Saturday, May 04, 2013


My 4x great grandfather  Jonathan Phelps  Ames was born on 20Apr 1781 in
Groton Ma., the second of the five children of John Ames and Lydia Phelps.
The family moved to Oxford County, Maine  between 1790 and 1810, where
John made his living as a farmer and blacksmith in several towns. It was inone
of those towns, Hartford, Maine, that Jonathan met and married his first wife,
my 4x great grandmother Mary "Polly" Griffith on 6Sep 1807. They were married
twenty seven years and produced ten children, seven boys and three girls.Polly
died in 1834. Three years later Jonathan married Polly's sister Sarah Griffith and
the couple had two more daughters. Jonathan died on 16Dec 1863 at Canton,
Oxford, Maine, at age 82.

I've been lucky with many of my New England lines; they lived in towns that have
had books written about their history and those books have provided me with a lot of information  and stories. But with a few like the Ames and Coburn lines the information
dries up after the families moved north to MaIne, so I piece together what I can with
whatever records and documents I can find online. Recently I found  the 1860 U.S. Federal Census Non-Population Agriculture Schedule for Canton Maine and Jonathan's farm was
one of those enumerated. It gave me a little insight into what his life was like as it was
drawing to a close. Here's a transcript:

Acres of land: Developed-75 acres
Undeveloped-25 acres
Cash value of Farm- 1500 (dollars)
Value of farming Implements and Machinery- 53 (dollars)
Mules and Asses-0
Milch Cows-3
Working Oxen-2
Other cattle-3
Value of Livestock-280 (dollars)
Wheat, bushels of -0
Rye, bushels of- 5
Indian Corn, bushels of -5
Oats, bushels of-4
Rice, lbs of-0
Tobacco, lbs of-0
Ginned Cotton, bales of 400lbs ea-0
Wool,lbs of-65
Peas and Beans, bushels of-4
Irish Potatoes, bushels of-75
Sweet Potatoes, bushels of-0
Barley, bushels of-0
Buckwheat, bushels of-3
Value of Orchard Products, in dolls.-0
Butter, lbs. of-150
Cheese, lbs of-50
Hay, tons of-20
Clover Seed, bushels of-0
Grass seeds, bushels of-0
Hops, lbs. of-0
Dew Rotted, tons of-0
Water Rotted, tons of-0
Other prepared Hemp-0ItalicFlax, lbs of-0
Flaxseed, bush. of-0
Silk Cocoons, lbs, of-0
Maple Sugar, lbs of-0
Cane Sugar,hhds of 1000 lbs,-0
Molasses, gallons of and from what made-0
Beeswax, lbs. of-0
Honey, lbs.of-0
Value of Homemade Manufacture-0 (dollars)
Value of Slaughtered Animals-58 (dollars)

Looking at this, the first thought that struck me was the livestock. We tend to think
of a farmer using a horse to draw his wagon or plow, but nearly all the records I've
seen of ancestors from this period shows them owning at least two pair of oxen. I
think given the rocky New England terrain and the winter snows oxen did most of the
heavy farm work until modern machinery came along. The horse was probably more
for transportation than work. Also, the number of cows is lower than what we think of
when we think of New England farms, but remember, back then there was no milk
pasteurization yet, no refrigeration to transport large amounts of milk to city dwellers.
"Milch cows" were more valuable for the amount of cheese and butter that could be
made from their milk. So while Jonathan had a total of six cows, he had over twice that
amount, fifteen, in sheep. I checked the rest of the entries for Canton and there were
over 1200 sheep on the farms in town. In 1860 the New England textile mills were in
their heyday and wool would have been in demand to make into clothing.

Then I looked at the crops grown on Jonathan's farm and how much he harvested. For a
farm of its size the amounts are low. Jonathan's son -in-law, my 3x great grandfather
John Cutter West farmed fewer acres than Jonathan, forty acres, and had a harvest of
500 bushels of potatoes compared  to the 75 on Jonathan's farm. In every crop planted
on both farms, the yield at Jonathan's farm was smaller.

I don't think it was because Jonathan was a poor farmer. I think the answer is simply that
he was old, nearly 80! All his sons were gone from the farm: Jonathan Jr. had moved to
Illinois, Ezekiel was in Massachusetts. Generous, Hezekiah and Atwood were running
their own farms, and two sons, Ephraim and Americus, had already died. The regular
1860 Census shows Jonathan and Sarah living on the farm with a Henry and Emily Potter.
I believe Emily is their daughter, although I haven't found a record of her marriage yet.

So for the moment that's all I know about Jonathan Phelp Ames, my 4x great grandfather,
but I'm still hoping to find more!


Kathy said...

My Mother mentioned and linked me this blog post. I am descended from Jonathan Phelps Ames as well through his son Generous.

Bill West said...

Hi Cousin Kathy!

Sandra Taylor said...

hi there...I am decended also from this line. Jonathan and Mary "polly" Ames daughter( Ruhama was married to Simeon Otis Reynolds Jr. they were my 3x great grandparents...)so I believe that makes Jonathan and "polly" my 4x great grandparents.

Bill West said...

Hi cousin Sandra! Yes they are 4x great grandparents to us both. There's also a link through the marriage between my 2x great grandfather Jonathan Phelps West and Orpha Reynolds, who was the daughter of Ruhama and Simeon. Unfortunately she died in a diphtheria epidemic and J.P.West remarried later to Louisa Richardson.

If I can be of any help email me. :)