In 1804 Leonard Ames bought
lot 62 in Mexico, NY. He had been living in Mud Lake, Delaware Co.,
NY with his family. His wife was Minerva Peck, born in Harwinton,
CT, the daughter of Solomon and Spede (Hopkins) Peck, Sr. The parents
and their four children walked behind an ox team marking the trail as they
progressed. The children on this demanding trip were Orson, Emeline,
Dorothy and Harlow. Harlow would have been a relative newborn, carried
every step of the way.
It was a time of great migration in
New York State. People wanted cheap land. Scriba’s Patent,
from which Mexico was created, had plenty of land for sale. Mexico
needed hard working families. The Ames’ were both from Connecticut.
Leonard’s parents were Cheney and Hannah (Rowelson) Ames, living in Litchfield,
CT when Leonard was born in 1775. Cheney had been born in 1753 at
New Haven, CT, the son of Samuel and Mary (Shipman) Ames. It is possible,
but not yet proven, that Leonard was joined in Oswego County by his brothers,
Ansel and John Ames also from Litchfield, CT.
How much money Leonard may have inherited
is not clear. But the financial situation of this family was always
secure. Each male created much wealth on their own. The Ames
were prosperous in Mexico, but those sons who moved into Oswego were all
quite successful with two sons, Cheney and Leonard, Jr., the social equals
of the Kingsford’s, Oswego’s premier family.
The Ames family lived the 19th century
American dream. They began as farmers but soon invested their capital,
not in more land, but in various commercial enterprises. They embraced
capitalism and the opportunities they found in new industries, free enterprise,
religious freedom and were liberal thinkers not just talking moral positions
but risking jail to commit social justice.
The first major impact that the Ames’
had affected the religious life of Mexico. Methodists in the very
earliest years of the 19th century were viewed with some cautions.
They held views divergent from the traditional Congregationalists.
But Minerva (Peck) Ames was an ardent believer in the Methodist faith.
When a traveling pastor, Jonathan Heutis, wanted to have the first Methodist
service in Mexico, he was directed to Minerva who agreed to hold the event
which occurred sometime between 1808 and 1810. After that the Methodists
worshipped at the Ames home many times.
Simpson, in her Mexico book, wrote
that Minerva was “a woman of fluency without foolish talking or tattling,
of sharp good sense, without ostentation, and great energy and efficiency.”
Simpson described Leonard as “her
husband, though a man of the world, appreciating the character of his excellent
wife, entertaining a very profound reverence for her religion. It
was not in ridicule, though a part of the music of the man that he called
her ‘Sister Ames’, for no irregular male, even in those days of hospitality,
could be more hearty and cheery in affording his wife every faculty for
her keeping a faith in principle and policy….”
Sometimes attendees found fault with
the words of the Methodist preachers. The offended party would interrupt
the meeting to state their own position…. Mr. Ames put an end to
these objectors by saying, according to Simpson, “I have invited these
men to preach in my house and they shall have the privilege of preaching
and talking in their own way without interruption.”
Minerva’s house was used until sometime
in 1822 when the Methodists and the Presbyterians on alternate Sundays
shared the newly built brick schoolhouse. Although the Methodists
were still considered too noisy. Finally Orson Ames, Leonard and
Minerva’s oldest son, who owned a nearby tannery, offered the use of it
to the Methodists, an offer they accepted until well after 1831.
Finally the 1833 the Mexico M.E. Church was organized and a church built.
Leonard Ames was a trustee as was his son-in-law Orin Whitney.
When the Ameses built their first
home in Mexico, it had a sheepfold attached to the rear. To get across
the Salmon Creek, they crossed it on a fallen tree. Bears roamed
about freely. About 1814/15, Emeline Ames put her hand in the cranberry
bushes near the house and accidentally her hand landed on a bear
who wasn’t pleased about it.
When Cheney Ames was young, a family
story described how he was nearly pulled into the Salmon Creek by a large
salmon that he had hooked. His sister grabbed him by the coattails
to keep him safe on the bank.
