True story: I just don’t find my colonial New England lines to be all that interesting. Most of them are well-documented already, and tracing those lines back becomes more an exercise in careful mouse-clicking than actual research. They were mostly
somewhat boring respectable people with no scoundrels or scandals to research. And, since I don’t live in New England, and my only experience there is one visit to Boston in the 1980s, it’s hard for me to get a feel for how my ancestors actually lived. However, as I continue my project of cleaning up my tree, I have found a few items of interest, including this will.
Elizabeth Deming, my 11th great-grandmother, was first married to Nathaniel Foote in Colchester, England. They left for America, along with many other Essex families, as part of the Great Puritan Migration around 1630, originally settling in Watertown, Massachusetts, a very early colonial town that is now a suburb of Boston.
Nathaniel and Elizabeth, together with her brother, John Deming, and a couple more of my ancestors, were among the first white settlers of Wethersfield, Connecticut in 1634. Nathaniel, who had been a grocer back in Essex, quickly became a well-off landowner and prominent citizen of the new town. Nathaniel and Elizabeth lived through conflict with native Americans during the Pequot Wars, and Elizabeth would have witnessed several witch trials in Wethersfield beginning in 1648.
After Nathaniel’s death in 1644, Elizabeth, then a wealthy widow with seven children, married Thomas Welles, also widowed with several young children. At that time, he was a magistrate and secretary of the colony of Connecticut. He later became Governor of the colony. I have read that, because Elizabeth did not want to leave her homestead in Wethersfield, Thomas simply moved the office of governor from Hartford to Wethersfield.
Thomas died in 1660, leaving Elizabeth as his primary heir and administrator. Elizabeth outlived him by another 23 years, finally passing away in 1683 at age 88, a very advanced age for the time. In her will, she disposes of valuable real and personal estate among her own children. She leaves her stepchildren completely out, which is likely due to some legal wranglings she had with her stepson Robert Welles over a barn.
In 1678, Elizabeth wrote her will. I have transcribed it in part because I enjoyed the colloquial speech. The person who recorded it wrote as he spoke (and likely as Elizabeth spoke) with good, round, country vowels straight from rural England. “Four” becomes “fower,” “pound” becomes “pownd,” and even “said” becoimes “sayd.”
Her estate was inventoried in 1683. It can be viewed on the second page of her will, below. This twice-widowed octagenarian Puritan woman’s wardrobe included a “red scarlet waistcoat,” silk scarf, and other luxury items, some “recently made.” You have to respect that.
The Last Will & Testament of Elizabeth Wells
I, Elizabeth Wells, of Wethersfield in the county of Hartford, in the colony of Connecticut Widdo, Being stricken in years & in expectation of my Solemn Chang but of Good & perfect memory blessed be Almighty God for the setleing of that Temporall estate God hath lent me, & that peace may be continued amongst my relations when I am gathered to my fathers, doe make constitute & ordaine & declare this to be my last will &Testament in maner & forme following revokeing & adnulling by these presents all former & other will or wills Testament or Testaments by me heretofore made & declared by word or writeing, & this to be taken onely for my last will & Testament and none other
& first I committ my soule to Alllmighty God my Saviour & redeemer in whome & by the meritts of Jesus Christ I trust & believe to be saved & to have forgiveness of my sins, and that my Soule with my body at the General day of resurection shall be reunited againe & through the merits of Christ’s death & passion possesse an Inherit the kingdome of heaven prepared for the Elect, & my body to comely & Christian Burial as my overseers shall see meet, & my estate I disspose as followeth—
I will that all those debts I ow in right or conscience to any man or men be well & Truly contented & payd out of my Estate in the first place—
My fowerteen acres of Land in the great Meadow & Thirty acres in the west feild I give unto my son Robert foote & to his heirs forever prohibiting him the sale of the same, he paying for thesse lands forty five pownds to be payd to the children of my Daughter Sarah Judson deceased Nine pownds, & to my foure daughters, viz, my daughter Churchell, my daughter Goodrich, my Daughter Barnard & my daughter Smith, to each of them Nine pownds apiece
I give unto my son Nath. foots Eldest son and his Brother eleven pownds, & to their children to Daniel forty shillings, & to Elizabeth fower pownds which legacies, both the eleven pownd forty shillings and fower pownds, shall be payd out of the money Nathaniel Graves owes me By Bill
I give and bequeath unto my Grandson John Stodder halfe my great Lott which Wyeth at the farther Bownds of the Towne & the other halfe of the sayd lott I give unto my Grandsons Joseph & Benjamin Churchell and theire heirs forever.
The remaynder of my estate (when a legacy is pd to my overseers out of it) shall be divided into five parts one part I give to my daughter Judsons children to be to them and their heires for ever, and to my daughter Churchell & her children one fift part, & to my Daughter Goodrich & her children one fift part, & to my daughter Barnard & her children one fift part, & to my daughter Smith & her children one fift part
it is my will that what I give my Fower daughters shall be wholly at their disspose, to disspose among their children as they see Good,
I do nominate and appoynt my welbeloved Captaine John AIlyn to be my Executor, & my beloved brother mr John Deming Senr & my Grandson Henry Buck to be the desired overseers of this my will & as a token of my respect to them I give them Thirty Shillings apiece owt of my Estate & for the’ confirmation of the premises I have hereunto Set my hand this 28 day of march 1678
Memorandum it is my will that the Nine pownds apeice I give my fowre daughters & the fift part of my estate I give them shall be divided among the children of each of them the one halfe of it imediatly after my Deceasse.
Elizabeth (E W) Welles (her marke)
This signed & declared to be the Last will and Testament of Mrs Elizabeth Wells In presence of us: Joseph Rowlandson, John Deming,
Memorandum: I give unto my grandson Nath. foot, the Eldest son of my son Nathaniel, the one halfe of my fourteen acres of meadow & one halfe of my Thirty acres of upland lying in the west feild with Liberty of takeing the first choyse he paying one half of the Legacies which were to be payd by my son Robert had he lived to possess the sayd land.
My will is that that part of the eleven pownds which I formerly willed to my sayd grandson Nathaniel and his brother which belonged to him by will, shall be equally distributed between my fower daughters above mentioned, & for the confirmation all rents of Land due to me, I will to be divided equally amongst my forementioned daughters and their heirres.
Elizabeth X Welles (her mark)
Witnessed by us: Samuel Tallcott, John Deming