William L. (William Ladd) Chaffin.

History of the town of Easton, Massachusetts (Volume 3) online

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and the West was imperatively felt, and Congress passed a second
Act more liberal than the first, doubling the land-grant, authoriz-
ing the issue of mortgage bonds to the same amount as the Gov-
ernment bonds, making the latter a second mortgage, and offer-
ing to withhold only one half the money the road might earn
for Government transportation. One attempt to construct the
road under this new arrangement signally failed. Oakes Ames
was then looked to as the man competent to undertake and com-
plete this gigantic work. Many prominent men, among them
President Lincoln, urged him to undertake it for the public good.
After nearly a year of such solicitation, and after careful deliber-
ation, he decided to do it, and thus to connect his name with one
of the greatest works of the century in this country.

It is impossible in the necessary limits of this brief sketch to
trace even in outline the progress and successful completion of
that great work, or to do more than allude to the famous Credit
Mobilier affair, which engaged such general attention and created
such absurd excitement. The building of the Pacific Railroad
once undertaken, Oakes Ames gave to the work all his accus-
tomed energy. He invested a million dollars outright, and
hazarded his entire fortune in the enterprise. He invited his
friends to join him and invest their capital, — men in and out of
Congress being invited to engage in it on the same terms.

The obstacles to be overcome in this work, both physical and
financial, were immense. But they were overcome, and on the
lOth of May, 1869, the rails of the Union Pacific and Central
Pacific were joined at Promontory Point, and the Pacific Railroad
was complete, — the East and West were united ; and this was
seven years earlier than the terms of the contract required.

As to the Credit Mobilier affair, it is noticeable that those
were freest to condemn it who knew least about it. It is safe
to assert that not one in a hundred of those who used that
term as a symbol of business iniquity really understood what it
meant. It was for this very reason a convenient and powerful
weapon to wield in a time of great political excitement, inas-
much as it suggested unknown horrors and depths of wicked-
ness. In fact, however, it was merely a construction company.


Roads had been built by the same method before; they are com-
monly built in the same way in the West to-day.

It was not until this matter was given a political turn that
anything wrong was suspected. It was found that several Con-
gressmen had a financial interest in it, and it was asserted that
Mr. Ames had interested them with corrupt intent in order
to influence their legislation ; in short, he was accused of hav-
ing bribed these men. Yielding to popular clamor, Congress
demanded an investigation. Two committees were appointed to
make it. They sat for months, made their reports to Congress,
and on the 28th day of February the House passed a resolution
condemning the conduct of Mr. Ames "in seeking," — so reads
the resolve, — "to procure Congressional attention to the affairs
of a corporation in which he was interested," etc. He alone
was made to bear the brunt of the storm and be offered up as a
scapegoat, when in reality no sacrifice was needed. He was
charged with bribery when it did not appear that any man had
been bribed. The charge rested upon the assertion of one man,
and that man an interested party, whose word was good for
nothing in the face of Mr. Ames's denial. In fact, no special
legislation for the Union Pacific Railroad was desired or even
looked for. Mr. Ames, for the good of the enterprise, endeav-
ored to enlist the influence of prominent men in different parts
of the country. There was no more reason why ownership in
the stock referred to should embarrass a congressman than his
ownership of stock in a national bank, an iron furnace, a woollen-
mill, or even in government bonds. Those congressmen who
openly declared their ownership in the Credit Mobilier stock and
regretted that they had so little, are held in honor to-day ; but
those who, fearful of the result of such confession upon their
political chances, sought to evade the matter, have been perma-
nently disgraced. From that day to this, in proportion as the
case is understood and his services appreciated, Oakes Ames
has risen in popular regard.

As to the censure passed upon him, Massachusetts, where he
was best known, has spoken unequivocally ; for in the spring of
1883 her Legislature passed the following resolution : —

'"''Resolved^ In view of the great services of Oakes Ames, represen-
tative from the Massachusetts Second Congressional District for ten



years ending March 4, 1873, in achieving the construction of the
Union Pacific Railroad, the most vital contribution to the integrity
and growth of the National Union since the war ;

" In view of his unflinching truthfulness and honesty, which refused
to suppress, in his own or any other interest, any fact, and so made
him the victim of an intense and misdirected public excitement, and
subjected him to a vote of censure by the Forty-Second Congress at
the close of its session ;

" And in view of the later deliberate public sentiment, which upon a
review of all the facts holds him in an esteem irreconcilable with his
condemnation, and which throughout the whole country recognizes the
value and patriotism of his achievement, and his innocence of corrupt
motive or conduct, —

" Therefore the Legislature of Massachusetts hereby expresses its
gratitude for his work and its faith in his integrity of purpose and
character, and asks for like recognition thereof on the part of the
National Congress."

