Select Ames Miscellany

Here are some Ames stories and accounts over the years:

Norfolk and Somerset Ames

There is an old tradition that suggests that the Norfolk and Somerset Ames came from the same stock. Portrait comparisons of Norfolk and Somerset Ames have tended to support this impression.

The Norfolk line included Lancelot Ames in Norwich and William Ames in Ipswich who were contemporaries in Elizabethan times.  The Ames line in Somerset included members of the Bruton branch which emigrated to America.

Ames from Somerset to America

William Ames and his brother John emigrated to America from Bruton in Somerset in 1635 and 1638 respectively.  Prior to their departure, they had built the Pear Tree Cottage at Wyke Champflower just outside of Bruton.  The cottage still stands and has the date of building, 1633, carved into a log over the fireplace in the main part of the house.  These Ames are also commemorated in a window in the local church.

William came to America on the Hercules in 1635, settled in Braintree, and married Hannah Adams in 1640. They had one son John who was seven when his father died in 1654.  He was adopted by his uncle John who was living in Bridgewater nearby and was childless.

Reader Feedback - Ames from Somerset to America

Thank you for your website on John and William Ames which I just discovered by googling Pear Tree Cottage. My wife has just completed a painting of the house, taken from a photograph we took in the 1980's. 

There are a couple of small errors in your account.  It was John who came first to Massachusetts in 1635.  His older brother William followed in 1638. John died childless and it is William and Hannah, as you said, who are the progenitors of the family in America.  Their son John was adopted by his uncle John as you said.  However William and Hannah had six children, not just John.  

They were:  

  • Hannah - born March 1641   
  • Rebecca – August 1642   
  • Lydia - April 1645  
  • John – March 1647  
  • Sarah – Jan 1650  
  • Deliverance - December 1653.  
John Ames (

Rebecca Eames and the Salem Witch Trials of 1692

At the age of 53 Rebecca Ames was among the spectators for Rev. George Burroughs' hanging on Gallows Hill, Salem, on August 19, 1692.  She was in a house near the scene of the execution.  While she was there "the woman of the house" felt a pin stuck into her foot, as she said.  Rebecca, not being as good as she might have been, was pointed out as the one who did it.  Two warrants were issued for her arrest.

She was imprisoned for witchcraft, stood trial, confessed, and was sentenced to death.  She was reprieved in March 1693 after seven months in jail.  After her husband's death, she applied for assistance and she and her children were then taken in during the winter of 1693-94.  She applied for and had her name cleared and restitution paid in 1710.

The Ames in Upstate New York

In 1804 Leonard Ames bought lot 62 in Mexico in Oswego county, New York and moved his family there from Connecticut.  The parents and their four children walked behind an ox team marking the trail on their journey.

When the Ames built their first home in Mexico, it had a sheepfold attached to the rear.  Around 1815, daughter Emeline put her hand in the cranberry bushes near the house and it accidentally landed on a bear who wasn’t pleased about it.  To get across Salmon Creek, they crossed it on a fallen tree.  When Cheney was young, a family story described how he was nearly pulled into Salmon Creek by a large salmon that he had hooked.   His sister grabbed him by the coattails to keep him safe on the bank.

The Ames, led by his wife Minerva, were staunch Methodists.  Orson Ames, the eldest son who owned a nearby tannery, offered the use of it to the Methodists.  Finally the 1833 the Mexico Methodist Church was organized and a church built.  Leonard Ames acted as trustee.

By the 1830’s, abolition became the official position of most pastors, including the Methodists, in Mexico.  Individuals got involved in the Underground Railroad.  The house of Orson Ames, built around 1830, was a well-known station on the Railroad.   Orson sheltered the famous fugitive slave Jerry Henry there in 1851.  Harlow Ames’ cow-barn on the Colosse Road had beneath the floor, a pit, too shallow for a well or cistern, that is also believed to have been used as a slaves' hideway. 

The Ames Shovel Company

The Ames Shovel Company traces its origins to 1774 when Captain John Ames began making iron shovels at Bridgewater in Massachusetts.   His son Oliver moved the company to North Easton in 1803. In 1844, the elder Ames would transfer the shovel business to two of his sons, Oakes and Oliver Jr.   Within the next few years, gold would be discovered in California and Australia.  This created a worldwide demand for the company's shovels.

For most of the company’s history, it occupied the Ames Shovel Works in Easton, Massachusetts, where it rose to national prominence and eventually controlled 60% the US shovel market.  Along the way it pioneered the concept of mass production and became one of the first companies to operate on a global scale.  Shovel production at Easton continued until 1952.

The Ames at Borderland

In 1906 the artist and suffragist Blanche Ames and her botanist husband Oakes purchased land on the border of the Sharon and Easton townships in Massachusetts.  The Ames decided that they wanted to farm the land and turn the rest into a wildlife sanctuary.  New dams were constructed and a lot of the swampy areas of Borderland were transformed into ponds.  Construction on a three-story, twenty-room stone mansion on the property began in 1910.  Today the mansion is largely covered in ivy and sits behind a sprawling lush, green lawn and hedges. 

The country estate they created and named Borderland remained in the family for 65 years.  In 1971, two years after the death of Blanche Ames, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts acquired the estate and opened it as a state park.  The family mansion still stands.  Its twenty rooms are furnished much as they were when the Ames lived here.  Many of Blanche Ames’ paintings grace the walls.

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