December 2, 1852

Fire

Thursday Dec 2d  Have been very nervous to day

thinking about Oakes A   cannot reconcile myself

to his leaving home.  Have done as well as I

could about taking care of the hog but made

poor headway  Augustus & wife  Edwin & wife

Mrs Witherell & Mrs S Ames all came unexpectedly

to spend the evening and I have not even changed

my dress. But who cares?  Miss Alger has

given her 14th lesson

 

Back in North Easton, Evelina was still rattled by the bad news her son had received. She tried to deal with a butchered hog that her father-in-law sent her but could barely cope.

Oakes Angier had been told he had consumption. He was advised to go to Cuba, whose warm, humid climate was believed to be good for pulmonary tuberculosis. No other effective treatment was available. The Ames men – Oakes Ames, certainly – would have been active today investigating possible arrangements. Oakes and Oliver Jr. had a business associate, a shipping merchant named Elisha Atkins, who traded in sugar in Cuba, at a port called Cienfuegos on the southern side of the island. Perhaps they contacted him for advice.

All the Ameses, and the Gilmore clan, too, were upset by the diagnosis. Family members on both sides “all came unexpectedly” at night to show affection and alarm for Oakes Angier, the eldest cousin of his generation. The family pulled together, although Evelina was too shocked to appreciate the support, too sad to rise to the occasion. “I have not even changed my dress,” she noted pitifully.

Completely preoccupied by Oakes Angier’s illness, the folks at the Ames compound may not have paid much attention to the news that the Chickering Piano Company building in Boston had caught fire and burned to the ground.

“3 o’clock A.M. — Thursday Morning — The whole of the manufactory—an immense block structure, five stores high—is one mass of ruins. Mr. Jonas Chickering owned the building, and occupied all of it except the stores, which were improved by Messrs Thomas &Merriam, grocers, Edward Butman, crockery ware dealer, Amos Cummings, grocer. Very little property, in the building was saved. The devouring element spread through the building with terrific rapidity and soon the heated walls began to fall so as to endanger the lives of those who approached.

The building occupied the space on Washington street, between Norfolk place and Sweetser court. A portion of the side wall on Sweetser court first fell doing no injury, and the gable end of the side wall, on Norfolk place, fell over and crushed in the roof of the brick building on the opposite corner, which was on fire, and forced out the gable end. Both buildings were now one mass of fire, presenting an awfully grand sight. A part of the wall on Washington street, next fell and the flames swept across Washington street, threatening the destruction of the Adams House and other buildings on the opposite side, but they were saved. The attic windows of the Adams House were badly scorched.

The greater portion of the wall on Norfolk street next fell over on the opposite building, crushing it completely to pieces, and the walls of the next adjoining northerly, a three story, old fashioned block, and buried underneath the ruins, two watchmen, named Alfred Turner and Benjamin F. Foster, of the Boylston division. A large force immediately set to work to remove the rubbish, and after some time, were able to converse with Turner, and in an hour’s time reached one of his arms, but before the ruins could be cleared away, he fell into the cellar, and not just before putting our [news]paper to press been dug out. Foster, it is supposed lived but a short time.

The building on the corner of Norfolk place, opposite Chickering’s was five stories high, belonged to Deming Jarvis, and was occupied, the store by P.R. Morley, plumber, and the upper stories by Mr. Ladd, pianoforte key maker. They saved but a small amount of their stock. The building was insured. The old brick building next adjoining, which was leveled to the ground by the falling wall was occupied by Mrs. Wyman, as a boy’s clothing store and a dwelling house.”*

Was the Chickering Piano Company the place where Evelina and Sarah Witherell had purchased their pianos?

*

November 6, 1852

 

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Saturday Nov 6th  Had a hard time with Susan

to make her practice and understand her

lesson.  About eleven went with Susan 

to carry Miss Alger home  Dined at Alsons

left there about half past three but did

not get home untill dark  Stopt at Mr

Algers & at Copelands for Tumblers & at Morse

factory got half lb thread & twine

 

The struggle between mother and daughter continued, Evelina trying to get Susan to practice her piano and Susan resisting. Miss Alger, the piano teacher who had been staying with the Ameses, may have been relieved to return home. We might imagine that Susie was equally relieved to see her go. Mother and daughter rode together to take Miss Alger to her residence in the southeastern quadrant of Easton. After Miss Alger exited the carriage, did Evelina scold? Did Susie cry? How did the discussion go, or did they maintain injured silence? Or sidestep the topic altogether?

The ride back to North Easton was long (and “rather chilly,” according to Old Oliver*), in no small part because Evelina and Susan stopped for midday dinner at the family farm, visiting Evelina’s mother, brother and family. It was late in the afternoon when they finally left, but nonetheless they stopped just north of the farm – would this be Alger’s Corner? – and bought some glassware for the house. They forked left onto Washington Street and stopped at the Morse Factory for thread and twine.  A half pound of thread is a great deal of thread, if you come to think of it. Was the weight of a spool – or spools – included?

The tumblers were what we would call drinking glasses today. The term tumbler, of uncertain origin and now out of use, meant a flat-bottomed glass with no handle or stem.  The tumblers that Evelina bought were most likely pressed glass, as opposed to hand-blown glass. The latter had been slowly replaced in the marketplace since about 1825.

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