April 15 Tuesday Oakes A 22 years old. This morning
tore the paper off the dark bedroom & had it cleared
ready for the paper. Have been working about
the house most of the day. Cut of[f] the breadths of
the carpet for the bedroom and have partly
made it. Moved the stove from my chamber
& cleaned the dark bedroom chamber. It is
quite stormy & windy. Cut two coarse shirts.
Oakes Angier Ames, eldest son of Evelina and Oakes Ames, was born on this date in 1829, when Evelina was 19 and Oakes was 25. The couple had been married for about a year-and-a-half and were already settled into their own quarters within the Ames family homestead. On this, his 22nd birthday, and as yet unmarried, Oakes Angier was still living in the house in which he had been born.
Oldest of all 24 grandchildren of Old Oliver and Susannah Ames, Oakes Angier grew up amid multiple siblings and cousins, among whom he retained primogeniture in an uncontested patriarchal hierarchy. His mother called him Oakes Angier; everyone else seemed to call him just plain “Oakes.” He was marked from birth to run the family business.
Although Oakes Angier had attended school locally and away, at Fruithill and Leicester academies, he left behind no indication that he longed to further his studies. After graduation, he went straight to work at the shovel factory. There, one 19th century historian noted, “with a view to making himself master of the process of manufacturing shovels, he spent from three to six months in each of the various departments of the factory.”*
Reverend William Chaffin, Unitarian minister and town historian, knew Oakes Angier and his family well. He described Oakes Angier as “shrewd, conservative [and] sound in judgment.”* Although in their later years Oakes Angier shared the responsibility for O. Ames & Sons with his brother Oliver (3) and cousin Fred Ames, Chaffin makes a point of noting that to the shovel shop employees, Oakes Angier was the man who embodied management. It was Oakes Angier who was on the ground overseeing the daily operations during the company’s most ambitious years, Oakes Angier who was “one of the superintendents who superintends.” He ran the place.
The same historian who wrote of Oakes Angier mastering the process of shovel manufacturing also described him as someone who stayed focused on his immediate responsibilities and did not, like his brothers, cousin and father, diversify his pursuits. As the 19th c. historian saw it, Oakes Angier gave “his whole time to the demands of his business, and yield[ed] to no temptation to embarrass himself […] by the complications and annoyances which beset the paths of the politician, and of the projector of enterprises outside of his legitimate occupation.”* In other words, Oakes Angier learned to avoid both politics and risky investments.
On this particular birthday, Oakes Angier was on the cusp of adulthood, preparing to leave the nest. He spent many free evenings squiring different young women to and from the dances and sings that were available in the neighborhood, seemingly ready to find a young woman to settle down with. He and his brothers were what some parents would have described as eligible young men.
* William Thomas Davis, ed., The New England States, Vol. I, 1897.