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 EDWARD WINSLOW WELLINGTON
by Nancy M. Purnell (great granddaughter)


Click on the thumbnail images to the right to see full size pictures.

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Left:  Clara Wellington

Right:  Edward Winslow Wellington

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Introduction

Who were your ancestors?  Are you a product of your environment or your heritage?  You decide. 

Over the years, as a Wilbraham resident,  I have spent my life raising twins, hosting several exchange students from Spain,founding and running a pet visitation program for twenty five nursing homes in Massachusetts, and being President of several other local philanthropic organizations.  I was too busy to consider looking into our family history until February of 2001, when Lu Adams, a member of the historical society in Ellsworth, Kansas, contacted me seeking information about my great grandfather Edward Winslow Wellington and his wife, Clara Edwards. 

As luck would have it, I had recently discovered some family photographs and fascinating history regarding Edward and Clara and was intending to study it further when I had time. The historian sparked my interest with her first letter.  Lu exuded an enthusiasm that I became caught up in immediately.  Researching details and writing articles regularly for the local historical society is her passion.  To carry it a step further, she does portrayals of local characters of interest, one of whom, is Clara.  She proceeded to enlighten me of many facts I had not known before.  I had also received from her, copies of previously published articles and materials from the historical society archives. As the two of us uncovered more and more details of  the extended family I became inspired try to find more information about my predecessors.    

Within a few weeks the research led further back to other characters of interest.  We extended our exploration fourteen generations back to the Wellingtons in London in the 1600’s.  I would encourage anyone curious about his or her heritage to indeed take the time to discover who you are and where you came from--not just geographically.  Discover the heredity, environment and family traits that may have influenced your life without your conscience previous knowledge.  You might be very surprised to learn how much in common you have to some of the relatives in your lineage.  You may discover, as I have, people you would love to have known and people who will inspire you even now. 

EW and CLARA

Some make a mark in history and in the minds of others that will remain an indelible influence.   Edward Winslow Wellington, affectionately called “EW”, was such a person.  His name is still revered, over 100 years later--he was an inspiration to his friends, peers and family and his legacy lives on.  His enthusiasm and drive spilled over in all walks of his life.   Great grandfather, EW was a colorful figure, instrumental in the development of the town of Ellsworth, high ranking in the Masons and Shriners, and even dabbled in politics.  He was a man of incredible energy and accomplishments.  His wife, Clara, was a social trendsetter in town and almost 100 years later townspeople still talk of the elegant parties they hosted.

Perhaps his older sister, Alice Wellington Rollins, was the first to recognize someone about to make a mark in history when she wrote a charming book entitled, “Story of a Ranch”, in 1885, as he was just embarking on his long and fruitful life.  Her book tells of EW’s start on his lifelong crusade to constantly improve life for all he encountered.  He was a determined soul, full of ideas and ambition--she humorously described him as a man,  “who desired nothing but the privilege of doing all the work”1.  Now a century later, there is much to record, for posterity, of the endeavors of this one man act and much to add to the story begun in Alice’s book.

EW was born in 1853 and raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the middle child of three.  He was graduated from Harvard College in 1874.  His law degree followed and soon he was in practice, working with his father, in Boston for the next few years.

By the summer of 1878, and at the age of twenty-five, a pioneering spirit engulfed him and lured him first to Colorado.  Over the next eight years he returned to Boston, married Clara and headed west again, this time to Kansas, taking with him several friends from Boston and Harvard as his new associates.  He amassed an extensive sheep/stock ranch and built many houses and ranches to accommodate himself, friends and workers, and the livestock.  They even named a town--Carneiro.

With ever new ideas, he moved westward where he opened a real estate and loan office and began his life’s work of building Ellsworth, Kansas.  He erected an entire business block of which he continued to own two-thirds until his death.  Credited to his work was remodeling existing structures and building new ones with modern conveniences of the times including plumbing, heating and lighting.  His construction included several stores as well as apartments and even a bowling alley.  The Masonic hall was exquisitely appointed and remains one of the loveliest in the country even now.  He also built the entire sewer system which he ultimately sold back to the town years later.

His building and development was not confined to businesses but also included several residences including his own, one of the showplaces of the city, where many brilliant social events were held, filling it’s three parlors and twenty by thirty foot dining room.  Strategically placed on a hill, it was the largest house in town. It was quite an honor to be invited, “up to the Wellingtons’” where it is still today referred to as “the Wellington house on Forest Drive”.  When their son, Waldo, was married in 1909, EW gave them a present of a handsome home just across the street from his own.

