Carrie Clyfton Washburn was born Plymouth, Massachusetts, 5 February 1896, one of the eight children of Charles F. and Hattie Maria (Benson) Washburn. She is my great-grandmother and although I was twelve when she died, I never met her. Carrie was born, raised, and died in Plymouth and was a descendant of many Mayflower passengers.
I also never knew her son, my grandfather Arthur “Art” Washburn Davis, as he and my grandmother were married briefly and he rarely saw my dad. I was always curious about Art, but it took me quite some time to find his birth record as he used different surnames: Washburn, Ellis, and Washburn. It turns out Carrie was just 17 and unmarried in 1913 when she gave birth to Art. There is no father listed on his birth record, but I later had the good fortune to find and meet Art’s half-sister Dorothy “Dot” (Ellis) Parker. I wrote about Dot and Art here. She said when her mother was elderly, she told her the identity of Art’s father: George Brewster Smith of Plymouth. It turns out George died two months before Art’s birth—in an accident when he was re-arranging a wagon-load of furniture and the horse took off and George’s head smashed into a bridge. George, who was just 18 when he died, had married Helen Pearson in 1912 and they had a baby, also named George. DNA results show I’m closely matched to some of George’s descendants through his son George, so I believe this story is accurate.
Carrie married Everett “Pete” Ellis on 28 August 1914 at Plymouth. He was born Bridgewater on 25 March 1892 to William and Maude Ellis. Carrie and Pete had a large family of ten children: Francis, Dorothy, Gladys, Marion, Nancy, Everett, Walter, Barbara, Marjorie, and Robert.
Dot told me she grew up knowing Art was her brother and that he was regularly at family gatherings in Plymouth, although as an adult the family saw him less and less. I’ve wondered perhaps if Pete didn’t want to raise another man’s son. I’ve been in touch with one of Francis’ sons, and he said Art and Francis remained close; my grandmother confirmed this.
When I met Dot (who was 94 at the time, but full of incredible positive energy and warmth, and immediately treated me like family), she said her mother was busy taking care of the children and running the household so she didn't have time for hobbies and other interests. Carrie could draw, but rarely indulged this talent, which is a talent Dot inherited. I asked her if she knew where Carrie’s middle name came from as Clyfton isn’t a surname I’ve come across in our ancestry, but she didn’t know. In a letter from Grace Davis to my grandmother, she wrote that Carrie’s family was involved with the Salvation Army and that Carrie sang with a choir and had a quiet nature.
In my quest to learn more about Carrie, I once spoke on the phone with Rose Ellis, Carrie’s daughter-in-law. She said Carrie was a very special person, that she always welcomed everyone into her home and insisted they have something to eat. I asked if she was a good cook, and she said not really, but she loved to feed everyone! I have just one photo of Carrie, shared with me by Dot, of her with Everett celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. I hope someday to find an earlier photo of her.
From census records and town directories, Carrie and Pete lived at various rented homes in Plymouth—in downtown on Sandwich, Newfield, and Summer Streets and in Manomet neighborhood on Beaver Dam and Brook Roads. In the early 1940s, they owned a home on South Street in Duxbury. By 1950, I believe they owned their home at 5 Freedom Street in downtown Plymouth, a stones-throw from the waterfront. This is their address in the 1950 census and their son Everett, with his wife Rose and son Edward, deeded that property to another son Allan in 1989.
|Carrie's Freedom Street house
Carrie Clyfton Ellis died 31 March 1974 at Plymouth. She was 78 years old and died of acute myocardial failure. She is buried at Vine Hills Cemetery with her husband Everett/Pete Ellis. Pete died from cancer in 1966. He worked for the Town of Plymouth in the Parks Department.
Her obituary from Plymouth’s Old Colony Memorial newspaper, 14 April 1974: "In Plymouth, March 31 -- A funeral service for Mrs. Carrie Clyfton (Washburn) Ellis, 78, of 5 Freedom St., Plymouth, was conducted yesterday at 2 p.m. at the First Baptist Church. The Rev. William W. Williams III officiated and burial followed in Vine Hills Cemetery.
Mrs. Ellis was found dead at 12:51 p.m. Sunday by Anthony Maynard. Medical Examiner Dr. William Gould pronounced Mrs. Ellis dead of natural causes.
Mrs. Ellis was the widow of Everett W. Ellis who died on July 10, 1966. She was born in Plymouth on Feb. 5, 1896, the daughter of Charles and Hattie (Benson) Washburn.
She is survived by five sons, Francis of Falmouth; Everett, Walter and Robert of Plymouth and Arthur Davis, Falmouth; six daughters, Mrs. Dorothy Parker, Mrs. Gladys Maynard, Mrs. Marion Costa, Mrs. Nancy Reposa, Mrs. Marjorie Pierson and Mrs. Barbara Felton all of Plymouth; many grandchildren, great-grandchildren and nieces and nephews; and one sister, Mrs. Marion Haverstock of Plymouth.
Beamon's Funeral Home, 28 Middle St., made the arrangements."
It saddens me that I missed out on knowing Art and Carrie, but during the process of trying to learn more about them, I’ve uncovered so many interesting ancestors—Mayflower passengers (twelve men, six women, and six children); veterans of King Philip’s War, the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the French-Indian War, and the Civil War; strong inspiring women; people who founded the original Cape Cod towns, the towns surrounding Plymouth, and Salem; Plymouth Colony Governor and other government officials; writer/historian; mill owners; a convicted murderer; ministers and church deacons; salters; traders; mariners and fishermen; a 49er; blacksmiths; leather workers; carpenters and shipbuilders; tailors; rope makers; tavern owners; lawyers and a judge; iron workers; doctors; and farmers.
Carrie’s birth and death record from Plymouth Town Clerk in possession of writer
Carrie and Everett’s marriage record: MA Vital Records, vol 627; p. 255