We know a lot abut Nathaniel Ely in New England, but not anything at all about his life in (presumably) England. The best guess for his birth is probably 1605-1610, but that is based on his arrival in New England in 1634 as a presumably young man. His son Samuel was born "say 1634" and his daughter Ruth born "say 1641". There is always the possibility that he had children earlier, in England, and that he had others who were for whatever reason not recorded. We know he married Martha, and it is presumed that she is the mother of her children, which would make it likely that the marriage took place in England, also.
It's believed that Nathaniel and Martha came to Boston in 1634 on the ship "Elizabeth" from Ipswich. He first settled in Newtown (now Cambridge, Ma.) where he was made a freeman in 1635. This indicates he was over 21 years of age, possessed at least 20 pounds in property, and was properly Puritan in his religious beliefs and practice.
We don't know what prompted the move that the family made in 1636, but they left their home and considerable property in Newtown and went with Rev. Thomas Hooker and his group to found what would become Hartford, Ct. His name is listed on the Founder's Monument there. While in Hartford he again accumulated considerable land. By February 1639/1640, he had fourteen parcels of land, ten of which had been granted by the town and four which he had purchased. We don't know for sure what his occupation was during this time period, but his lands included meadows and swamp, so it is not likely that he did a lot of cultivation of land. He probably raised sheep or cattle and also enough food for his family. We know he was the constable of Hartford in 1639/40, meaning he was responsible for keeping the peace, both in the settlement and in church, so he was a man who would have commanded some respect or/and fear.
After 13 years in Hartford, Richard Ely and Roger Ludlow were the first settlers of what would become Norwalk, Ct, southwest of Hartford and on the coast line. There he again was apparently a respected man, because he was the constable in 1654 and he represented Norwalk in the General Court of the Colony of Connecticut in 1656. His name is listed on the Founders stone of the early settlers of Norwalk, which is located in the East Norwalk Historical Cemetery. Again, we don't know for sure his occupation but he owned at least thirteen parcels of land, as an original settler.
The Ely family made one final move, in 1659 and moved to Springfield, Massachusetts, which was north of Hartford. Did they stop to visit with old friends on their way to Springfield, I wonder? Was Martha getting a little tired of moving and "starting over" by now? At least this time they weren't "founding fathers," as the settlement had begun about 1636. Maybe they even had a chance to buy their home instead of needing to build one. by now, Nathaniel was respected enough to be a selectman for at least six years. By 1663 he was assigned a seat in the second row at the meeting house (church). Seats were assigned based on social importance and wealth, so this is another sign that he was of some importance to the town.
We don't know whether he keep his seat when he became the owner of an "ordinary" (inn-tavern) in 1665, but this ownership got him into a bit of trouble. At one time he was fined for selling cider to the Indians and another time he was fined for not having beer in the tavern. Both times, he admitted his guilt. In 1670 he reportedly had unkind words for or about his pastor and was again fined, although the fine was much less than for the alcohol-related offenses.
I haven't yet been able to locate information regarding the burning of Springfield by the Indians in 1675. Nathaniel was still alive then. Springfield was left a mess, with 45 of the 60 homes burned and also the grist mill and the saw mill. We are told that the town lived under siege and famine conditions. Nathaniel died December 25, 1675, and probably the difficult conditions contributed to his death. He must have been heart broken to leave his wife in such a situation, but there were two adult children to care for her so she was not left totally helpless. Martha died in 1683.
Now comes the hardest part of this post...One of the "items" included in Nathaniel's inventory was a "Negro man," valued at 15 pounds. I just read on a recent blog that early New England ancestors may well have been slave owners, and this seems to prove that statement. If I could talk to Nathaniel today, I'd want to know more about the Indian attack and what happened to the Ely family during that time, but I'd also want to know about this apparent slave ownership. Why did the family 'need' a slave, and how did this come about? What was the slave's name, and his story? Did he ever attain his freedom? And how did this fit in with Nathaniel's religious beliefs?
The line of descent is:
Samuel Ely-Mary Day
Joseph Ely-Mary Riley
Mary Ely-Thomas Stebbins
Ruth Stebbins-Samuel Hitchcock
Martha Hitchcock-Samuel Falley
Samuel Falley-Ruth Root
Clarissa Falley-John Havens Starr
Harriet Starr-John Wilson Knott
Edith Knott-Edward Allen
Richard Allen-Gladys Holbrook