In 1835 Leonard Ames built a new house
on the land. Road conditions continued as a problem. Getting
grain to the grist mill took considerable time and energy. Leonard
Ames was a Commissioner of Highways who tried to remedy the lack of dependable
roads. Ames made sure all roads led to Mexico or to the Ames farm.
These roads helped to attract new settlers. Some cynics might argue
that it was Leonard Ames’ ability to get roads placed to benefit family
businesses that created the wealth of this family.
Later the Ames home was replaced by
a stone house situated so that it was on the town’s West Main Street.
It was this house that became part of the Mexico Multiple Resources area
in 1991 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The
Ames abode is officially a two-story, late Federal, stone farmhouse.
Many 20th century citizens in the Mexico Historical Society worked from
1983-1991 to make this preservation happen.
Abolition became the official position
of most pastors in Mexico. Little by little town sentiments were
shifted into activities promulgated by Abolitionists. By 1835 James
Caleb Jackson of Mexico joined the Anti-Slavery Convention at Utica.
The Liberty Party Convention had an anti-slavery platform. In 1842
the Liberty Party Mexico Town Committee included Asa S. Wing, Wareham Burt
and Edmund Wheeler. Gerrit Smith was nominated for president in 1852.
Smith, a friend of Asa Wing, used Mexico and its citizens to aid escaping
The true and complete story of each
person’s role in the Underground Railroad will probably never be known.
After 1850 and the passing of the Fugitive Slave Law utmost secrecy was
needed. Few written records were kept.
Opposite the Mexico Academy was the
house of Orson Ames. It was a well-known station on the Underground
Railroad. Most of the Ames boys were known locally to be involved
in the Movement, reported Historian Elizabeth Simpson. Leonard Ames,
Jr. was said to be “up to his neck” in helping slaves. Harlow Ames’
cow-barn on the Colosse Road had beneath the floor, a pit, too shallow
for a well or cistern, that now is believed to have been used as a slaves’
In the winter of 1849/50 Mexico staged
its most famous slave rescue. Locally it was called the Jerry Rescue
after the slave, Jerry. He was trying to reach safety in Kingston,
Ontario. Orson Ames guarded Jerry on his first night in Mexico.
Orson’s Uncle Solomon Peck, Minerva’s brother, probably took part in the
moving of Jerry from Syracuse to Mexico where he stayed about two weeks
in severe danger from searches by the government who was well aware of
his attempt toward freedom. Orson supposedly planned with one of
his brothers then living in Oswego to arrange a passage for Jerry on a
boat to Kingston. The tale varies a bit in each remaining source,
but Jerry did reach safety. Which of the three Ames brothers in Oswego
put Jerry on the boat seems lost in the record.
Minerva and Leonard had 11 surviving
children. Four were born before their arrival in Mexico. Then
there were 7 more. Leonard died in 1843. Minerva then lived
alone to 1852. They were each buried in the Mexico Cemetery.
Leonard and Minerva’s children:
1. Orson Ames b. Litchfield, CT ca. 1798;
m. 11 January 1824 Amy Perkins; d. 16 February 1867, age 68.
2. Emeline Ames b. ca. 1800; m. Orin Whitney;
d. 1881. Buried in Mexico Village Cemetery. Many descendants.
3. Dorothy Ames b. between 1801/03; d.
4. Harlow Ames b. CT. ca. 1804; m. Adaline
Mitchell; d. after 1880 in MN.
5. George Ames b. ca. 1806 m. Emily H.
Adams; d. 26 August 1876.
6. Cheney Ames b. 19 June 1808; m. (1)
23 October 1834 Emily North who d. 21 June 1878 (2) 1854 Kate Brown; d.
14 September 1892 in Chicago, IL
7. Edwin Ames b. ca. 1810; m. Caroline
Walton; d. 1880.
8. Harriet Ames b. ca. 1812; m. Rev. W.
W. Rundell; d. 1896, age 84. Buried in Mexico Village Cemetery.
9. Harry Ames b. ca. 1815; m. Julia _____
; d. after 1872.
