No Story Too Small has issued a New Year’s Challenge: “Have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.”
Ellen Maria Sophia (Hall) Nichols’ estate was valued at $71,363.60, when she passed in 1923; about the same buying power as $970,000 in 2014. On the Hall side of the family, four nieces, one nephew and one brother, Horatio, survived her. The majority of her estate was left to her 42 year old nephew, my g-grandfather, Charles Milton “Garrie” Hall.
My 18 year old grandfather, Charles G. Hall, was bequeathed $500 (about $6,800 in 2014 buying power), a small fortune for a teenager. It would cover the $27 -$32 quarterly tuition, and much of his living expenses, during his four years at Ohio State Veterinary School (http://library.osu.edu/documents/university-archives/Student_Fees_1874-1967.pdf).
Grampa and Aunt Ellen must have been close; but I knew nothing of Ellen or her husband Levi.
Ellen Maria Sophia Hall was the fifth of nine children born to Horatio Hall (born Norton, Massachusetts and moved to Providence, Rhode Island at the age of 19) and Elizabeth Pinder (born Ipswich, Massachusetts and moved to Malden, Massachusetts, after her father, a mariner, drowned when she was 5). Ellen was the first born in Malden, on 17 Apr 1842 (her siblings were born at India Point a section of Providence, Rhode Island and Seekonk, Massachusetts). Her father had a sister Sophia for whom she was perhaps named.
Ellen was born at home, on Barrett Lane in Malden, a picturesque town, five miles from Boston, a farming community, population 2,500. Nearby Salem Street, now a main thoroughfare, was a country road lined with thick barberry bushes, sumac, blackberry vines, broad burdocks and sweet wild roses with species of tiny turtles, bullfrogs and mosquitoes. Ellen’s siblings included Mary Elizabeth (b. 1832), David Brian Pinder (b. 1827), Abby Frances (b. 1838), Lucy Mason (b. 1844 and died at age 4 of dropsy), Horatio (b. 1844 and died of consumption at age 2), Lucy Mason #2 (b. 1846), Horatio #2 (b. 1850) [in that time period, a common naming custom involved parents giving a subsequent child the same name as their deceased offspring] and Ephraim Augustus (b. 1853), my 2nd g-grandfather.
Ellen lived through many innovations and developments. In 1844, the Boston and Maine Railroad, Andover line, expanded eastward, with stops at North Malden, Malden and Boston, resulting in industry and population growth. By 1850, population had grown to 3,500, despite North Malden being set off under the name of Melrose. An 8 year old Ellen was living with her parents, siblings and 64 year old maternal grandmother, Elizabeth (Jones) Pinder. Her dad was not working. The town was divided into 5 school districts with 11 schools. Ellen attended “the old school house” on Pleasant Street, a short walk.
Her grandmother, the only grandparent that she had known, passed away in March 1853 of cancer in the bowels. By 1855, her father had a job as a dyer at William Barrett’s Dye Mills (Malden Dye House), a silk-dyeing business, the largest employer in Malden through the first half of the 19th century.
In 1858, the same year the first horse street railway arrived (essentially a train car pulled by a horse), connecting Malden to Haymarket Square in Boston, sisters Mary and Abby married. Neither had children.
In May, Mary married David Marsden Patten, the son of John Patten and Nancy Ames. They were united by Rev. Wm. F. Stubbert of the First Baptist Church. He was a baker, who for many years ran a cracker and biscuit route for Warren Mansur of Charlestown. They initially settled in Danvers, Massachusetts.
Abby wed, a month later, Thomas Whitehead Hough son of John Hough and Laura Young. Abby’s husband was a machinist for Mattapan Iron Works in the Edgeworth section of Malden, when they married. He became a well known and popular citizen, who among other things, acquired the status of Malden Fire Chief and Commissioner and was a partner in Hough & Rummy Sewing Machine Manufacturers of Somerville.
By the start of the Civil War, Malden’s population had grown to almost 6,000. Ellen, her parents and unmarried siblings, except David, had moved to Richardson Court, Malden, where all, excluding Ellen, remained for their lifetime. Horatio continued employment as a dyer and by 1860 a 17 year old Ellen had joined him working for the dye house. The whereabouts of Ellen’s brother David is unknown from 1856 until 1871 when he appears in Quebec, Canada.
