One of my great-grandfathers was Henry Herbert Eldridge, a descendant of a family that first settled in Cape Cod in 1635. H.H., as he was known, was born in Prospect, Maine, and my mother, who has a clear memory of him, said that he was known as a "whole-hearted, generous man," characteristics that, with luck, may still linger in our DNA.
H.H. was born in 1853, the son of Christopher A. Eldridge and Margaret Ann Ray. His mother died when he was seven years old in April 1860, after a long illness. Two years and two months later his father, Christopher died at sea. Henry and his younger brother Charles were taken in by his grandfather's home in Surry.
The boys’ grandfather, Knowles Godfrey Eldridge and his wife, the former Christiana Pope, raised his two grandsons on Newbury Neck in Surry. In the 1870 census, 16-year-old Henry and his 14-year-old brother were listed as mariners. Knowles Godfrey, who was 73 that year, is described as working in a carding mill. Twenty years earlier, in 1850, he had been a clothier and in 1840 in manufacture.
When he was 25, in 1878, H.H. married Laura Adams Phillips, a descendant of another family that had settled Orrington around the same time Knowles Godfrey’s father settled there in the 1790s. Two years later, H.H. appears to have followed his grandfather into the manufacture of cloth. The 1880 census lists him as a woolcarder and his name appears on an 1881 map of Surry that shows “H.H. Eldridge Carding Mill.”
Between 1879 and 1890, H.H. and Laura had five children, including twin girls, my grandmother, Mattie Belle, and her sister, Minnie. During this period, H.H. and his brother went into the painting business that had been started by another of Knowles Godfrey’s sons. By 1895, the Eldridges won the contract to paint Togus Veterans Home outside Augusta and the family moved to nearby Gardiner. For the next thirty years they ran the Eldridge Brothers Company with an office first at 9 Bridge Street then at 360 Water Avenue.
After moving to Gardiner, fate struck the Eldridge family when H.H.’s wife Laura died in 1902. He married again, to Emily Sampson, in 1903, but she died of breast cancer seven years later.
H.H. married again and his third wife, Clara, whom he married in 1914, was the only real grandmother my mother ever knew. Clara is pictured below in 1919 with my mother, age 2, and her two older sisters, Marjorie and Betty.
Henry Herbert’s obituary in 1930 described his contributions to local Gardiner society.
The Eldridges in Cape Cod
In the 1960s, my mother and her sisters began to piece together the family tree, documenting that Knowles Godfrey Eldridge was born in Chatham, Massachusetts in 1797, just when his father, Captain Hezekiah Eldridge was settling in the newly-established town of Orrington, Maine. Knowles Godfrey’s mother was Mercy Godfrey, the daughter of another prominent Cape Cod family, and she passed her maiden name down to her son.
Captain Hezekiah’s father was also named Hezekiah and there is little trace of him in the records other than a note that he had to tear down his house and barn, valued at 17 pounds, to stop the spread of smallpox in Chatham in 1765-6. Hezekiah, Sr. had married Mary Doane, a daughter in the well-established family that descended from Deacon John Doane of Plymouth.
Hezekiah was the son of William Eldredge (1702-1753) and the grandson of Sgt. Joseph Elredge (1662-1735), who himself was the son of Robert and Elizabeth Nickerson, some of the original settlers of Chatham along with four Eldredge brothers.: Nicholas, Robert, Samuel and Joseph.
Robert Eldredge first came to Plymouth in the Massachusetts Bay Colony as an indentured servant in 1635. He was listed to bear arms in 1643 in Plymouth then went to Yarmouth about 1645 where he married Elizabeth. He was constable in Yarmouth in 1657 and the family later moved and lived on a farm north of Oyster Pond in what is now West Chatham on part of the property deeded to Elizabeth by her father, William Nickerson, Chatham’s largest landowner.
You can learn more about the early history of Chatham and the Nickerson family at the Nickerson Family website http://cnh.nickersonassoc.com/
References: Genealogies : Eldred, Eldredge by Hawes, James W. (James William), 1844.
A History of Chatham, Massachusetts: formerly the Constablewick or Village of Monomoit ; with maps and llustrations and numerous genealogical notes"Part 3 By William Christopher Smith ,1909
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