10. Leonard Ames b. Mexico 8 February
1818; (1) Charlotte Palmer Tanner (2) 9 January 1856 Anna Maria/Ann M.
Allen; d. after 1893.
11. Minerva Ames b. ca. 1822; m. 19 January
1846 Oswego, NY Alfred Adolphus Howlett. Issue: 2 children.
Residence 1880 census in 3rd ward, Syracuse. A wealthy home with
2 female servants and a male coachman. Mr. Howlett was a banker in
Oswego, later in Syracuse. In Oswego he was a partner of Leonard
Ames, Jr. in the Second National Bank.
Orson Ames, born in Litchfield, CT
in either 1798 or 1799, was brought to Mexico in 1804. BY 1824 Orson
owned a tannery and a sawmill on Black Creek. He also owned a triphammer
shop. He marketed his leather goods from the tannery in a boot and
shoe store on South Jefferson St. that he began. This shop burned
in the 1860 fire that damaged much in Mexico.
In 1861 Orson suffered a stroke from which
he never fully recovered. He had been the Superintendent of the Poor,
but resigned due to his illness. He died 16 February 1867.
He was described by a fellow citizen as “a man of strong common sense and
as honest a man as Mexico ever produced.”
He married Amy Perkins who died in 1851
at age 51. Orson and Amy plus their son, Harmon C. who died in 1904
at 74 years are buried in the Mexico Village Cemetery.
Orson and Amy’s children:
1. Emily Ames b. ca. 1828
2. Harmon C. Ames b. 1830; d. 1904, age
3. Ellen Ames b, 1832
4. Albert P. Ames b. 1838; m. Mary E. Wilson;
d. 1890. Issue in 1880: Nellie F. Ames b. ca. 1867.
In 1880 residence in 2nd ward of Oswego. Occupation: machinist. In
the 1880 census Emily’s mother, Sarah Wilson, b. in England, lived with
the family. When Albert died he was buried in the Mexico Village
Cemetery as was his wife who died in 1912.
Harlow Ames married Adaline Mitchell.
He was a farmer whose cow-barn was used in the Underground Railroad as
a slave refuge. Between 1860 and 1880 he removed to Dassel, Meeker
Co., MN with his children and his wife. Both Harlow and Adaline died
after the 1880 census where his age was given as 75 and hers as 68. With
them was a grandson, Leroy Ames, age 5, born in MN, with a father born
in NY and a mother born in IN. Leroy was likely the son of Harlow
F. Ames. This child was possibly just visiting his grandparents when
the census was taken.
Harlow in 1860 owned real estate valued
at $53,500 plus an additional amount in personal property. He was
by comparison with most of his Mexico neighbors a rich man. Most
Mexico farms in the 1860’s ran a net worth between $3,000 and $5,000.
Why he left for the West remains unclear. Maybe he wanted to continue as
a farmer when his brothers were abandoning farming and entering commerce
and banking. Or maybe he wanted to escape the dominance of his brothers,
Orson, Cheney and Leonard. Likely they expected Harlow to create
a common front with them.
Harlow and Adaline’s children:
1. Horace Ames b. Mexico ca 1834
2. Charlotte Ames b. Mexico, NY ca. 1836;
m. Litchfield, MN Isaac Newton Russell, Jr. ; d. 23 May 1891.
Issue: Charlotte Russell who m. Charles ‘Willis’ Whipple who d. in Anacortes,
WA as did their children.
3. Edward Ames b. Mexico, NY ca. 1838.
Manufactured tubs and ran a sawmill in Mexico for a time.
4. Julia Ann Ames b. Mexico ca. 1839
5. William H. Ames b. Mexico, NY ca. 1846;
m. Lottie K. _______; d. after 1880. Issue: Gordon Ames b. MN ca.
