May 1890

Thursday, May 1, 1890  

Pleasant in the A.M. – a stiff wind blowing. Shower this P.M.

My mother has been cleaning the sitting-room. We had quite a time sorting out carpeting that was suitable to use – but the room looks very tidy and comfortable tonight.

Mr. Frank Sanderson has been helping the men dig tree holes in the west pasture. They have dug 182 out ready for the trees.

Ruby begins to talk baby talk and smiles quite cunning.

Mother, Susie and I went down to the office yesterday morning, had a pleasant time.

I am beginning to use my arms quite freely.

Mother went to Conway Mon. night and returned Tues. night. She brought news of Mrs. Wm. F. Avery’s death. She died quite suddenly of apoplexy – and was buried in Conway last Saturday. Miss Abbie Woodford is going to keep house for Mr. Avery.

I feel as though I had lost a near & dear relative. She was so good to me while I lived in the family.

Miss Bridgman called last night. Prescott had a dizzy head yesterday morning so he could not go to school.


Mrs. William Fisher Avery’s name was Eunice Smith Wright Avery (1829-1890). Her husband was a reverend. Her father was a minister as well: Rev. Ebenezer Burt Wright. Her mother’s name was Harriet (Goodell) Wright.

Sunday, May 4, 1890

Rainy. Grandma Tilton, papa and the children went to church, they had communion service in the morning. I am glad to know the change has been made. Mothers cannot stay all day with the very little folks, as they get too tired.

Monday, May 5, 1890   

Rainy. Mother W. washed and put the clothes out after dinner.

Mother T. cleaned the pictures in my room.

Tuesday, May 6, 1890  

Aunt Susan will come here either Wed. or Thurs.

Mother T. finished cleaning my room & put down hall carpet upstairs.

I am enjoying it very much – being able to use my hands doing anything that is in my power. We have received letters from Tirzah and Mattie saying that Mr. Hoadley is very sick with pneumonia.

Wednesday, May 7, 1890

Showery the clothes are nearly all dry. Mother W. has been doing baking. I made 3 loaves of Berwick sponge cake & had good success.

Men finished setting apple trees.

A 1901 issue of Domestic Science Monthly includes this recipe and origin story of the Berwick sponge cake:

“A friend from Rockland, Maine, writes to correct a statement in our October number that the “Berwick sponge cake” is a “lost art.” She says she makes the cake from the old Berwick recipe, and it is as follows:

Beat 6 eggs 2 min. Add 3 c. sugar and beat 2 min. 1 1/2 c. flour with 2 tsp. of cream of tartar; beat 1 min. Add 1 c. cold water with 1 tsp. of soda; add grated rind and juice of 1 lemon; beat 1 min. Add 1 1/2 c. flour and pinch of salt; beat one min. Bake 40 min.

Our reference last October to the Berwick sponge cake is interesting for more reasons than one. It reads: “In 1845 Wm. C. Briggs lost a leg in a Maine railway accident. In those early days railroads had small capital, and could ill afford to defend damage suits. Besides, Briggs had a clear case. But he said: ‘Build me a restaurant in North Berwick, and stop every train five minutes there, and I won’t sue.’ The restaurant was built, and Briggs’ wife made sponge cake to sell there. The recipe was a secret; the cake became famous all through New England, and was sent everywhere in boxes. In twenty years Briggs retired, rich, but lost all his money in speculation. The restaurant is closed and no one now knows the secret of the Berwick sponge cake.”

Thanks to our correspondent, the readers of Domestic Science are now admitted into the secret. It will be noted that what Briggs in reality said to the railroad was: “Just put me up a roof where my wife may support me, and I will ask no more.” His confidence was not misplaced for “in twenty years he retired, rich.” Yet how did he requite his benefactor? By losing all “his” money (really his wife’s, we shoudl think) in speculation! Evidently Mrs. Briggs was a noble character, patient, self-sacrificing and devoted, beside whom her life-companion figures a very poor creature, who should by no means stand as the sponge cake hero.” [End of Article]

In a book about North Berwick, Maine, the Berwick sponge cake is mentioned, with an anecdote about how Charles Dickens “sent his aid to get a piece of the celebrated sponge cake for a 10-year-old name Kate Wiggins and himself.” The book does not mention that her name at the time was Katie Smith (Wiggins was her married name) and that she grew up to be an author herself, of such books as Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. She even wrote an account of her childhood encounter with Dickens, which is included in this magazine article. In this account, Dickens is offered the Berwick sponge cake by his traveling companion Mr. Osgood, but waves it off.

