to make. Its ideals were altogether different. The Unitarian clergy had given to the College a character of moderation, balance, judgment, restraint, what the French call mesure, excellent traits, which the College attained with singular success, so that its graduates could commonly be recognised by the stamp, but such a type of character rarely lent itself to autobiography. In effect, the school created a type, but not a will. Four years of Harvard College, if successful, resulted in an autobiographical blank, a mind on which only a water-mark had been stamped.”**

Was Fred Ames stamped by his time at Harvard? He certainly appreciated his years there, and became “warmly interested in everything that pertained to the welfare of Harvard, as evinced by his well-known liberal gifts to several of its departments.”***


* Alexander Jackson Davis, “Harvard University,” Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1850

** Henry Adams, Education of Henry Adams

*** Harvard “Report for Class of 1854,” 1894

July 3, 1851



July 3d Thursday  About 5 Oclock this morning Oakes A

& Frank started for their ride to Middleboro

& I fixed their boquets with Oilcloth & Ribbon

They might have had the politeness to give

their ladies some boquet holders.

I worked in the garden sometime this forenoon

my finger being to sore to work  About four

went to carry Oliver to North B to take the

cars for Boston  Mrs Peckham & Mrs Swain called.

As the crow flies, Middleboro, Massachusetts is about 14.5 miles from Easton.  By the navigable roads that crossed the countryside, however, the traveling distance was actually about 18 miles, maybe more.  Oakes Angier Ames and Frank Morton Ames borrowed a chaise to make the trip; how long might it have taken the boys to get where they were going?  A horse at a walk goes about three to four miles per hour; the same horse at a trot can manage eight to ten; and a canter or gallop – unlikely in someone else’s chaise – can cover ten to seventeen miles per hour.  We might imagine that a sensible trot was the gait they urged their horse to, but then, they were eager young men.

What was the occasion?  Was it related to a Fourth of July celebration? Who were the “ladies” whose company promised such pleasure that the brothers were on the road at dawn?  How did those bouquets hold up during the trip?  No doubt the oilcloth and ribbon was carefully and skillfully applied to the flowers, but the lack of bouquet holders was, evidently, a serious faux pas. Evelina bemoaned her sons’ lapse of manners.

Evelina took a carriage ride of her own today, escorting Oliver (her other son, most likely, as opposed to her brother-in-law) to North Bridgewater to catch the train to Boston.  Where was he going?  Why wasn’t he traveling with Oakes Angier and Frank? For the three boys, the social scene was beginning to spread further afield than familiar old Easton.


June 29, 1851

portrait of yoiung man yawning



June 29th Sunday  Went this forenoon to meeting

came home again did not feel like going

back again as it [was] very warm and I was very

sleepy and thought I might as well sleep at 

home as at church  After meeting at night

Mr Ames & I walked to Mr Peckhams to see

Mrs Swain.  She is a very pleasant woman I

should judge.

Small wonder that Evelina nearly fell asleep in church this morning. Reverend Whitwell’s sermons usually held her attention, but she was tired. She’d been busy all week, augmenting her usual chores and interests with a visit from her brother, John. On top of the emotional excitement of that rare reunion, she went to Boston yesterday, an excursion that typically delighted and exhausted her at the same time. She needed a nap.

Late in the day, evidently refreshed, Evelina and Oakes walked to the home of John and Susan Peckham. Mr. Peckham served as clerk for the Ames Shovel works, but was preparing to move away with his young family.  Replacing him, apparently, was the new clerk, John H. Swain. Evelina had already met Mr. Swain when he dined with them back in May. Tonight she met his wife, Ann, who made a favorable impression. The two families would become close over the years.

 * Photographer Unknown; portrait of a young man, yawning; ambrotype; ca. 1854; George Eastman House, Donald Weber Collection


April 4, 1851



April 4th

Friday  Have been working about house this forenoon

Gave my parlour a thorough sweeping & bedroom

& stairs &c  Have not been at all well and had

hard work to sweep.  Jane finished the ironing

We have had a hard weeks work  This afternoon

I mended the stockings  Called at Olivers awhile

Mrs Peckham called here.  Very Pleasant

Evelina was feeling the effects of a laborious week of domestic duties. Over the past several days, she and Jane McHanna had really turned to in the kitchen, preserving a pig, trying lard, making sausage and doing the bi-weekly baking. On top of that the women had seen to their regular chores, which included ironing and sweeping the rooms free of the spring dust. Evelina managed all this while recovering from the cold of the weekend before. Sitting down to do some mending must have felt good.

