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Deacon Nathaniel Phelps of Dorchester, Connecticut

Excerpted from The Phelps Family of America and Their English Ancestors, (Save $201 by ordering through us.) Two volumes. By Judge Oliver Seymour Phelps and Andrew T. Servin. (Eagle Publishing Company of Pittsfield, Mass., 1899).


Deacon Nathaniel Phelps was born in England about 1627. Nathaniel came to New England with his parents and their five other children, at the age of three, residing in Dorchester six years and then in Windsor where he grew to manhood and purchased, of his brother, Samuel, the Orton place opposite his father's for his own occupation.

He married Mrs. Elizabeth (Eliza) Copley (born between 1620 and 1623) on September 17, 1650, in Windsor, CT. Mrs. Copley was married first to Thomas Copley, by whom she had at least two children.

About 1654, he made claim to a division of land in Northampton and shortly removed to the new settlement, with his wife and several children being among the earliest arrivals, although he paid slip rent in Windsor as late as Jan. 4, 1659.

Nathaniel was a pious man, of good intellect and sound discriminating judgment. He was chosen Constable, being the first person in Northampton actually elected to that important office, according to records available, serving after Robert Bartlett had officiated in that capacity.

He signed the petition for a Minister and with his wife, signed the church covenant; served as tithing-man and was one of the first deacons, honored and respected by his fellow-men.

With others, he contributed land for disposal for town needs and made a subscription to Harvard College, in 1673-1673.

Deacon Nathaniel, his sons, Nathaniel, Jr. and William, were admitted as freemen, by the General Court at Boston, May 11, 1681, after having taken the Oath of Allegiance before Major Pynchon, on Feb. 8, 1679.

His wife, with several young women, was fined for indulging in vain and extravagant display.

In 1675 and 1676, King Philip's war was waged; and, from 1688 to 1698, the first French and Indian War was carried on, during the reign of the Monarchs, William and Mary. Nathaniel, with the other pioneers, had to participate in the common defense against their enemies, especially in their desperate defense of Northampton, during the attack by Philip's men, March 14, 1676.

The homestead, granted to him, was where the Parochial School is. His son, Nathaniel, Jr., had a grant west of it and together they owned a strip of land bordering on Park street, from Knightbrook to Prospect Streets.

He occupied his homestead forty-three years, and his descendants dwelt on the farm until 1835. It comprised the land that became the site of Miss Margaret Dwight's School, later the college institute of J. J. Dudley, now Shady Lawn. The old homestead stood a few rods north of the present structure.

Deacon Nathaniel Phelps died in Northampton, MA on May 27, 1702, at 75 years of age. His wife, Eliza, also died in Northampton on Dec. 6, 1712. Their youngest daughter, Abigail lived 101 years, four months and 11 days.