William C. Ames was a well-liked and congenial mayor of Hawley during the first decade of the 20th Century. He was the owner and operator of a successful livery business during the time when the horse and buggy was still king, with the automotive era only just beginning.
The Ames family had extensive business connections and interests in the well-being and prosperity of their town. They were among the early settlers in Paupack Eddy as Hawley was first called. His father John H. Ames and uncles Jacob and Reuben were engaged in lumbering, farming and mercantile trade in Hawley for years. They also were large dealers in cattle and bought and baled large quantities of hay for market. Later, their partnership was dissolved and their business interests were divided among them.
The three brothers had also worked on building the gravity railroad between Carbondale and Honesdale for the Delaware & Hudson Canal Company, and later worked on the Pennsylvania Coal Company gravity rail system which linked Hawley with the mines near Pittston.
In 1885, Jacob Ames started a private bank in downtown Hawley, the first financial institution in the town. Jacob also opened a mercantile in 1861, and brothers Reuben and John joined with him.
William was born in February 1864 to John H. and Melisso (Woodward) Ames and raised in Hawley. After attending school here, he studied at Eastman Business College in Poughkeepsie, NY. Returning to Hawley, he worked with his father until about 1897 when his father retired.
At that point, Ames purchased the livery business operated by J.F. Drake. W.C. Ames livery was located in about the middle of what would be known as the 300 block, behind the businesses on Main Avenue (then known as 18th Street). The livery was located near the Cottage Hotel on 18th and another hotel on 16th (Church Street).
A conflagration destroyed several businesses and other buildings in this area on June 21, 1898. The fire spread to the livery, and from there to the German Lutheran parsonage on Church Street, which it was near. The fire had started in a barn to the rear of Welsh & Ames dry goods store. William Ames suffered a $1,500 loss, and had no insurance.
He was back in business after the fire.
Ames' livery was later located on Church Street, to the right of the Wayne County Hotel – more recently known as the Heritage House gift shop. The livery occupied the lot across from what is now Hawley Garage and where Wayne Street now cuts through. The hotel barn appears to be attached to te livery.
Shirley Bea Gumble loaned a picture of W.C. Ames' livery. Another picture which has been frequently reproduced shows dozens of horses and wagons with men standing about out or sitting in the wagons ready to go. The gathering is in front of the livery although the picture taken from the east side shows the side of the Wayne County Hotel in the background. We would love to know what this assembly was all about, who they were and where were they going.
Page 2 of 3 - A news item in January 1909 mentions that Ames purchased a fine pair of driving horses in New York for his livery.
••• Horseless carraiges
The Hawley Times reported in early July 1910 that Mayor Ames took action regarding the reckless use of automobiles in the Borough. The prosperous livery man posted notices near the borough limits on all roads leading into Hawley that the speed limit is 12 miles per hour. The Times editor noted that this law should be strictly enforced as reckless driving had been all too frequent that summer. "Such driving is not only a menace to the lives of the public but it is a nuisance as well because of the dust that is raised," the article reads.
William and his wife Mary A. Ames had two children, John, born in 1894 and Louise, born in about 1905. Their home was listed in the 1906 directory as being on Main Avenue.
He was still operating the livery business in 1910, the year he died. The Ames had a boarder living with them, Charles Arhby, age 19, who was hired as a livery driver.
He won the election for burgess (mayor) in February 1909.
Mayor Ames was described as having a "genial and open disposition" gaining him many friends. He served on Borough Council as well as becoming mayor, and served with satisfaction in his community. Ames was a staunch Republican. In 1909 he represented Wayne County as their delegate at the Republican State Convention.
••• Ran for State Rep
In 1910 he was a candidate for State Representative for Wayne County, but came in second to H.C. Jackson of Damascus. The primary election was held in June, only a month before he took sick and died.
He died on Thursday night, July 14, 1910, after becoming progressively ill over two weeks. He was only 46 years of age.
The Citizen newspaper, as was common in that era, offered explicit detail to assist the concerned public to understand about his condition and death. In brief, Ames had suffered pains while returning on the train from Scranton on July 13th, where he had gone on business. As soon as he was taken home, Dr. George T. Rodman- who is still remembered to this day having served as a Hawley doctor over 70 years- was summoned to his side. Dr. Rodman had a telegraph message sent to a surgeon, Dr. A.W. Smith of Scranton, asking him to come at once.
Dr. Smith performed the abdominal surgery in Hawley, assisted by local physicians Dr. Rodman, Dr. Russell T. Wall and Dr. Alfred H. Cattarall. Mayor Ames' condition, however, had gained to such an extent that chance of recovery was seen as very poor. He died at home at about 7:30 p.m. with his family around him.
Page 3 of 3 - His funeral was held the following Sunday afternoon at his home, following the custom of the day. A large number of personal, business and political associates attended. Rev. Lucas of the German Lutheran Church and Rev. Ripley of the Hawley Methodist Episcopal Church officiated. Ames was buried at Hawley.
His widow afterward lived with other family members on Maple Avenue.
In addition to his wife and children, William was survived by his younger brothers Homer Ames of Hawley and Erasmons (also listed as Rasmus) Ames of Dunmore.
Homer Greene Ames was born May 12, 1870. He was one of the partners of the Ames & Rollison department store in Hawley. He was a Republican, member of the Hawley Lodge and Encampment of the International Order of Odd Fellows, and a trustee of the Methodist church. Homer was wed to Fannie E. Schlager in Hawley in 1895, and raised a daughter, Mrs. H. F. James. Homer died on October 8, 1925.