December 11, 1852

Trunk

Sat Dec 11th  It has been a very stormy day

and O A has been in the house and

we have packed all his clothes  Catharine

has made two night shirts for him

and they are all washed & ready  It has

been a trying day to me  Mr Torrey called

and had quite a chat with mother but

I was busy at the time

 

“[T]he 11th it began to rain in the night + this morning there is a north east storm + rather cold + windy it raind about all day and fell 1 ½ deep,”* wrote Old Oliver Ames in his daily record. The weather was miserable and seemed to match Evelina’s mood as she packed Oakes Angier’s trunk with the help of her servants and, perhaps, Sarah Witherell.  Evelina herself said it was a “trying day.”  She couldn’t even attend to a visit from a favorite, her brother-in-law, Col. John Torrey, and seemed grateful that her mother was available to do the honors of receiving his call.

On this exact date in Lexington, Virginia, a young professor at the Virginia Military Institute wrote to his sister Laura Ann, with whom he was very close, offering her advice about getting the better of a recent illness: “I hope that though ill health is your present lot, that notwithstanding you will continue a buoyancy of spirits, and not give way to surrounding troubles.  I too am a man of trouble, yet let the oppressing load be ever so great, it never sinks me beneath its weight.”  It’s too bad that Evelina couldn’t read his advice – she might have been able to bear her sad thoughts better. Although she had never met the professor, she would one day know his name: Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.

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

**Thomas Jackson, Letter to his sister Laura Ann, Courtesy of Virginia Military Institute Archives

November 24, 1852

matthew_perry

Matthew C. Perry

Wedns Nov 24 Have heat the oven three times

to day and baked squash & apple pies brown

bread gingerbread & cake of sour cream and

it is very good  Miss Alger has given

her thirteenth lesson  Horatio & Gustavus

came in the stage  Augusta spent part 

of the evening here

The brick oven, heated up three times, would have helped warm the house on this day before Thanksgiving, as “it was the coldest day we have had yet.”* Evelina was pleased with a new recipe for sour cream cake, probably a pound cake that used sour instead of sweet cream. Many smart cooks had discovered that this kind of recipe was a good way to use up cream that had turned. It was very Yankee not to let the cream go to waste. And while Evelina was baking, the servants Catharine and Ann were working, too, setting the table, cutting up vegetables, trussing the turkey. The kitchens at the Ames compound  and across New England were busy, busy, busy.

While housewives focused on preparations for the Thanksgiving feast, a major diplomatic mission got underway. Commodore Matthew C. Perry, commander of the East India Squadron, departed Norfolk, Virginia to sail to Japan. His mission was to secure a trade treaty, no easy task with the notoriously secluded island nation. President Millard Fillmore had authorized Perry to open the ports to American trade, by show of force – also known as gunboat diplomacy – if necessary. Despite the ill wishes of the Dutch, who were already trading there, Perry was ultimately successful.

 

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

October 16, 1852

darning-egg-designs

Darning Egg Designs, from Godey’s Lady’s Book

Sat Oct 16th Have made more barberry sauce to day

have three girls here now Ann came

Wednesday night but I am not to commence

paying her wages untill Monday and Catharine

Middleton is to leave to night  I have been

mending to day

 

Bad weather kept Evelina and her servants indoors. As Old Oliver recorded, “the ground froze some last night and it is verry cold to day for the season wind high from north west and some cloudy.” It was a good day for making barberry sauce, especially with three young women to help. The shelves in Evelina’s pantry – or buttery – and cellar must have been nearly full of jars of preserved fruit. There would be plenty to go around come winter. And winter was coming.

It was a good day, too, to catch up on mending. At least some of the mending consisted of darning the holes in the socks – or hose – worn by everyone in the family. Darning eggs, such as the ones in the illustration from Godey’s, were found in most homemakers’ sewing kits or work baskets. They were held on the inside of a sock to keep it firm while the stitching was done on the outside. Some intricate darning eggs also held needles, thimbles, and other tiny sewing utensils on the inside.

The prosaic simplicity of the day’s chores would not have raised any suspicion on Evelina’s part that seven years from this day, John Brown and a band of cohorts would lead a raid at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. The incident would shock and alarm the nation as it realized that even in the civilized “Old Dominion” – as opposed to places on the wild frontier, like Kansas or Missouri – arms would be raised to eradicate slavery. None of the Ameses knew, of course – no one could – but a civil war between the states of the North and South was drawing near.

 

 

October 4, 1852

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                       Roger B. Taney                                                                   Benjamin Robbins Curtis                

(1777 – 1864)                                                                       (1809 – 1874)

Oct 4th Monday  Catharine Middleton & C Murphy washed

Mrs Norris and all of us dined with Mrs Witherell

and staid there untill about four and then

Mrs Norris and self went to Augustus’ to tea and

passed the evening  Mrs Lincoln is there

intends spending the winter  I do but very

little sewing have made a pr of plain cambric sleeves to day

 

 

It was the first Monday in October which in North Easton meant another washday. At the Ames compound, the Irish servant girls, Catharine Middleton and Catharine Murphy, tied their aprons on, filled the wash tubs and went to work. The slight rain did not interfere.

In Washington D.C., on this first Monday in October, nine white male justices put on their black robes and also went to work. A new session of the U.S. Supreme Court got underway. Led by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney of Maryland, the 1852-1853 term would deal with, among others, the case of Cooley vs. Board of Wardens of the Port of Philadelphia. That decision would confirm the right of states to regulate commerce within their own boundaries. We might imagine that this decision had an impact on businesses such as the shovel works that shipped merchandise.

Taney and three other members of the court – John McLean of Ohio (the longest-serving), James Moor Wayne of Georgia, and John Catron of Tennessee – had been appointed by Andrew Jackson in the 1830’s. Two other justices, John McKinley of Alabama and Peter Vivian Daniel of Virginia, had been appointed by Martin Van Buren and had served almost as long. Newer to the bench were Samuel Nelson of New York, appointed by John Tyler in 1845, and Benjamin Robbins Curtis of Massachusetts, appointed by Millard Fillmore the previous year, 1851.

Associate Justice Curtis was the first and only Whig ever to serve on the Supreme Court. A graduate of Harvard, he was also the first justice to have a formal law degree. The justices up until that time had either “read law” as apprentices or attended law school without getting their degree.  Curtis would further distinguish himself in 1857 when the Taney Court handed down the infamous Dred Scott decision that determined that a black man had no rights of citizenship. Curtis and John McLean dissented from that majority decision, with Curtis so upset that he resigned from the court. He is the only justice to date to resign from the Supreme Court on a matter of principle.