The Ames family is a well-known Easton family that operated a world-class shovel factory known for their quality that helped supply many of America’s major construction events. Members of the family had success outside of the shovel industry in other areas such as in politics and other business ventures. this page was created by Christopher Doty '16 as part of the Spring 2015, Introduction to Museum Studies Class.  Over time other members of the Ames family will be added.  If you have suggestions of Ames that you would like to be featured, please email Nicole Casper, Director of Archives.

Oliver Ames

Family Patriarch, “Old Oliver”

Known as the founder of the Ames Shovel Company, Oliver Ames was the youngest child of Captain John Ames and his wife Susanna Howard of West Bridgewater, Massachusetts. John Ames was the village blacksmith and made shovels in addition to a wide variety of other iron products.

Oliver married Susana Angier in 1803, and that same year moved to Easton where he bought a defunct nail making shop and began the production of shovels. In 1807, Oliver and his family moved to Plymouth where he supervised the shovel making plant of the Plymouth Iron Works. Shovel Production continued at his own North Easton factory. When the Plymouth Iron Works closed in 1814, he and his family returned to North Easton. Success came slowly, but soon the Ames brand became known for its quality and the company became the key supplier to America's major construction events. Oliver Ames, now 65 years old, turned active management of the business over to his sons, Oakes and Oliver, giving them one-quarter interest, and retaining a third himself. The firm, previously known merely as "O. Ames," now became a partnership as "Oliver Ames & Sons." The shop in Canton was acquired at this time.

Oliver Ames, Sr. died in his 85th year. His one-third interest in the firm was divided between his grandsons. Frederick Lothrop Ames, Oakes Angiers Ames, and Oliver Ames were taken into the partnership, and Oliver Ames & Sons had controlling interest in frank Morton and Machine CO., of Canton. 

Oakes Ames 

Son of Oliver and Susanna Angier Ames
Husband of Evelina Gilmore Ames

The eldest of 'old Oliver" and Susana Ames' children, Oakes Ames is perhaps the most well-known of the Ames family. Oakes reportedly hated schooling but enjoyed hard work and the rapidly expanding world of American business. From a young age he was involved in business ventures including mining investments and building a boarding house for workers of the Shovel works. At the age of 40, he and his brother Oliver Jr. (1807-1870), were made partners in the Shovel Works along with their father, Oliver 1779-1863).

Working with his brother, Oakes improved the company making it the premier shovel factory in the country, expanding it beyond Easton and West Bridgewater. This success led to new ventures for the brothers, and for Oakes this meant entering the political arena.

Elected from Massachusetts to Congress, he served form 1862-1873. However, he is most known for his involvement with the Credit Mobilier of American and building of the Union Pacific railroad that led to his censure in Congress. He died on May 8, 1873, a few months after the censure.

He left behind his wife Evelina Gilmore Ames and four living children. His son Henry Gilmore Ames died in 1841 at the age of 2.

Oliver Ames Jr.

Son of Oliver and Susanna Angier Ames
Husband of Sarah Lothrop Ames

The third son of Oliver and Susana Howard Ames, Oliver Jr., worked his entire life in the shovel business with the exception of two years when he studied law due to a debilitating accident. In 1833, he married Sarah Lothrop Ames and they had two children, Frederick Lothrop Ames and Helen Angier Ames. 

Preferring the quiet life of Easton, Oliver Jr. nonetheless traveled extensively for business. In addition to his partnership in the shovel shops he served as president of the Union Pacific railroad (1866-1871), the Easton National bank, the Ames Plow Company, and the Kinsely Iron Making Company. In 1852, he served in the Massachusetts State legislature, but left national politics to his brother, Oakes. Oliver Ames Jr. died on November 5, 1877, leaving behind extensive fortune benefiting members of his family, was well as the town of Easton.

Oliver Jr. kept diaries  between 1867-1877 which were donated to Stonehill College in 2016.  In the 1980s these diaries were transcribed by author Maury Klein as research for us book Union Pacific. In 2017, Mr. Klein graciously donated the transcription of Oliver Ames Jr.'s diaries along with the transcription of Rowland Hazard Diaries from 1867-1874.  

Governor Oliver Ames 

Son of Oakes and Evelina Gilmore Ames
Grandson of Old Oliver
Husband of Anna Coffin Ray Ames

Oliver Ames, third of the name, was the second son of Oakes and Evelina Gilmore Ames. Like his two brothers, he was schooled at Easton and Leicester and soon apprenticed in the shovel shop. Unlike his brothers, however, he attended college at Brown University, an opportunity his mother described him as being “delighted with,” although he never completed his studies there. He and his first cousin, Frederick Lothrop Ames, were close friends growing up.

As an adult, Oliver distinguished himself in the family business but even more so in the world of politics, serving as Governor of Massachusetts from 1886 to 1890. In 1892, after serving as Governor, he pledged funds for the construction of a new high school for the town, yet it wasn’t completed until after his death. Easton’s High School is now in a new building but still know as Oliver Ames High, in his honor and memory, despite the fact that many think it is named for “Old Oliver,” founder of the shovel works.


Martin Institute – 2nd floor, room 208

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