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Abraham & Elizabeth Perkins of Lyme, CT

In 1736, one hundred years after John and Judith arrived in America, our Perkins ancestors were again on the move. This time Abraham Perkins along with one brother and two sisters relocated from Ipswich Massachusetts to Lyme Connecticut. One suspects a motivation for improved land. Their father, Abraham, may not have had desirable land, since none of the children appear to taken over the farmstead. Besides, he had gotten some of the property in 1700 from an Uncle Nathaniel who apparently could not make it succeed. Ipswich had also experienced a population boom where the number of people doubled in Chebacco Parish from 300 in 1695 to over 600 in 1720. So in 1734, John Butler and his new wife Hannah Perkins, along with her brother James Perkins and bride Margaret Andrews sold their Ipswich MA properties and relocated to Lyme, CT situated in New London county. Single siblings Elizabeth and Abraham Perkins tagged along.

Another important development at this time may have influenced the move. 1720-1730 marked the virtual end of the Puritan movement. It had remained too rigid for its own good. It sought to keep members near a village to maintain control, and, by extension, discouraged external trade and migration. Besides, the charter of the Massachusetts Bay Colony had been revoked in 1691 allowing individuals from other religions to enter the region. Due to actions and building mistrust of the British government, passions moved from the religious to the political arena. Yet the legacy of the Puritan movement remained, including selection of juries of local citizen, town-based meeting and legislators elected by the voters. Ezra Stiles, Congregationalist minister and 7th president of Yale, toured the Connecticut towns in 1768 and wrote the following about Lyme (source: “Extracts from the Itineraries and Other Miscellanies of Ezra Stiles, D. D.”)

“In Lyme are seven Congregations – 4 of the regular standing Chhs. [churches] – 3 of the Separates of which two are Baptists. …The Sep. in Mr. Beckwith’s Society are between a Quarter & Third of the Parish. Most or Majority of East Parish are Bapt. & Separates. Hence perhaps One Third of the whole Town may be Sep. or Baptists, & formed a Bap. Chh.”

Stiles is discussing the various factions of the Protestant church that existed in Lyme in 1768: Congregational Church, Separate Congregational church and Baptist. The Great Awakening, a religious revival, had caused fractures in the traditional church structures. All accounts of our Perkins family members remained in the mainstream Congregational church, but individuals and their ideas mixed freely.

The choice of Lyme Connecticut as a site for farming would seem misguided given the large number of rocks in the soil. Nevertheless Abraham was able to marry and provide for his family. He mentions living at the Bennet Farm in his will. The exact location of his farm has not yet been pinpointed, although one would expect it to be near his brother and brother-in-law. Their properties stood on Archer Hill and near 8 mile river, which lies near North Lyme. Abraham and Elizabeth’s biography is well told in “The Descendants of Edward Perkins of New Haven, Conn.” by Caroline Erickson Perkins in 1914. This book has a treasure trove of information about many members of this line of the Perkins family.

“Abraham Perkins was the son of Abraham (Isaac, Quartermaster John, John Perkins, Senior, of Ipswich, Mass.) was born in Ipswich in 1708, and evidently soon followed his brother James and his sisters Hannah and Elizabeth to Lyme, as he was admitted freeman there in 1741, having previously married, February 28, 1739, Elizabeth Ely. His first purchase of land in Lyme was July 4, 1741, and September 9, 1771, he deeded land to his son Abraham. A genealogical paper left by Gaius Perkins of South Woodstock, Vt., who died in 1870 at the age of 91, contained the following information: “My grandfather was Abraham Perkins. He went from Ipswich in the Bay State, to Lyme, Conn., where he married Elizabeth Ely.” He mentions the children of his great-grandfather in the following order: Abigail, James, Isaac, Abraham, Hannah, Sarah, Elizabeth and Joseph, four of whom, James, Abraham, Hannah and Elizabeth, settled in Lyme. After the death of his wife he married, July 15, 1759, Mary (Pearson), widow of Richard Ely, who died. Excepting their births, his sons Francis, Daniel and Benjamin are not mentioned in the Lyme records. They settled elsewhere. He died May 10, 1786. His will is dated April 3, 1786, and was proved September 11 following. He mentions “my beloved wife.” “my eldest daughter Betty Mather,” “my youngest daughter Sarah Pratt,” “my sons Francis Perkins, William Perkins, Daniel Perkins, Abraham Perkins, Jr., Samuel Perkins, and Joseph Perkins.”

