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Charity Bush Ely (1836-1867)

Charity Bush Ely

Collection of the Longmeadow Historical Society

Born in the Connecticut River Valley town of Whately, Massachusetts, Charity Richardson Bush joined the family of Levi and Ann Ayers Bush on August 11th, 1836. Charity was the youngest child of Levi and Ann and grew up with three older sisters. When Charity was a year old, her mother died. Her father remarried and he and his new wife, Elvira, added two additional daughters to their family. Charity grew up surrounded by older and younger sisters. In the 1850s,

Levi moved his family to Westfield, Massachusetts, where his older daughters, including Charity, married in quick succession. Charity married Ethan Ely, a man one year her elder from a prominent Longmeadow family. Ethan could likely relate to Charity losing her mother as an infant as his mother died when he was nine days old. Charity moved to set up a new life with her husband. Surrounded by many acres of land, Charity planted a rose bush at her new home.

Home of Ethan and Charity Ely at 664 Longmeadow Street

Charity observed a changing nation while living in Longmeadow. Her older sister, Susan, married a popular teacher in Massachusetts and the couple moved to Mississippi just before the Civil War broke out and lived the rest of their lives in the region. Her sister, Hannah, married a minister who became the Field Secretary for the United States Christian Commission during the war. This brother-in-law presided over the marriage of Charity and Ethan in September 1857.

Ethan’s family were among the largest land owners in Longmeadow and it’s likely that Charity lived a comfortable life in town. Charity and Ethan welcomed two children, a son, Mason, known as “Masy,” in 1858, and Ethan, in 1861. Charity likely filled her days in Longmeadow at home taking care of her children and, when possible, playing music on the piano. A book of her piano music was later inherited by a niece who donated it to the Longmeadow Historical Society.

Charity's Music Book 

Collection of the Longmeadow Historical Society

140 men from Longmeadow served in the Civil War and 27 died. Charity experienced a tragedy in her own family when Ethan died at aged 10 months of cholera infantum. His funeral was held at Charity and Ethan’s home. It’s likely that this loss devastated Charity and Ethan as baby Ethan has a headstone in the Longmeadow cemetery with ‘OUR BABY’ written prominently. The news of baby Ethan’s death was printed in the Springfield Republican amid news of the war.

Interior of the Ely home at 664 Longmeadow Street including portrait of Ethan Ely

Collection of the Longmeadow Historical Society

Only three years after her son Ethan’s death, Charity died at the age of 30 from unknown causes. Sadly, her older son, Mason, followed his mother and baby brother to the grave in 1871 when he was 13 years old. Her husband remained an active member of the Longmeadow community and routinely sold parts of his land which stretched over hundreds of acres across Longmeadow street toward the Connecticut River and included an orchard and rich grasslands. Ethan died at home in 1906 and is buried beside Charity in the Longmeadow cemetery. An article in The Springfield Republican the following year advertising the sale of Ethan and Charity’s home noted that the rose bush Charity planted continued to produce blooms.

-Contributed by Liz Kendall, guest writer for History Notes

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