Oregon Area Historical Society
This month’s blog is written by Joel Olson from our Tuesday Crew.
A Story about Nathaniel Ames
Joel Olsen, Museum volunteer
Opportunity, adventure, survival and challenge – such are the adjectives that describe Nathaniel Ames who was a soldier, farmer, preacher, and pioneer. In fact, he is surely Oregon’s most remarkable early pioneer.
Like many of the first settlers, Ames came to the Oregon area from out East – New York state in his case. Unlike the others, Nathaniel Ames was 83 years old when he purchased 320 acres of woods and prairie southwest of Oregon to clear for himself and his sons.
And this was in 1844. It was quite an arduous relocation. From central New York, the Ames family floated west along the newly-opened Erie Canal, then jostled by oxcart through Ohio, Indiana and Illinois before turning north to Wisconsin. There were few established roads at the time; the journey would have taken several months. Recall that both Ames and his wife were in their 80s at the time.
But Ames was up for it. He had been born in 1761, orphaned a few years later, raised by a stern grandfather, escaped his clutches and began serving in local militias. Before Nathaniel was 20, he had enlisted in the Continental Army and was stationed in Morristown NJ during an especially harsh winter. The soldiers experienced every kind of deprivation. General George Washington even visited the troops to encourage them to hold on until spring. They survived.
After the Revolutionary War, young Ames shipped out on a privateer, sailed the Caribbean as a merchantman, and was briefly taken prisoner at sea. Seeking even more adventure, he signed on with an English ship sailing the Mediterranean; during a storm Ames went overboard and nearly drowned until rescued.
Apparently he had enough with ocean experiences. By age 25, Nathaniel had taken up farming in New York. That lasted a long time. He soon married Sarah Hall and they raised eleven children in the area. Feeling the call of the Gospel, Ames preached in Methodist churches for nearly a half-century.
But the urge to move on beckoned once again, and thus the trek to Wisconsin territory. Of that tract of government land that Ames purchased between Oregon and Brooklyn, he gave eighty acres to each of his three sons who sojourned west with him. While some of those eventually moved on out of the area, others stayed and established families. There are a number of descendants of Nathaniel Ames still in the Oregon and Brooklyn communities.
Nathaniel stayed on the farmstead for eighteen years. Finally, at the age of one hundred years, he moved into the village of Oregon. He lived two more years.
Thus, Oregon is able to claim as its own the remarkable Nathaniel Ames as the oldest, and last, Revolutionary War soldier in Wisconsin. He always liked to tell of his contact with General Washington and his tears would flow freely. He added: “You must excuse these expressions of an old man’s weakness, for I can never think of Washington without causing my heart to be stirred within me.”
May we be stirred by the story of this venerable soldier and settler. Nathaniel Ames died in Oregon, in 1863, during the Civil War, at the age of 102! Hundreds attended his funeral. A Wisconsin Historical Marker at the entrance to Prairie Mound Cemetery recounts the details and significance of his life. The Oregon Historical Museum has additional information about Ames’ life and family, with large portraits of succeeding generations. The public is welcome to the Museum to learn more.
100 Years Ago: September 1923
- On August 30, the Masons will honor the memory of Nathanial Ames, a soldier of the Revolutionary War who was buried with masonic honors on the same date in 1863.
- Tonight, the revival meeting begins in the new Tabernacle recently erected by Rev. Jack Linn on Janesville Street. Meetings will continue each night at 7:30 until Sunday September 16.
- Even architecture is influenced by modes of living. They are discarding big verandas because no one stays home to use them.
- Mrs. C. E. Cavanaugh and little son of Cumberland is spending the week with Miss. Catherine Barry and Mrs. R.R. Pease. Mrs. Cavanaugh was Miss Catherine Duren of Chippewa Falls before her marriage and was a kindergarten teacher here for several years.
- Miss Florence Wolfe returned to Madison Monday to resume her duties in the office of the highway commission after her summer’s vacation.
- Miss Betty Sommers of the Training School for Nurses at Madison, spent Saturday and Sunday with her mother, Mrs. Elizabeth Sommers.
- Eva Bethel and Emerson Ace are starting at Oregon to school this year. Nola Gallagher, daughter of Albert Gallagher will enter the University this fall.
- School opened Tuesday September 4 with an enrollment of 110 pupils in the high school and 130 in the grades and kindergarten.
50 Years Ago: September 1973
- Dr. and Mrs. J. L. Topham and Joanne, Chicago, spent two weeks recently visiting places of interest in London, Paris and Rome.
- Steven Anderson, son of Mr. and Mrs. Russ Anderson: While visiting his grandmother, Mrs. Frances Anderson, at Lake Waubesa, landed a huge northern weighing 16 pounds, 15 ounces.
- Johnny Lappley, who resides Lake Waubesa, landed the two beautiful northern one 12 pounds, and one 10 pounds.
