Elnathan Eldredge is one of my favorite ancestors; he'd be high on my list to visit if time travel were possible. He is my sixth great-grandfather and as the town miller he would have known who everyone was and heard a lot of the local gossip. He could even tell me who his daughter-in-law Ruth Harding's parents were, solving a mystery that makes me nuts! Elnathan was born in Chatham, Mass., on 07 March 1746/47, the third of 14 children of Ebenezer and Deliverance (Nickerson) Eldredge. I’ll refrain from making a bad pun about the appropriateness of Deliverance’s name!
Elnathan married Dorothy Freeman in Harwich on 31 October 1770. She was born 14 November 1752, the daughter of Thomas and Esther (Ryder) Freeman. She was the first born of their six children. Elnathan was of Chatham at the time of their marriage and Dorothy was of Harwich. Dorothy’s name is also seen as Dorotha.
Elnathan and Dorothy had eight children born Harwich:
1. Nehemiah, born 07 June 1775. He married Ruth Harding of Chatham in 1796 and they had nine children. Nehemiah is said to have died in 1839, but I can’t find a record of his death or burial. I cannot find Ruth’s birth or death information. This drives me crazy as I descend from Nehemiah and Ruth! I wrote more about Nehemiah and Ruth here.
2. Sarah, born 14 October 1777, married David Crowell, son of David and Thankful (Atwood) Crowell. They had Thankful, Margery and David. I have not found Sarah’s death record in Massachusetts.
3. Samuel, born 01 February 1781, married Hannah Mayo on 01 November 1801 and had son Benjamin and other children. He married 2nd Lavinia Nickerson. Died Harwich 07 August 1867. He was a Representative to the Court, a Harwich Selectman and a Justice of the Peace.
4. Elnathan, born 24 August 1783, married Jane Wixon 29 January 1805 and had eight children. Died in 1830.
5. Dorothy, born 13 March 1786, married Joseph Arey, son of Thomas and Rebecca (Sparrow) Arey. They lived in Orleans and had eight sons and one daughter. She died in 1861.
6. Isaiah, born 02 February 1788, married Sabra Wixon and had five children. He was a Latter Day Saint and died crossing the Ohio River in the trip West in 1847. He and Sabra traveled with their nephews Elnathan Eldredge and John Wixon, but none of their children made the move.
7. Jonathan, born 19 December 1792, married Rebecca Wixon in 1813 and had five children. He died 10 August 1880 and is buried in his parent’s cemetery plot in E. Harwich. He lived in his father’s homestead.
8. James, no birth record found, but he is named as a son in an 1804 letter, but not in his father’s will. Elnathan’s obituary states he had eight children, so that eighth child must be James.
Elnathan and Jonathan married sisters.
Paine’s manuscript at NEGHS says that Elnathan died suddenly and that he was a miller and a man of considerable intelligence.
|Old postcard that belonged to my great-grandmother|
The well-known photo of a Cape Cod mill is what I visualize Cape mills to look like, but perhaps Elnathan's mill was a mill using a water wheel. It's something I need to do more research on.
The late Pauline Wixon Derick's files contain a note from Geneva A. Eldredge, Sagamore, MA, 1933: Elnathan Eldredge The Miller built the house in the hollow near Pleasant Bay, E. Harwich, 1770, for bride Dorotha Freeman. Her father's house set in the clumps of Lilac bushes and willow trees above the carpet swamp on the road leading from Carroll Nickerson’s to Ralph Cashen’s. The east front room of this house was the first school in E. Harwich. Elnathan owned mill on Mill Hill. He died in his mill in 1837.
|Pleasant Bay today source: Cape Cod Buyer Broker|
Living to age 90 at that time was quite something, never mind still being healthy and working in his mill!
Deyo, Simeon L., editor of History of Barnstable County, Massachusetts, 1890 wrote: The old wind mill, which ground the grists of the good people of the neighborhood, familiarly known as "Uncle Elnathan's mill," graced the high lands of "Weguasset,"--the territory so called by the Indians north of Short cove, overlooking Pleasant Bay.
Dennis Historical Society Newsletter, Oct. 1979 had some information on grist mills: Gristmills were driven by wind and were an everyday sight and a vital necessity to the earliest settlers on the Cape. The staple grain was corn. To grind enough corn for the family's annual use without a gristmill was an impossible task. The miller was so important to the community that he was often exempt from military duty. He was a highly respected citizen and his mill was often a meeting place for the rural families who spent a good deal of their time in solitary labor on their farm.
