Tewksbury’s Last General

Ryan Smith

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Tewksbury residents love to be self deprecating when it comes to their own town. Many see Tewksbury as others see it, as an obscure, small town in the middle of suburbia. A lot of them assume nothing of consequence has ever happened in Tewksbury, other than the fact that Colorado Rockies pitcher Scott OBerg hails from town; but actually, they would be quite wrong.

The town of Tewksbury has remained relevant all throughout American history, starting with our contribution to the Revolutionary war effort when Captain John Trull lead his march to Lexington and Concord from Tewksbury in the spring of 1775. In the 1830s Andrew Jackson made a campaign stop in Brown’s tavern (although it is suspected he thought he was in another town). We then became well-known, for better or for worse, for being the home to the Tewksbury State Hospital, one of the first of the quintessential Eastern seaboard mental hospitals. The Hospital, in its time as an almshouse, was home to Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller’s mentor who is referred to as “The Miracle Worker”. In the 20th century we contributed soldiers to all of the nation’s wars, including one Luco Palma, the seamen who opened the door on the Apollo 13 capsule when the landed in the water in 1970. Palma would later be killed by a landmine in Vietnam. In 1976, Tewksbury’s extensive collection of greenhouses allowed it to become the “Carnation Flower Capital of the World”. Later we had our the Tew-Mac airport, and the town became home in later life to Miko Kaufman, an award winning sculptor from Romania and designer of several presidential medals and even some Olympic medals.

No single Tewksbury resident has left a bigger mark, or has been more influential to the Nation’s history, than one Adelbert Ames. Born in Rockland Maine in 1835, Adelbert Ames grew up under the guidance of his father, a sea captain and merchant, and after high school attended West Point Academy class of 1861, finishing 5th and beating our civil war notables on both sides of the conflict. /during the course of the war he was wounded in battle, quickly rose the ranks, served as aide-de-camp to a major general, became general himself, and received the medal of honor in 1893 for his actions.

Ames then entered into the second great endeavor in his life, which was becoming the first provisional Governor of Mississippi fro 1868-1870. He is lauded by historians as one of the best provisional governors of the reconstruction period, and used his popularity among freed blacks and other Republicans to be elected as a senator after Mississippi was readmitted to the union. Ames’s achievements during his political career in Mississippi include accelerating the granting of rights to former slaves, cutting taxes, and putting down a Democratic insurgency.

After retiring from politics, respected by politicians from both parties, Ames settled for a short time on his family’s land in Minnesota, where his bank was robbed by the outlaw Jesse James, and eventually moved to, New York City, New Jersey, Florida, and finally Tewksbury Massachusetts.

Ames was living in Tewksbury when he was appointed general in the Spanish-American war in 1898, having become an active proponent of colonialism. Ames lived the rest of his life in Tewksbury, becoming the longest surviving civil war general, dying at the age of 97, and being buried in the Lowell Cemetery. Ames raised 6 kids, one of which being Adelbert Ames Jr., a notable scientist. Ames’s daughter, Blanche Ames Ames, entered into a long battle with Senator and President John F. Kennedy when he wrote falsely about Ames in his book ​Profiles in Courage,​ duringasectionaboutReconstructionpoliticians.

Having lived and worked in Tewksbury for so long after being successful made him a popular figure in town, granting him recognition in two ways: the naming of “Ames Pond” after him, and the preservation of his house in town, called “The Castle”. The hill the house was on was eventually named “Ames Hill”. In 1986, local developer John Sullivan purchased the property, illegally made it into a multi-room rental building, then sold it to local real estate magnate Marc Ginsburg who decided to demolish the building much to the town’s dismay.

Ames’s contributions in the Civil War, to civil rights, and to the world at large through his progeny will not be soon forgotten, even if his brief stop in little Tewksbury, Massachusetts.

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