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Edward R. Ames, third son of Silvanus Ames, was born in Ames township, May 2o, 1806, on the farm now owned by James and George Henry. His early education, though limited, was healthful and solid, and, while still a youth, having access to the local library in Amesville, he formed a taste for reading that has largely influenced the conduct of his life. At the age of twenty he left his father’s farm to attend the Ohio university at Athens, where he remained some two or three years, mainly supporting himself, meanwhile, by teaching and other chance employments. While at college he became a member of the Methodist church.
In the autumn of 1828 the late Bishop Roberts presided over the Ohio conference of the Methodist church, which was held at Chillicothe. To see their manner of doing business, and to obtain some knowledge as to the growth of the church, the young collegian attended the session. Bishop Roberts, who had a rare discernment of men, saw the youth and that there was something more than ordinary in him. The result of their acquaintance was, that, acting on the advice of the bishop to “go west,” young Ames accompanied him a few weeks later to the Illinois conference, held that year in Madison, Indiana. Here he made further acquaintance with active Methodists from the western states, and, at their suggestion, he proceeded to Illinois and opened a high school at Lebanon, in the present county of St. Clair. He had fine success as a teacher, and remained here, making friends and influence, till 1830. In the autumn of this year he was licensed to preach by the Illinois conference, and was admitted and appointed to Shoal Creek circuit, embracing an indefinite extent of country.
Thenceforward, for some years, his was the usual history of a Methodist itinerant. He was elected as a delegate from the Indiana conference to the general conference, which met in Baltimore in 1840, and, by that body, was elected corresponding secretary of the missionary society for the south and west. This was before the days of railroads. Traveling was slow and difficult, and the labors of his office were arduous and wide extended. During the four years that he filled it, he traveled some twenty-five thousand miles. In one tour he passed over the entire frontier line, from Lake Superior to Texas, camping out almost the whole route, and one part of the time so destitute of provisions that, for two days, the only nourishment of himself and fellow travelers, was a little moistened maple sugar.
In 1859 he was elected one of the bishops of the Methodist Episcopal church, since when his official labors have been most onerous, responsible, and unremitting. Possessed of extraordinary capacity for business, and of great physical endurance, no task appals, and apparently no amount of labor fatigues him. His character and talents are so well known, both in and out of the church, as to render any analysis or description of them unnecessary in this place.
Bishop Ames is esteemed one of the most eloquent preachers in the Methodist church, as he certainly is one of the most popular. A well known minister and editor of the church says
“As a conference debater he was always effective. We often met in the conference room, but never did we hear him make a speech ten minutes long. He listened to the discussion till he saw the strong points of a case, and these he would present in a few clear, terse statements, which could not be misunderstood, and which went far toward conviction. As a public speaker he is impressive and commanding, whether on the platform or in the pulpit. His voice is quite peculiar, and while under his management it is quite effective, yet it should never be imitated. He rises calmly, states his subject clearly, introduces it with some striking remark, which at once rivets the attention, and then by an easy, direct manner, moves along the track of thought chosen for the occasion. His sermons, though never written, are evidently carefully thought out. His style is molded by the old English classics. Many of his sentences are pure aphorisms. On he talks, till he talks up into the highest realm of thought. We think perhaps his most effective preaching was when he was presiding elder, and addressed gathered thousands on western camp grounds. Then we have seen his whole soul aroused, and his full tide of impassioned oratory was almost resistless. We forbear sketching some of those scenes, though they pass before us.”
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During the greater part of his adult life, Bishop Ames has resided in Indiana, though his official duties have required protracted absences from home, and long journeys to the most distant parts of the country. A few years since he removed to Baltimore, Maryland, which is his present place of residence. Of late years he has frequently visited Athens, where he has relatives living, and where he finds great enjoyment in meeting the friends of his youth, and in recalling early memories. He is very fond of familiar converse, and, in his “hours of ease,” talks in the most genial manner, of early reminiscences or of more modern and weighty affairs. During an evening recently passed by the writer in his company, when his boyhood and early life were the topic of speech, he gave, with much amusement, the following account of
A WOLF HUNT.
“In 1822 Pitt Putnam, of Marietta, organized a grand wolf hunt, to be held on the head waters of Big run. I suppose Putnam inherited his aversion to wolves from his Massachusetts ancestor, as men sometimes inherit politics or religion; at any rate he seemed to think that he had a call to exterminate wolves. The region fixed on for the hunt lay in Washington county, not far from the borders of Ames, and a great many of the male inhabitants of Ames and Bern took part in it. A space about four miles square was surveyed in the heart of the forest, and marked all the way around by blazing the trees. General notice was given some weeks beforehand through the newspaper printed at Marietta, and I remember that a rude diagram of the country and of the line of battle was published. The plan of proceeding was well organized. The hunters were to be stationed at regular distances from each other, all the way around the tract, some supplied with guns and others with horns. Certain men were appointed captains, lieutenants, etc., and gave orders to those nearest them. On the appointed day the hunters assembled from all directions, and were soon placed. I was then only sixteen years old, and was more highly excited over the affair than I am apt to become over any event now-a-days. When all was ready, the men stationed, armed, etc., a horn was blown by the leader, and the signal in a few minutes passed around the whole circuit; whereupon they all began to march toward a common center, keeping in line. Each man was ordered to make as great a hubbub as possible, those with horns to blow them and the rest to shout and halloo. I was a pretty well grown boy of my age, and was allowed to march with the rest. Furnished with a tin horn nearly as long as myself, I blew such blasts as would, I suppose, have shaken down the walls of Jericho, if they had been there, and blew till I had no strength to blow any more. The object of the noise, hooting, blowing horns and beating bushes was to scare up the wolves, and drive them before us, and, of course, when the poor doomed wolves had been thus driven closer and closer to a common center by the contracting lines, the purpose was to slay them ruthlessly, by the hundreds, that is, if they were there. As we drew near the center, where there was a running brook and a cave in the rocks, the excitement increased. Soon wild animals of different sorts were seen darting about. There were deer in considerable numbers, and though in poor condition, as I remember, a great many were killed. In their fright and eagerness to escape, they ran directly at the lines of hunters, and I saw some of them leap clear over the heads of the men. Foxes were numerous too, and a good many were killed, with smaller game of different sorts. But we were after wolves; and after all our marching and hallooing, and beating of bushes, my recollection is that not a single wolf was captured or killed-or, if any, only one or two-and the whole affair was a laughable failure, so far as the wolf part was concerned. I think I have never wasted so much breath to so little profit as I did in blowing that tin horn. I walked home a tired boy, and very skeptical as to Pitt Putnam’s having any great inspiration as a wolf hunter.”