Who wouldn't love a name like John Elderkin? It's just fun to say. As it turns out, it's also fun to read about his life, and as is often the case with our immigrants, his early life is pretty much a mystery.
John Elderkin's birth is a mystery although the one that I like best is January 1, 1612, at Fennes, Lincolnshire, England. (I haven't seen this record, but it's likely that it would be the baptism date and not the birth date.) The parents of this John Elderkin were John Elderkin and Palthiah, and they were married in 1592. The date of 1612 also matches one of the dates John gave in a statement later in life, although in other places the age he gave for himself would compute to 1616. No one was come up with a John Elderkin born in England in 1616 yet, as far as I know.
The first we really know about John is that he was in Lynn, Massachusetts by 1637. He was married to Abigail Kingland (also shown as Kingslane) probably in England, and the couple had probably three daughters, Pelatiah, Abigail, and Hannah. Abigail died possibly as early as 1646 but definitely before 1660, when John married Elizabeth Drake. She had children, he had children, and they had children together, making a total of 16 but of course the oldest children were likely out of the house by the time the youngest ones arrived.
The neat thing about John is that we know quite a bit about his life in New England. He was a master builder, or a general contractor, or whatever term you want to use to describe a man who didn't stay in one place very long. We know that he was in Lynn, Massachusetts in 1637, Dedham, Massachusetts in 1641, Reading, Massachusetts in 1646, possible Providence, R.I. or possibly just making a short stop there, then New London, Connecticut in 1651 and finally Norwich, Connecticut in 1660.
At each location, he was a miller, a millwright, and a carpenter, using his skills to build and operate mills and also to build churches, bridges, and at least one ship. He seems to have stayed in each location until he had built what the town needed to function. By the time he got to Norwich, he was in his 50's and perhaps not so willing to move on. (Also, he had just re-married and may have stayed more in one place for family reasons.)
In 1661 he was an ordinary keeper in New London, which doesn't conform to the Norwich date of 1660. I have no explanation for this, unless the ordinary keeper was his son John. Perhaps he was a long distance owner, but that doesn't make much sense, either. However, this is what the records seem to say.
John Elderkin died at Norwich June 22, 1687, and Elizabeth lived for another 29 years, dying in 1716. I haven't found his will yet but I would guess that he was a man with some means, as he had been given land in several different locations, either as an early settler or in recognition of the services he'd provided.
I like knowing more than I can include in a post about an ancestor, and I particularly like thinking about this ancestor, who must have been incredibly talented, to build churches, bridges, and ships, and to build and run mills. When I look at very old carpenter tools now, I'll think of John Elderkin and imagine his hands holding and using something similar, and I'll feel a connection. I hope you do, too!
The line of descent is:
John Elderkin-Abigail Kingsland
Pelatiah (Palthiah) Elderkin-Daniel Comstock
Kingsland Comstock-Mary Atwell
Kingsland Comstock-Rachel Crocker
Rachel Comstock-John Eames
John Eames-Elizabeth Longbottom
Hannah Eames-James Lamphire
Susan Lamphire-Joseph B Eddy
Susan Eddy-Hiram Stanard
Louis Stanard-Mary Alice Hetrick
Etta Stanard-Loren Holbrook
Gladys Holbrook-Richard Allen