Oakes Ames was a man of large and powerful frame, "the
broad-shouldered Ames," as Mr. Lincoln called him. He was
courageous and enterprising in business affairs, with a special
aptitude for large undertakings. The Pacific Railroad suited
his liking and capacity for great and adventurous tasks. He
was very temperate, a total abstainer from all intoxicating
drinks, simple and democratic in his tastes, caring little for
the luxuries that usually accompany great wealth. His busi-
ness integrity was unquestioned. Under a rugged exterior he
carried a kind heart ; and after his death scores of letters from
various quarters told his friends of numerous kindnesses done
by him, but until then unknown to them. His bequest of fifty
thousand dollars for the benefit of the children of North Easton
village has been considered in the chapter on Schools.

November 29, 1827, Oakes Ames married Eveline O., daughter
of Joshua and Hannah [Lothrop] Gilmore, of Easton. Of this
union there was born Oakes Angier, April 15, 1829; Oliver,
February 4, 183 1 ; Frank Morton, August 14, 1833 ; Henry G.,
April 10, 1839, who died in September, 1841 ; and Susan Eveline,
May 12, 1 841, who on January i, 1861, was married to Henry W.
French, of Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

Oakes Ames, while suffering from an attack of pneumonia,
was May 5, 1873, stricken with paralysis, and died three days



afterward. His remains lie in the Village Cemetery at North
Easton, where a tall shaft of beautiful granite perpetuates his
memory. His wife was born in Easton, June 14, 1809, and died
July 20, 1882.

The Hon. Oliver Ames, the second of that name, was the
third son of Hon. Oliver and Susanna (Angier) Ames. He was
born in Plymouth, Massachusetts, November 5, 1807. In 1813
he became a resident of Easton by his father's removal to this
place, after which time Easton was his home. In his youth his
time was divided between attending school and working in the
Shovel Works. He became an expert and thorough workman
in every branch of the shovel manufacture. He also showed great
aptitude for study, and in 1828, being disabled for active labor
by a severe fall, he entered an academy at North Andover,
Massachusetts, intending to prepare for college, and ultimately
to study law, for which pursuit his talents peculiarly fitted him ;
but after spending a year and a half at the academy, he entered
as a law student the office of William Baylies, Esq., of West
Bridgewater. The confinement of the office proving unfavorable
to his health, together with the increasing demands of business
at home, led him to cast in his lot with that of his father and
his brother Oakes. In 1844 he entered into copartnership with
them, forming the house of Oliver Ames & Sons, and becom-
ing the efficient colaborer of his brother in the management
of their great business. As early as 1826 he was much inter-
ested in the temperance movement, supporting the cause of total
abstinence, of which from that time he was a consistent and
earnest advocate, serving it actively, contributing to it largely,
and being the first man in Easton to sign the total abstinence

Mr. Ames was a member of the Whig Party, and at its disso-
lution joined the Republican Party, taking a lively interest in its
principles and measures. In 1852 he was elected to the senate
of Massachusetts by the Legislature, there being no choice by
the people, and did excellent service upon several important
committees. In 1857 he was elected to the same office by popu-
lar vote. In some of the campaigns he made effective speeches
upon the issues of the hour. In 1855 the Messrs. Ames built


the Easton Branch Railroad, and after this became interested in
those important railroad enterprises in which the two brothers
were so deservedly famous. Though Oakes Ames, as we have
said, with characteristic courage took the initiative in con-
structing the Union Pacific Railroad, yet the prosecution and
completion of this magnificent undertaking was owing to the
united efforts of the two brothers. In 1866 Oliver Ames was
elected president of that railroad, an office he held with sig-
nal ability until March, iS/r. During this time the road passed
through some of its stormiest days and severest trials. His
sound judgment, great business capacity, and inflexible integrity
were of immense service in carrying this great enterprise safely
through difficulty and peril to final success.

