The Cost of Edward and William Ellison

Carolyn Ravenscroft, Archivist

In 1820 young William (1811-1858) and Edward Ellison (1813-1866) of Boston tragically lost both of their parents and two of their siblings to “spotted fever” (possibly typhus).  Their older brother, James, while greatly concerned with their wellfare, was ill-equipped to care for the boys.  Luckily, William and Edward were part of a much larger family consisting of numerous aunts, uncles and grandparents.  One such aunt was Sarah Alden  (Hickling) Bradford, the wife of Capt. Gershom Bradford, living in Duxbury.  The Bradfords had four daughters but no sons.  An arrangment was made whereby the Ellison boys would be cared for by their aunt Sarah while their room and board would be paid for by their grandmother, Elizabeth Hodson Hickling, possibly out of the estate of their parents.  Their legal guardian, however, was a man by the name of Mr. James.

By all contemporary accounts both Sarah and Gershom Bradford were the best of folks and most likely cared for their young charges well, even “adopting” Edward.  Although, in a letter from elder brother James Ellison, we get the impression that William was a handful.

In the Bradford Family Collection we also have Sarah Bradford’s household account book that sheds some light on what it cost to raise and educate her two charges..

  • Excerpts from Sarah Alden Bradford’s Account Book:

Wiliam and Edward to S.B. Paid Dec. 26, 1820.

20 cents for mending shoes

8 cents for mending shoes

7 cents for mending shoes

25 cents for pulling a tooth

25 cents for too writing books

11.37 1/2 for suit of clothes each

25 cents for writing books

1 dollar for school book and quills

1 pair of shoes 1.58 cents

1 pair of shoes 1.50 cents…

1821 William and Edward went to Boston October 4 returned October 21.  Rec’d part pay for their board 63 dollars, dito 25 dollars…

  • Letter written in 1825 by James Ellison to his Aunt Sally [Sarah Alden Bradford] concerning William, then age 14:

Boston, March 26, 1825

Dear Aunt,

I received your letter on Thursday when I immediately went to Waltham to see Grandmother [Elizabeth Hodson Hickling], after having read your letter to her, she seamed very much pleased with the idea of William’s going into Mr. Weston’s store .  I have also had a long interview with Mr. James, he highly approves of it.  He is very anxious to have William go with Mr. Weston, provided he is such a man, as I, knowing him, took the liberty of representing him, to be – he is very anxious to know what the terms are.  You say they are good, in a note received from him this morning he says ” I have concluded to let Mr. Weston send his terms first & then propose ours if he does not grant enough – If we propose too much at first, he may go back.  Let him write to me.”  He seems to be desirous that William’s Interest should be promoted as far as possible.  And from that reason, he wishes Mr. Weston to forward him his terms, so that hereafter, if any thing should happen, he may produce them, to show that he has done his duty as a Guardian.  You will please act in conformity if it meets your views.  In my own opinion, there could nothing be done now for William than this, if he behaves himself and applies himself to his business, it will result finally greatly to his advantage. If he should want any thing & I can be of any service in making him a good man, do not hesitate to write me & fail not, Dear Aunt, in impressing upon him the importance of keeping his mind employed all the time – lay before him, that he is now about learning that which according to his attention to, will render him a good or miserable man.  In a store there are great temptations to a young beginner that better boys than he have been ruined merely by idleness & by listening to language of those, whom retail shops particularily collects, but it is useless for me to say much, for I know that out of respect to the memory of my dear Mother, you will impress him with the Importance of good behavior & industry, but being a Brother, it is totally impossible for me to be silent on a subject which so deeply interests him.  If he goes with Mr. Weston, which I hope he will, I shall take his proportion (if agreeable to all concerned) of the rent and deposit it in the Savings Bank, because it will be of great advantage to him at some future day, when he might be in great want of it…

James Ellison

William Ellison married Almeda Partridge of Duxbury in 1834.  The couple had  three children: Peleg Sprague, who would later change his name to William, (b. 1835) ; Elizabeth H. (b. 1838) and Laura B. (b. 1840).  His descendent was William “Bill” Ellison, one of the great benefactors of the town of Duxbury in the 20th century.

Edward Ellison moved to Bangor, ME and was involved in the tin trade.  He married the widow Lucy Mills Milikin in 1839.  The couple had four daughters: Mary, Sarah, Almeda and Helen.

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