August 9, 1852


Map of Bristol County, Massachusetts, 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

December 25, 1851



Dec 25th Thursday  The Irish are expecting to have a great

time to day Jane went to the meeting house about

eight but the priest did not come she stoped an

hour. Carried my knitting into Olivers awhile this

forenoon. This afternoon have been to mothers

with Mr Ames & Frank as they were going to West

Bridgewater.  Finished knitting the front & back of

my hood  Made a present to Lavinia of Turnpike Dividend $800

Christmas Day! But as Evelina points out, the Irish Catholics in town would be celebrating, but the Ames family wouldn’t. Jane McHanna left the house to attend a Christmas mass for which, unfortunately, the priest was either late or didn’t show up at all.  Jane returned home to prepare dinner. Evelina, meanwhile, visited Sarah Lothrop Ames next door, knitting in hand.

After dinner Evelina rode along with her husband and youngest son as they went on an errand to West Bridgewater.  They dropped her off to see her mother at the family farm. There may have been some recognition of the holiday in this gesture, although Evelina makes no mention of gift-giving, with one significant exception. Evelina gave an $800 dividend to her niece Lavinia Gilmore.

The dividend came, somehow, from proceeds from the Taunton and South Boston Turnpike, a road that had run through part of Easton since the early 1800s, between “‘Taunton Green, so called, to the Blue Hill Turnpike,'” according to town historian William Chaffin.* Its origin was controversial and involved a long-standing disagreement with the Town of Raynham, but its impact on the Gilmore family was generally positive, as various Gilmores, including Evelina’s father and brother, served as toll-gate keepers. As Chaffin points out, however, “[t]he toll-gate naturally became unpopular.” It was closed in October of 1851.

How Evelina came to possess $800 from the road is unclear. Was this a regular dividend that Evelina received, or was the family compensated for the road’s discontinuance? That Evelina passed this money on to her niece, however, is a clear demonstration that for all her economical instincts, Evelina was capable of great generosity.


*William L. Chaffin, History of Easton, Mass, 1866, pp. 454 – 458.

November 10, 1851


George S. Boutwell, Governor of Massachusetts, 1850 – 1852

Daguerreotype by Southworth & Hawes, circa 1851


Monday Nov 10th  Election day and the whigs have got

whiped and look rather down.  It has been very

stormy.  Our new horse came home sick from town

meeting.  Oakes A, Mr Barrows & Augustus went to Taunton

this evening to carry & get the news.  Jane came home

from Mansfield to night.  Bridget is better to day

she has done the housework and I have cleaned

the shed chamber &c &c  Passed the evening at Olivers

There were full-bore politics in Massachusetts today, with the Whigs getting “whiped,” much to the disappointment of the Ames men and others. The politics of the era were untenable as the country cantered toward civil war. The Fugitive Slave Act and the Compromise of 1850, a misguided legislative expression of an unsustainable gulf between north and south, had resulted in upheaval and disarray among the existing political parties.

According to George S. Boutwell, then governor of Massachusetts, the Whigs – a pro-business, market-oriented group – had fallen into two camps over slavery: the Conscience Whigs and the Cotton Whigs.* The Conscience Whigs generally supported, and many eventually became, Free-Soilers (those who opposed the extension of slavery into new states or territories), while the Cotton Whigs held with the pro-slavery policies of the south. By 1855, a new Republican Party had risen from the ashes of the old Whigs, bringing along a few disenchanted Democrats and advocating many of the issues that Conscience Whigs had stood for. Oakes and Oliver Ames, Jr. became Republicans.

Although less well known today than fellow Massachusetts politician Charles Sumner, George Boutwell would go on to have a distinguished career, one that often involved interaction with the Ames brothers. A crackerjack lawyer by profession, an abolitionist by passion, he spent most of his life as a statesman. Besides being governor, he was, over time, the first head of the Internal Revenue Service, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, and Secretary of the Treasury under President Grant.  While in Congress, he would spearhead the impeachment of Andrew Johnson.

Also while in Congress, Boutwell would be approached by Oakes Ames to buy shares in the Union Pacific but, according to several period sources, he would turn the offer down because he thought it a poor investment. He left Congress in 1869 to serve as Secretary of the Treasury, a position he held during the Credit Mobilier scandal in 1873.  Ten years later, at the dedication of the Oakes Ames Memorial Hall in North Easton, Boutwell would speak in memory of Oakes, describing him as “tolerant of hostility, forgetful of injuries, and persistent in his friendships.”**

All this was ahead for the Ames men, Boutwell, and the nation.

*George S. Boutwell, Reminiscences of Sixty Years of Public Affairs, 1900

**Oakes Ames, A Memoir, 1883


October 28, 1851



Tuesday Oct 28.  Have been assisting Mr Scott about papering

again to day and have painted over some things

and places about the house. Finished papering the

sitting room and little entry just after dinner

Hannah called with Eddy a few moments

Mr Ames is still in Boston passed last

night there.  I spent the evening in the other

part of the house.