Oliver Ames held many positions of trust and responsibility,
of which a few may be mentioned. Besides his service as State
senator he was a trustee in the Taunton Insane Asylum for about
twenty years ; was president of the National Bank of Easton, of
the Ames Plow Company and the Kinsley Iron and Machine
Company ; a director of the Union Pacific, Atlantic and Pacific,
Kansas Pacific, Denver Pacific, Colorado Central, Old Colony
and Newport, and other railroads ; also of the Bristol County
National Bank, and other corporations. His public spirit led
him to take great interest in enterprises of education, philan-
thropy, and reform. He was identified with agricultural, histor-
ical, and other societies, and willingly served for years on the
board of school committee of Easton. He was always interested
in the Unitarian churches of Easton and North Easton, was
very constant in his attendance upon religious service, and for
several years was a Sunday-school superintendent. He died at
North Easton, March 9, 1877.

Oliver Ames stood among the foremost in his reputation for
a manly and unblemished character and for business ability, - —
a reputation he well deserved. No one could be with him with-
out seeing that he was a strong, substantial, able, and honorable
man. His name was felt to be a sufficient indorsement of the
worth and promise of any enterprise.

Business cares were not allowed to engross all of Mr. Ames's
attention. He continued to the last his interest in Hterature,
kept himself familiar with the great questions that agitate

F()rbcs Albortype — Bost^



Erected by tlie Union Pacific Railway Company, at Sliernian, Wyoniintr Territory,— the

highest point readied by its railroad. Base, 60 feet square. Ileiylit, 60 feet.

Sumrnit, 8,350 feet above level of the sea.



thought and life, enjoyed the society of cultivated persons, and
often surprised them by the clearness and comprehensiveness
of his carefully formed opinions. In his character there were
blended an admirable simplicity and a most cordial fellow-feel-
ing, with a real dignity and refinement. He was noted for his
generosity. No help was denied any object that commanded his
confidence ; but he shrank from all publicity in his benefactions.
He had a high sense of honor, that was prompt to rebuke any-
thing mean and dishonorable. He was not only a philanthropic,
but also a religious man, with a strong faith in God and in im-
mortality, — a faith that at the last ripened into glad anticipation.

Many of his benefactions have not been disclosed, but those
he was known to have bestowed were most wisely made, and are
doing a good that is incalculable. Reference has already been
made to some of his large bequests, — to his gifts of a fund of
fifty thousand dollars each for the schools, the roads, and a free
public library, as well as that of a beautiful and costly church to
the Unitarian Society. Besides these may be mentioned his gift
of about thirty-five thousand dollars for the Plymouth monument,
ten thousand dollars for building Unity Church parsonage, and
two other bequests of the same amount to keep the church, par-
sonage, and cemetery in repair.

The picture of the monument erected by the Union Pacific
Railway Company in commemoration of Oakes and Oliver
Ames at Sherman, Wyoming Territory, is here presented.

June 12, 1833, Oliver Ames married Sarah, daughter of the
Hon. Howard and Sally (Williams) Lothrop, of Easton. Their
children were Frederick Lothrop Ames, born June 8, 1835 ;
and Helen Angier Ames, born November 11, 1836, and died
December 13, 1882.

The Hon. Oliver Ames, now (November 4, 1886) Governor-
elect of Massachusetts, is the second son of Oakes and Eveline
(Gilmore) Ames, and was born in Easton, February 4, 183 1.
His early education was received in the public schools of his
native town, and in the academies of North Attleborough and
Leicester ; he then served an apprenticeship of five years in the
Shovel Works, where he gained a practical knowledge of the
shovel manufacture in all its branches. At the age of twenty



years he entered Brown University, pursuing there only a par-
tial course of study ; after which he continued to work in the
shovel shops at home, and was also employed for a short time
as travelling agent for the firm. Governor Ames has always
been heartily interested in the local affairs of his native town.
He was elected in 1852 second lieutenant of the Easton Light
Infantry, afterward Company B of the Massachusetts Fourth
Regiment ; in 1853 he was chosen adjutant, in 1854 major, and
in 1857 lieutenant-colonel. He also served for twelve 3'ears
upon the school committee of Easton.

