The Phelps family was one of the founding families of Windsor, Connect, a town located about 10 miles North of the state capital, Hartford. The town was founded in 1633 and was a part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony until 1640 when it was annexed by Connecticut.
In time the Phelps family became loyal patriots and supported the cause for American independence in the 1700s. At least 20 members of the family, and possibly a few more, took a break from their agricultural pursuits in order to fight in the Revolutionary War. After the war, many of them returned to the countryside in order to maintain their farms. The family owned many acres of land in the area and were successful farmers and businessmen.
One of the most prominent members of the Phelps family was Eli Phelps, who lived from 1807-1879. He was highly respected and he managed a successful tobacco farm. He was a man of great ability, both physical and mental. He was six feet tall and weighed 200 pounds, and even though he had a very basic education as a child, he was well-read and knowledgeable in many subjects. He was deeply involved in religious activities and held the position of treasurer for his town's Ecclesiastical Society for many years. In addition to that, he was an influential member of the Democratic party in town and occupied different administrative roles throughout his life. He also served as a member of the General Assembly for multiple years.
On May 27, 1816, Eli Phelps married Abigail Humphrey, who was born in Norfolk, Connecticut. They had five children: William, James (died in infancy), Emily (died in infancy), Maria and Charlotte. As the oldest and only living boy, William inherited his father's farm after Eli's death in 1879.
Like his father before him, William Phelps was a voracious reader. He was thoroughly educated through school and also in the ways of agriculture and was just as successful a farmer and businessman as his father. He was described as "having a quiet disposition, with deliberate speech and a lack of ostentation being among his marked characteristics." As a young man, William Phelps was a Democrat, but in later years, became an earnest advocate of the Prohibition party. He married Mariette Dickinson, who was a daughter of Nathan and Jemimah Dickinson of Haddam, Connecticut. Sadly, Mariette Dickinson passed away on June 23, 1899.
The Phelps family legacy in Windsor continues to this day. The Oliver Ellsworth Homestead, which is a historic house museum located in Windsor, was the home of Oliver Ellsworth, who was the son-in-law of Judge Jonathan Phelps. Oliver Ellsworth was a lawyer who helped to write the U.S. Constitution. The Eli Phelps House, built around 1860, still stands today and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In addition, there are several streets in Windsor named after members of the Phelps family, including Phelps Lane, William Phelps Drive, Jonathan Phelps Road, and Ellsworth Road.
Photos by Jennifer Czajka: Elm Grove Cemetery - Windsor, Connecticut
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