My 3x great grandfather Ellis Aldrich Darling was born in Wrentham, Massachusetts in August, 1824.
His father was:
- Paul Darling (1798-1877) (Paul’s Darling descent: Elias5, John4, John3, John2, Dennis1)
and his mother was:
- Nancy Ann Aldrich (1800-1879) (Nancy’s Aldrich descent: Nathan6, Asa5, Jonathan4, David3, Jacob2, George1).
Ellis’ life was typical of the nineteenth-century New England family that did not choose to move west and acquire new and better land. Born in the Sheldonville section of Wrentham, Massachusetts, Ellis’s father Paul was a farmer. Ellis was the third of five children.
The village of Sheldonville, at the western edge of Wrentham near the Rhode Island border, was home to several growing industries in the nineteeenth century as well as some farming activity. There were straw hat factories and bootmakers, and when Rhodes Sheldon established a successful boatmaking business, the village began to be called after him.
On January 1, 1846, Ellis married Susan Maria Parmenter of Framingham, Mass. It’s not clear to me how they met, but later that year, Ellis’ brother Wilson married Susan’s sister Eliza Jane. In 1850, the two couples were living near Susan’s parents, Buckley and Persis Parmenter, in Framingham. All three men were working as laborers.
Meanwhile, Back in Sheldonville
Probably Ellis’ nearest relation with any significant property was his grandfather, Nathan Aldrich, who lived to age 89. Nathan likely (but I haven’t proved this yet) distributed his Sheldonville, Mass. property among his children and grandchildren during his lifetime. So in 1860, the U.S. census shows that Ellis and his family, and Wilson and his family, were living in Sheldonville. Grandfather Nathan Aldrich and his third wife Lois, both in their late 80’s, were living in Ellis’ household. Ellis’ occupation was listed as Farmer.
Ellis’ parents Paul Darling and Nancy were farming in Sheldonville but living with their son Allen, who owned property by 1860. Paul and Nancy never appeared to own property, making me think that perhaps Nathan Aldrich and daughter Nancy never completely made up the earlier drama in their lives and that Nathan never trusted Nancy with property. Paul and Nancy Darling passed away in the late 1870’s.
Ellis and Susan had five children by 1860:
Abby M. Darling 1846 –
Nathan Ellis Darling 1848 – 1909
Sarah E. Darling 1853 – 1925
Addison Parmenter Darling 1856 – 1933 <–father of my g-grandfather Russell Darling
Francis W Frank Darling 1859 –
When the Civil War draft came along, Ellis was 38 at the time, and married, so was considered Class II and evidently did not serve, despite some lucrative offers of support made by the patriotic town of Wrentham. However his brother Wilson, a few years younger, was drafted. Wilson enlisted as a Private in Company I, 45th Infantry Regiment (Massachusetts) on 7 Oct 1862. He mustered out of that regiment on 7 Jul 1863 at Readville, Massachusetts. Wilson received a disability pension from the government beginning in 1871, and died in 1886.
Some Changes in the 1870’s
Grandfather Nathan Aldrich died in 1862. In 1869 Ellis and Susan had their sixth and last child, James. In the 1870 U.S. Census, Ellis may be enumerated twice – once in Sheldonville, employed as a bonnet presser, and once, perhaps, staying in a rooming house in Providence and listed incongruously as a “Farmer” with real estate worth $1600. He certainly needed money to support his household, and “bonnet pressing” took place in Sheldonville, so other than personal difficulties I can’t understand why he would be in Providence.
During the early 1870’s, the older children began to leave home. Daughter Sarah married a silversmith and moved to his home in Providence. Addison joined them and learned silver engraving. Son Frank joined his sister Abby at her husband’s home in North Attleborough and took a job as a bench worker in the growing jewelry business there. He later married his brother in law’s sister.
This map detail shows that E. Darling had a house on West Street in 1876:
Behind his house is the Burnt Swamp Road Cemetery, where Nathan Aldrich is buried. Behind the cemetery is the home and soap factory of Leman Follett, who was married to Nathan Aldrich’s daughter Eliza Jane (1817-1900). Ellis owned additional lots across West Street near the school, and heading down Burnt Swamp Road (the Cemetery street).
