Sunday, November 02, 2008


He began his life of crime at age 7 when he stole eggs from a neighbor. It
ended at age 21 in 1773 for the crime of burglary. There were "broadsides"
published with his life story and dying declarations, meant to entertain as
well as warn about the consequences of a sinful life.

His name was Levi Ames, (or Eames) and I believe he is another of my
Ames relations. My Ames branch(I'm descended from Arvilla Ames, who
married my 3x great grandfather John Cutter West)is one of the more
colorful ones, with my ancestress Rebecca Blake Eames accused of being
a witch and cousins Jonathan Ames and Elizabeth Blunt Ames accused of
of murder. I first ran across his story in D. Brenton Simons' "Witches,
Rakes, and Rogues" (Boston, Commonwealth Editions, 2005) but at the
time I was awash in a lot of new genealogical information so I put off
exploring it until now.

I don't intend to relate the entire sad history of Levi Ames here. You should
really buy a copy of the book which is now available in paperback. It's a great
book for anyone interested in colonial era history and it contains the complete
text of Levi's life story as he purportedly narrated it to his jailer. The events
surrounding the trial itself took on the atmosphere of similar in some respects
to modern day show trials. Between the time of his conviction and the day of
execution on 21 Oct 1773, Levi repented for his life of sin and turned to religion
and became the center of quite a bit of activity. Mr. Simons tells how on Oct 19
a minister and a large crowd gathered outside the jailhouse to serenade the
prisoner with an "execution hymn." He also mentions three Boston ministers,
Samuel Mather, Andrew Eliot, and Samuel Stillman who gave "execution sermons"
during the period.(p.166) (Stillman was with Levi on the morning of the hanging
which has significance in later events.)

That afternoon Levi Ames was taken to the appropriately named execution site,
Boston Neck, where the sentence pronounced by Chief Justice Peter Oliver was
carried out: he was hung by the neck until he was "...dead! Dead! Dead!" Before
he died, Levi asked that no shame be put on his mother or brother because of his
deeds, and then delivered his "Dying Speech" that was published as the "Dying
Penitent". At least one generation of New England schoolchildren read it as part
of their studies.

But the case of Levi Ames was not quite over. His soul might have been saved,
but his now empty mortal shell was still in jeopardy.

We'll discuss that in the next post.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Your Levi Ames is of the Robert of Boxford, Ma clan.