George A Perkins in “The family of John Perkins of Ipswich, Mass”, 1889 adds that Abraham became deacon of the local Congregational church, a fact confirmed by the inscription of his original gravestone “Dea. Abraham Perkins died May 19, 1786, in the 73d year of his age.” If you visit Ely Cemetery today, the replacement stone reads “Revolutionary War / Sgt / Abraham Perkins / Lexington Alarm / Died May 10 1786 / AE 73”.

Family of Elizabeth (Ely) Perkins
Abraham arrived to Lyme as a single man and married Elizabeth Ely in 1739. She bore him eight children. Her family was one of the early settlers of Lyme. The original setter was Richard Ely of England who left a huge footprint in the area. Her father was Daniel Ely who worked his way to the top of the Connecticut militia to the rank of Major by 1739. Her mother, Mary Ann Champlin, a native of Westerly RI, died in 1725 with Elizabeth aged 7 years. Daniel would marry three more times before passing on 1776. Today one can visit the Ely Cemetery in Lyme where all manner of Elys are buried, including Abraham and Elizabeth Perkins. Remember the name “Ely” because it plays an important role in the naming of future generations.

The marriage of Abraham and Elizabeth marked the beginning of a complicated series of Perkins-Ely marriages that would be documented in the next generations.  When Elizabeth (Ely) Perkins died in 1759, Abraham remarried to Mary (Pearson) Ely, widow of Richard Ely, a cousin to Elizabeth. Abraham and Mary had three children together.

The Military Service of Abraham
Our Abraham Perkins attained a rank of Sargeant, which means he participated in the local town military structure. Starting in 1739 Connecticut developed a system of Militia Regiments within the town, called “Trained Bands”, under the command of Captain, Lieutenant, Ensign, Sergeant and Corporal. These trained bands could organize as Regiments under control of Colonel, Lt-Colonel and Major. This structure evolved during the Revolutionary war as the Regiments were organized as Brigades under the command of a Brigadier General. In particular, Our Perkins and Ely ancestors participated in the 3rd Regiment of the Connecticut before the war.

Documents show Sargent Abraham Perkins participated in the Lexington Alarm under Capt Joseph Jewitt. When the British first attacked in Lexington and Concord on 19 Apr 1775, the colonist reacted quickly in towns throughout New England by activating their local trained bands and racing to Massachusetts in a show of solidarity. However, this initial skirmish lasted only a short time. Many of these individuals who answered the alarm never served additional time. Abraham served at total of 25 days, not surprising considering Abraham’s age over 60 at the time. As a result of this service, Abraham Perkins is considered a Revolutionary War Veteran.

As a side note, most historical accounts list Abraham’s birth date as 1708. Gaius Perkins specifically lists the birth order of Abraham between siblings Isaac and Hannah supporting the 1708 birth. However, if you do the math on his gravestone, you get a birth of 1713, a date that appears more credible. Otherwise Abraham marches to Massachusetts for the Lexington Alarm at the age of 67.

Brothers and Sisters of Abraham Perkins
James Perkins and John Butler really led the migration of the Perkins family, so you can learn a lot about our Abraham by reading their biographies. James Perkins was the oldest son. He had land in Ipswich which he sold to his brother, Isaac. Per Caroline Perkins in “The Descendants of Edward Perkins of New Haven, Conn.”:

“James Perkins, son of Abraham (Isaac, Quartermaster  John , John Perkins, Senior, of Ipswich, Mass.), was the first of the name to settle in Lyme. He followed in Ipswich the occupation of ‘cordwainer,’ and on December 14, 1732, married Margaret, daughter of Deacon John and Elizabeth Andrews of Chebucco, Ipswich. In company with his brother-in-law, John Butler, who had married his sister Hannah, he went to Lyme, where, March 30, 1736, they purchased jointly of William Rathbun a tract of land comprising 294 1/4 acres on the hill called “Mount Archer,” with the dwelling house, barn, forest trees, fences, timber and stone, etc.. for £982 1s. Their families probably accompanied them as letters of dismission and recommendation were issued about that date to “Hannah, wife of John Butler,” and to “Margaret, wife of James Perkins,” dismissing them to the Third Church in Lyme. December 9, 1736, Perkins and Butler divided this purchase, quit-claiming to each other, and each one granting the other a right of way across his farm, “a pent highway for himself and his heirs to pass and repass [unreadable] with his creatures of all kinds, forever.” September 2, 1758, he bought of James Ely of Lyme, for £6 lawful money, one certain piece or tract of land in Lyme at the mouth of Eight Mile River (which empties into the Connecticut), which land was subject to overflow at high tide. April 24, 1789, he sold to his son John for £541 18.S-. two pieces or tracts of land ; one lot is where I now live, the other called the “ell” lot, containing about 50 acres, and the other lot about 96 acres, etc. Also, one other piece of land, a marsh or flat containing about two acres [unreadable] being a piece of flats or tidal land at the mouth of Eight Mile River, etc. In Lyme his occupation was farming, and this last transfer was doubtless made in anticipation of his death, which occurred a few months later. His wife’s death was previous to his own. In the “Marvin Burying Yard” may still be seen a couple of gravestones…”