There is a plaque identifying this home, pictured below, on West Street, in the approximate “E. Darling” location:
In 1880 Ellis was back in Sheldonville, listed in the U.S. Census as a “laborer”.
Ellis Dies at Age 59
When Ellis passed away May 16, 1883 in Sheldonville at age 59, the cause of death was listed as “paralysis and exhaustion”. Ellis’ estate was administered by neighbor and contemporary George Sheldon, from the boatbuilding family. George had been married to Nathan Aldrich’s niece Amey Ann Aldrich, who died young. Susan’s brother Lyman Parmenter was the other administrator.
The real estate was valued at $1221.66. There was a minor child mentioned, James.
Ellis’ debts amounted to $1185.00 and included:
- Burial, $65
- Nursing, $3
- Advertisements and posters for the “Mortgagee’s Sale” $7
- Widow’s allowance $100
- Special allowance to the widow $20.30
- Auctioneer $1.50
- Sundry payments and charges $320.83 (possibly this amount includes all these mentioned)
- town taxes for 1883 $15.10
- Administrator’s fee (G. Sheldon) $60
It was ordered that the property be sold at public auction. The only record I have found so far for the sale is a Boston Journal news item on 12 Aug 1884:
“Wrentham. Susan M. Darling to Lydia E.B. Oliver, land and buildings on east side Burnt Swamp Street, $1000. “
There was “nothing to distribute” when the distribution time came, meaning the debts consumed all the value of the property.
Susan was living with her son Frank and his family in North Attleborough in 1900. In 1910, she died just two weeks after the visit of the U.S. Census enumerator at her daughter Sarah’s house in Providence (276 Point Street). She was 84 years old.
The Sheldonville Cemetery
Ellis and Susan Darling are buried at the Sheldonville Cemetery, located behind their house.
Susan died in Providence, but was buried in Sheldonville, the town where she spent most of her life.
The End of the 19th Century
What I sometimes think about the careers paths of my 19th century ancestors in southern New England is that in 1800 everyone was a farmer. In 1900 no one was a farmer. There were a few opportunities in a village like Wrentham, but I imagine that with no property, young people thought they had a chance for a better life in a city like Providence, with a wider variety of industries. I can barely tell from these details whether Ellis and Susan had a happy life, but I hope they did.
Ideas for Further Research
I would like very much to fill this story out a bit more; my idea is to seek old copies of:
- The Wrentham Recorder (1870’s)
- The Wrentham Examiner (1870’s)
- The Franklin Register
- The Franklin Sentinel
Also, I need to find this deed of sale in 1884, and sift through all the deed transactions of Nathan Aldrich in his lifetime – of which there will be many.
In addition to numerous vital records and census records, the sources which provided evidence for this story include:
- Baldwin, Thomas W. Vital Records of Wrentham, Massachusetts, to the Year 1850. 2 vols. Boston, Mass, 1910. (link is for pdf copy free from Internet Archive)
- Baldwin, Thomas W. Vital Records of Framingham, Massachusetts, to the Year 1850. Boston, Mass, 1911. (link is for pdf copy free from Internet Archive)
- Fiore, Jordan D. Wrentham 1673-1973, A History. Town of Wrentham, Wrentham, Mass., 1973.
- Martin, William A. and Lou Ella J. Martin. Dennis Darling of Braintree and Mendon and Some of his Descendants, by the author, 2006. Try this link to an electronic copy at the Brigham Young University Library
- Massachusetts. Norfolk. Norfolk County, MA : Probate index; docket books and probate records [microform]. F72/N8/P76 vols. 149-153 “Ellis A. Darling, Wrentham”. New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, Massachusetts.
- Probate Index, Norfolk County, Massachusetts. Dedham Press, Dedham Mass., 1910. Volume 1Volume 2
- Providence City Directory, 1890. Providence, RI, USA: R. L. Polk Co., 1890.
- “Real Estate. Norfolk County Transfers” (News Article). Boston Journal, 12 Aug 1884. Online Archives, Newsbank; 2011.
- Sherman, W.A. Atlas of Norfolk County, 1876.
- Temple, J. H., A Genealogical Register of Framingham Families. Town of Framingham, Framinham, Mass., 1887.
- U.S., Civil War Draft Registrations Records, 1863-1865 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.