1.   Historical note

2.   Scope and content

3.   Provenance

4.   Processing note

5.   Inventory

6.   Subjects

    List of finding aids

    R.I.H.S. Library page

    R.I.H.S. home page

 James W.C. Ely Family Papers

 Providence family.

 Family papers, 1811-1946. Bulk, 1839-1920.

 Size: .5 lin. ft.

 Catalog number: MSS 889

 Processed by: Rick Stattler, July 1995

©Rhode Island Historical Society

Manuscripts Division


Historical note:

            James Winchell Coleman Ely (1820-1906) was a prominent Providence physician. He was born in Windsor, Vermont, graduated from Brown University in 1842, and received the degree of Doctor of Medicine from Harvard in 1846. He was consulting physician at several public institutions in providence, and was active in professional associations. A full biography is in the Biographical Encyclopedia of Rhode Island, p. 446. His wife was Susan (Backus) Ely (1824-1909) of Killingly, Connecticut. Her grandfather, Joseph Cady (1772-1862), was an alderman in Providence.

            J.W.C. and Susan Ely had two sons. Joseph Cady Ely (ca.1849-1897) was a lawyer and art collector in Providence, and married Alice Peck of Norwich, Connecticut. Joseph's brother, Edward Francis Ely (1858-1920) was an architect in Providence and New York until his retirement in 1907, and never married.

            Ruth Ely (1881-ca.1972) was the only surviving child of Joseph C. and Alice Ely. She lived in Providence, and was active in the American Red Cross and the Garden Club of America.

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Scope and content:

            This collection contains scattered papers relating to all of the aforementioned family members, especially papers relating to their estates. Several other items are of particular interest. There are undated notes from a lecture by J.W.C. Ely on medical education and practice in his youth; correspondence and inventories relating to Joseph C. Ely's substantial art collection; and Ruth Ely's 1918 Red Cross examination. In addition, there is a letter from Susan Backus to her cousin Almira White, dated Providence, May 30, 1842, which expresses nicely the paranoia of the city's populace as the Dorr Rebellion subsided:

"The Rhode Island War I am in hopes is almost over, but I am not sure, for report says Gov. Dorr is coming back with troops sufficient to take us all and kill the rest. There are 150 patrolling our streets every night to be on the watch...Dorr's plan was first to take the Arsenal, then the Colleges for barracks...and put the city under Martial law..."

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            The collection was part of a gift from the estate of Ruth Ely in 1975.

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Folder 1. James W.C. Ely - Miscellaneous

                                    Recommendation from Brown University, 1842

                                    Surgeon's commission, 1863

                                    Letter from James Tillinghast, 1866

                                    Passport, 1870

                                    Correspondence with Dr. William Osler, 1906

Folder 2. James W.C. Ely - Lecture on teaching and practice of                                                       medicine in 1846, n.d.

Folder 3. James W.C. Ely - Estate, 1910

Folder 4. Susan (Backus) Ely - Correspondence, 1839-1888

                                    To cousin Almira White of CT, 3/4/1837

                                    To Catharine White of Dighton, MA, 5/9/1839

                                    To Almira White, 5/30/1842

                                    From Alice Peck, 2/16/1877

                                    From Louisa __, a tourist in Kyoto, 12/4/1888

Folder 5. Susan (Backus) Ely - Estate, 1910

Folder 6. Joseph C. Ely - Letters to family from Europe, 1874

Folder 7. Joseph C. and Alice Ely - Art inventories, etc 1892-1915

Folder 8. Joseph C. and Alice Ely - Miscellaneous

                                    Lock of Alice Ely's hair, 1880

                                    Letter, Uncle Thomas __ to Joseph, 1887

                                    Memorials, etc., on death of Joseph, 1897

                                    Indentures with William A. Slater, 1894-96

Folder 9. Joseph C. Ely - Journal of aphorisms, 1875-1887; small notebook, n.d.

Folder 10. Joseph C. Ely - Small letters scrapbook, 1896-1900

Folder 11. Joseph C. Ely - Estate, 1897

Folder 12. Edward F. Ely - Biographical notes

Folder 13. Edward F. Ely - Estate, 1920

Folder 14. Ruth Ely - Correspondence, etc., 1910-1946

Folder 15. Joseph Cady - Estate, 1862-1903

Folder 16. William A. Slater - Will, 1918

Folder 17. Misc. estates: Elizabeth Bartlett, 1897; Abby G. Backus, 1920; Ellen L. Peck, n.d.

Folder 18. Miscellaneous:

            Letter, John Ely of West Springfield to Joel Ely of Windsor, VT, 7/10/1811

            Backus family invitation, n.d.

Folder 19. Genealogical notes on Ely and Backus families.

Oversized storage: Diploma of J.W.C. Ely from Harvard, 1846.

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American Red Cross

Art - Collectors and Collecting - Rhode Island - Providence

Backus Family

Cady, Joseph (1772-1862)

Dorr Rebellion

Ely, James W.C. (1820-1906)

Ely, Joseph C. (ca.1849-1897)

Ely, Ruth (1881-ca.1972)

Ely Family - Genealogy

Physicians - Rhode Island - Providence

Tillinghast, James

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