1875. Residence Litchfield, MN in 1880 where he was called Harry
W. Ames. Lottie K. ____ b. NY ca. 1847.
6. Henry D. Ames b. Mexico, NY ca. 1849;
7. Harlow F. Ames b. Mexico, NY ca. 1850;
m. Alice Carr. Issue: Edith Ames, age 5 months in 1880 b. MN.
Residence in 1880 Dassel, MN. Alice Carr d. 2 January 1946.
Living with them was Edward Russell, age 20, b. NY. He might have
been an in-law of Harlow’s sister, Charlotte.
George Ames married Emily H. Adams,
born ca. 1815. This couple went to live in the 2nd ward, Oswego in
1832. He was a stone cutter and worked in lumber milling. He
served as an Oswego Alderman. In 1870 he ran a grain dealership.
He died in 26 August 1876. His wife, Emily lived with her daughter
Rosamond (Ames) Tanner helping to care for her grandchildren in 1880.
In 1888 she ran a boarding house at 159 E. Bridge St. In 1890-91
she boarded from 58 E. Oneida. While in 1892-93 her establishment
was a 114 E. 6th.
George and Emily’s children:
1. Florence Ames b. ca. 1843
2. Caswell Ames b. Oswego Co., NY ca. 1844;
m. Caroline _____. Issue: Henry F. Ames, age 8 months in 1870. Occupation:
1870 made sash and blinds with a net worth of $3,500. By 1888-91:
Mechanic repairing cars (probably street or railroad) at 159 E.9th.
By 1892-93 his repair business located as 256 W. 1st. Residence in
1870 4th ward, Oswego, near his parents.
3. Rosamond/Rosa Ames b. ca. 1845; m. Hudson
C. Tanner. Issue: 4 children. Residence 4th ward, Oswego.
Hudson was a stenographer.
4. Caroline Ames b. ca. 1847
5. Wardwell Ames b. ca. 1848; m. 4 April
1872 Clara Strong; d. 21 March 1910. Occupation in 1870: commission
6. George Ames. Jr. b. ca. 1852.
Cheney Ames married twice.
On 23 October 1834 he wed Emily North, daughter of Albert and Irena (Taylor)
north of Fly Creek, Otsego Co., NY. She was born 24 April 1817 and died
21 June 1848. Next Cheney in 1854 married Catherine Brown who was
usually called Kate. She was born in Burlington, VT on 13 July 1832.
She died 1 June 1910.
Cheney moved into Oswego in 1832.
He raised $1,000 to improve the highway between Oswego and Scriba, developing
a local reputation for getting things done. He presented a petition
to the legislature in Albany to repeal the charter of an old tollbridge.
Despite strong opposition, he won. He also secured the city charter
for Oswego from the legislature. While in Albany he discovered that
west of Fort Ontario there was some land under water which the state had
never ceded to the city. Cheney applied to get this land given to
Oswego and made it happen. He represented the city many times.
He secured funds for Erie Canal Improvement to use on the Oswego Canal.
He supervised the deepening of the main channel which served to improve
In 1849 he was the Oswego Postmaster.
In 1858-59 he was elected State Senator in the legislature. He was
the first State Senator from the 20th District. He served again in
1864-65. After his first election he earned the traditional senatorial
title, Honorable Cheney Ames, which he used thereafter. During the
Civil War Cheney was most active in helping to recruit young men to serve.
His oldest son, Albert enlisted on 18 September 1861 at age 23 as a Sergeant
Major in Company Battery D, 1st Light Artillery Regiment NY, popularly
called Morgan’s Light Artillery. On 27 February 1862 he was promoted to
a Full Lt. 2nd Class. In December 1863 he went Co. D to Co. G in
which were primarily men from Mexico, NY. There on 24 December 1863
he was made Full Lt. 1st Class. On 26 September 1864 in Fort Morton,
Va. during the Siege of Petersburg, Albert was killed by a rebel sharpshooter.
He was one of five officers killed in action in the regiment.
On 6 May 1870 the Oswego County Savings
was chartered with Cheney Ames as a trustee. In 2003 this bank still
existed with 6 offices in Oswego, Fulton, Pulaski and North Syracuse.