She found some compensation by briefly visiting her sister-in-law, Sarah Ames, next door. And at home, Susan Peckham came to call. Mrs. Peckham was the wife of John Peckham, the Ames’s head clerk and bookkeeper. What was the purpose of her call? Susan may simply have desired to be sociable, or she may have had something she needed to communicate. At a time when today’s instantaneous ability to telephone or text someone was unimagined, even the simplest request or slightest inclination to talk to a friend, a relative, or, in this case, the boss’s wife took time and effort. Susan Peckham, whatever her purpose was, had only two options open to her: writing Evelina a note, or calling on her.  She chose the latter.

What might the women have discussed?  Evelina didn’t say.


February 22, 1851


Feb 22nd  Saturday  This morning sat down to sewing

quite early to work on Susans apron.  Mr Torrey called 

to see about Augustus having his tenement.  Augustus

has engaged Mr Wrightmans house for the present.

Lavinia & myself passed this afternoon at Mr Torreys.

Called at the store, met Mrs. Peckham & Miss

Georgianna Wheaton there  Miss Foss came to night.  Mr

Ames has been to Boston brought Susan Rubbers.

Cleared off pleasant to night

In his journal today, Old Oliver noted that “It’s pretty muddy now,” which explains why Oakes Ames returned from Boston with overshoes, known as rubbers, for his daughter.  Probably everyone in the household donned rubbers during this late winter wetness.

Evelina negotiated the streets just fine, it seems, as she and her niece traveled the short distance to the center of town to call at the company store and at her brother-in-law’s house.  Their mutual nephew, Augustus Gilmore, had decided not to rent from Col. Torrey and would be settling his family instead at a Mr. Wrightman’s house.  And at the end of the day, a new person entered the domestic scene.  Miss Orinthia Foss, the new schoolteacher, arrived from Maine.

February 22 is a date that people acknowledged in 1851 in a manner similar to the way people do in 2014, because it’s George Washington’s birthday.  In this year of Evelina’s diary, President Washington had only been dead for a little over fifty years.  People were alive who could still remember him; Old Oliver was one of them.  Old Oliver was born in 1779, while the Revolutionary War was being fought.  He was two years old when the British surrendered at Yorktown, and eight years old when representatives of the new states assembled in Philadelphia to write a constitution.  George Washington was elected to head that convention and became the country’s first president in 1789, when Old Oliver turned ten.  When Washington died in 1799, beloved and mourned, Old Oliver was a twenty-year old bachelor just making his way in the world.  Much about that world would change over Old Oliver’s lifetime, but the reverence that citizens of the United States felt for their first leader would hold strong.

January 15, 1851



Jan 15 Wednesday  This morning after doing my usual

morning work went to Mr Carrs  to put the robe on the

corpse.  in the afternoon attended the funeral.  Mr

Whitwell spoke very well to the mourners & made a good

prayer  Mr Whitwell and Mr Reed were over to tea.  After

they went away I passed the evening at Olivers with Mr

& Mrs Peckham  Made a hair cloth cover for one of the

rocking chairs cushions and sewed in the evening on a


Today Evelina attended the first of several funerals she will go to over the course of her diary.  The death of young Lewis Carr won’t be the only case of consumption, either.  In this case, she helped the Carr family by sewing a robe for the body and dressing the corpse.  Death was familiar to women like Evelina; tending to its aftermath was one of their responsibilities.

And then life went on.  After the service, Evelina (with Jane McHanna’s help, certainly) served tea to Rev. Whitwell and Mr. Reed, another man from Easton.  There were several Reed families in town, so we can’t know for sure which Mr. Reed came to tea.  In her diary, Evelina mentions Daniel Reed most frequently.  Daniel was a carpenter, according to the census; today we might call him a builder.  In any case, he was well known to the Ameses.  His wife, Mary Reed, was a member of a sewing circle to which the Ames sisters-in-law belonged and the family attended the Unitarian church.

After dark, Evelina walked next door to Oliver Jr. and Sarah Lothrop Ames’s house to visit with Joseph and Susan Peckham.  She may have taken her work box with her to sew while they visited.  No doubt, they discussed the death of Lewis Carr.