November 2, 1852

490px-William_Rufus_DeVane_King_1839_portrait

William R. King

(1786 – 1853)

Tuesday Nov 2d  Sewed on cambric sleeves for

Susan this forenoon very quietly with

Miss Alger  It has rained since Saturday

morn but this afternoon has cleared 

off Mrs Ames & self have been to Mr

Swains & called at Doct Wales & Augustus

Miss Alger & O Angier took tea in Olivers

 

Back from her quick day trip into Boston, Evelina spent the morning “very quietly” in her sitting room, sewing. The piano teacher, Miss Alger, was still visiting.  Outside, “it rain[ed] by spells […] wind north east it stormd all the forenoon and was cloudy about all day – there has bin one inch + a quarter of water fell since Sunday”*

After midday dinner, when the storm had stopped, Evelina and her sister-in-law, Sarah Lothrop Ames, went out to check on Ann and John Swain, whose infant son had died on Saturday. Evelina would have taken with her the mourning accoutrements she had purchased for Ann in the city. No doubt the Ames women continued to comfort the forlorn parents. From the Swains they paid other calls in North Easton, to the home of Ephraim and Maria Wales and to see Evelina’s nephew, Alson “Augustus” Gilmore and his wife Hannah. Hannah had lost her infant son Willie back in the summer. The women would have had much to talk about.

On the national scene, the day was momentous. As we have read previously in this blog, General Franklin Pierce, a Democrat, was elected President of the United States, defeating Whig candidate General Winfield Scott (incumbent Whig Millard Fillmore hadn’t been renominated) and Free Soil candidate John P. Hale. Easton historian William Chaffin writes: “In 1852 the vote for President was one hundred and seventy-one for Winfield Scott, one hundred and forty-three for John P. Hale, forty-nine for Franklin Pierce, and four for Daniel Webster, who was dead. This vote shows the political complexion of the town, and confirms the statement of the adoption of the Free Soil position by many Democrats.”**

The vice-president-elect was William R. King, a senator from Alabama who believed strongly in the Union. He had helped draft the Compromise of 1850. Unfortunately, King was suffering from tuberculosis and would soon die in office, one of the shortest-termed vice-presidents and the only Alabaman. He was also the only vice-president to take the oath of office on foreign soil; he was in Cuba taking the cure when he was inaugurated.

 

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

**William L. Chaffin, History of Easton Massachusetts, 1886, p. 630

 

October 29, 1852

255px-Daniel_Webster_-_circa_1847

Daniel Webster

(1782 – 1852)

1852 Friday Oct 29th  Mr Dawes came from Boston

about ten Oclock  Miss Alger expected

him before and began to feel uneasy

They went to the shops after dinner

Helen Susan & Emily went to the shop

& then rode to call at Mr Roachs

They were all in here this evening to

hear Mr Dawes play on the guitar  Mrs S

Ames & self called Swains, to see their child

Mrs Lothrop & Brett called with her babe

 

Old Oliver must have been an admirer of Daniel Webster, else why would he mention the man in his daily weather journal? He wrote, “the 29th was a verry plesant warm day. it clouded up some toward night – Daniel Webster was buried to day”.

Daniel Webster, lawyer, diplomat, statesman, orator and Whig leader, was indeed buried on this day. He had died three days earlier after a fall from a horse and was buried with “impressive ceremonies”* at Marshfield, about 35 miles east of Easton. Considered by many to be one of the finest senators ever, Webster had also been a Secretary of State, U.S. representative, constitutional lawyer par excellence, and a devoted preservationist of the union. To the latter end, he co-authored and spoke eloquently on behalf of the Compromise of 1850, which included the controversial Fugitive Slave Act. As a result, he lost the support of many New Englanders; abolitionists washed their hands of him.

