December 29, 1852

Emma-Snodgrass1

Emma Snodgrass 

 

Wednesday Dec 29th  Julia here to day & cut the

waist to Susans raw silk & partly cut the

waist to my 12 1/2 cts Delaine  My family

& Fathers all dined to Olivers  Mr & Mrs

Whitwell called.  We were all invited to 

Mr Swains this afternoon  I did not go untill

past five Oclock  Mr Ames & Oliver Jr came

there to tea

 

In North Easton, Evelina and her dressmaker, Julia Mahoney, spent the day cutting up cloth for some new dresses – probably one of Evelina’s favorite tasks. Evelina also entertained a visit from Rev. Whitwell and his wife, Eliza. She ended up staying indoors for most of the day, only venturing out after dark for tea at the home of John and Ann Swain.

In Boston on this day, a very different woman on a very different path ended up getting herself arrested, and not for the first time. The petite young perpetrator was Emma Snodgrass, a native of New York City. According to newspaper accounts of the day, her crime was “donning the breeches.” She was dressed in pants and a frock coat, trying to pass herself off as a man.

Her alias was George Green, and she was earning her living, at least for a time, as a sales clerk at John Simmons & Co., a clothier in the city. Newspapers as far away as California seized on the novelty of this aberrant behavior, and published various accounts of Miss Snodgrass’s conduct. What sources they might have used for their stories goes uncited, but nonetheless they delighted in reciting such tidbits as: “Snodgrass used to circulate in all the drinking houses, made several violent attempts to talk ‘horse’ and do other things for which ‘fast boys’ are noted.”*

The shock that Emma Snodgrass’s behavior generated in 1852 demonstrates how times have changed. In 2015, we might see Snodgrass’s cross-dressing as suggestive of what we now call gender identity disorder. Then, it was more likely understood as willful rebellion against the strict division of the roles of the sexes. Snodgrass and others – and there were others – had an impossible time being taken seriously. Many people probably believed that Emma Snodgrass’s parents hadn’t raised her properly.

What did Evelina think?

 

*New York Daily Times, November 30, 1852

 

December 26, 1852

Church

Sunday Dec 26  It was very stormy this morning

and I did not decide to go to church untill

it was to late to dress myself & Susan all the

rest went from the three families except father

Elijah Robinson in the other part of the house

came Friday night  It was cleared off very pleasant

Mr, Mrs & Miss Swain Augustus & wife & E Robinson

called this evening

Once again, we see Evelina and her father-in-law differ on their descriptions of the weather. While Evelina found it “very stormy this morning,” Old Oliver wrote: ” it snod a verry little last night and there was a little rain this morning + the snow is all gone there was not rain + snow enough to make more than ¼ inch of water it was fair in the afternoon wind north west”* It was proving to be what New Englanders call an “open” winter – at least so far. It was nearly January, and there was no snow on the ground.

There was no Evelina in church, either, as she just couldn’t bear to go out in the rain. Her daughter also managed not to dress in time. So the two females stayed at home while the males rode off to church. This is our last glimpse of Evelina on the Sabbath Day, as the year will soon draw to a close, obviously, whereupon Evelina’s diary stops. So our final Sunday post is not Evelina listening with rapt attention to Mr. Whitwell’s sermons, or being aware of her husband as he nodded off in the pew, or visiting with the other Unitarian ladies during the midday intermission. It’s Sunday at home.

The next few years at the Unitarian Church in Easton would be much the same as this one. By 1857, however, Rev. Whitwell would not be invited to extend his service there** – we don’t know why. He would be called to serve as minister at the Unitarian Church in Chestnut Hill, outside of Boston, but would remain in touch with the Ames family – even borrowing money from Oliver Jr. at one point (a loan which Oliver Jr. forgave). According to historian William Chaffin, Whitwell’s departure initiated the period when part of the congregation moved its service to North Easton proper:

At the conclusion of Mr. Whitwell’s ministry the Ames family discontinued attendance upon the First Parish Church, as a Unitarian Society had been formed at North Easton village, where they resided. A proposition was made to unite with the latter society in the support of a minister who should supply both pulpits, but the proposition was not carried into effect.***

It’s generally acknowledged that Old Oliver played a leading role in establishing a new Unitarian association in North Easton in a tiny church in the middle of the village (since moved to make room for the Rockery).  Did he also play a role in ending Reverend Whitwell’s tenure?

 

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

**Oliver Ames (3) Journal, Stonehill College Archives, David Ames Collection

***William Chaffin, History of Easton, Massachusetts, 1886, p. 362

November 29, 1852

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Monday Nov 29  I was intending to go to Boston to day

but as the weather was rather unfavorable

early this morning did not but it has been

a beautiful day.  Father has six hogs killed

and we have one.  Rode down to Mr Whitwells

to see her cloak and get the pattern.  Malvina

has come to spend the night with Susan

Mr Ames has presented me with a pr of Silver butter

knives  it is 25 years to day since we were married

 

Evelina and Oakes Ames celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary on this date. They had been married on Thanksgiving Day, November 29, 1827.  During the first part of the 19th century, Thanksgiving was a common time for couples to marry, as family members were already gathered for the annual feast, and a qualified leisure prevailed since most agrarian obligations were set aside for the winter. There was time to celebrate.

