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Emily Smith Nettleton, Real Daughter


Each member of the Martha Washington Chapter of the DAR of Sioux City, Iowa, takes great pride in the fact that the name of a ‘real daughter’ stands upon the Chapter records.


Emily S. Reed was the daughter of Justus and Lydia Burnham Reed, who were married 7 August 1816.  Justus was the son of Ebenezer and Mary Reed, born 15 February 1760 in East Windsor, Connecticut.  Ebenezer enlisted in the army in 1777, but because of severe illness in the family, his son, Justus, then but 17, took his father’s place, enlisting from East Windsor. He was a private in Captain Grant’s command under Washington, and in New York doing guard duty when the British landed there; he continued under Washington until the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia, 19 October 1781, and with others stood guard around Cornwallis after the surrender.  He was a faithful soldier and endured many privations and hardships there before he reached his home in Connecticut.


Emily was the child of her father’s old age, his ninth child, and the only one by his third wife.  Justus died 10 October 1846, in Manchester, Connecticut, aged 86 years.  The subject of this sketch, Emily Reed, was born in East Windsor, Connecticut, 15 January 1818.  When she was about three years old the family moved to Torringford, Connecticut.  It was here she spent her childhood, and it was here she obtained her education.  In young womanhood she went to Bristol, Connecticut, and learned to paint pictures on glass, such as in the olden time were found in the lower half of the doors of clocks.  Her paintings proved quite a success.


Her next home was in Waterbury, Connecticut, where she worked in a covered button factory, and while there was married to Chandler Judd Nettleton on 22 March 1840.  The ceremony took place in a Methodist Church by a Methodist Minister.  In a few weeks the young couple went to live in a hotel in Stanford, Connecticut.  She very soon came down with smallpox, having taking it from a boarder in the house; and now her hard life began.  Within a year they moved to Patchogue, Long Island, in New York state, again into a hotel.  While here both of her children were born, her son, Edgar Merwin, on 6 May 1842, and a daughter, Ella Madaline, came to her on 18 July 1844.  When the baby was less than a year old, her husband took his family to Manchester, Conn., to the home of his wife’s father, who was then a very old man.  Mrs. Nettleton never saw her husband again, while the shock caused by his daughter’s being deserted hastened her father’s death, which came very soon.  She never complained, but for sixteen years supporter her mother and her children by working in a factory.  Her daughter died at 13, so after her mother’s death, she had but her son.


Mrs. Nettleton lived in her native state for many years, part of the time with a distant relative, but her son having married and wandered west, she came to Sioux City to be with him in 1892.  Here she spent the last years of her long life in a little brown cottage surrounded by golden glow, holly hocks, and roses in summer, and by snow-covered hills in winter.  She always gave her callers a smiling welcome and she always expected the DAR ladies on her birthday.  Many were her callers on that day, and many were the thoughtful tokens left on her table.  When asked if she remembered any of her father’s anecdotes of the way, she smiling said:  “It was a long time ago and I was very young but I remember he told this one oftenest, that when guarding Cornwallis with a loaded musket he was told to shoot to kill if his prisoner tried to escape.”


Mrs. Nettleton joined the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, 6 May 1898.  She was a member of the Martha Washington Chapter.  In an old chest of drawers just back of where she always sat lay the golden spoon in its red silken case, which is the gift of the National Society of the DAR to all ‘real daughters’.  Not until she was almost ninety could she be persuaded to take a nap in the daytime, ‘because it was a bad habit’, but after she began it she enjoyed it.  On the 9th of May 1909, the gates of Heaven stood ajar, and ere the morning brightness had enveloped the beautiful hillsides, the gentle spirit of Emily Nettleton passed out of its earthly home into the promised hereafter.  Her bright, painless, peaceful face seemed a benediction for her faithful son.  Loving hands cared for her last needs; a Methodist minister administered the last rites.  She was given a tender burial upon a beautiful hillside where the Martha Washington Chapter has placed a granite stone which will ever mark the resting place of a noble, faithful woman.                                       








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