On this day in Boston, however, it would have been hard to find his enemies. According to a newspaper account the next day, a united citizenry mourned:

Boston never before presented – probably never will present – such a funeral aspect as was worn in her streets yesterday. Most of the stores and shops were closed, as well as the institutions, offices, and markets, and a large proportion of the city was dressed in the habiliments of wo. [sic] Though the work was only voluntarily the act of individuals, it was very general – Washington, Hanover, and many other streets being covered in black, interspersed with mottoes, flags, portraits, and other mementoes, as the taste of each led him to adopt and carry out.  It was one of the last acts which Boston can perform to express her sorrow for the loss of the great statesman, and it is praise enough to say that it was well and appropriately done. The streets were thronged nearly all the day, crowds of people being present from other places, – and our young men wore the insignia of mourning which had been adopted, and grieved countenances were observed at every turn of the street…*

 

*New York Times, October 28, 1852

 

October 4, 1852

searchsearch                                             weal_03_img0569

                       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.

 

 

September 1, 1852

Men's Work Shirt, mid-19th c.

Men’s Work Shirt, mid-19th c.

Wednesday

Sept 1st 1852  Have been cutting out shirts & fixing

them for Catharine to sew  She does very

well at sewing but I have to get it ready for

her  Mrs James Mitchell & Catharine Hobart

came before noon at Olivers   And I have

been in there  Did not get ready to go

very early  Mr Ames has gone to the 

Whig convention at Worcester

 

Evelina had settled back into her sewing routine, the latest project being shirts for the men in her family. The last time she had sewn a large batch of shirts was back in March, 1851. It looks like the men had worn through the allotment and needed new ones. Evelina and her servant, Catharine, probably used the Bartlett sheeting mentioned two days earlier for material.

Next door, Sarah Lothrop Ames welcomed some visitors from Bridgewater: Harriet Lavinia Angier Mitchell (not to be confused with Harriet Ames Mitchell) and Catharine Hobart, the latter a classmate of her daughter, Helen.  In another three years, Catharine Hobart would later become a member of the family when she married Oakes Angier Ames. We might imagine that Catharine asked after him, perhaps expressing concern for his health. How much information did the family share about Oakes Angier’s lung condition?

While the women worked and socialized at home, the Ames men were out and about. Oakes Ames attended the Whig Convention in Worcester to help put together the Whigs’s slate for the fall election, and Old Oliver “went to quincey + Braintree to get stone for the foundation for the steam enjoin”.  The building of the new factory to replace the one that had burned down in the spring was not yet complete.

 

 

August 2, 1852

Rain

Aug 2d 1852

Monday  Was about house most of the forenoon and this

afternoon have been to work on my traveling

dress again had to let out the front & widen

the arm it was so tight  Helen spent the

afternoon here  Mrs G & Mrs S Ames called

in the furnace neighborhood and coming home 

got caught in a heavy shower

Evelina and her father-in-law, Old Oliver, had a different perspective on the afternoon’s rainfall. She called it “a heavy shower,” while he wrote that it was “a small shower.”* Because her female relatives, Almira Ames and Sarah Lothrop Ames, “got caught” in it and probably arrived home soaked, Evelina would have seen the rainfall as torrential. Old Oliver, on the other hand, would only have considered the rain in terms of the measure of water it delivered, whether he was indoors or out. From his dual position as farmer and shovel manufacturer, he considered today’s rainfall as modest. As often happened, the two in-laws differed on details.

While the rain fell in Easton, important politics were getting underway about a thousand miles to the west. In Iowa and Missouri on this date, elections to the 33rd session of the U.S. House of Representatives were being held. It was the beginning of the campaign season, something that might sound familiar to today’s readers. Between them, these two states (which, except for California to the far west and Texas to the far south, were perched on what was then the frontier between the eastern states and the western territories) would send nine representatives to Washington, the majority of them Democrats.

As we have mentioned previously, this 1852 election would be won by the Democrats, in sufficient strength to sound the death knell of the old Whig party. From its ashes would rise the new Republican party.

