August 25, 1852


Wednesday Aug 25th  We were invited to dine again at

Mrs Mills to day.  Fred & Helen called at Mrs

Stetsons and we went home with them to Mrs

Mills. Afternoon went to Mrs Footes had a 

large & pleasant party and quite a treat

In the evening they acted charades and

we had a merry time  Oakes A bears

the excitement pretty well  Received a letter from 

home saying that Willie Gilmore died last Friday

Evelina heard from the folks at home today and found out that her great-nephew had died. This news was unfortunate, but perhaps not entirely a surprise.  She had been concerned about the little boy before she left on her trip; infant mortality was high in those days. Despite the bad news, surely Evelina was glad from her family, even if the tidings were sad.  We can pretty well assume that she had not been so far from home before, and she may have been missing her family and friends. Who wrote her, do you suppose? Her husband? Her nephew? One of her nieces? Oliver (3) or Frank Morton? Or perhaps Sarah Witherell wrote, knowing that Evelina would want to know about little Willie.

Evelina probably learned of other Easton goings-on as well. Even the weather would have been a topic of some interest. Old Oliver was, as ever, keeping an eye on the sky and tracking rainfall. As she opened her letter, he might have been making note that on this Wednesday, it “was cloudy most of the day + one small shower.”*

A game of charades filled the evening – fun for all including Oakes Angier, who seemed to be feeling well.

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

August 20, 1852


Map of the Central Vermont Railroad, circa 1879


Friday Aug 20th  Left Bellows Falls at 1/2 past 7 and

arrived at Burlington about two. Went

to Mrs Stetsons found the house shut up

At the house opposite they told us she had

gone to Mrs Mills and went there and had

some dinner and all went to Mrs Stetsons to

tea  Mrs S Ames Fred & Helen stopt at Pittsford

Willie Gilmore died this afternoon

Evelina would not learn of it for several days, but her young great-nephew, William Lincoln Gilmore, died today of dysentery. (She added the information later.) Barely a year old, Willie had been ill for several weeks, and Evelina had visited his parents, Augustus and Hannah Gilmore, a few times before she left North Easton. His death was sad news.

Not knowing about it, however, and full of her own worry for her own son, Evelina was open to the journey she and other family members were on. By way of the Vermont Central Railroad, presumably, she, Oakes Angier, and Almira Ames traveled another 100+ miles today from Bellows Falls to Burlington, Vermont, while Sarah Lothrop Ames and her two children, Fred and Helen, got off at Pittsford. Although the map in the illustration above dates from 1879, the line itself was first developed in the 1840’s.

Burlington was Oakes Angier’s destination, the place where he would stay for several weeks to rest and, it was hoped, recuperate from his pulmonary illness. The threesome spent the night with Mrs. Stetson, a friend of the family.

August 15, 1852


August 15th Sunday  Did not sleep much last night

My handbag with bonnet visite & c were missing

found them this morning at Olivers  Helen

carried them home.  Have been to meeting

came home at noon  Mrs Stevens Orinthia &

Lavinia with us.  Called to see Willie

Gilmore found him more comfortable

Evelina often felt poorly right after returning from her shopping forays into Boston; on this occasion, she was unable to sleep. Surely, the seriousness of her son’s pulmonary illness was the larger culprit in her wakefulness than the usual exhaustion from her trip to the city. She was still rattled in the morning, unable to find her handbag, bonnet and
visite which, it turned out, had been mistakenly taken next door by Helen Angier Ames. It would seem that all the women were a little rattled.

The men may have been rattled, too, by Oakes Angier’s illness, but Old Oliver, at least, wasn’t showing it. He kept up his usual weather-related journal entries. Accordingly, today “was a fair warm day with the exception of two slight showers, perhaps 1/8 of an inch in both of them.”*

Somewhere in the course of the day, perhaps after church, Evelina and her husband, Oakes, and Oakes Angier himself, in all likelihood, determined on a course of action for the latter. Oakes Angier would go off to rest in fresher air and, for the journey itself, be accompanied by various family members.  The decision must have offered relief and hope to all. Evelina got outside of her own head enough to call on her nephew, Alson Augustus Gilmore, whose infant son had been so sick with dysentery. Little Willie seemed better. While there, no doubt, Evelina shared the plans to send Oakes Angier away.

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


August 6, 1852


Friday Aug 6th

1852 Sewed but very little this forenoon picked

some peas currants &c  Lavinia came to 

dinner  Edwin & wife to tea  Lavinia & I

called to Augustus’ to see their babe who 

is quite sick with the disentary  He looked

quite bright  Mrs Witherell & A L Ames

called a few moments

There were fresh peas at the Ames dinner table today.  We readers might not have enjoyed them, however, as the recipes of the time called for cooking peas – and other vegetables – much longer than our modern preferences allow. Domestic doyenne and editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, Sarah Josepha Hale, declared that peas are “a most delicious vegetable,” but cautioned that “[i]t takes from half an hour to an hour to boil them.”* That seems overcooked to us, but, nevertheless, the Ames’s peas were fresh, untarnished by pesticides, and indisputably local.

With her niece Lavinia Gilmore, Evelina went to visit her nephew (and Lavinia’s half-brother) Alson Augustus Gilmore, who had lately been ill. He was now well, but his one-year old son, Willie, had become “quite sick” with dysentery. Had the child caught something from his father? Or was he suffering a condition not uncommon in children in the heat of the summer?  His bright red face suggests fever and dehydration. Augustus and his wife, Hannah, would have been worried about the little boy.

*Sarah Josepha Hale, The Good Housekeeper, 1841, p. 75


March 12, 1852



March 12th Friday.  Spent most of the forenoon about

the house gave the sitting room a thorough

sweeping  This afternoon & evening have

spent at Mr Torreys  Amelia came home

with me.  Called to see Hannah in bed

almost sick with the canker & has weaned her babe.