Governor Ames enjoys a well deserved reputation as a busi-
ness man and financier. At the time of his father's death the
management of the great enterprises and of the large estate left
by him devolved upon his two sons, Oakes A. and Oliver, as
executors, and the manner in which they conducted these affairs
is sufficient evidence of their uncommon business ability. The
estate was then burdened with immense obligations ; th6 times
were unpropitious, and men of large experience and careful judg-
ment in financial matters advised them to hand the estate over to
the creditors. This the executors determined not to do ; and
after years of energetic struggle against seemingly insuperable ob-
stacles, they succeeded not only in discharging all the obligations
involved, but also in paying all the legacies and having a hand-
some fortune left besides. Oliver Ames is interested in many
extensive business enterprises, and has been able by means of
them to acquire a large fortune.

Governor Ames's connection with politics began with his ser-
vice as a member of the Republican town committee of Easton,
of which committee he has been chairman and treasurer. In
1880 he was elected to the State senate, and was re-elected to
the same position in 1881, serving during both years on the
committees on railroads and education. In 1882 he received
the republican nomination for lieutenant-governor on the ticket
headed by the name of the Hon. Robert R. Bishop. Mr. Bishop
was defeated by General Butler, the Democratic candidate for
governor, but Mr. Ames was elected lieutenant-governor by a
plurality vote. He was re-elected to the same office for the
three years following, with George D. Robinson as governor. In
1886 he received an almost unanimous vote on the first ballot of
the delegates to the Republican State convention as candidate




for Governor of Massachusetts, and after a campaign which was
signalized by its freedom from abusive personaHties, he was on
Tuesday, November 2, elected to that office.

March 14, i860, Mr. Ames married Anna C, daughter of Obed
and Anna W. Ray, of Nantucket, Massachusetts. They have had
six children, all of whom are living. Mr. Ames makes his home
in North Easton and in Boston, residing at the former place dur-
ing the summer months, and living for the rest of the year at his
elegant city residence on Commonwealth Avenue. In 1885 he
was chosen president of the Merchants' Club in Boston, and was
re-elected to the same office in 1886. He is also president of
the Boston Art Club.

One of Governor Ames's most marked traits is his devotion to
the memory of his father, Oakes Ames, in whose perfect integ-
rity he has absolute confidence, whom he believes to have been
grievously wronged by the Congressional vote of censure, and
the vindication of whose honor he has made the most cherished
purpose of his life.

The Hon. Lincoln S. Drake, son of Lincoln and Caroline
(Torrey) Drake, was born in Easton, April 8, 1840. He is now
serving his twelfth consecutive year as member of the school
committee, has been member of the prudential committee of the
Evangelical Society for about fifteen years, and clerk of the
church since 1882. In politics Mr. Drake is a Democrat, but
his well-known independence has made him popular outside his
party, and the two principal offices he has held were secured by
the aid of Republican votes, more particularly in Easton. In 1882
he was a member of the Legislature, and in the autumn of that
year he was elected to the State senate, — his sound temperance
principles, and his popularity in Taunton and at home, securing
his election in a Republican district. In the senate he was on
the committees on manufactures, printing, and woman's suffrage.
He has served many years on the Easton Democratic committee,
has for ten years been a member of the Second District Congres-
sional committee, and its chairman since 1882, and was a mem-
ber of the State Democratic committee in 1882 and 1883, being
on the executive committee in the latter year. In 1880 he was
appointed justice of the peace by Governor Long. For twenty-
nine years he has been organist of the Evangelical Society. He


is engaged in the foundry business in Easton with his brother,
Abbott L. Drake.

May 9, 1861, Mr. Drake was married to Sarah L., daughter of
Adonijah and Sarah (Dean) White. They had five children,
three of whom are living. Mrs. Drake died June 25, 1882 ; and
March 4, 1885, Mr. Drake was married to Ellen M., daughter of
Charles T. and Margaret French.