Oakes and Evelina’s wedding would have been a simple one, at home, not unlike one described by an English couple who happened to attend a nuptial ceremony in western Massachusetts in 1827:

“They found a company of kin and neighbors crowded into a farmhouse parlor, some perched on benches, others sitting on chairs ‘as if they were pinned to the wall.’ The bride and groom, with their bridesmaid and groomsman, sat facing the minister, who pulled up ‘a chair before him, on the back of which he leant.’ He then motioned for the company to rise, joined the couple’s hands together and led them through a brief exchange of vows. Most American couples were wed by a clergyman at the home of the bride, in such informal ceremonies of republican simplicity.”*

Oakes was the first of his brothers, and Evelina the last of her sisters, to marry. The couple moved right into the Ames family home, one-half of which had been remodeled to accommodate the newlyweds. Twenty-five years later, they were still in that homestead, as well as four-children-and-many-dollars richer, richer enough for the old groom to buy the old bride a pair of silver butter knives.

Evelina had intended to go into Boston, but couldn’t. Instead, she had to content herself with riding down to see the minister’s wife, Eliza Whitwell, to borrow a pattern for a cloak. Earlier, she had seen a cloak that her sister-in-law, Sarah Lothrop Ames, had bought and she wanted one, too. She would make her own, however, rather than order something bespoke from Boston.

Evelina also notes that her father-in-law has butchered some hogs, yet Old Oliver himself mentions nothing about it – at least on this date in his journal. He does say that he killed six hogs three days later, December 2. It’s possible that Evelina was writing some of these entries several days after the fact, and may have been confused as to dates. Or she may have been anticipating the slaughter.

 

*Jack Larkin, The Reshaping of Everyday Life, New York, 1988, p. 63

November 25, 1852

Turkey

Nov 25

[…] Thanksgiving  Mr & Mrs

Whitwell Father Mrs Witherell Emily Horatio &

Gustavus dined at tea here.  Michael &

sister & Ann Oral at the second table.

Mr W went home at half past three to

marry a couple   Oakes A Emily & Susan went

with him After they left this evening Mrs

Witherell & self called on Mrs Dow in Olivers

Mr & Mrs Dow & family Mr & Mrs H Lothrop & Cyrus

at Olivers 

“[T]his was thanksgiving day,” wrote Old Oliver Ames, after a brief notation that the day “was fair in the morning but clouded up in the afternoon”. Evelina and her servants prepared a feast that fed at least fifteen people. The whole Oakes Ames family was there, naturally, and so was Old Oliver. Dining with them were Sarah and Emily Witherell, Reverend and Mrs. Whitwell, brother Horatio Ames and his youngest son Gustavus, the latter two having arrived from Connecticut the day before. At the “second table”  – which likely means a second seating – the servants partook. Catharine Murphy and Ann Shinkwin were presumably present, as was Michael Burns (Old Oliver’s coachman/ostler), his sister and Ann Orel, a young Irish girl who worked for Sarah Witherell.

Family gathered next door, too. The Oliver Ameses, meaning Oliver Jr.,Sarah Lothrop Ames and their children Fred and Helen, shared the repast with two of Sarah’s brothers, Henry and Cyrus, along with Henry’s wife Eleanor and long-time friends, the Dows. Quite a gathering, all told, as family members dined and visited.

Sarah Josepha Hale, the patron saint of Thanksgiving, describes her understanding of the origin of Thanksgiving in a novel she wrote in 1827 and republished in 1852:

“Soon after the settlement of Boston, the colony was reduced to a state of destitution, and nearly without food. In this strait the pious leaders of the pilgrim band appointed a solemn and general fast. […] The faith that could thus turn to God in the extremity of physical want, must have been of the most glowing kind, […] On the very morning of the appointed day, a vessel from London arrived laden with provisions, and so the fast was changed into a Thanksgiving.”

This may have been the version of Thanksgiving that Mrs. Hale used to persuade Abraham Lincoln to make it a national celebration. It also may have been the story of Thanksgiving with which the Ameses were most familiar.

 

November 21, 1852

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Lady’s Cloak**

Sunday Nov 21st  have been to church and at

intermission went with Mother into Mrs John

Howards.  Have invited Mr & Mrs Whitwells

family to dine here Thanksgiving

After church read & heard Susan practice

her lesson a while  Edwin & wife came

in this evening and I went to Augustus with 

them

 

This Sunday before Thankgiving “was a fair sunny day wind northerly + cool.”* The Ames contingent headed to church as usual and at intermission spread out to different informal gatherings. We don’t know where the men of the family went, or what Susie did, but we do know that Evelina took her elderly mother to the home of John and Caroline Howard, where they would have been offered a cup of tea and a piece of pie or cake.

