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From 'Richard Ellis and his Descendants, 1888'.
Richard Ellis, was according to his own account, born in Dublin, Ireland,August 16th, 1704. His father was a native of Wales, England, and hismother may have been a Welsh or Irish woman.
Richard said that his father was an officer in one of the many armedforces that at that time were numerous throughout the British dominions.Just at what time his father went to Ireland does not appear from anyrecord that are now accessible.
Richard's youth was spent in Dublin, and he mentioned having traveled inother portions of Ireland. This unhappy country then, as now, was thescene of much disorder. The strife was mostly between Catholics andProtestants, or those in favor of or against whoever happened to occupythe throne. Richard said that tit was a common occurrence, seeminglyenjoyed as a pastime, for the officers of the army or order, in themorning, before breakfast, a squad of prisoners 'drawn in quarters,'hanged or shot. Such scenes were made public spectacles, and were saidto give the officers a relish for their meals.
When Richard was thirteen years of age, his father having died, hismother undertook to send him to Virginia where he had an uncle with whomshe expected he would find a home. With this view she paid for him acabin passage to this country, but the captain of the vessel violated histrust, and landing at a seaport in Massachusetts he, in accordance with acustom then somewhat prevalent, sold the boy, for his services, until hebecame of age, ostensibly to pay for his passage.
Richard said that he became a member of the family of a miller who was avery stern man, and often harsh with his own children, consisting ofseveral daughters, yet to him he always showed the utmost considerationand kindness. Of his mistress he always spoke highly, especially of herefforts for his mental and moral improvement. He made some progress ineducation in Dublin, but of this he said nothing, thinking thereby thathis new teacher would give him more attention. On several occasions heexcited her surprise by pronouncing difficult words in advance of herinstructions.
After Richard attained his majority, he went to Easton, Bristol County,Mass., where in 1728, he married Jane Phillips, daughter of Captain JohnPhillips, and sister of Thos. Phillips, who afterwards was the secondsettler in Ashfield. Richard lived in Easton until about 1740, when heremoved to Deerfield in the same state. Six of his children were born inEaston, and one or more in Deerfield. Altogether he had nine children,but one, Benjamin, died at two months of age.
Richard's father-in-law, Captain John Phillips of Easton, was one of thesoldiers in the expedition against Quebec in 1690, and consequently wasamong those who became entitled to 'rights' of land. This fact probablywas what led Richard and family, and his brother-in-law, Thomas Phillips,to settle in Ashfield, (thin called Huntstown,) which he, Richard, didabout 1745. (Richard's son John, born in Deerfield, 1742, said hisfather removed to Ashfield when he was three years of age.) Ashfield wasthen a wilderness and Richard was the first settler. The locality wherehe selected his 'right' and made his home is about one and one-half milenortheast of what is now known as Ashfield Plain, and is in the northeastpart of the township. At this point two roads cross at right angels, andRichard's house and farm was on the southeast corner where, forty yearsago, Hiram Belding, Esq, lived and where Mr. Leonard D. Lanfair nowresides. Richard's house was about six rods southeasterly from Mr.Lanfair's home. One-half mile, or less, west of this point is Bellow'sHill, and eighty rods north, Bear River runs from west to east. OppositeRichard's house on the north side of the road, and about forty rods east,is an ancient burying ground where lie the earthly remains of RichardEllis and his wife and several of their descendants.
Of the scenes and incidents among the pioneers of this rough and ruggedcountry, much has come down by tradition to this present time. Thecountry was mountainous, being the eastern slope of the Hoosac range. Theroads consisted mostly of trails and cow-paths; the snows were deep andthe winters most rigorous. Added to all the other obstacles, which theearly settlers had to encounter, was the greatest of all, the danger fromthe tomahawk, and scalping-knife of the Indians. On one occasion Richardwas alarmed by the Indians while in his sugar bush and, it is said, hemade quick time to a place of safety with his five-pail kettle on hisback.
Richard related that, not infrequently, messengers would ride swiftlythrough the country giving warning to the inhabitants that the Indianswere coming down upon them. At such times the women and children wouldbe quickly placed on pack-horses and started for the old for atDeerfield, some ten or twelve miles easterly from the Ellis settlement.Then the men and boys would rally with their guns and drive back thesavage foes. These Indians were from New York and Canada, and were veryjealous of the encroachments of the white man. The old Fort at Deerfieldwas constructed in early times, as a defense against the Indians, and didgood service for more than a century.
Few of this generation can realize the privations and dangers encounteredby the heroic men and women who pushed their way into these wildernessregions. Nearly all the conveniences of modern lifer were unknown amongthem. Simple and rude were all their implements. Going to church, totown, to mill, or on a neighborhood visit, was either on foot orhorseback. Sometimes, in the spring of the year, from backwardness ofthe season, provisions became exhausted, and some of the inhabitants wereobliged, it was said, to subsist for a time on the buds and tender leavesof basswood trees until crows could be grown. Not all even had salt forsuch a repast as this, and those who had were regarded as quitefortunate. But in spite of all their privations, they grew up a mostvigorous race of men and women, whose posterity have gone out and made acreditable mark on all the institutions of this country; and the wealthof character developed by these sturdy men and women, has been a richinheritance for their children. No privations or obstacles seemed todaunt them, and in some ways unnecessary exposures were sought andencouraged as evidences of manly strength and in the belief that theirsystems were improved thereby. It is related that with some it was alifetime custom, even in mid-winter, to jump out of bed in the morning,and without dressing, rush out to the wood pile, kick off the snow, andgather wood and kindling for the morning fire. They fancied that by suchmeans their constitutions were invigorated; and certain it is that manyof them lived to a great age.
