Eleazer Herrick (1734-AFT 1790) and Mary Rea (1738-AFT 1778)
A Life in One Place: Except During War
Eleazer Herrick was born in 1734 in Preston, New London County, Connecticut, and he appears to have spent all of his life there, except for his military service. He was the son of John and Susanna Herrick. He would remain in Preston all of his life.
Even though Connecticut's first European settlers were Dutch, the first major settlements were established in the 1630s by the English. Some came from the Massachusetts Bay Colony; others came from the Connecticut Colony. Eventually, they would merge and establish documents of Fundamental Orders, considered the first constitutions in North America. This colony was one of the Thirteen Colonies that revolted against British rule in the American Revolution.
New London County is located in the southeastern corner of Connecticut. The name "Connecticut" originates from the Mohegan word quinnitukqut, meaning "place of long tidal river." After the Dutch explorer Adriaen Block entered the area in 1614, Dutch fur traders sailed up the Connecticut River (Named Versche Rivier by the Dutch) and built a fort at Dutch Point near present-day Hartford, which they called "House of Hope" (Dutch: Huis van Hoop).
As is the case with all eight of Connecticut's counties, there is no county government, and no county seat. Instead, towns are responsible for all local government activities. In effect, then, New London County is merely a group of towns on a map, and has no particular authority. The county is mostly level, becoming more elevated only in its northern extreme. The highest point is Gates Hill in the Town of Lebanon at approximately 660 feet (201 m) above sea level.
Preston is a very small town, located between New London and Norwich, just east of the Thames River. To get there today, one goes east across the Mohegan-Pequot Bridge. Preston is so small that only a surface road leads to it. In 2002, there were only 1800 people living there, so it must have been even smaller in the 1700s.
Marriage and then to War
Eleazer married Mary Rea on 11 Apr 1759 in Preston, New London, Connecticut. Mary had been born on 14 Dec 1738 in Beverly, Essex County, Massachusetts, so she was 21 and Eleazer was 25. Eleazer’s grandparents, John Herrick and Bethia Solart, had left Salem, Massachusetts in the mid-1690’s after the Salem Witch Trials, but clearly the Herricks maintained links with people back in Salem. Mary’s parents or grandparents probably knew Eleazer’s parents or grandparents.
Just two years after they were married, Eleazer fought in the last phase of the French and Indian War. He joined the First Connecticut Regiment, Eleventh Company, commanded by Colonel Phineas Lyman. He left Mary at home with their first daughter, Sarah.
The first of the four French and Indian wars broke out in 1689 — long before Eleazer’s birth. English colonists fought French colonists and their Indian allies. When England and France signed a peace treaty in 1713, dozens of new towns sprung up in the central and northern part of the state, but the wars broke out again in the 1740s, and Eleazer’s father was killed by Indians in 1745. Hostilities finally ended in 1763 — during the two years that Eleazer fought — with victory for the British.
Attempts at Normalcy: Raising a Family
Eleazer and Sarah had at least eight children:
- Sarah b. 1761 d. 1827
- John b. b. 1763 d. 1788
- Ephraim b. 1764 d. 1842
- Rufus b. 1765 d. 1828
- Stephen b. 1767
- Hiram b. 1769 d. 1854
- Eleazer b. 1776
- Mary/Polly b. 1778 d. 1824
Death Dates Uncertain
Mary died after the birth of her youngest daughter, Mary, in 1778, but the exact date is unknown. She would have been at least 40 years old, and she might have died in childbirth.
Eleazer Herrick can be found in the 1790 Census for Preston, Connecticut. However, there is no indication if this is the father or the son. If he did live to 1790, he would have been at least 56 years old.
This page written and researched by Susan Overturf Ingraham, wife of Robert Philip Ingraham, a descendant of Eleazer Herrick and Mary Rea. This page last updated on January 8, 2012.