Yesterday’s unseasonable snow storm departed and left behind “a fair day**”  Evelina seemed not to notice the difference, focused as she was on the repapering and repainting of the downstairs of her part of the house. She was helping with the actual papering. Her husband, Oakes, was away in Boston, so her only responsibility was making sure that meals were on the table for sons Oakes Angier and Frank Morton and daughter Susan Eveline, a task she typically delegated to her servants.

Hannah Lincoln Gilmore, who was married to Evelina’s nephew, Alson “Augustus” Gilmore, paid a call with her older son Eddy. Edward Alger Gilmore was a toddler who had fidgeted more than once in his great-aunt’s parlor. He was only two years old, and probably couldn’t yet pronounce his name.

Eddy’s middle name came from his maternal grandmother, Rachel Howard Alger (1802-1823), the first wife of Alson Gilmore and mother of Hannah’s husband, Augustus.  Rachel died less than a year after Augustus was born; Augustus couldn’t have remembered her, but he clearly wished to honor her by naming his own first-born after her. The Alger family was settled in Bridgewater, Taunton, and Easton, all descendants of a Thomas Alger in the 17th century. Both Evelina and Sarah Lothrop Ames were among the hundreds of descendants in the Thomas Alger line.


* Illustration in “Scientific American”, ca. 1880, of machine production of wallpaper, New York, Courtesy of National Park Service,

** Oliver Ames Journal, courtesy of Stonehill College Archives




June 23, 1851



Monday 23  Emily is no better.  The Dr calls her

disease congestion of the brain  About ten Oclock she

was in great distress & I sent for the Doctor.  He was

just stepping into his chaise to go to Taunton

He came up immediately  found her asleep and easier.

Mrs James Mitchell & Miss Sarah Mitchell from

Freeport came to spend the day.  they passed the 

afternoon in Olivers.


Twelve year old Emily Witherell, only daughter of widowed Sarah Witherell, had been taken suddenly and seriously ill. Her symptoms seemed to worsen this morning, so much so that Evelina sent someone for the doctor, perhaps Dr. Samuel Deans who had stopped in yesterday. He or Dr. Caleb Swan, the two doctors who usually tended to the Ames family, diagnosed the illness as “congestion of the brain.”

Congestion of the brain was, by some modern accounts, a 19th century catch-all phrase for any number of illnesses that caused swelling of the brain. Known in the medical world as encephalaemia, it could be caused by a head injury or an infection.  Symptoms would include headache, fever and confusion.  Emily certainly seemed to be confused.

Why did Evelina send for the doctor, and not Sarah Witherell herself? Who went for the doctor on a Monday morning, when everyone was at work? Perhaps Michael Burns, who worked for Old Oliver? Good that the doctor was caught before he had left in his chaise for Taunton, and even better that he found Emily marginally better.

January 30, 1851


Jan 30th  Thursday  Mended Mr Ames pants which

took me most of the forenoon, read some to Mother.

Spent this afternoon at Olivers with mother & Mr

Whitwell.  They sent the carriage for Mrs Whitwell

but it was so cold that she did not come.  Mr Ames

took tea with us & Mr Ames Oliver Jr C Lothrop & 

Helen played cards I commenced a stocking of the yarn

Mrs Foss gave me.  A bitter cold day & quite windy.

A great fire in Taunton

“A verry bad day to go out in,” noted Old Oliver in his journal today.  Eliza Whitwell refused to leave her home several miles away to join the Ames ladies in the afternoon, even though her husband was there.  The carriage – did it belong to Old Oliver, or Oliver Jr, or to the family in general?  Whoever owned it, its likely driver was Michael Burns, an employee of Old Oliver who looked after the horses and carriages.

While Michael drove to and from the parsonage in the howling cold, various family members gathered next door at Oliver and Sarah Lothrop Ames’s house for tea. Oakes and his son Oliver (or possibly his brother Oliver – unclear) played cards – probably whist – with Cyrus Lothrop and Helen Ames.  Cyrus was an unmarried brother of Sarah Lothrop Ames who lived with Sarah and Oliver, Jr. for many years. Helen was their only daughter; their son, Fred, was probably away at Phillips Exeter Academy on this occasion.  Evelina knitted and kept her mother company.

In nearby Taunton, Massachusetts, Evelina reported, the furious wind contributed to a “great fire.”  The histories of that period don’t mention this fire, so perhaps it was not as great as Evelina thought.  That, or it paled in comparison to the larger fires that Taunton suffered in 1838 and 1859.*  Fire, naturally, was the dread of every homeowner and municipality; towns and cities in the 19th century (and before) were pock-marked by periodic burnings, its citizens haunted by the loss of life and property that fires engendered. The fire on this day in Taunton would have been made especially difficult by the frigid air and icy wind.

*Information obtained from Old Colony Historical Society, Taunton, Massachusetts