By 1865, Mary and her husband had moved from Danvers back to the homestead on Richardson Court, where they remained until their deaths. That year, Ellen was unemployed, Horatio was a laborer and the family had a 19 year old German boarder, Charles Weigel, a dyer.
By 1868, Ellen’s dad, Horatio, became a farmer. In 1870, 2,200 Maldonians established a new town, named Everett, leaving Malden’s population at 7,300, albeit tripled since Ellen’s birth. Horatio is listed in the census as a laborer (likely working on a local farm), Issac Butler, a 23 year old painter resides with the family. A 28 year old Ellen is unemployed.
On Monday, 26 June 1871, Ellen, age 29, married 36 year old Levi Farnham Nichols. Levi, born in the area of Malden which later became Everett, resided on Cross Street in Malden with his mom. He was a trader, the son of George Nichols (deceased) and Mary Farnham. Prior to becoming a trader, he was engaged in the leather business in Lynn, Massachusetts as a hide finisher and huckster and then worked as a milk dealer. Levi was second of six; his siblings included George Jr. (blind from disease), Mary, Adeline, Lucy Ann and Benjamin Harris. The nuptials were solemnized by Rev. Samuel W. Foljambe of the First Baptist Church. The weather was a fair 68 degrees with light winds.
The newlyweds resided on 95 Cross Street on two acres of land, east of Henry Street near Levi’s mom, who was at 92 Cross. The adjoining property was owned by Levi’s siblings George and Mary (Mrs. Thomas Balcom). Years later the houses were renumbered – Levi and Ellen to 283 Cross and Levi’s mom 276 Cross.
Nine months after marriage, on 29 March 1872, Ellen gave birth to her only child, Gertrude May Nichols, who sadly passed away a day later; due to “severe labor and a diseased heart”. A devastating loss.
In 1872, Ellen’s brother David, also a Baptist married Elizabeth Meline Lavery, a Catholic, daughter of Joseph Lavery and Elizabeth Allaire in Montréal, Québec. Later that year, Ellen’s niece, Ida Loiser Hall was born, one of five who lived to adulthood. In 1876, David’s wife died during childbirth. In 1878, he married second, Sofrine Allard, daughter of Michel Allard and Appoline Guérard. A year later he was baptized a Catholic. They had seven children, three who lived to adulthood – Stella Amelia, Levina and Dorothy.
During the active years of her life, Ellen was a member of the Old and New woman’s club. The Old and New was founded in Malden in October 1878 by Harriette Shattuck who had just returned from the annual meeting of the Association for the Advancement of Women. The time was ripe for women to band themselves together for literary and educational purposes. The primary objective was declared to be “to secure all women better moral, mental, physical and social conditions with a more through understanding of the question of the day and a confidence to utter their own thoughts”. The club started with 12 members, but by 1898 had 150 members and a waiting list. They were the first to petition the State Legislator to ask that the age of consent for girls be raised from 12 to 18. When the law was passed in 1879 allowing women to vote, a member of the club was the first in the state to register as a voter (http://tinyurl.com/mt7fw3x, pg 652).
By 1880, Ellen and Levi had a boarder named Willard Sears, a carpenter from Brewster, Massachusetts, who would reside with Ellen for close to 40 years, until his death in 1919. The couple still lived on Cross, near Levi’s widowed mother, blind brother George, widowed sister Lucy (her husband died of heart disease at age 39) and her two year old son Charles Adams Sanborn.
Ellen’s brother Ephraim Augustus (my g-grandfather) on 7 September 1880 married Roxanna Aurelia Wilson, daughter of David M. Wilson and Elizabeth Long. The ceremony was performed by Rev. Dr. Lewis Benton Bates, a Methodist of East Boston. Six months after their marriage, Roxanne gave birth to Ellen’s only nephew, Charles Milton Hall. They resided on Richardson Court, with the family, until 1891, when Roxanne’s brother-in-law, George Ira Pratt, gave them a home on Forest Street in Malden for $1.
In 1881, an act of legislator granted Malden a city charter and Elisha S. Converse (founder of Boston Rubber Shoe Company, a large Malden employer) was elected as the city’s first mayor, a city of 12,000.
Ellen’s father died on 11 May 1884, age 81, from pneumonia. The funeral was held at his home. The Baptist Rev. Samuel W. Foljambe conducted the services. Two years later, she lost her mom on 22 July 1886 to brain disease, at 76. They were buried together at the Salem Street Cemetery.
