December 22, 1852



Wednesday Dec 22d  Miss Alge[r] came again to day

to give another lesson which makes the 

18th  She stopt to dinner we had fish

chowder & I had to attend to it while she

was giving Susan her lesson and did not hear

it  The families all took tea at Olivers

I have done but very little on Susans sack

Susan scratched Emilys Pianno


Readers might wonder how Oakes Angier Ames was faring on his voyage to Cuba. We’ll learn later that by this date, he had reached Charleston, South Carolina and was to depart this day for Havana.

So much attention had been focused lately on Oakes Angier Ames that we also might wonder what the other two Ames sons were up to. Local historian William Chaffin obligingly tells us. They were helping form a local militia:

A charter for an infantry company, signed by Governor Boutwell, was secured December 3, 1852, and the company was organized on the 22d. The following officers were chosen: William E. Bump, captain; Francis Tilden, first lieutenant; Oliver Ames, 3d, second lieutenant; John Carr, third lieutenant; Rufus Willis, fourth lieutenant. This company and one then recently formed at Canton were organized as the second battalion of light infantry, second brigade, and first division, the Easton company being known as Company B.

Of this battalion Oliver Ames, 3d, was chosen adjutant. He was afterward promoted to be major, and the lieutenant-colonel; and Frank M. Ames was made quartermaster and then major. The State furnished this company with fifty guns, bayonets, and other accoutrements, besides swords for the officers.  The record book states that the State also forwarded “1 Brass Kittle drum in good order, and 1 Fife, crooked and unfit for use.”*

A militia, typically, is a group of civilian volunteers who band together, with some kind of government blessing and support, to supplement a regular military army. Such militias had formed before in Easton and elsewhere and, according to Chaffin, a “military spirit began to revive again in 1852.”* What was motivating this activity? Were the young men responding to the increased agitation between the North and the South, or were they simply feeling their oats?

Susan Ames was feeling something today, too.  By accident or design, she scratched her cousin Emily’s piano. Not good. Evelina may not have witnessed the incident, as she was busy in the kitchen making fish chowder for dinner. The chowder was partaken of by the family and by the piano teacher, who often timed her lessons around the midday meal. Perhaps a regular meal was part of her pay.


*William L. Chaffin, History of Easton, 1866,  pp. 512 – 513

November 10, 1851


George S. Boutwell, Governor of Massachusetts, 1850 – 1852

Daguerreotype by Southworth & Hawes, circa 1851


Monday Nov 10th  Election day and the whigs have got

whiped and look rather down.  It has been very

stormy.  Our new horse came home sick from town

meeting.  Oakes A, Mr Barrows & Augustus went to Taunton

this evening to carry & get the news.  Jane came home

from Mansfield to night.  Bridget is better to day

she has done the housework and I have cleaned

the shed chamber &c &c  Passed the evening at Olivers

There were full-bore politics in Massachusetts today, with the Whigs getting “whiped,” much to the disappointment of the Ames men and others. The politics of the era were untenable as the country cantered toward civil war. The Fugitive Slave Act and the Compromise of 1850, a misguided legislative expression of an unsustainable gulf between north and south, had resulted in upheaval and disarray among the existing political parties.

According to George S. Boutwell, then governor of Massachusetts, the Whigs – a pro-business, market-oriented group – had fallen into two camps over slavery: the Conscience Whigs and the Cotton Whigs.* The Conscience Whigs generally supported, and many eventually became, Free-Soilers (those who opposed the extension of slavery into new states or territories), while the Cotton Whigs held with the pro-slavery policies of the south. By 1855, a new Republican Party had risen from the ashes of the old Whigs, bringing along a few disenchanted Democrats and advocating many of the issues that Conscience Whigs had stood for. Oakes and Oliver Ames, Jr. became Republicans.

Although less well known today than fellow Massachusetts politician Charles Sumner, George Boutwell would go on to have a distinguished career, one that often involved interaction with the Ames brothers. A crackerjack lawyer by profession, an abolitionist by passion, he spent most of his life as a statesman. Besides being governor, he was, over time, the first head of the Internal Revenue Service, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, and Secretary of the Treasury under President Grant.  While in Congress, he would spearhead the impeachment of Andrew Johnson.

Also while in Congress, Boutwell would be approached by Oakes Ames to buy shares in the Union Pacific but, according to several period sources, he would turn the offer down because he thought it a poor investment. He left Congress in 1869 to serve as Secretary of the Treasury, a position he held during the Credit Mobilier scandal in 1873.  Ten years later, at the dedication of the Oakes Ames Memorial Hall in North Easton, Boutwell would speak in memory of Oakes, describing him as “tolerant of hostility, forgetful of injuries, and persistent in his friendships.”**

All this was ahead for the Ames men, Boutwell, and the nation.

*George S. Boutwell, Reminiscences of Sixty Years of Public Affairs, 1900

**Oakes Ames, A Memoir, 1883