November 18, 1851

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Horatio, Oakes, and Oliver Ames, Jr.*

Tuesday Nov 18th  Jane is not well at all she has done

the housework and starched the shirts and

ironed a little. I have swept the house most

all over except the parlour and been doing

little here and little there, have not sewed

at all.  I begin to think I never shall.

This evening have cut some more apples to put

to the barberries and picked over the mince pie meat

 

Evelina’s domestic concerns were disrupted by Jane McHanna’s illness. Although Jane tried to help a little, Evelina did most of the work, and sounded annoyed about it. She wanted to be sewing, not choring.

Today was the birthday of Horatio Ames, second son of Old Oliver and Susannah Ames.  Born in 1805, he had grown up in Easton to become a “towering”** man, yet was considered by most to be less capable than his powerful older brother, Oakes, or his next-youngest brother, Oliver Ames, Jr. Staying close to home, they prospered. Horatio and another brother, William Leonard, on the other hand, left home to find fortune and were less successful.

Horatio’s personality was part of his problem. His behavior could be crass, his attitude pugnacious. Modern historian, Gregory Galer, has noted:

“One obstacle Horatio Ames faced his entire life was others’ negative reaction to him personally.  Horatio was a large man, apparently with a high-pitched voice, and his physical features may have emphasized his irritating tendencies.  However, his direct, aggressive, and often foul-mouthed manner instantly limited his ability to gain supporters.  He seems to have had little tact and poor social skills.”***

As an adult, Horatio married an Easton girl and settled into a house in the village built for him by his father. Soon, however, he and his young family moved away, first to Albany and then to Fall River, Connecticut, where, with others, Horatio established a family-backed ironmaking enterprise.  Over the years, the business would be innovative, the iron it produced would be of better quality than other iron from the area, yet the business would never quite take off. Horatio would strive and struggle, yet never achieve the success of his two brothers back in Easton.

His personal life didn’t fare much better.  In 1853, his wife Sally Hewes Ames divorced him “on grounds of adultery with ‘divers women in New York.'”**** He was estranged from all three of his children, especially his two “miserable boys,” as he described them.  His eldest son, Horatio, Jr., was accused of attempting to murder him. His daughter Susan disobliged him by marrying a physician named Philander P. Humphrey, of whom Horatio didn’t approve. They moved west to Minnesota, where she, her husband and two of their three children were killed in an uprising on a Sioux reservation.

Horatio remarried in 1856. His second wife, Charlotte Langdon Ames, was sharper than his first wife. She tried to help manage the failing company and, after Horatio died from gangrene early in 1871, she maneuvered to keep his assets for herself.  She was bested by Oliver Ames, Jr., however, in a contentious court battle. Horatio’s business had been built with Ames money, and whatever money was left when he died was going to go right back home to Easton.

In her diary, Evelina seldom mentions Horatio or his wife at the time, Sally. Their families were not close.

 

*Courtesy of the Fall River, Connecticut Historical Society

**William Chaffin, History of Easton, Massachusetts, 1886, p. 345

***Gregory Galer, Robert Gordon, Frances Kemmish, Connecticut’s Ames Iron Works, New Haven, 1998, p. 157.

****ibid., pp. 158-159

2 thoughts on “November 18, 1851

  1. I have a vague recollection from Greg’s book of Horatio offering to prove the safety of his cannon by sitting on it while it was fired. It was made of concentric circles of steel, welded together and was possibly better then the Dahlgren gun, although Dahlgren got the big military contract. I think that the Monitor had a Dahlgren gun/rifle as its major armament. As I think I mentioned earlier, Old Oliver sent down Mr Tinkham (or was it Peckham?) to teach Horatio’s book-keepers double-entry accounting. Apparently Horatio needed more than that to stay solvent.

  2. Yes, Greg Galer’s books, “Forging Ahead,” and “Connecticut’s Ames Iron Works,” are wonderful resources for information about Horatio Ames. I remember seeing an illustration somewhere of Horatio and his Civil War cannon, built on order from President Lincoln, but it came too late in the war to be of much use. The bookkeeper that Old Oliver sent to help would’ve been John Peckham but, as you point out, his assistance proved to be in vain. Horatio’s Ames Iron Works never enjoyed much success.

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