Ruth Harding of Chatham—who the heck were her parents?! When and where did she and her husband live out their final days? It drives me nuts not to know!
Ruth married Nehemiah Eldredge in 1796. Their intentions were published Harwich Vital Records p 178: Mr. Nehemiah Eldredge of Harwich - Miss Ruth Harding of Chatham Jany 30th 1796 and in Chatham VR p 165: January 29th 1796 Then Nehemiah Eldredge of Harwich entered his intention of marriage with Ruth Harding of Chatham in order for publishment to be made thereof in Chatham.
They raised their family of nine children in Harwich: James Harding, Freeman, Rebecca, Sally, Nehemiah, Ruth, Susan, Harding, Didama.
James and Rebecca both settled in Dennis Port; Sally in Harwich; Nehemiah in Harwich and Chatham; Ruth in Chatham; Susan Harwich, Chatham and Dennis Port; Didama in Chatham. Not sure about Freeman who may have died as an unmarried young man and Harding, who I haven’t found any further record of.
Their daughter Susan’s 1846 marriage records says her parents were of Harwich. Their daughter Didama’s 1910 death record states her mother was “Polly” Harding, born Chatham. Was that a nickname for Ruth? Still no death record for a Polly Eldredge.
Nehemiah was born 7 June 1775 in Harwich, son of Elnathan Eldredge (Ebenezer3, Jehosophat2, William 1), and Dorothy Freeman (Thomas5-4-3, John2, Edmond1). I’d guess Ruth to be a few years younger, so perhaps a 1777 birth year.
I also cannot find death/burial information for Ruth or Nehemiah. It is likely they died and are buried in Harwich (or even Chatham), but there are no records or stones for them in either place. Many of Harwich’s vital records have been lost. Perhaps Nehemiah and Ruth didn’t have the means for the family to purchase headstones or they haven’t survived.
Nehemiah is mentioned in his father's 7 May 1832 will, receiving bequests to be split equally with his three brothers, including land. If Nehemiah was in some far off place, I’d imagine that would be mentioned and Nehemiah wouldn’t have need of land on the Cape.
Nehemiah’s parents and some of his siblings are buried at the Methodist Church Cemetery in East Harwich, a building his father and siblings, and perhaps himself, constructed. I contacted the pastor there and he said many of the records belonging to the church have been lost.
|E. Harwich Methodist Church in 1999, undergoing renovations|
A published Eldredge genealogy (The Family of Clyde Mulford Eldridge and Other Descendants of William Eldred of Yarmouth, by Luella Eldridge, 1983, Gateway Press, Inc, Baltimore, MD.) gives Nehemiah’s death year as 1839, but no source cited.
Possible scenarios I’ve shot down:
--They went west with the Mormons. Their sons James H. and Nehemiah became active in the Reorganized Latter Day Saint Church, but people going west was after Nehemiah and Ruth’s time.
--They went to Nova Scotia, as some Eldredge’s from the Cape did. Genealogist/historian Burt Derick has many records of Cape folks who went to Nova Scotia and Nehemiah and Ruth aren’t mentioned.
Someone at NEHGS checked a manuscript called the William Henry Eldridge Papers. It has a hand-written addition of 1839 as Nehemiah’s death date. Burt Derick’s mother had a note on Nehemiah that referenced "An Eldredge Gen." by Ruth Brown McAllister 1966, which also gives the 1839 death date. Doesn’t that 1839 date have to come from someplace??
The Harding family goes way back in Chatham. One of earliest settlers of Chatham was Joseph Harding who was appointed at 12 June 1693 meeting to "goe make up or repair men's houses." I’d would think Ruth descends from Joseph.
There is another Ruth Harding of Chatham, but she is older than “my” Ruth.
There was a John Harding who married Deborah Nickerson at Chatham in 1768, but Ruth is not listed amongst there 10 children.
In 1790 Census, there were 15 Harding households in Barnstable County and only two in Chatham:
1. John Harding, 1 male 16 plus; 3 males under 16; 7 females (this is likely the John Harding mentioned above)
2. Theodore Harding 1 male 16 plus, 1 male under 16, 1 female.
I don’t find Theodore in later census records for Chatham. There is always just one Theodore Harding in the Federal Census living in MA. In 1790 he is in Chatham and later he is in Medway and Walpole. But the Theodore in Medway/Walpole was born about 1810.
There is yet another Theodore of Medway whose intentions to marry Hannah Clap were published in 1796. There was a Theodore and Lois Harding having children in the 1750s through the 70s in Medway. The Harding family goes back even further in Medway, so unlikely this is the same family at Chatham.
One thing I haven’t done, because I so rarely get down the Cape these days and it could be quite time consuming, is to look through probate records for Chatham Hardings to see if any mention a daughter Ruth Eldredge.
I'm certain I'll find more on Ruth eventually!