March 10, 1851

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March 10  Monday  This is town meeting day.  Mr Ames & O Angier went

They spent the whole day there but accomplished very little

Mr Pratt & Brown chosen School committee O Angier was

nominated for one & lacked by one vote of being chosen

They brought home the school report of the last year

which is not very favourable for the schools in town generaly

Miss Foss & Clarks school are spoken very well of.

It commenced snowing about ten Oclock & is quite stormy this evening

Town Meeting was – still is – a great New England tradition. In the 19th century (and well into the 20th) the meetings were often scheduled in March, making them an annual marker of winter’s impending departure.

People turned out for town meeting.  Rather, men turned out for town meeting.  Women, who before 1780 in Massachusetts had enjoyed suffrage, no longer could vote.  National suffrage for women, a cause that would create deep divisions among the Ames women of a later day, would not be achieved until 1920.

Oakes Ames and his eldest son, Oakes Angier Ames, attended meeting and stayed all day. Oakes Angier evidently ran for school board but just missed being elected. He was showing a taste for politics, something that his father felt as well. His mother, perhaps influenced by her son’s loss, harrumphed that “very little” was accomplished at this year’s meeting, although she seemed pleased that their boarder, Orinthia Foss, was mentioned as being a good teacher.

Today’s town meeting was moderated by one of Easton’s greybeards, Capt. Tisdale Harlow. A resident of the Poquanticut section of town, Harlow was a former selectman, town treasurer, school board member, veteran of the War of 1812, and captain of the Easton Light Infantry in 1833-34. He had crossed swords with the Ames family in the 1830’s in a town row about the introduction of Unitarianism into the Congregational church. Harlow and many others were against it; Old Oliver, his sons and others were for it.  The sectarian controversy wore on for about eight years and ultimately led to a permanent split in the congregation. Historian William Chaffin suggested that “[i]ts unhappy effects were felt for many years.”  Were there remnants of hard feelings on display at today’s town meeting?

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