Cheney also imported the first logs from
Canada. He secured a charter for the Normal School which ultimately
became the University of New York at Oswego. He helped to bring into
Oswego the Syracuse and Binghamton Railroad. The Rome and Oswego
road he pushed and aided until it too was a success. He with many
others tried to finance the New York and Oswego Midland line, but he suffered
considerable loss for his effort. In 1876 to past 1880 he was again
the Oswego Postmaster.
He established a knitting factory.
Cheney created the lime water and plaster industry of Oswego. He
continued residing in Oswego well past 1880 when he was in his seventies.
As his family scattered he left New York State and lived in Chicago, IL
until his death on 14 September 1892.
Cheney and Emily’s children:
1. Helen Nellie Ames b. 1837; m. 8 July
1862 George Seymour Hastings; d. Hoboken, NJ 29 April 1873. Issue:
2 children. Residence Morristown, NJ. He was a lawyer.
2. Albert N. Ames b. 1839; d. 1864 in Petersburg,
VA in Civil War.
3. Coman Ames b. 1843; m. before 1870 Nellie
Strong; d. 1928. Issue: Albert L. Ames b. ca. 1870 and Clara Ames
b. ca. 1877. Residence 6th ward, Oswego. Occupation:
flour mill worker.
Nellie was b. NY ca. 1847.
4. Ceylon Ames b. & d. 1844.
5. Arabella Ames b. ca. 1846; m. Oswego
Jerome L. Mudge. Issue: 3 children.
6. Ceylon Ames, 2nd d. 1847.
Cheney and Katie Brown’s children:
7. Antionette Ames b. ca. 1856; m. Utica,
NY Frank Wheeler. Issue: Mabel Wheeler.
8. Jessica B. Ames b. Oswego ca. 1862;
m. after 1880 Frank Penfield of Oswego, a postal clerk, b. 1853.
Issue: 2 children.
9. Cortland Fisher Ames b. Oswego ca. 1865;
m. Cook Co., IL 9 March 1892 Bessie Evelyn Cross. Issue: 1
10. Kate H. Ames b. Oswego ca. 1866.
Edwin Ames seems to have remained
the underachiever of the Ames family. He out earned his neighbors
in Mexico, but never had the wealth of his brothers. He married Caroline
Walton. He was a successful farmer spending his entire life on his
Mexico farm. Caroline died in 1876; Edwin in 1880. They are
both buried in Mexico Village Cemetery along with many of their children.
Edwin and Caroline’s children:
1. Edwin Ames, Jr. b. 1833; m. Madora
_____; d. 1896. Issue: 5
children. Occupation: sawyer.
Madora, b. NY ca. 1840. Edwin was buried in Mexico Village Cemetery
near his parents. The children were: 1. Minnie Ames b. ca. 1859;
m. Frank Penfield of Mexico, a liveryman, b. 1856. Issue: Carl Penfield.
2. Anna Ames b. ca. 1863. 3. Grace Ames b. ca. 1865.
4. Teda Ames b. ca. 1875.
2. Mary Ames b. ca. 1835; m. ______ Austin;
d. 1916. Buried in Mexico Village Cemetery.
3. Harriet Ames b. ca. 1837/40; m. _____
Magee; d. 1907. Buried Mexico Village Cemetery.
4. Nelson Ames b. 1840; m. Julia A. ______;
d. before 1907. No issue. Enlisted in Civil War as a private on 21
September 1861 when he was 20. He joined Ca. A 44th Infantry Regiment
NY. By 3 October 1862 he was discharged in Sharpsburg, MD because
of disability. His widow, Julia A. received a widow’s pension #644,966
on 15 March 1907 in Iowa. Occupation in 1880: joiner.
5. Leonard Ames b. ca. 1842; m. Laura _____
; d. 1901. Issue: Clarence b. 1869. Occupation: Sash &
blind maker. Served in Civil War as private in Co. G 1st Light Artillery
Regiment. He applied for a pension 29 March 1890 #683,900.