Poor Hannah Lincoln Gilmore, wife of Alson Augustus Gilmore and mother of two little boys, 3-year old Eddie and 7-month old Willie, had been feeling poorly for more than a week.  Her complaint was canker sores, a common enough ailment but one that struck her unusually hard. As Evelina points out, Hannah was “in bed almost sick.”

As most of us know, a canker sore is a benign but painful sore located inside the mouth and lips or at the base of the gums. Known medically as aphthous stomatitis, a canker is not contagious and has no cure. It is often caused by stress; perhaps Hannah’s recent efforts to wean Willie had set them off. A canker sore can last from seven to ten days, and can be painful enough to make talking and eating difficult. Hannah must really have felt crummy.

Meanwhile, at the shovel shop, reconstruction was continuing.  Old Oliver noted that “the 12th + 13th were both good fair days for our work.”*

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


October 22, 1851


1851 Wedns Oct 22d  have been taking care of Hannahs

babe to day  He has been pretty good

but would not be turned off at all have

had to hold him most of the time

George Randall came about eleven

to scrape the walls has got the paper

from the parlour and part of the sitting

room  It has been raining most all day

have written to Louisa J Mower


Evelina made good on her promise to watch Hannah Lincoln Gilmore’s baby son while Hannah went into Boston.  Little William Lincoln Gilmore was only three months old, still nursing and not yet able to sit up. No wonder he “would not be turned off at all.”  Had Evelina forgotten what it was to care for an infant? She “had to hold him” most of the time, probably walking around with Willie in her arms, or rocking him in one of her rocking chairs – except that the furniture was in disarray from the redecorating. She couldn’t take him outside, either, as the day was cold and rainy.

A local man, George Randall, came to scrape wallpaper, a task that Evelina had, evidently, finally given up on. She had spent much of the last two days scraping and was ready now to pay someone to finish the job she had started. Mr. Randall was able to complete the scraping in the parlor and start it in the sitting room.

When Evelina was able to lay young Willie down, or perhaps after Hannah returned and picked him up – happy baby – she sat to write a letter to her friend in Maine, Louisa J. Mower. She may have written a thank you note for the cheese and butter that arrived a few days back.

July 25, 1851

Wine glass

Friday 25th July  Was expecting to go to Boston with

Mr Ames & Susan in the wagon but it was

misty & cloudy and we gave up going.  It cleared

up very pleasant about nine  I pick[ed] some 

currants for some wine.  Jane strained them

About ten Oclock Augustus carried me up to

see his new heir, found mother & babe comfortable

Evelina was disappointed not to travel into Boston today; the possibility of bad weather put her off the jaunt. However, she got to see William Gilmore, her new great-nephew.  Her niece-in-law, Hannah Lincoln Gilmore, and the baby seemed to be doing well, which must have been a relief. In an era when childbirth could be dangerous for mother and infant, Hannah and Willie were doing fine.

But what was going on in the kitchen at the Ames house? Evelina and servant Jane McHanna were making wine from the currants off the bushes in the back yard. Why did they do this? Alcohol was never served at the Ames house. As Sarah Josepha Hale, author of The Good Housekeeper, a popular cook book, stated emphatically, “t]here is one rule for drinks which no woman should violate – never make any preparation of which alcohol forms a part for family use!”

Yet here was alcohol being prepared in Evelina’s own kitchen.  Rather than being made to be served as a beverage, however, it was being prepared for culinary and medicinal purposes and, for such cases, it was evidently permissible. In cooking, wine or cider could be used as a preservative in mincemeat pies, for instance.  An even more viable use was as medicine for the sick.  In Little Women, Mr. March stores away some wine bottles for his invalid daughter, Beth. In Evelina’s kitchen, the homemade wine would probably be served to someone who became ill and needed a tonic. A drink called wine whey, made from strained wine and milk, was a common treatment for fever and other ailments. Wine had its uses; distilled liquors did not.

* Sarah Josepha Hale, The Good Housekeeper, 1841



July 21, 1851



July 21st Monday  Worked about house all the forenoon 

This afternoon have been to work on the

lounge.  Put some tufts on the side of the

matress & nailed some haircloth on the inside 

of the lounge  Augustus has another son

born to day  He called here about four

Oclock to tell me the news.


Hannah Lincoln Gilmore, wife of Alson Augustus Gilmore, gave birth today to her second child, a baby boy soon to be known as Willie. This was good news.

We shouldn’t be surprised that Evelina noted only the arrival of the little boy and said nothing of Hannah’s labor and delivery. Most middle- and upper-class people at that period would have avoided explicitly describing childbirth. At most, if mentioned in public, the delivery would have been referred to simply as the mother’s “sickness.” Elizabeth Cady Stanton, describing the easy birth of her fourth child in 1851, wrote “I was sick but a few hours.”*

Most women, especially in small towns and the countryside, delivered their babies with the help of a midwife, who was often assisted by female relatives; this was still true in Easton.  A new trend, however, especially in urban areas among the wealthier population, was to request the attendance of a physician at delivery. As a modern historian notes, “Fear of pain, permanent injury, or death, willingness to defer to the demands of fashion, the belief that birth posed special dangers to affluent, well-bred women, and the availability of doctors, private nurses, and new medical technology all contributed to changing attitudes.”*  Doctors began to appear bedside as women – especially rich women – gave birth.

We don’t know if Hannah got through her “illness” with the help of a physician. But as reported by her husband Augustus,  she and little Willie were resting by the end of the day.


*Sylvia D Hoffert, Private Matters: American Attitudes toward Childbearing and Infant Nurture in the Urban North, 1800 – 1860, Chicago, 1989, p. 69 and 63