Monday, December 04, 2006


for the record:

William ElleryRhode Island Co-signer of the Declaration of Independence

William Ellery was born in Newport, Rhode Island, to a wealthy mercantile family on December 22, 1727. The Newport in which William grew up was a unique community where despite many religious differences, there was a degree of toleration toward one another.The elder William Ellery, a Harvard graduate, prepared his son, William, to become a merchant, but also carefully prepared him for college. Young William entered Harvard in 1743. While he was not enthused about becoming a merchant, and entertained thoughts of being a lawyer, reality set in when he married Ann Remington on October 11, 1750, at 23 years of age. He married against his father's wishes, and it was soon clear that he must work to support his wife and family. His father melted some when his first granddaughter was born the following year.A series of events in 1764, changed William Ellery's life forever. In March of that year his father died. Six months later his beloved Ann also passed away. William returned from Cambridge to Newport.Ellery joined the Whig party, and became active in politics. He had inherited some money from his father, and he took this opportunity to study law. His name appears as a member of the General Assembly in the year of the Stamp Act repeal. He is now a leading member of the Sons of Liberty in Newport. The year is 1766. He has been a widower with six children for two years. On June 28, 1767, he marries for the second time. His second wife is a distant cousin, Abigail Carey, with whom he has ten children.When the delegates to the Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia in March 1776, Samuel Ward, Ellery's old friend, died of smallpox. Ellery was the choice to succeed him. As the signers gathered to affix their signatures to the Declaration, it was said that Ellery stood where he could watch their expressions. Of the 56 signers, nine died of wounds or hardships during the war, five were captured, brutally treated and imprisoned, several lost wives and sons, one lost his thirteen children, two wives were brutally treated, and twelve had their homes burned. William Ellery's property was burned while the British occupied Newport. He did, however, return after the war, and apparently recovered financially. He lived nearly 93 years, dying on February 15, 1820. He was interred in the Coggeshall Cemetery at the corner of Victoria and Coggeshall Avenue in Newport. Later, he was given a tomb in the Common Burying Ground on Farewell Street.

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