On Memorial Day, we inevitably wind up visiting cemeteries. There is one tiny burial ground in my native hometown that is the final resting place of Bro. Ambrose Ely Vanderpoel (1875-1940). A member of Madison Lodge No. 93. He was part of the wealthy and influential Ely family that settled in the area in the 18th century. Bro. Ambrose made the Masonic Charity Foundation of New Jersey a beneficiary in his will, bequeathing $2 million in the 1940s. (About $30 million in 2009 dollars.) Evidently the Vanderpoel Pavilion at the Home is named in his honor.
Here are two photos of his headstone. A monument actually. Stands about eight feet tall.
Richard Ely emigrated from Plymouth, England c. 1655 and landed in Boston. He settled in Lyme, Connecticut. His great-grandson, Captain William Ely, a veteran of the colonial wars, moved from Lyme to New Jersey in 1756 with his wife Elizabeth Perkins Ely and their seven children, settling on a tract of farm land. (A portion of this property would be owned by my family two centuries later.)
Their family tree would grow large, and would include many notable personalities in business, industry, government, military, clergy and other fields. One of those families that apparently justified its own genealogical book, published in 1902.
If the findings published in this book are accurate, Richard Ely is a descendant of one Tassilo, a Roman youth living in Buda (Budapest), capital of Hungary circa 550, who would marry Brunehilda, daughter of the Hungarian monarch Theodoric. Their son would become Theodoric the Hun, who in 580 would become a duke in the area southwest of Austria, near Lombardy.
Fast forward five and a half centuries, and Helias de la Flèche, Count of Maine, emigrates to England, where King Henry I grants him extensive lands in Cambridgeshire, including the Isle of Ely, where he died in 1110.
The family is involved in government and church for generations, with its men holding high offices, and one, Sir Walter de Ely, fighting in the Crusades, earning distinction at the storied Siege of Acre under Richard the Lionheart. He died circa 1220.
Jump ahead 405 years, after many marriages producing sons who would graduate college and become clergymen, and our Richard Ely is born at Basingstoke. Might have served under Cromwell.
There is Ely Cathedral also, located in the same Cambridgeshire.
Etheldreda (Æthelthryth, Ediltrudis, Audrey) (d.679), queen, foundress and abbess of Ely. She was the daughter of Anna, king of East Anglia, and was born, probably, at Exning, near Newmarket in Suffolk. At an early age she was married (c.652) to Tondberht, ealdorman of the South Gyrwas, but she remained a virgin. On his death, c.655, she retired to the Isle of Ely, her dowry. In 660, for political reasons, she was married to Egfrith, the young king of Northumbria who was then only 15 years old, and several years younger than her. He agreed that she should remain a virgin, as in her previous marriage, but 12 years later he wished their marital relationship to be normal. Etheldreda, advised and aided by Wilfred, bishop of Northumbria, refused. Egfrith offered bribes in vain. Etheldreda left him and became a nun at Coldingham under her aunt Ebbe (672) and founded a double monastery at Ely in 673. (from FARMER, David: The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, 3rd ed. OUP, 1992.)
Etheldreda restored an old church at Ely, reputedly destroyed by Penda, pagan king of the Mercians, and built her monastery on the site of what is now Ely Cathedral. After its restoration in 970 by Ethelwold it became the richest abbey in England except for Glastonbury.
Etheldreda's monastery flourished for 200 years until it was destroyed by the Danes. It was refounded as a Benedictine community in 970....
Work on the present Cathedral began in the 11th century under the leadership of Abbot Simeon, and the monastic church became a cathedral in 1109 with the Diocese of Ely being carved out of the Diocese of Lincoln. The monastery at Ely was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1539. Ely suffered less than many other monasteries, but even so, statues were destroyed together with carvings and stained glass. St Etheldreda's Shrine was destroyed.
The Cathedral was refounded with a Chapter of eight canons in 1541 as was the Kings School.
Robert Steward, the last Prior of the monastery, became the first Dean.
The first major restoration took place in the 18th Century under James Essex. With the arrival of Dean George Peacock in 1839 a second restoration project began. Together with the architect Sir George Gilbert Scott, he restored the building to its former glory.
A third major restoration project, the most extensive to date, was begun in 1986 and was completed in the year 2000.
Read the whole story here.
The most recent interment at the Ely Family Cemetary in New Jersey took place in 1978, when Janet Halsey Olstead, an eighth-generation descendant of Captain William Ely, was laid to rest.
Per the terms of deeds, covenants, etc., only Ely family members may be buried on this land. There is plenty of vacant land within the 145-year-old stone fence surrounding the burial ground. The shortage, evidently, is of Elys. The Historical Society that serves in trust for the cemetery is unaware of any surviving family members, and in fact does not know who, if anyone alive, is the owner of the cemetery.
The earliest headstones, made of sandstone and not enduring time well, mark the graves of Elizabeth Ely Jones, her husband Frederick Jones, and their son Bennoni, all dated 1777.
Inscribed: “Bennoni Jones, son of Frederick & Elizabeth Jones. He died 1777. Aged 3 years.”
The final resting place of Smith Ely (1825-1911), mayor of New York City, 1877-78.
Making a pleasant coincidence, another Ely, Mr. Ambrose Ely, donated $300 in 1855 to a civic club that purchased land about a mile west of this cemetery for what would become Olivet United Church of Christ, which remained on that little piece of land until September 1973. I don’t know exactly when, but later that decade the church building was purchased by one of the local Masonic lodges, which moved in and held its meetings there until—I think—about 2001, when it merged with the other lodge in town, located a few miles to the east. The former church/lodge building still stands, and I’m pretty sure the current lodge still owns it, and is eager to sell.