Many people have assisted in the research on Evelina Ames and her family. Everyone of them has been important to the re-creation of the life of Evelina Ames, including:
Frank Mennino, Curator of the North Easton Historical Society, keeps enthusiastic watch over the material legacy of the town of Easton. He is the guardian of its history, a history that takes the shape of everything from oil portraits to commercial objects to high school yearbooks, all under the roof of the old train station at North Easton. Knowledgeable only begins to describe Frank.
Retired teacher Edmund Hands is another consummate historian of Easton. His volume on the history and geography of the town, Easton’s Neighborhoods, is an important reference book and his walking tours of the land around the shovel shops are legendary. One spring day a couple of years ago, Frank and Ed drove me all around town, pointing out landmarks, old roadways, and various cemeteries. Their extensive knowledge has given me invaluable insight into the town’s past; they make the history of the town come alive.
A curtsy is due to Hazel Varella, too, who is thoroughly dedicated to preserving and interpreting Easton’s past. The Easton Historical Society owes much of its success to her steady devotion.
Expert professionals at the Archives at Stonehill College, most notably Director of Archives and Historical Collections Nicole Casper, are keepers of, among many historical records, a large collection of Ames papers. The Arnold B. Tofias Collection and the David Ames Collection include unique records of O. Ames & Sons Company, as well as of the Ames family itself. The original journal kept by Old Oliver Ames is at Stonehill, as are diaries belonging to Governor Oliver Ames and cousin Cyrus Lothrop. Family account books and ledgers – always important to the Ameses – are housed there as well. I found, among other things, that by tracking certain expenditures to family members, a profile of family life emerged. Nicole and her assistant Jonathan Green have been invariably helpful and keen about research on the Ames family. They’re as excited to bring the Ames women into the limelight as I am.
Other interesting Ames-related documents are in the collections of the Massachusetts Archives and the Baker Library at the Harvard Business School and are accessible by appointment.
Mrs. David Ames, known less formally as “Aunt Bun,” held the Ames diaries in her personal collection for many years. She was gracious enough to let her son William M. Ames pass them along to me to transcribe and study; furthermore, she is a marvelous repository for many family anecdotes, as is Mrs. Oliver F. Ames, Sr.
Bill Ames, meanwhile, has been avid to get the Ames’s story out into the public eye, so has been nothing if not supportive of my interest. He has worked hard to promote and share the family’s rich history. He and another Ames descendant, Chilton Moseley Ames, in 1998 compiled a comprehensive genealogy of the Oakes, Oliver Jr., and William Leonard branches of the family. The book they published is a fine resource for descendants of those branches. In turn, they relied on information supplied by Winthrop Ames in his 1938 text, The Ames Family of Easton, Massachusetts – a Rosetta Stone for anyone wanting to research the Ameses.
One of the very first people to help me understand the extent and import of the Ames’s records was Greg Galer, Ph.D., former Curator at the Stonehill College Industrial Archives and current Executive Director of Boston Preservation Alliance. For at least a decade he worked to preserve and interpret family papers, photographs and a wealth of old Ames shovels. His expertise laid the groundwork for all recent competent research into the history of the family and its commerce.
Scholarship defines the work of historian Maury Klein, whose volumes on the Union Pacific, Jay Gould, and other industrial entities of the 19th and 20th century are unmatched. In the course of a well-respected academic career, he has also studied and written about certain aspects of the Ames’s business history with insight and respect. He is an historian to emulate.
Obviously, many historical publications beyond the diaries themselves were crucial in building a picture of life in Easton in the 1850s. The census records from 1850 and 1855, for instance, helped identify family groups, occupations and neighborhoods. I found myself going back again and again to this primary source. Other 19th century histories, such as D. Hamilton Hurd’s History of Bristol County, provided excellent information and context.
But the granddaddy publication, William L. Chaffin’s History of Easton, published in 1886, is the star. Chaffin knew the town intimately and wrote about it well. He was close to the Ames family; by his own account, the Ames brothers Oakes and Oliver Jr., hired him to be the pastor at the Unitarian Church. He stayed for 40 years and, toward the end of his life, wrote a short memoir of Oakes Ames. He knew many, many things.
This blog and the research that informs it is a work in progress. More sources are found, new names crop up and the trail never seems to end. I am grateful everyday to the people who share enthusiasm and expertise about Evelina Ames and her time.
Sarah Lowry Ames
January 25, 2014