Thursday, May 8, 1890    

Cloudy and showery. Mother T. put down carpet in my room – it looks very clean & whole. It seems quite refreshing to get rid of the winters dirt.

Frank has been putting in Gravenstein grafts into 100 of the young trees. Mother went down to Mr. James Clapps this afternoon to get Aunt Susan.


Gravenstein is a Denmark variety of apple and was declared Denmark’s national apple in 2005. From the site Orange Pippin: “Gravenstein is an attractive high-quality dessert and culinary apple, first described in 1797. It is well-known in the USA and northern Europe, and is still grown commercially on a small-scale . . . Gravenstein is a relatively hardy variety and can withstand difficult conditions – by European standards.  In North America where summers are often hotter and winters much colder, it has a reputation for being fussy, and undoubtedly does best in areas where the climate is closer to the milder winters and cooler summers of northern Europe.

The real problem with Gravenstein is that it is prone to many diseases and therefore has never achieved the popularity it deserves.  As so often in the world of apples, it seems that the apples with the best flavor are often the most difficult to grow.”

Friday, May 9, 1890    

Quite pleasant. Aunt S. and Susie and I took a walk up to meet the school children.

I believe I could live out of doors this spring.

Aunt S & mother finished ironing etc – now they are sewing for me.

I feel rich enough to have mother here with me so long.

Sunday, May 11, 1890

Cloudy in the morn. Pleasant through the day. We all except Mattie went to church. (Arthur came yesterday – while mother and Aunt Susan were in Northampton – they drove in to do some trading. Henry, Emma and Mattie went down to get their hair cut and found Arthur walking up from the station).

I was very glad to get out to church – people were very good to take notice and welcome me.

Mr. Snyder’s subject was moral courage. Mother went to Mr. Crosby’s.

Monday, May 12, 1890  

Pleasant. Mother W. has done a large wash. Aunt S. helped.

Arthur went to depot for his things and brought mother back with him.

Susie and I called on Mrs. Sanderson & Mrs. C. She came up with me to get milk and butter.

Mrs. Eastman and Mrs. Field called on their way home.

Mother took Jack and drove to Conway after 5 o’c tonight.

Tuesday, May 13, 1890

Father came back with the horse, reached here soon after noon. He fixed the whitewash and did over the kitchen twice and my room once.

Aunt S. and I did some of the ironing. She is finishing Susie’s pink chambray dress.

Wednesday, May 14, 1890

Pleasant. Mother W. did some cooking. Father finished white washing, Aunt S. and I finished ironing.

Mrs. Sanderson and her children called. Father took Aunt S. Susie and I over to the cemetery. He set out a hydrangea in her lot near Uncle’s grave.

Heavy thunder shower tonight.

Thursday, May 15, 1890  

Rainy. Arthur, Frank and father went down to the old place to pick up the rest of the goods. They had a two horse load.

Aunt S. fixed mother W’s silk basque.

I gave up to the sick headache and went to bed just before supper time.

Friday, May 16, 1890   

Frank and Father started for Conway at 7 ½ o’c this morn. F. returned soon after 3.

This is the anniversary of the Mill River flood.

Saturday, May 17, 1890

Fixed over summer bonnet. Mrs. Johnson, Mrs. Sanderson & Mrs. Moore called.

Sunday, May 18, 1890

Cool and pleasant. We have all been to ch. except Emma. She stayed to help Grandma.

Mr. S. had a very interesting sermon on “Sowing the seed with weeping” etc.

F. has gone this evening.

Monday, May 19, 1890   

The men finished setting out their 200 trees last Sat. The orchard is to be called the pumpkin orchard.

Quite rainy until nearly noon. Mother washed and put out the clothes and they were dry before night.

The men drove the sheep down from the hill to be sheared. Mr. W. Sears came and commenced work about eight o’clock and sheared 43 before seven at night.

Frank went after young stock that were in Mr. Alexander’s barn and drove them onto the hill.

