John H. Ames was an industrious merchant, a farmer and builder, who lived in Hawley, Pa. in the latter half of the 19th and early 20th centuries. His siblings also made their mark in the development of Hawley, and have been featured in this series on several occasions.

HAWLEY -  John H. Ames was an industrious merchant, a farmer and builder, who lived in Hawley, Pa. in the latter half of the 19th and early 20th centuries. His siblings also made their mark in the development of Hawley, and have been featured in this series on several occasions.

The Hawley Times placed his picture on the top of its “front page” on November 15, 1918, announcing Ames’ death. (The weekly Hawley Times at this time was being carried by The Wayne County Citizen within its pages.)

John H. Ames was the last of “three remarkable men,” the Times reported, brothers who lived nearly all their lives in Haley and were beneficiaries to their community. They were Jacob S., John H. and Reuben T. Ames, known for years by the firm-name of Ames Brothers.

John was born in May 22, 1833 to Joseph and Gertrude Ames, in Canaan Township, Wayne County. This was not far from Farview Mountain on the farmstead of his father.

Joseph Ames had come to Wayne County, Pa. from North Stonington, Connecticut in 1814.

He was one of 11 children.

John’s grandfather, Jacob S. Ames, had served in the Revolutionary War.

Stared work at age 9

Although attending public schools, he became a worker early in life. At only nine years of age he started driving for the Delaware & Hudson (D&H) Canal Company between Summit and Carbondale. When he was 15 years old he began learning the carpenter’s trade with the Plums in Hawley.

For more than 60 years, John H. Ames was prominent in social, fraternal, church and business circles in his town. He was a builder, merchant, mill operator and farmer.

In 1860 he opened a general store in Hawley, running it until 1867. While the location is not clear, the 1860 Hawley map indicates a “J. Ames” on what we known as the north side of Keystone Street between Maple and Chestnut avenues.

At that time he became a partner with his brothers Jacob and Reuben, trading as J.S. Ames & Brothers, and dealing in general merchandise, lumber, cattle, hay, grain and feed.

The firm was said to be the largest in Wayne County, operating the largest feed mills in the county. The firm owned thousands of acres of timber land. Their cattle were driven (leading them on foot down the road) to Newburgh, New York, where they were ferried across the Hudson River and then driven to the abattoir at 42nd Street in New York City.

His brother Jacob S. Ames had started a steam operated mill in downtown Hawley at the corner of 15th (Keystone Street) and 17th (Penn Avenue) in 1869. John was a partner in the enterprise of J.S. Ames & Bros. The tall, field stone chimney standing at United Metal Works’ building is part of the original mill.

In 1884 John Ames withdrew from the family firm, which continued two more years under the same name, when the property was divided.

In addition to money, John Ames received as his share a 600 acre property at Winding Hill, Wayne County, which became known as the Ames Homestead. Here he resided until 1903. He then sold the estate to a New York banker and retired to private life in Hawley, where he lived out his years.

In the same settlement, he also received a farm in Minnesota.

Life in Hawley

The 1872 map of Hawley, as well as an street directories for 1890, 1903 and 1912, places the home of John and Melissa Ames on 19th Street (Maple Avenue) at the northwest corner with 15th (Keystone Street).

John Ames was elected as a school director in the Hawley Borough election in February 1886. The borough had been formed only two years before.

Ever keen to the interests of fellow agriculturists, John Ames in January 1905, was named as treasurer of the Wayne County Farmers’ Mutual fire insurance company. In March of 1911 the insurance company was able to assist a policy holder in Palmyra Township, whose dairy barn burned. The farmer lost 40 cows as well as hay. The barn had formerly been owned by John Ames.

He was the oldest living member of the Hawley (Masonic) Lodge, No. 305, F. & A. M., when in January 1907 the members marked the lodge’s 50th anniversary. He had become treasurer of the Lodge in December 1885.

Christmas wedding

On Christmas day, 1859, John was wed to Miss Melissa Woodward, daughter of Amzi L. and Irene (Kellam) Woodward, whose home was on the flats below the beautiful Wangum Falls, about four miles north of Hawley.

Melissa’s mother’s family was among the early settlers of the Wallenpaupack valley. Her grandfather Moses Kellam (1792-1862) was justice of the peace at Paupack and a county surveyor.

Melissa’s sister Harriet was the wife of John Ames’ brother Jacob.

John and Melissa Ames had the following children: W. Dewight, William C., Densmore, Homer G. and Erasmus Denton Ames.

The 1880 census shows only three children at home. William was 16; Homer, 10 and “Rasmus” was 5. Their father, John, was 47 and listed as a miller. Their mother Melissa, 46, was a homemaker.

William became a livery owner on Church Street in Hawley. Homer was a partner in Welsh & Ames, a department store on Church Street, Hawley. Erasmus moved to Dunmore and worked as a clerk for the Erie & Wyoming Valley Railroad. He later worked for various coal mining companies in the Lackawanna Valley, and became paymaster for the Lackawanna & Wyoming Valley Railroad (the Laurel Line, a trolley railroad).

In December 1910, John’s wife passed away.

John H. Ames died Sunday morning, November 10, 1918 at Hawley. He had come down with pneumonia. John was 85. He was his wife were laid to rest at the Eddy Cemetery (Walnut Grove) in Hawley.

Main sources:

Wayne County Citizen/Wallenpaupack Historical Society archives

Vintage newspapers at

Census and other records at Public Library

History of Scranton & Its People (1914)/Google Books