After church, Evelina heard her daughter practice the piano. Like yesterday, the friction and anxiety between the two over the piano lessons seemed to have dissipated. At least, Evelina doesn’t mention having to force Susan to practice.

Evelina also did a little reading. If she picked up her copy of the November issue of Godey’s Lady’s Book, she would have noticed, among many essays, stories and poems, a short article on women’s cloaks:

Never was there a season in which there was so great a variety of graceful cloaks to choose from. Not the heavy, cumbrous garment that once enshrouded and hid all grace or outline in the female figure, but light, yet ample costumes, that answer every purpose of warmth for walking or driving...**

Cloaks were in. If Evelina needed proof that her sister-in-law Sarah Lothrop Ames had a nose for fashion, there it was. Only a week earlier, Sarah had been in Boston buying a cloak for her daughter Helen. There were many styles to be seen, including the one in the illustration, in the Alboni style. Will Evelina get one for herself or her daughter?

 

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

** Godey’s Lady’s Book, , Cloaks and Mantles, November 1852, pp. 476 – 477

November 14, 1852

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Sunday Nov 14  Went to church all day

Mother Augustus wife & self went

to Mr Whitwells at noon  she gave

us a cup of tea cake &c &c  Oakes A

Orinthia & Lavinia rode to see Ellen Howard

John & Rachel spent the day at Edwins

I called there with Orinthia and at Mr

Torreys

 

Evelina and her family were very sociable this Sunday at intermission and after church. But today’s entry is most notable because it’s the last one in which Evelina mentions Orinthia Foss (at least for the diaries we have.) Orinthia was a twenty-year-old schoolteacher from Maine who boarded with the Ames family for a time in 1851. She and Evelina got to be great  – and sometimes mischievous – friends despite their age difference. After Orinthia moved to Bridgewater to teach, the friendship faded. Yet the two women remained companionable on those occasions like today when their paths crossed.

Orinthia would not remain in Massachusetts much longer, although we don’t know for certain when she returned to Maine. We do know that by the end of the decade, she had married a widower named Dana Goff, a railroad conductor living in Farmington, Maine. With that marriage, she gained a teenage stepdaughter, Julia, and soon became a mother of her own two boys, Herbert Dana and Ralph. Like other mothers before her, she had the sorrow of losing Herbert Dana at an early age, but was able to raise Ralph. Around 1880, the Goffs moved to Auburn where Mr. Goff became a real estate agent.

By 1910, Orinthia was a widow living with her younger sister, Florida (or Flora) Foss Hill in Auburn. She died in Newcastle, Maine, of heart disease, when she was 84. She is buried in the Goff family plot in Auburn, Maine.

October 26, 1852

 

1860s blue striped muslin dress from St. Albans Museums

Dress with undersleeves, mid-19th c.*

Tuesday Oct 26  We have had a large washing

done to day and not finished untill

after dinner  Miss Alger & self spent

the afternoon in Olivers  Mr Ames

& all the children there to tea  Mr & Mrs 

Whitwell was there an hour or two

I made Susan a pair of undersleeves

and she is delighted with them

 

Because of all the company that had visited over the weekend, the servant girls were unable to launder clothes on Monday. Today, extra sheets and towels were added to the usual load and the washing went on into the afternoon. Not that Evelina rolled up her sleeves; after the midday meal, she and her remaining houseguest, Miss M. J. Alger, went next door to visit with Sarah Lothrop Ames and stayed for tea. All the family partook.

At various points during the day, Evelina had her work box open as she completed a pair of undersleeves for her daughter. Susie was “delighted” with them. Were they a peace offering from mother to daughter, perhaps to make up for Evelina’s insistence on Susan learning to play piano?

We’ve seen Evelina sewing undersleeves before. In the 1850’s and into the Civil War, undersleeves were an essential component of any woman’s dress, fitting independently but securely under the looser outer sleeve of the dress proper. Like the collars of the day, a good pair of undersleeves could be worn with different dresses. Susie must have felt rather grown-up with her new pair.

On the industrial side of American life, meanwhile, today was the 27th anniversary of the opening of the Erie Canal. The technological wonder of its day, it was already becoming obsolete. Railroads had arrived and, through their own capacity for moving freight, would soon obviate commercial use of the canal for many (though not all) industries. Shipping would change – was changing. The very word “shipping” derives from the fact that, initially, more goods moved by water than by land. This would no longer be true in this country or elsewhere in the developed world.

We should remember that Harriet Ames Mitchell, Old Oliver’s youngest daughter, was living in Erie at the time with her husband Asa and their three children.  Did they mark the day?

 

*Image of striped blue muslin dress with undersleeves courtesy of St. Albans Museum, England