SOME UNIQUE OLD DOCUMENTS (February 21/03)

Among the first of the Planter families in this region were the Ells out of Connecticut. Eaton’s Kings County history notes that the Ells family in this area are descended from Joshua Ells, a Cornwallis Grantee.

Many of the descendants of Joshua can still found in Kings and Hants County today and some still live on the original grants. And fortunately for historians, some of the legal documents and other papers drawn up by Joshua’s immediate descendants are still extant; these documents give us a close look at early Planter days in the region.

I learned about the existence of the documents in a book on the history of homes on Canard Street. The book, Canard Street, compiled by Elizabeth Rand and published by the Kings Historical Society, is an unusual history that celebrates the Planters All the homes profiled in the book, some 50 of them, are at least 100 years old and most originated with Planter descendants.

One of the homes was built around 1824. When writing the history of this house, Elizabeth Rand said it was built by Lemuel Ells, a grandson of Joshua. Rand wrote that a descendant, David Ells of new Minas, has many of Lemuel’s original documents; one dated 1811 is a description of land purchased by Lemuel; an undated document was an agreement between Lemuel’s son, Joshua, and James M. Eaton.

Rand called the latter document unique, writing that it was a detailed description of how the house was to be constructed, possibly in 1824. The agreement between Ells and Eaton specified in detail the building materials to be used in every area of the house.

Thanks to David Ells, I’ve been given the opportunity to read this and other documents handed down through the Ells family for generations. There’s a baker’s dozen in all, one of them nearly 180 years old. Not one of the 13 documents is less than 100 years old, and most were written in the early 19th century.

For the most part, the documents deal with land purchases but there is an 1846 deed and a quit claim dated 1830. In 1825 one Joseph Prescott of Halifax sold land to Lemuel Ells. The document covering this transaction begins, “Know all men by these presents that I, Joseph Prescott of Halifax and Province of Nova Scotia, Surgeon, for and in consideration of the sum of two hundred and fifty pounds currency in hand well and truly paid by Lemuel Ells of Cornwallis…Yeoman, have bargained and sold unto the said Lemuel Ells a certain lot of land….”

Like several of the documents this particular paper gives property boundaries and mentions roads by name, Canard Street for example, making these records invaluable for future historical researchers.

The document describing the house to be built by James Eaton begins, “Specifications of house for Josy Ells, said house to be framed 36 x 28 …” etc. The details of construction, right down to the type of sealing, are amazing and for architectural historians are priceless.

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