 

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

 

May 16, 1852

lclapp-1

1852

Sunday 16th May Mr Whitwell preached a funeral sermon

and very good  At noon mother Henrietta

and self spent at Mr Whitwells  After meeting

Mr Ames Susan & I rode to Mr Clapps made

quite a long call  he has but a very few 

flowers in blossom, pansys were very pretty

Have engaged a trellis of him

The last formal recognition of the death of fourteen year old George Witherell took place in the Unitarian church this Sunday when the minister “preached a funeral sermon.”  Different from the ritual text that probably defined the graveside service just three days earlier, the sermon was presumably a collection of thoughts about death in general and the death of the young man in particular.  Reverend Whitwell knew the family well and, being an articulate and thoughtful wordsmith, must have offered the family some personal comfort and consolation.

Evelina appeared to be recovering her strength. With her husband and daughter, she rode to Stoughton after church to visit Lucius Clapp, where they made “quite a long call.” Evelina discussed flowers and a trellis. Was this trellis ordered in place of the one at the front door that was being built only ten days earlier?  Or was this a new trellis entirely, designed perhaps for the garden?  Was this the year of the trellis?

One imagines that Oakes Ames offered less direction about the trellis than his wife.  What he might have preferred to discuss with Lucius Clapp was their shared interest in the Whig party, or their mutual respect for temperance.  According to one nineteenth century historian, Mr. Clapp was a “kind-hearted”* man with a “modest and retiring nature.”* His politics were informed and liberal:

Formerly a Whig, Mr. Clapp has been identified with the most progressive political creeds. He was one of the original Free Soilers, and chairman of the first Free-Soil meeting held in Stoughton. Since its organization he has supported the Republican party. He has been [a] member of school committees several years, and selectman of Stoughton seven years, and now (1883) holds that position. He has always been pronounced in advocacy of temperance, and has been connected with every movement for the betterment and advancement of his native town. He is an attendant and supporter of the Methodist Episcopal Church.”*

Mr. Clapp and Mr. Ames would have had much to talk over.

 

*D. Hamilton Hurd, History of Norfolk County, Massachusetts, 1884, pp. 424-425

December 14, 1851

330px-Mayor_B_Seaver

Benjamin Seaver

Mayor of Boston, 1852 – 1854

Sunday 14 Dec  Have not been to meeting to day on

account of my cough.  Jane went to meeting 

at eight Oclock got breakfast before she went.

I have been writing and reading

Mr Swain & wife have spent the evening here

Mr Swains brother has been there a week or two

I have not seen him  The babe grows very 

fast and is a great wonder

In an unusual occurrence for a Sunday in New England in the 19th century, an election – or an announcement of the results of an election – was held on this day.  A new mayor, Benjamin Seaver, was elected to govern the City of Boston, a post he would hold through 1853. He was a Whig, one of that dying breed whose successful election surely gave the Ames men a lonely branch to cling to in the swirling flood of new political parties.

According to modern historian Jim Vrabel, Seaver won with 3,300 votes and defeated Dr. Jerome Smith and Adam Thaxter. (Only men voted in the election, of course.) Seaver was noteworthy for his interest in erecting a public library for the city. During his administration, a committee would be formed, plans (some already in the works) developed, a first librarian hired, and private funding obtained for the project.

At the same time that Seaver came in, “the entire Board of Aldermen” were voted out, “reportedly for refusing Daniel Webster” – a hometown favorite – ” use of Faneuil Hall because an abolitionist group had earlier been denied its use.”* Webster had advocated for passage of the Fugitive Slave Act, something for which abolitionists never forgave him. Just goes to show that the issue of slavery informed all levels of political intercourse in this decade before the Civil War.

On the home front, besotted new parents Ann and John Swain spent the evening with Evelina and Oakes, talking about their son.  Evelina seemed smitten, too, writing that the baby boy was “a great wonder.” Like the new mayor and the Board of Aldermen, however, she and that baby’s parents couldn’t know what sorrow lay ahead.

 

Jim Vrabel, When in Boston, Boston, p. 157