The Hon. Frank M. Ames, youngest son of Oakes and Eveline
(Gilmore) Ames, was born in Easton, August 14, 1833. He was
educated at the Leicester and Andover academies, after leaving
which he entered the Shovel Works at North Easton, remaining
there several years and gaining a thorough practical acquaint-
ance with the varied details of the manufacture, and with much
of the management of the extensive business interests involved in
it. July 10, 1857, he was appointed major in the Fourth Regi-
ment, M.V. M., having previously served as sergeant-major and as
quartermaster. His commission as major he resigned in i860.

In 1858 Mr. Ames moved to Canton, Massachusetts, to take
charge of the business of the Kinsley Iron and Machine Com-
pany, of which he is now the principal owner. He has also other
business interests ; was for several years the trustee and man-
ager of the New Orleans, Mobile, and Texas Railroad, and now
owns and manages a large plantation on the east side of the
Mississippi River, opposite New Orleans, cultivating about fif-
teen hundred acres of sugar-cane and many acres of rice, besides
having a large amount of land for grazing.

Mr. Ames is much interested in politics, and is an ardent Re-
publican. In 1869, and also in 1882, he was a representative to
the General Court, serving on the committee on railroads. In
1884 he was elected to the State senate, was appointed a
member of the committee on drainage and manufactures, and
was chairman of a special committee on the metropolitan police
bill for the city of Boston. He was a delegate in 1884 to the
National Republican Convention held at Chicago.

November 13, 1856, Mr. Ames married Catherine Hayward,
daughter of Hiram and Lurana (Copeland) Copeland. They have
had seven children, all but one of whom are living. Mr. Ames's
summer home is in Canton, and his winter residence is on Com-
monwealth Avenue, Boston.



The accepted tradition regarding the first post-office in Easton
is that it was in the southwest part of the town, that Daniel
Wheaton was the first postmaster, that he received his commis-
sion from President George Washington, and that therefore he
was appointed as early as 1796. This tradition is wrong in
all four particulars. The first postmaster of Easton was Na-
thaniel Wetherby. His office was at his inn on the Bay road
at the location known as the Sheperd place, where he had been
a licensed innkeeper for several years. His appointment was
dated July i, 1800, — and he must therefore have received his
commission from President John Adams. These facts, as well
as those relating to the establishment of the post-ofifices in
Easton and the appointment of postmasters, are all official, be-
ing obtained by the writer, with the kind assistance of the
Hon. John D. Long, directly from the Post-office Department
at Washington.

This first post-office was designed to accommodate the three
towns of Norton, Mansfield, and Easton ; it was not until about
18 1 7 that Norton had a post-ofBce of its own. Mr. Wetherby
held his office for only a little over six months. It was prob-
ably found that his location would not accommodate Easton and
Norton as well as some situation farther south. Accordingly,
January 27, 1801, Daniel Wheaton was appointed postmaster in
place of Mr. Wetherby, and he kept his office in a cottage below
where Daniel B. Wheaton now lives. In 1815 it was removed
to Daniel Wheaton's house. About 1828 the office was re-
moved to Dr. Samuel Deans's in the Furnace Village ; but
Daniel Wheaton continued postmaster, holding the office for
forty years and six months. His successor was Henry W. B-
Wightman, who was appointed July 24. 1841. The post-office
was located in Lincoln Drake's store, and was kept there until
the appointment of John Kimball. Mr. Wightman held the posi-
tion for nearly nine years. He was succeeded by Thomas F.
Davidson, the date of whose appointment was February 22,
1850. Mr. Davidson was in office for over eleven years, and
was followed by Lincoln S. Drake, who was appointed Novem-
ber 14, 1 861, and was postmaster one year and six months.
April 2, 1863, John Kimball received his commission, and the


office for the succeeding nineteen years was kept in his store.
April 4, 1882, Mrs. Helen E. Goward received the appointment
for this office, which was then transferred to the old stand of
Lincoln Drake's store near the foundry. Mrs. Goward still
holds the position.

The second post-office was first known as Easton No. 2, and
was established January 28, 181 1, at which date Israel Alger
was made postmaster, the post-office being located at his house,
in the southeast part of the town. Mr. Alger held the office un-
til his death, which occurred in 1825, when John Gilmore, Octo-
ber 27, 1825, received the appointment, holding the position for
three years and a half. April 27, 1829, Easton No. 2 post-

Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Ladd) ChaffinHistory of the town of Easton, Massachusetts (Volume 3) → online text (page 60 of 78)