Oliver Ellsworth

Oliver Ellsworth, the Patriarch

Oliver Ellsworth House

The second son of Captain David and Jemima Leavitt Ellsworth, Oliver Ellsworth was born in Windsor 29 April 1745. At 17 he went to Yale to study the ministry, but was expelled for “pranks”. Ellsworth graduated from the College of New Jersey in 1766 and began a study of law with Matthew Grant. He was admitted to practice in 1771.

Elected to state level office in 1773, Ellsworth quickly became one of the most powerful political figures and successful lawyers in Connecticut. He served throughout the Revolutionary War in many state and federal political positions, including delegate to the Continental Congress, member of Connecticut’s Council of Safety, the Governor’s Council, and Committee of the Pay Table.

In 1787, Oliver Ellsworth joined William Samuel Johnson and Roger Sherman and Connecticut’s delegation to the Constitutional Convention. He was one of the five men who drafted the Constitution and one of the three who proposed the Connecticut Compromise that resolved issues allowing the Constitution to be ratified.

His contributions to his country did not stop there. While serving a seven year term as a US Senator, Ellsworth drafted the Judiciary Act, defining our current federal court system. In 1796, George Washington asked Ellsworth to be the Third Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

President John Adams appointed Ellsworth as a commissioner to France to renegotiate a treaty and prevent war with France. Highly respected by Napoleon, Ellsworth was successful. Upon his return from France and in poor health, Ellsworth retired from Federal service to an active service in Connecticut. He maintained a successful law practice, authored articles and served in the Connecticut legislature as a senator until his death in 1807.

Abigail Wolcott, His Wife

Abigail Wolcott was born 8 February 1755 in East Windsor, Connecticut, the fifth of seven children born to William Wolcott, Esquire, and Abigail Abott. She married on the 10 December 1772, Oliver Ellsworth providing him with the strength and stability to continue his highly productive life. It was said of Abigail: “She exercised such concern and thoughtfulness for her husband’s needs that no anxiety regarding household cares ever disturbed his public life.”

Abigail bore 9 children with Oliver Ellsworth. Her influence as a mother was so profoundly felt not only in her children, all of whom became active in public service, but also in the lives of their descendants after them, many of whom carried out Oliver and Abigail’s commitment to excellence in public service in many fields of endeavor. Abigail Wolcott Ellsworth died 4 August 1818 and is buried in Palisado Cemetery, Windsor, Connecticut.

Children

Abigail Ellsworth, called Nabby by her father, was born 16 August 1774. She traveled with her father to congress in Philadelphia in 1790 and on 20 October 1794 she was married to Ezekiel Williams of Wethersfield.

Oliver Ellsworth, born 22 October 1776, died 20 May 1778.

Oliver Ellsworth, Jr. was born 27 April 1781. Upon his graduation from Yale in 1799, he accompanied his father to France on a mission to arrange a treaty between the United States of America and France. His health, like his father’s, was impaired by the trip. He tutored at Yale and received an A.M. or Artium Magister (Master’s) degree in 1802. Oliver, Jr. died 4 July 1805.

Martin Ellsworth was born 17 April 1783. He married Sophia Wolcott on 19 October 1807. Martin served as a Major in the War of 1812. He and Sophia moved into his parent’s home upon the death of his mother, Abigail Wolcott Ellsworth in 1818. Martin died 2 November 1857. Sophia died 8 June 1870.

William Ellsworth was born 25 June 1785 and died 24 July 1785.

Frances Ellsworth was called Franny by the family. She was born 31 August 1786 and died 14 March 1868. Franny married Judge Joseph Wood of Stamford, Connecticut on 10 May 1809.

Delia Ellsworth was born 23 July 1789 and died 24 June 1840. She married the Honorable Thomas Scott Williams of Wethersfield and Hartford on 7 January 1812.

On 10 November 1791, twin boys were born in Windsor, Henry and William. Henry Leavitt Ellsworth married Nancy Allen Goodrich on 22 June 1813. Henry was a lawyer, business man and farming enthusiast who died in 1858. William Wolcott Ellsworth married Emily Schotten Webster, eldest daughter of Noah Webster on 14 September 1813. He was a professor at Trinity College for most of his life, represented Connecticut in the US House of Representatives (1829-1834) and served as Governor of Connecticut between 1838 and 1842. William died 15 January 1868.