Hannah Perkins married John Butler in Ipswich prior to their move to Lyme. Their biography is told in “A history of Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania“, Vol II by Oscar Jewell Harvey, 1909

“John Butler (born at Chebacco in 1708), third and youngest child of Lieut. William and Mary (Ingalls) Butler, grew to manhood in the town of Ipswich, where he was married in January, 1730, to Hannah Perkins. In 1732 John Butler and his wife and their only child, accompanied by James Perkins – a brother of Mrs. Butler – removed from Ipswich to Lyme, New London County, Connecticut. Lyme, which was originally a part of Saybrook, now covers some seven or eight miles square of territory, bounded on the west by the Connecticut River and on the south by Long Island Sound. ….  John Butler and James Perkins settled within the bounds of the North Society of Lyme, not far from the present village of Hamburg, and later Mr. Perkins became a Deacon in the Congregational Church there. At the time of their settlement they jointly purchased 290 acres of land back of Mount Archer, in the direction of the district known as Joshuatown – the north-westernmost section of Lyme, which has, from the first, borne this name, derived from Joshua, the third son of Uncas the noted sachem of the Mohegans (mentioned on page 196), who was once the lord and tenant of that rough and romantic region. About 1786 Messrs. Butler and Perkins bought in common other lands in Lyme, and in January, 1739, they made an amicable division of all their Lyme lands. In the Spring or Summer of 1755 John Butler died at Lyme, being survived by his wife, Hannah, and nine children, the youngest of whom was only three years of age. The inventory of John Butler’s estate – the bulk of which was in lands – amounted to £6,403, 8sh., in ‘money of the old tenor’ “

Like her brother Abraham, Elizabeth Perkins arrived single and married a member of the Ely family, William Ely (brother to Richard Ely and, therefore, cousin to Elizabeth Ely). History says William Ely was a poor businessman and that family members counselled Elizabeth to hid the family silver from the lenders who came to collect the family debt. She, however, refused due to her high moral character. So Elizabeth may have lost the silver, but she gained a legacy. Here is the story as presented on findagrave:

“The wife of Capt. William Ely, who acquired his military title during the French and Indian War, when he served in the 3rd Regiment of Connecticut Militia, Elizabeth Ely died at the age of 66, when the American Revolutionary War was in its final stages. Born in Chewbacco Parish, Ipswich, in colonial Massachusetts, she was the daughter of Abraham Perkins and the former Abigail Dodge. On September 16, 1737 she married William Ely, and the couple became the parents of ten children, eight of whom survived to adulthood. After nearly twenty years of married life in Lyme, Connecticut, where they struggled to eke out a living on their farm, in 1756 the Elys moved to present day Livingston, NJ, where they settled on “the Orange Mountain”. Still beset with financial difficulties, Mrs. Ely was advised by family friends to hide her heirloom silver tea service from her husband’s creditors, but being a woman of irreproachable honesty and integrity, she refused to do so. At the time of her death, Mrs. Ely’s survivors included her husband and seven of their ten children. Captain Ely died in 1802, 20 years after her death.”

Two other brothers of Abraham, Isaac and Joseph, remained in Ipswich,. Both appear to move away from a farming lifestyle. Isaac became a shoemaker, later transitioning to being a shopkeeper. Joseph started his career as a seaman. He later purchased land of a former tanner as a change to his career. He also became in Innholder.

Conclusion
While we don’t know a lot about Abraham and Elizabeth Perkins in Lyme, we can see that Abraham, as a newcomer to the area, attained some stature in his community as deacon of the local Congregational church and as Sargent in the Town militia. The family’s influence in the region did not extend for a long time. After the Revolutionary War, the continent was opened to exploration that allowed most of his offspring to seek land far more fertile than the rock-filled soil available in Lyme. The last male with the Perkins surname was their grandson, Abraham Ely Perkins, who settled in Wisconsin around 1850.  Their granddaughter, Elizabeth Perkins, represented the last female with the Perkins surname. She remained in Lyme and married an Ely (of course), being buried in the Ely Cemetery in 1858. Her descendants carried the Ely/Perkins legacy in Lyme roughly to the year 2000.