- Mrs. Waunetta Pollow, Oregon, will complete ten years of service with General Telephone on September 9, 1972. In recognition of this milestone, she will receive a two star bracelet. Leading the parade at Brooklyn on Monday was Vicki Schwartzlow on her half-Arabian horse, DB’s Gay Dinah, wearing her beautiful pink and silver Arabian costume.
- Un-Car Day will highlight Balanced Transportation Week: Beginning with a bed race and ending with a horse race, Oregon will once again celebrate Balanced Transportation week. Besides taking the emphasis off cars at both ends of the week, the village will concentrate on Un-Car Day on September 19th.
- Mr. and Mrs. Dallas Zimmerlee, Mark and Barbara, returned home on Monday, Labor Day, after accompanying Mr. and Mrs. Ron Ringhand to Pueblo, Colorado, where Ron will be attending Southern Colorado State College.
- Ten students, aged 11 – 14 were injured when the Oregon Consolidated bus on which they were riding was struck broadside by a small van at the intersection of Highways MM and A, two miles south of Oregon. Lowell (Casey) Neath of Brooklyn, driver of the bus was treated for eye injuries resulting from flying glass. The driver of the van, Alan Beske, Oregon, was treated for head and shoulder cuts and bruises. Beske was ticked by county police for failing to stop at an arterial sign.
25 Years Ago: September 1998
- Sometimes reaching into the future means taking another look at the past, and that is what Oregon’s Historical Society was hoping to do with Oregon’s downtown as they explored forming a downtown historic district. The historical society had been working quietly on getting people informed and hopefully interested in revitalizing Oregon’s downtown by retaining the historical nature of buildings that form Oregon’s downtown block. Much of the downtown was created in the late 1890s and Oregon had two buildings of great enough historic significance that they were listed on the National Historic Register.
- As the 1998-99 school year started, the Oregon School District’s Student Assistance Program (SAP) wanted to remind people that they were there to help students and their parents in any way they could. They offered parent workshops, consultation, and a variety of programs designed to strengthen family and community connections. During the year they would be encouraging and supporting projects aimed at building assets in Oregon youth.
- Friends of the Oregon Library, a fundraising arm of the Oregon Area Library, were seeking additional financial support for the new library through additional contributions from surrounding communities and approached the town of Oregon for additional financial support. In all, the Friends were seeking $75,000 over the next three years to fulfill their fundraising obligation for the construction of the new library and they contacted all of the surrounding community whose residents use the library for support.
- In an attempt to provide adequate daytime fire service, the Oregon Area Fire and EMS asked communities to support hiring additional full time personnel to supplement the district’s volunteers. The chief brought to the Oregon Area Fire and EMS Commission meeting a budget request for two full time firefighter/EMTs to help provide adequate personnel during the day, when fewer volunteers are available. The problem is that most of the district’s volunteers work outside of the district during the day and the ambulance and firetruck are left understaffed.
- Oregon’s third graders were better readers than the average third grader in the state, and better than their peers in most surrounding schools, according to the Wisconsin Department of Instruction Reading Comprehension Test. Of Oregon’s 259 third graders in Brooklyn, Prairieview and Netherwood Knoll schools, 92.3 percent tested in the basic, proficient and advanced categories. And of that total 27.4 of them tested in the highest category, “advanced” which is the highest number in that category in all of Dane County.” We are happy that the numbers are as high as they are,” said the director of curricula in Oregon, “It validates a lot of what we are doing with our students.”
10 Years Ago: September 2013
- Village Board last week approved the hiring of Susan Poole as the village’s new municipal accountant. The position used to exist in Village Hall but had been eliminated several ago. The accountant position will also work with billing for the water utility.
- There’s nothing like hands-on learning to help students immerse themselves in the subject at hand. And in Oregon High School, science teacher Angels Schmidt’s freshwater ecology class, students will quite literally get a chance to immerse themselves in their learning. HS students – will now be able to explore the wonders of nature just outside their classroom door after a new pond was filled up last month.
- Continuing a four-year tradition, staff and volunteers from Old Sugar Distillery in Madison picked more than six tons of grapes last week at Mitchell Vineyards in the Town of Rutland. Overall, the distillery hopes to pick about 20,000 pounds of grapes it uses to make brandy and grappa. Dan Bertler of Supreme Structures, left, and Jamie Bush, owner of Headquarters Pub and Grill break ground o the new building earlier this month. The restaurant will be located at 101 Concord on the corner of MM and Concord Drive in Oregon.
- DOT Grant – Commercial rail service between the Village of Oregon and Madison is expected to begin next spring for the first time since 1997b. because of a $2.3 million grant from the Wisconsin Dept of Transportation. The Wisconsin and Southern Railroad Company announced the grant last week. The rail company plans to reactivate about 10 miles of track for Lycon Inc.’s Ready Mix concrete production facility in the Alpine Business park.
- Francesca Ruth, daughter of Robert and Lucy Ruth of Brooklyn, is the 2013 Wisconsin winner of the ninth grade Christopher Columbus Essay Contest held by the Daughters of the American Revolution. She was presented with a cash award and certificate at a luncheon award ceremony at the DAR’s state conference.