Electricity came to Malden in 1886, the same era when the 8 room brick Lincoln School and Baptist Chapel were erected next door to the Nichols. The school was built on land donated to the city by Levi.
Levi and his boarder/friend Sears had purchased an adjoining property together. Ellen and Levi’s acreage in 1897 was one of the largest tracts of personally owned land in the area.
They were a block from the Suffolk Square shops (at the intersection of Cross & Bryant). The area surrounding Suffolk Square had been predominantly Protestant, lower middle class. By 1912, over 50% of the residents were Jewish and by 1928, almost 75% of the ward was Jewish. The Lincoln School was demolished several years ago and today the Nichols property is known as Suffolk Park in the Faulkner section of the city. There are dense 3-family houses with suburban-like low-income and senior public housing, in the area where Levi’s mother resided.
Photo: Malden Historical Society, 1920/30’s
Ellen belonged to the Ladies Aid Association of the Malden Hospital organized Dec. 3, 1892. The members not only relieved the sick and suffering, but they gave material help toward the maintenance of the Malden Hospital.
By 1898, Malden’s population had grown 12 fold since Ellen’s birth to 32,000 and the city was very prosperous. Its firms manufactured shoe lasts, coal tar, and linen fire hose, among many other products. By 1899, Ellen’s brother David had relocated from Canada to Lowell, Massachusetts another booming city, with his wife and four daughters. He was employed first as a tanner, then a foreman in the leather industry. David lived in the Lowell/Dracut area until his death in 1915 at the age of 78 (cause was a strangulated hernia).
Ellen’s remaining siblings lived within a mile. In 1901, sister Abby passed away of pleuro pneumonia at age 61. Her eulogy was touching. The reverend described her as “a type of sunny brave and noble womanhood, a sturdy friend when days were dark and lowry”. Much of the town, including the mayor, attended the services.
Another sibling, Lucy Mason Hall, who had never married, died suddenly at home at age 58, in 1907 from Miocaritisis, she had had previous heart attacks. Ellen is listed as the informant on her death certificate. For nearly 25 years, Lucy was the birth census taker for the city clerk. She is buried at the Salem Street Cemetery.
Ellen’s brother-in-law David Patten passed away the following year. He was 80 and the oldest member of the Mt Vernon Mason Lodge in Malden.
On June 30, 1910, Ellen lost her husband Levi of arteriosclerosis after a long illness of heart and kidney troubles. He was 75. Some time prior to Levi’s death, they had become Methodists. Levi was a well known resident who had been retired about 20 years. In his last will and testament, signed in 1888, he named Ellen as executrix. His estate was valued at about $58,000. His assets included $16,800 in real estate (283 Cross St., 276 Cross St., 278-280 Cross St., 16 Henry St. and 3 Dana St.) and $42,864 in personal assets which included about $5,500 in deposits in six different banks. Secured mortgages and notes, extended to 25 individuals, made up the remainder. It appears that during his retirement he became a mortgagee.
He left a sum of $3,000 to his sister, Lucy Sanborn [now Lucy Adams] ; $1,000 to his nephew Charles A. Sanborn, $1,000 each to his wife’s sisters Mary Elizabeth and Lucy Mason [Lucy predeceased him]; and the remainder to his wife. His brother Benjamin and nieces Lucy Mills and Mary Greenwood (his sister, Mary Balcolm’s children) were living, but not named in the will.
A few months later, Ellen’s sister-in-law Roxanne Aurelie (Wilson) Hall passed away. Ellen’s boarder Williard Sears was named as one of the estate appraisers, an estate valued at $2,350 which included the Forest Street home.
By 1911, Ellen had relocated to her home at 3 Dana St., Malden. Their boarder, Willard Sears, still employed as a carpenter, joined her.
Abby’s husband Thomas Hough passed away in 1912, at age 75, of prostate cancer. His estate was valued at $33,855.22; he left small sums and a piano to a number of friends, $1,000 to his sister-in-law Mary (Hall) Patten, $500 to his nephew Charles M. Hall and the remainder was split between his brother George Hough of Grand Rapids, Michigan and the First Parish Universalist Church of Malden. Ellen was not named. Abby and Thomas are buried together at Mt Auburn in Cambridge.
