1851 July 9th Julia is here again to day and my dress
not finished yet it will take me two hours
or more to get it done I think it will suit
me pretty well when it is finished Mrs Horatio
Ames & Gustavus came to Father Ames this
afternoon Frank and Gustavus went to Mr Algers
to get some butter
William Leonard Ames, fifth child and youngest surviving son of Old Oliver and Susannah Angier Ames, was born on this day in 1812, less than a month after the United States declared war against Great Britain. He came along at an unsettled moment in Old Oliver’s life; the latter was attempting to establish a textile factory in Easton, an enterprise that would fail when “peace came along and spoilt the business.”*
William grew up having to compete with his older brothers, Oakes, Horatio and Oliver Jr. In 1851, he was still vying for his place in the sun, so far without much success. Several years earlier, William had undertaken the management of two separate iron furnace operations in New Jersey, both of which were underwritten by Ames money from Easton. He was not successful, and blamed his lack of success on his brother Oakes. William believed that Oakes, referred to by one historian as “the emperor of New Jersey operations,”** was selfishly working against him. “Oakes sole object […] is to make everything as unpleasant for me as it can be.”**
The enterprise may have been unlikely to succeed all along. William was focused quite specifically on operational issues while Oakes was looking at the profits to be made from various land deals on the properties in question. The two brothers had different goals.
William began to close down his affairs in the east and, with his young family, prepared to move west to Minnesota. There, in the St. Paul area, he found success in cattle ranching and lumber. Credited with introducing the first Shorthorn cattle into the territory, “[h]is large and successful farm […] was a practical advertisement for Minnesota as an agricultural region”*** Despite the distance between him and the family in Easton, William made periodic trips back east to see his father, bringing some of his children along. His only daughter, Amelia, eventually returned to the east to live.
Of all the offspring of Old Oliver and Susannah, William was the most married and had the most children. His wives, the first two of whom died before he did, were Emily Louise Brown, Amelia Hall, and Anna Pratt Hines. He and Amelia had six boys and one girl. He and Anna, too, had one son not long before William died, in 1873.
* Oliver Ames, journal
** Gregory J. Galer, Forging Ahead, Brown University