Clara’s social presence resounded throughout central Kansas.  There were elegant balls with ladies in long gowns of fine fabrics of the turn of the century and gentlemen adorned in their finest attire; dinner parties with tables set with every imaginable piece of silver tableware and fine china trimmed with wide bands of gold; and servants beckoned by Clara with the use of a bell discreetly under the massive dining room table with its twelve leaves.  The dining room itself was 20 x 30 feet.  Clara delighted in entertaining, especially young people, to whom she loved to teach the social graces.  A tradition was to hire an entire train car to bring their son Waldo and about 30 of his friends from Kansas University for a weekend every December.  The girls were housed on the second floor of the big house and the young men on the top floor.   She taught the young men dancing so as to be suitable partners for her lady guests.  Other weekend events included horseback riding and playing cards and rides in automobiles!  Clara, musically talented, often entertained guests with singing and piano playing.  Many other important events or musical recitals were hosted by Clara in the big house.

All the while EW was developing the town of Ellsworth he also managed to contribute substantially to charity work.  He held every office in the Masonic Order in the state of Kansas and, likewise, through the ranks of the Shriners to Potentate.  He received national recognition for his work.  One of his proudest accomplishments was orchestrating a trek up Pike’s Peak for a ceremonial for his fellow Masons.  A time capsule was immured in a rock on the mountain top in 1899.  The inhospitable barren rock, chosen solely  to be as close to God in the heavens as any mason could possibly be, required a tour de force, involving the cooperation of the Kansas and Colorado governments, to build a cog railway to the very top.  One hundred years later this remains the largest venture ever achieved of the Masonic organization.  The historic spot was revisited by members of the same Masonic lodge, in 1999, to retrieve the box and contents and seal it again with new photos and mementos of both the Masons and Kansas for another century.  Two of EW’s great grand daughters were honored to be on that trip to retrieve the 100 year old memorial.

The inspiration for the original trip came to EW one day during final preparations for a formal ceremonial with many invited dignitaries expected and a sumptuous meal prepared.  The weather decided not to cooperate and proceeded to dump one of the largest snow storms  in Kansas history on the momentous day.  Trains were stopped and many men complained that it would not be possible to travel to the event to receive their degrees.  EW, although justifiably dismayed, remarked in jest, “Well if the boys can’t stand it to wade through this snow to get the Cryptic degrees, I’ll take them out to Colorado next summer and make them climb Pike’s Peak for them.”2   Many did plod long distances through the snow, however, and the event was a huge success.  Nevertheless, once the idea was born in EW’s head, he asserted the threat would indeed be enforced.

Early Wellingtons have been traced back to London in 1625 with the first arriving in America shortly after the Mayflower.  Several generations lived throughout the Cambridge area and many studied at Harvard.   One descendant, Benjamin Wellington, would become a notable figure in the American Revolution in Lexington in April 1776, when Benjamin was the first soldier captured at Lexington.  He was on his way to join the  local militia when he was seized by two British soldiers scouting ahead of the rest of their troops.  Curious as it may seem, the British took his weapons, then let him go with instructions to return home.  He agreed and then doubled back warning his fellow patriots who were assembling in anticipation of the emanate arrival of the English soldiers.  The site of that capture would ultimately become known as Independence Hill.  Benjamin, as part of Captain Parker’s Lexington militia,  ultimately was at the taking of English troops under the command of General Burgoyne in 1777.

Further investigation has revealed several ancestors, in Lexington and Cambridge, who established businesses, were members of the Massachusetts General Court, local selectmen, assessors, on school boards and otherwise contributed to the betterment of those around them.  One was the first individual to establish a dairy for the supply of the Boston market.

Conclusion 

All this began with a letter from Kansas only two short months ago in February.  Subsequent trips to the Daughters of the American (DAR) Library in Washington, D.C., the Boston Public Library and Massachusetts Archives  in Dorchester is providing me with so much additional material.  As a result, I hope to write a book about the fascinating history and folklore of the Wellingtons.  

I have been surprised at the parallelism along the way. You might also be surprised to discover your own ancestors’ stories and determine if you are a product of your environment or your heritage.

 

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