Ellen’s brother Ephraim Augustus (my 2nd g-grandfather) was committed to the insane asylum at Danvers State Hospital (Massachusetts) in 1916. His son Charles Milton Hall filed for guardianship of the $2,807 estate, which included the Forest Street home. Ellen signed along with Kittie Shipman (Charles’ mother-in-law). Less than a year later, Ephraim died from septicemia following gangrene of the foot. Ephraim and Roxanna are buried together in Forestdale Cemetery.
Williard Sears, Ellen’s longtime boarder, and likely close friend, died in 1919. She was the informant listed on his death certificate and both still resided at 3 Dana. He was 79 and cause of demise was uraemia from chronic brights disease and chronic cystitis. He was buried at Quivet Neck Cemetery in East Dennis, Massachusetts, likely with his ancestors.
Ellen’s sister, Mary Elizabeth (Hall) Patten, died in 1920, of chronic endocarditis, while sitting in a chair at home, she was almost 88. Her estate was valued at $1,400 which was split equally between her heirs. She and her husband are buried at the Salem Street Cemetery.
Ellen passed away at 6AM, after a week of sickness, on 13 Aug 1923, of apoplexy. at the age of 81 years, 3 months, 23 days. At the time of her death, she was the “oldest, native born, Malden woman”. Her nephew, Charles Hall of 17 Dale Street, Malden, was the informant listed on her death certificate. He got her name wrong, listing her as Ellen Sarah Nichols. He correctly named her parents, but incorrectly listed their places of birth. Ellen was buried at Forestdale Cemetery in a grave with her husband, his parents, his siblings George and Mary and Mary’s husband Thomas Balcom.
In Ellen’s lifetime, the Malden population had grown almost 20 times larger (2,500 at birth to 49,103 at death). Besides the changes in her own city, she had seen an amazing array of inventions. Besides the obvious (cars, telephones, production lines and airplanes), some of my favorites include, the stop sign and traffic light, zippers, the teddy bear, American baseball and football, donuts, jellybeans and potato chips.
Ellen’s last will and testament is undated, it was likely written prior to Mary Patten’s death in 1920, since she is named. After Ellen’s debts are paid, she asked that her assets be distributed as follows:
- A trust of $5,000 to her trustees (Charles M. Hall and Dudley Bailey of Everett or Ernest Fall of Everett should Dudley be deceased) to hold and manage, collect interest and income, pay taxes, insurance and otherwise and to pay over the net income remaining monthly to her brother Horatio for the term of his natural life, if he should require more for sickness or comfortable support, the trustees are authorized to dispense a portion of the principle
- $5,000 to sister Mary Patten [deceased, not paid]
- A total of $10,000 divided to the widow of her brother David and his daughters Ida Blaine, Amelia Thibeault [Amelia Guy], Levina Gagne and Dorothy Hall [Dorothy Jaques] of Lowell – $2,000 each
- $500 to Charles G. Hall of Malden
- $1,000 to Sarah C. Mentzer* wife of William A. Mentzer of Hudson, Massachusetts [died before estate settled, paid to her estate]
- the residue to her nephew Charles M. Hall of Malden ($48,549.68 after all debts were paid, or about the same buying power as $660,000 in 2014 dollars)
*Sarah Mentzer was likely a longtime friend. She was born Sarah Carter Robinson, in 1844, in Malden, to Samuel Robinson and Abigail Wheeler; in 1860 at age 16, she worked at the Malden Dye House with Ellen. She married William, a retired farmer, in 1862. Both died in Revere, Massachusetts – William in 1918 and Sara in 1924.
Ellen owned land and buildings at 3 Dana Street, Malden, 3,274 square feet, valued at $3,400 and had $500 in furniture and personal effects. After Levi’s death, she continued as a mortgagee. Ellen had managed (likely with her nephew’s assistance) 19 mortgages and notes; which at the time of her death were valued at $28,000.
The remainder was invested in 17 deposit and trust companies, first and second Liberty Loans (government bonds) and shares in American Telephone and Telegraph, Boston Edison Light and Massachusetts Gas.
By 1924, Ellen’s brother Horatio, a retired Malden firefighter, who gave 34 years of service and never married, had relocated to the home at 3 Dana. A year later and until his death in 1930 he resided at 335 Forest St., a home formerly owned by his brother Ephraim and nephew Charles Milton Hall. He resided with the Littlefield and Ross families (no known relation).
Historically, the Hall’s had been successful businessmen and large land owners in the United States as early as 1727. But Ellen’s generosity, changed the course of the financial life of my g-grandfather, Charles Milton Hall, which had significant impact on future generations of the Hall family.