Biography - Truman E. Ames

TRUMAN E. AMES, County Judge of Shelby County, already ranks among the most eminent men on the bench in this State, although comparatively young, as since assuming the judicial power his decisions have been marked with a thorough knowledge of the law as applicable to all cases under his jurisdiction, have been delivered with candor and unquestioned fairness, and have been pronounced without fear or favor.

Our subject was born January 2, 1850, in the township of DeKalb, St. Lawrence County, N. Y., and is a descendant of the sturdy, energetic pioneer stock that settled that part of the county and redeemed it from the primeval forests. His father, Truman W. Ames, was also born on the old family homestead in De Kalb Township. He was a son of Barnabas Ames who was a native of Vermont. The great-grandfather of our subject, William Ames, was likewise born in Vermont, the Ames's being among the Colonial settlers of Massachusetts. Some of the family removed from there to Vermont. William and his son Barnabas, after residing there a few years, pushed on to the frontier wilds of Northern New York, going there on an exploring expedition before he removed his family, and taking with him bis son, the grandfather of our subject, then a youth of twenty years. They made the entire journey from Vermont on foot, taking with them their axes to use when necessary in traveling through the rough, wild country through which they had to pass. They found St. Lawrence County a howling wilderness, with but few evidences of civilization, as there were but very few whites in that region. After their arrival they took the job to help clear the land where the Court House now stands at Canton. They soon selected a suitable location for themselves on what is now the pike leading from Canton to Potsdam, and after erecting a log house on the land purchased returned to Vermont for the remainder of the family. The great-grandfather rounded out a long and useful life in his new-found home, and his mortal remains now repose in the Ames Cemetery not far from the scene of his pioneer labors.

The grandfather of our subject was just entering upon a vigorous manhood when the family removed to St. Lawrence County, and he at once set actively to work to evolve a farm from the wilderness. For many years after his location there were no railways, and Montreal, Canada, was the most convenient market and depot for supplies. Deer, bears and wolves were plentiful in the woods near the settlements, and sometimes committed havoc with the farmers' stock and gardens. The people were principally home-livers, subsisting on the products of their farms, their fare being varied occasionally by game; and the wives, mothers and daughters of the pioneers carded, spun and wove flax and wool, and the cloth thus made was fashioned by their hands into garments for their families. Grandfather Ames made farming his life work and cleared a good farm, on which he lengthened out a long and useful life.

The father of our subject was reared to agricultural pursuits in the home of his birth. In due time he married Miss Jane Armin, a native of England and a daughter of Michael and Jane (Jobbin) Armin. After marriage Mr. Ames purchased a farm near the old home, and was actively engaged in farming thereon until 1864, when he enlisted in the One Hundred and Sixth New York Infantry, and going at once to the front with his regiment, joined Sheridan's command in the Shenandoah Valley. He fought bravely in the first battle there, at Cedar Creek, and was severely wounded. After recovering from the effects of his wounds he joined his regiment again, and was present with the command at Appomattox at the time of Lee's surrender. He and his comrades were then sent in pursuit of Johnson's army, and after the surrender of the latter General they proceeded to Washington, took part in the Grand Review and were honorably discharged.

Having proved his loyalty and devotion to his country by sacrificing his interests to help fight the battles that saved the Union, Mr. Ames returned to his old home and resumed his occupation as a farmer. He conducted his farming interests until 1881, when he retired from active business to Potsdam, where he still continues to enjoy the handsome competence that is the fruit of his well-directed labors. He and his good wife have four sons living and an adopted daughter, as follows: Truman E., Milon E., Ceylon W., Judson T. and Gertrude. Milon E., Ceylon W. and Judson T. are all locomotive engineers.

Judge Ames laid the foundation of a liberal education in the district schools of his native town, afterward studied at Hermon Academy, and then pursued a course of study at the State Normal and Training School at Potsdam. He thus had a good ground work for his legal studies, which he began in the law office of Moullon, Chaffee & Headon in the interim of teaching, he having come to Illinois in 1871, and for two years taught in Moultrie County, and subsequently in this county. To further prepare himself for his chosen calling he entered the Law Department of the Michigan State University at Ann Arbor, from which he was graduated with honor in the Class of '77. He opened an office at Windsor, and was established there one year. He next went to Rockford, but after remaining in that city one year, he returned to Windsor, and in 1880 came from there to Shelbyville. He arose steadily and rapidly in his profession until he was honored by being elected to his present important office of County Judge in 1886. This position he has attained solely through his personal merits and fitness for the place. This is the second term in which he has presided over the deliberations of the County Court, dispensing justice with an even hand, and his findings, which are seldom, if ever, over-ruled by the higher courts, evince his possession of a clear, comprehensive mind and masterly judicial qualities.

In 1874 Judge Ames and Miss Dora Hilsabeck were united in marriage at Windsor. Mrs. Ames was born at Windsor in 1856, and is the youngest daughter of James A. and Sarah (Boys) Hilsabeck, natives respectively of Georgia and Illinois. The Judge and his amiable wife are among our leading society people, and their charming home possesses many attractions to their hosts of friends. Their household is completed by the presence of their only son and child, Edward Peer, who was born January 7, 1878.

Judge Ames is giving Shelbyville the benefit of his learning and executive talent by serving as President of the Board of Education and using his influence to make the schools of the city as good as the best in any part of the State. He is a Democrat in polities and in his social relations is a member of Jackson Lodge, No. 53, A. F. & A. M.; Godfrey de Bouillon Commandery, No. 44, at Mattoon, Ill.; also of Black Hawk Lodge, No. 83, K. of P.; and of the Uniformed Rank No. 40.

Extracted 12 Jan 2018 by Norma Hass from 1891 Portrait and Biographical Record of Shelby and Moultrie Counties Illinois, pages 410-411.

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