GAR marker on grave in Mexico Village Cemetery.
6. Homer b. 1844; m. 1879 Jessie
K. ______ ; d. 1914. Issue: 2 children. Married 31 years. In 1870
began manufacture doors, sash and blinds in Mexico. Then he added
making berry crates and baskets, soon becoming the largest supplier in
the state. His sawmill made shingles, cutting 1,000,000 feet of lumber
annually. In the winter he stored several tons of ice. Another
enterprise was the crushing of apples to make cider and vinegar.
He employed a force of 10 to 25 men. Occupation 1910: Sawmill
7. Jennette Ames b. 1847; d. before 1855.
Harry Ames married Julia. They
lived in the 1st ward, Oswego. In 1850 Harry/Henry called himself
a miller. By 1855 Henry purchased an iron works founded in 1853 by Talcott
& Underhill which was renamed Ames Iron Works which he operated with
Leonard Ames and Arthur Merriam. In 1859 he began the manufacture
of plaster. By 1872 Leonard and Merriam bought out Harry and his
share of the Ames Iron Works.
Harry and Julia’s children;
1. Milton age 7 months in 1850. d.y.?
There may have been more.
Leonard Ames, born 118 in Mexico,
married twice. His first wife was Charlotte Palmer Tanner who died
after 1850. On 9 January 1856 he married Anna Maria Allen often called
Ann M. She was the daughter of William and Emily (Chandler) Allen
and was born 13 July 1828 in Pomfret, CT. Until 1844 Leonard was
a farmer in Mexico. He removed to Indiana, engaging in the meat packing
business. He returned to Mexico where he opened a bank. By
1850 he was residing in the 4th ward at Oswego.
In Oswego he was the in the milling business.
In 1864 he helped to organize the Second National Bank where he served
on its first board of directors. In 1857 he was elected to the State
Assembly. He was also a delegate to the party convention that nominated
Lincoln in 1860. Lincoln appointed Leonard as an U.S. Assessor.
Leonard also operated the Ames Iron Works. This foundry was passed
on to Allen, Alfred H. and Leonard Ames, Jr. to run after 1882. In
1870 Leonard’s net worth was out at $137,000. Many families were
valued at the time in Oswego under $800.
Leonard’s mother-in-law, Emily Allen, spent
her widowhood, 1867-1882, living in Oswego with her daughter, Ann M. Ames.
Emily died on 26 April 1882, age 88. Ann’s unmarried sister, Sarah
S. Allen, also lived with the family during the 1880 census when she was
49. Before 1906 Leonard was buried in Oswego’s Riverside Cemetery.
Leonard and Charlotte’s children:
1. Lorenzo/Leonard Ames, Jr. b. 1845; m.
before 1870 Alice C., b. ca. 1848. Residence 3rd ward, Oswego.
Occupation: miller. His net worth was not given but as a 25 year
old newly-wed he could afford a servant girl from Ireland to do the housework.
By 1888-93 he owned Ames Iron Works.
2. Wm. Ames b.1850. In 1870 an apprentice
living at home with father.
Leonard and Ann M.’s children:
3. Allen Ames b. Mexico 23 October 1859;
m. 1892 Ella _____; d. after 1910. Issue: Ethel Ames b. ca. 1893.
Residence 3rd ward, Oswego. In 1872 Allen, his brother Alfred H.
and his half-brother, Leonard, Jr. took over the running of the Ames Iron
Works. By 1910 Allen manufactured boilers, employing over 300 persons.
4. Fannie Chandler Ames b. Mexico 5 July
1861; m. 26 April 1882 Leonard Hiram Dewing. Issue: Harold Ames Dewing.
5. Alfred Howlett Ames b. Oswego 6 March
1867. Along with his brother, Allen Ames and half-brother, Leonard
Ames, Jr. in partnership they ran Ames Iron Works from 1872-1893. His official
position was called Clerk of Ames Iron Works.