In 1797, Ephraim Cutler made his home in Ames Township. Other families followed, including George Ewing and his son Thomas, who was in the first graduating class from Ohio University. Sylvanus Ames settled in the area around 1800; he became the second sheriff of Athens County, a trustee of Ohio University, and representative to the 16th and 17th General Assemblies. At the time, these pioneer settlers didn't realize the impact they would make on the future town of Amesville.
Amesville is perhaps best known for the Coonskin Library. At an 1803 town meeting -- held to discuss roads -- settlers talked about their desire for books and their lack of money to pay for them. Most of the business was done by barter, so little money was in circulation. However, the surrounding forest had pelts that could be sold in the East to buy books. In the spring of 1804, Samuel B. Brown was given the pelts and, accompanied by Ephraim Cutler, went east to bring back books for the town. Fifty-one books -- mostly on religion, travel, biography and history -- were purchased for $73.50. These books were passed from home to home until Ephraim Cutler was elected librarian in 1804.
The original books can be found at the Ohio Historical Society, as well as Ohio University's Alden Library. A commemorative marker, placed by the Nabby Lee Ames D.A.R. Chapter of Athens in 1925, is located near the Community Bank on State Street. The Coonskin Library Museum opened in May of 1994 in the former cafeteria of the Amesville Grade School.
Left: Amesville Grade School, 1952
Amesville grew slowly but steadily. In 1802, the first school built in Ames Township was taught by Charles Cutler. The Amesville Academy was established after the town held a meeting about better education. The first Amesville Post Office was located in a brick building at the corner of State and Main Streets in 1821. At the time, the building was also home to a store. The Amesville United Methodist Church was formed in 1824, followed by the Amesville Presbyterian Church in 1829.
Unfortunately, the town's location on the bank of Federal Creek and by the McDougal Creek branch have made it prone to flooding. The first flood occurred in 1873. Many floods have followed, including back-to-back floods in 1997 and 1998. Each time, the community has come together to rebuild the town.
Amesville has been the home to many people. Slaves escaping the South walked through Amesville as part of the Underground Railroad. Its landmarks -- such as the Masonic Hall on Franklin Street -- are important to families living there, as well as visitors to the village. Other landmarks, such as the old Clover Farm Stores building, have been abandoned or torn down, but new landmarks and memories are taking their place.
To learn more about the history of Amesville, read:
Below Left: Masonic Hall, 1920s. Below Right: Clover Farm Stores