Family Tree Tuesday – Oliver Ames
Oliver Ames was the 35th Governor of Massachusetts during 1887-1890 and a financier. Prior to being governor he was lieutenant-governor of Massachusetts from 1882-1886. Ames had entered public life avowedly to vindicate his father’s memory.
Ames was born on February 4, 1831 in North Easton, Massachusetts to Oakes Ames and Eveline Gilmore. Oakes Ames was an American manufacturer, capitalist, and member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Massachusetts. As a congressman, he is credited by many historians as being the single most important influence in the building of the Union Pacific portion of the transcontinental railroad. He is also noted for the subsequent scandal that alleged the improper sale of stock of the railroad’s construction company.
Oakes Ames was the son of Oliver Ames, Sr. who was a blacksmith that had built a business of making shovels and was nicknamed “King of Spades”. Ames eventually became a partner in the business and established the firm Oliver Ames & Sons with his brother Oliver Ames, Jr. Ames made a large fortune during the Civil War. Through his influence, Ames obtained contracts for his family firm in the construction of the Union Pacific and staked nearly all the family’s holdings as capitalization for the project. The contracts were later transferred to the Credit Mobilier Company of America after Ames ousted its founder Thomas Durant. His brother Oliver, Jr. (1807-1877) was appointed president of the Union Pacific in 1866. It was disclosed in 1872 that Oakes Ames sold shares in Credit Mobilier to fellow congressmen at a price greatly below the market value of the stock which became a public scandal. In 1873, the House passed a resolution formally censuring Ames, detractors referred to him as “Hoax Ames”. As his father’s heir, Oliver Ames, spent several years in paying off the obligations of millions of dollars incurred by the Union Pacific Railroad and other undertakings. On the 14th anniversary of the completion of the railroad in 1883, the state legislature of Massachusetts passed a resolution exonerating Ames.
Oakes Ames (1874-1950) was the son of Oliver Ames (1831-1895), he was an American botanist specializing in orchids. He spent his entire professional career at Harvard and was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1911. The Orchidaceae were little-known before Ames’ study and classification. With his wife, Blanche Ames they made expeditions to create scientifically accurate drawings of the plants they cataloged. Their work was published in the seven-volume Orchidicae: Illustrations and Studies of the Family Orchidicae. They also developed the Ames Charts, illustrating the phylogenetic relationships of the major useful plants, which are still used. His estate is now the Borderland State Park in Massachusetts.
American journalist, writer, editor, and actor, George Plimpton was Oakes Ames’ grandson. Plimpton is widely known for his sports writing and for helping to found The Paris Review. He has appeared in a number of feature films as an extra and in cameo appearances. At Harvard, he was a classmate and close personal friend of Robert Kennedy. Plimpton, along with former decathlete Rafer Johnson, was credited with helping wrestle Sirhan Sirhan to the ground when Kennedy was assassinated at the former Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.
Check out Oliver Ames’ family tree and see how you maybe related!