Richard Ellis was a true and loyal subject of the King of England, and in1754 when war broke out between England and France and was extended tothis country, and known as the 'French and Indian War,' Richard was forabout three years an officer in the commissary department of the Englishor Colonial service in New England and New York. Richard Ellis, it issaid, was a man of strong will and remarkable memory; his physical vigorand mental powers were retained in a high degree up to the last years ofhis life. His grandson, Dimick Ellis, who was born in Ashfield in 1776,was familiar with Richard during the last twenty years of his life, andfrom him the writer (his grandson) obtained most of the items for thissketch. About the year 1764, Richard kept a country store and ashery inthe northeast part of Colerain, a town about 15 miles in a northeasterlydirection from Ashfield. His ledger or book of accounts covering theperiod from 1764 to about 1777, together with some correspondence hadwith him and other before and during the great Revolution, are now inpossession of the great grandson, Mr. Lewis Ellis, of Belding, MI. Thesebooks are quite a curiosity at this late day and give one quite aninsight into what constituted articles of consumption in those times. Inthem are found the names of nearly tow hundred persons who were residentsat that time, of Colerain, and adjoining towns. Rum and tobacco werearticles then, as now, of too frequent use, judging from the charges inthese books. It is probable that this mercantile experience of Richard'swas not a financial success which may be accounted for from the factthat, according to his books, the largest part of pay for his goods hetook in ashes, which he converted into pot and pearlash in his ashery.
It also appears that Richard engaged in the milling business, in companywith Mr. Chileab Smith, Sr., who was the third settler in Ashfield. Theirmill was the one built into that section, and was located on Bear River,about one hundred rods north of Richard's house, and about twenty rodseast of the bridge on the roadway running north toward 'Baptist Corners,'as the neighborhood where Mr. Smith lived was called. This gristmill wasa very primitive structure, as were all similar mills in those times. Thegrinding stones were run by waterpower, but the bolting and elevating wasdone by hand or manual labor.
In later years this mill came into the ownership of Richard's son Lieut.John Ellis and one of the Smiths, son of Chileab Smith, who conducted itfor a number of years. It would seem that the milling business washereditary among Richard Ellis' descendants. Besides Lieut. John,Richard's youngest son Caleb, who settled at Ellisburg, Jefferson County,New York, about 1795, built mills there.
Also Richard's grandsons (sons of Reuben), Benjamin and Richard, andBenjamin's sons, Stephen, Moses and Benjamin Jr., were millers nearly alltheir lives. The latter built and operated grist and saw mills, in NewYork, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana, as do several of their descendantsdown to the present time.
About the year 1760 Richard's wife, Jane Phillips, died, and some twelveyears afterwards he married Mary, widow of John Henry of Deerfield, atown adjoining Colerain where he then lived, and had his store andashery. Some years later, probably during the period of the Revolution,Richard returned to Ashfield, where he spent the remainder of his dayswith his son John and grandsons Benjamin, Richard and David Ellis (sonsof Reuben), and granddaughter Jemima Smith Annable, wife of Lieut. EdwardAnnable of Ashfield.
That Richard Ellis' father was Welsh admits of no doubt, for besidesRichard's own statement to that effect most of his descendants resemblethat people and of them show marked peculiarities of the Welsh race downto the sixth generation. This is not surprising, for it is well knownthat peculiarities or traits of character are often very enduring.Strongly developed traits in a father will often show through manygenerations.
This is seen well illustrated in the Jews, who although scattered throughdifferent countries and subject to many adverse influences retain theirearly marks of character and features to the present day.
Of Richard Ellis' religious proclivities the writer knows little morethan that he was an ardent Protestant, and it is fair to surmise that theideas of religious liberty which brought the pilgrims to this countryfully impressed him was a youth and extended to his manhood as well asthrough his entire life. Among the first settlers in Ashfield and evenin the same neighborhood where Richard made a settlement, the Baptistswere the first to organize their church and erect a meeting house, andfrom that time to the present that denomination has held a leading partin the religious sentiment of that part of the town of Ashfield.Three-fourths of a mile north of Richard's house was located the meetinghouse for this sect, and from that time to this that locality has beenknown as 'Baptist Corners.' The first minister located there was Rev.Ebenezer Smith, who married in 1756, Remember, the second daughter ofRichard Ellis.
Richard died October 7, 1797, in his 94th year, at the house of hisgrandson Richard, the fourth son of Reuben Ellis. This Richard was bornin 1760 in Ashfield, and soon after his grandfather's death moved to thenorthern part of Pennsylvania, where he engaged in milling and foundedthe town of Ellisburg, Potter County, where he died in 1841. Hisdaughter Lucretia, who was born in 1806, and who is now the wife of Rev.John Stipp, a Presbyterian minister of Scio, Oregon, gives the followingaccount of the last days of Richard Ellis, the subject of this sketch.The letter is dated Scio, May 26, 1884:
'I do not know how old my great grandfather was when he came to live withmy father in Ashfield, but I have heard my father say that he was veryspry and at 80 years of age could jump upon a horse from the ground aseasily as a boy. He always appeared well: the night before he died hecalled my father, at least my father thought so, but when he went to himhe said he had not called him. The second time likewise he thought heheard him call, but was again mistaken but at the third time my greatgrandfather said, 'Well, go to bed, child, it is a token of my death, Ihave I not called you?' He died in the morning about nine o'clockapparently without pain.