1n 1804 Seth Knowles of Eastham had paid a fee to lay claim to contents of the wrecked ship Protector. Several of Elnathan's sons discovered some of the contents washed up on shore and took it as their own. Knowles sent the following letter to Elnathan, spelling corrected (Mooncussers of Cape Cod by Kittredge p 133-134):
Mr. Elnathan Eldridge Sir
I have been informed and have proof that your sons have found a large amount of valuable Rack Goods and sold many of them and have not advertised them as the law directs. You must well know there is a lawful owner to those goods. As you will find there is one lawful owner. In a short time I advise you as a friend to come immediately and settle the business with me and for your sons as I hold myself a lawful owner of all the goods and merchandise that came out of the ship Protector and taken up at the back side since the 15th day of October last it is very evident that those goods your sons found must come out the ship Protector as the same articles was in her invoice and sold me at public venue and I can give you a sufficient clearance from all lawful blame if you see cause to come and settle with me on reasonable terms soon if not I shall put the business into a lawyers hands to settle with yours as you have violated the laws of this Commonwealth not advertising the property and if the business goes into the law it will cause you more than settling with me it is my duty to seek for my right I want nothing more from no man and if you come and see me we can compromise on reasonable terms without spending money from yours. Seth Knowles
The sons mentioned by Mr. Knowles were Jonathan, James, Nehemiah and Elnathan Jr. His son Jonathan became a fisherman of the Grand Banks.
In April 1818, a meeting was held in Chatham at the home of Ezra Crowell. During the meeting Ensign and Salathiel Nickerson, Uriah Mayo, Benjamin Dunbar and Elnathan Eldredge, then age 70, were empowered as agents in Chatham to watch and prosecute any person digging clams at Simpson's Island (History of Harwich p 202).
Elnathan's family was originally Baptist, attending the Harwich Church, but at some point converted to the Methodist religion (Smith’s History of Chatham). He and members of his family assisted in the construction of the Methodist Meetinghouse which was completed in 1811.
|East Harwich Methodist Church|
I have read that several of Elnathan and Dorthy’s children removed to the Granville area of Massachusetts, but I have not found them in records there. In part, it may have been an offer of land grants given out for military service during the Revolutionary War. It also signaled a large migration of Cape Cod families to move for better farmland.
|Dorothy Freeman Eldredge's stone|
At age 90, Elnathan died 21 December 1837 in Harwich. He is buried next to his wife and parents at the Methodist Church Cemetery in East Harwich (also known as High Hill Cemetery).They all have similar slate stones, with engravings of an urn and willow or ferns. Dorothy had died 12 years earlier, on 09 November 1825.
|Elnathan Eldredge's stone. I was there at the wrong time of day for this photo.|
From The Yarmouth Register newspaper: January 5, 1837, In East Harwich, 22nd ult., Mr. Elnathan ELDRIDGE, 90. He was the father of eight children, 67 grandchildren and 52 great-grandchildren.
Elnathan’s will was dated 7 May 1832. He mentions daughter Sarah Crowell, wife of David, and Dorothy Arey, wife of Joseph, to each get half of: his 20 acres of upland in Harwich, Orleans, Brewster; the swamp adjoining that land; one acre or more of woodland adjoining the upland; a lot of meadow on Nonset beach of about 10 acres; all his indoor household furniture.
He gave his four sons, Nehemiah, Samuel Jr., Isaiah, and Jonathan some of his wearing apparel and all the property not given to the daughters.
|Elnathan's signature on his will|
He also names his five grandsons, Elnathan Eldredge Jr., Thomas F. Eldredge, Joshua Eldredge, George W. Eldredge, and Zenus Eldredge, to receive some of his wearing apparel, one fifth of some real estate and one fourth of the shores and beaches named in the same deed. He gave the improvement of the above property to their mother Jane Eldredge during her widowhood. He also gave Jane’s daughters (unnamed) one dollar each.
He named sons Samuel Eldredge Jr and Jonathan Eldredge joint executors and signed it with his signature. It was witnessed by John Kenrick, Ezra Kendrick, Isaiah Kendrick.
Codical to Elnathan's will dated 14 June 1834 gives more information on the land to be given to his four surviving sons and the five grandsons (sons of his deceased son Elnathan).
The inventory of Elnathan’s estate includes real estate:
two small pieces of meadow joining toner(?) creek Orleans $30.00
about [can't read number] acres cleared land near Hezekiah Rogers __ Orleans 288.00
Do, 1 1/2 Do woodland joining same, including the wood $24.00
2/7th of the brush & swamp wood in little cedar swamp $8.00
4/5ths of the round cove meadow Harwich $24.00
about 2 1/2 acres woodland joining wading place path $35.00
Do 1 1/4 Do Do joining same $20.00
4/5th abouth 3/4th Do joining Ebenr. Nickersons wood $23.00
about 3 acres Do joining cove road Harwich $36.00
2 tons meadow to westward Cobs crick Orleans $48.00
1 1/4 Do Do near Amos point Do $25.00
1 1/2 Do Do south Do Do Do $25.00
3/4 Do old sand lot Do Do Do $12.00
Small peace meadow on monument plane east Coles crick $10.00
little lot meadow south Amos point 1 1/2 tons $25.00
about 5 acres woodland joining Zeanus Taylor & Enos Rogers $25.00
3 Do DO Do Seth Nickersons wood 18.00
There isn't any personal estate inventory, but perhaps I missed it so will have to double check file at probate court.