The Elston’s are one branch of my family that came to the New World very early, in the mid to late 1600’s. How they got to Indiana on that fateful day in 1812 is a bundle of stories and interesting history. This is the history we thought was boring in grade school, but it’s not so much about dates and battles, it’s about the fundamental need for meaning and personal growth.
It’s about owning your place in life.
If you’re going to follow my story, you are going to have to endure a review of the early history of our country. If you see some similarities in current attitudes and ambitions, well maybe there are some lessons to be learned.
When the first Elston landed on the shores of what was then called the New World, the scope of that world was a narrow band of land at the water’s edge. Everyone settled on the shore. These were the walls of their lives, the ocean on one side and the dense forest on the other.
One of the earliest members of the Elston family who traveled to the New World, came as a servant or indentured worker, someone who’s passage was paid by a person who expected years of service in return for that investment.
This ancestor, John Elston, was a “waterman.” He operated a small boat belonging to his benefactor, possibly a man named Mr. Craddock. From this boat, John Elston and two crewmen fished and provided transportation of goods and passengers from one settlement to another.
According to passage in Annals of Salem, Vol. II, P210, Joseph B. Felt wrote, “A small bark of Salem, of about twelve tons, coming towards the bay, John Elston and two of Mr. Cradock’s fishermen being in her, and two tons of stone and three hogsheads of train oil, was overset in a gust, and being buoyed up by the oil, she floated up and down forty-eight hours, and the three men sitting upon her, till Henry Way his boat, coming by, espied them, and saved them.”
Being a waterman or fisherman was probably a pretty important job in the days of the infant settlements because fish was a major source of food for the population. The waterman’s family could be assured of eating well. Life was probably good for John and his family…but they didn’t own the boat, they didn’t own the house they lived in and they didn’t own themselves. All the work was towards buying back their freedom, repaying their passage fee. No matter how important the job of waterman…John was owned by, and worked for, “the man.”
But humanity isn’t programed to live by boundaries and limitations. As the forest was pushed back and crops were planted and harvested and animals that were brought from the Old World multiplied to provide milk, butter and meat, land became a valuable resource for the settlers and everyone who came to this country sought their fair share of it.
People came to the New World for two things…freedom from oppression and to own something they could not own in the Old World…land which gave them the means of their survival, not dependent on someone else. They came not to be owned, but to own their future and the future of their families. Owning land was the path to that end goal.
Ownership of land was one of the most important freedoms in this New World.
Why did our ancestors continually move west? No question…to acquire and protect their future and the future of their families.
This branch of my family came from Massachusetts to New Jersey to Pennsylvania to Maryland to Virginia to Kentucky to Indiana hoping that their steps west would be a step up.
Along the way, other family stories melted into this family…the Crists, the Richeys, the Phegleys, the Craigs, the Nicholas clan, Donahues and Wells and Bridgewaters and…
John Elston’s great, great granddaughter Anne Elizabeth married William Edward Collings, and she was mother to William Elston Collings, who was father to Sichy Collings Richey who was mother to…well, you see how this goes. Families just go on and on.