Aunt Susie finished a dress for Ruby. We took another walk out round the premises again this P.M.

Tuesday, May 20, 1890  

A very windy, rainy day – but the sun shone out just before it set tonight. Muggy air this morn but quite cool tonight. We did the ironing. Mother made bread & biscuit. I made Johnny cake for dinner – been mending and looking up summer stockings.

Ruby takes notice of persons and things, laughs and tries to talk baby talk.

Wednesday, May 21, 1890

A beautiful day. Aunt Susan, Ruby and I took dinner down at Mrs. Harvey Miller’s. Had a very pleasant time. Mrs. Henry Nash was there and Miss Hattie Miller came home from Springfield to spend a few days. She and her sister Delia had been thrown from a carriage – but neither of them received severe injuries. Hattie’s knee was feeling the effects of the fall. She lives in Mr. Wallace’s family in S.

Mrs. Phineas Nash is failing. She had a shock a few days ago. She has a cancer on her face besides her other troubles.

Mr. Martin and Mr. Robert Damon called.

Thursday, May 22, 1890  

Cloudy this A.M. Pleasant this P.M.

Grandpa, Grandma, Henry and Susie went to carry Arthur and Aunt Susan to Conway. They left before 1 o’c and arrived home soon after 5 o’c. Ruby is getting to be quite a good baby.

Mother W. churned and worked butter this morn.

Friday, May 23, 1890

Pleasant. Mrs. Sanderson and children here this P.M. We wet part way up st. to meet the children.

Saturday, May 24, 1890

Pleasant. The girls helped do up the work this morn so they could make a visit over to Mr. J. O’Niels. Henry went with them they had a fine time. Papa and Prescott went to Florence tonight – carried butter & eggs. Bought each of themselves a pair of shoes.

Sunday, May 25, 1890

Cloudy this morn but sunshine part of the day.

Mr. Snyder had a sermon specially for the Grand Army – all the members of this vicinity were invited and enough  were present to fill the “body” seats 5 rows from the front.

The ch. was decorated with flags and flowers.

We all went down. F. went at night.


Trying to find a definition of “body seats” in the context of church sent me into church records of the 18th and early 19th century that described the often contentious matter of the seating of congregants in churches by rank and status, or by purchase. It seemed as though “body seats” were different from pews, and often replaced by pews in later church renovations. I still feel fuzzy on what exactly “body seats” means.

Monday, May 26, 1890  

Very rainy day – but mother put her clothes out before it had stormed much. Frank had to tend the machine and wringer as Prescott was not able to do it. He stayed at home from school.

The men are at work in the sheep barn digging out dirt.

Prescott is to have one of his father’s fine shirts that was commenced for him before he was married. Henry is to wear Prescott’s. We are still fixing garments for summer.

Tuesday, May 27, 1890    

Rained very hard until nearly night.

33 yrs. ago today father & mother were married.

Wednesday, May 28, 1890   

Very pleasant in the morn, but high winds and showers have been the order of the day.

Mother has been washing winter flannels, pants and calicos.

Thursday, May 29, 1890   

Pleasant. We have done a large ironing. I took Ruby and walked down to Mrs. Cooper’s. Made a short call before dinner.

Mother has churned and worked butter. Mrs. C. came up and bought two lbs.

I have been in visiting the school this P.M.

The children had Memorial pieces and compositions. Mrs. William Nash and Mrs. Lewis Hill were there – the scholars bought a flag for the school-room.

We called on Mrs. Hiram Nash. I walked home with Emma Graves. Mr. Bridgman came up after the teacher to go home.

Mrs. Sanderson called after I came home & brought up some slips from her new plants.

Children made wreaths tonight.

Friday, May 30, 1890

Decoration Day. We went to the exercises at the cemetery and ch. Capt. Hill of Easthampton delivered an address.

Henry said coming home that “the minister acted as though he was mad.” He was not used to so many gestures.

Saturday, May 31, 1890

Pleasant. Mother made bread, cookies and doughnuts. I ironed a summer dress and did up Prescott’s best shirts so Henry can have them to wear.

Mother’s head has troubled her considerable this week. Henry went to ride with Grandpa this P.M. They went to see what was to be done about “Aunt Fannie’s” place. I sent a card to mother.


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