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In the Classroom > Unit Overview
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The First Turn, 1680-1720
Lesson 7: The Will of Ebenezer Wells (1691-1758)

Unit Central Questions: In This Lesson:

What do primary and secondary sources teach us about the characteristics of "everyday life" of individuals living in Deerfield at the four turns of the centuries?

What do these characteristics reveal about changes in the town since its beginning as an English settlement?

Lesson Length
Key Ideas
Activity 1
Homework Assignment

Lesson Length

One 45-minute session, and homework assignment.

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Key Content Ideas Taught in this Lesson and Teacher Background

Wills are a good source of information about the past. For example, by looking closely at Ebenezer Wells' will, we can learn something about his economic condition and what he valued most. We can also learn something about his family genealogy and the beliefs and expectations of the time and place in which he lived.

For more information, read:
Teacher Background Essay: The Will of Ebenezer Wells

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Intended Learning Outcomes

Students will understand that:

1. A will is a good source of information about history.
2. A will can tell us something about the economic condition of the deceased, the things he valued, and his genealogy.
3. A will may also provide information or clues about attitudes, beliefs, practices, and economic conditions of the time period and place in which it was written.

Students will be able to:

1. Students will be able to read and analyze the will in the original handwriting.

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In Preparation for Teaching

1. Make copies of Ebenezer Wells' will.

2. Read Teacher Background Essay: The Will of Ebenezer Wells

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Primary and Secondary Sources:

1. Individual copies of Ebenezer Wells' will, page 1 and page 2.


1. Individual student notebooks

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Activities Materials in Context

1. Distribute copies of Ebenezer Wells' will.

2. Allow students time to try to read it individually.

3. Ask a volunteer read the first paragraph, ending with the date 1757 (note that that is the year before his death).

4. Read the second section to the students, noting the religious nature of this section, and illustrating the importance of religion to the English settlers.

5. Have the students work in pairs to list in their notebooks all of the items in the will that they can decipher or understand. They should title their list "Ebenezer Wells' Will."

6. After sufficient time has passed, discuss unfamiliar words and parts of the will that are difficult to read. Make note of the large amount of his estate that he left to his nephew, Ebenezer, and the "Good Silver Tankard" which he left to the church (and which remained in the possession of the church until 1998). Discuss why students think Wells did these things. Discuss what women traditionally received in wills and what he left to his wife. Ask students to complete the lists in their notebooks.

7. Discuss Ebenezer Wells' economic condition when he wrote this will. Consider these questions:

  • How did Ebenezer Wells make a living?
  • How much land did he own?
  • List the items you think he most valued. Why do you thing these things were important or valuable to him?
  • Do you think he achieved economic success? What gives you that idea?
  • Why might his nephew have received so much?


Ebenezer Wells will, page 1

Ebenezer Wells will, page 2



social studies notebooks

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Homework Assignment

1. Using the list created in class, have students write a summary of Ebenezer Wells' economic condition when he wrote his will.

2. Instruct students to write a paragraph answering this question: What else does Ebenezer Wells' will help us learn about Mr. Wells? Make sure they include information about the things he valued, how he provided for his wife, his feelings about his church, and his family. Provide extra credit if they can explain what the will teaches us about Deerfield at the time!

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Use the homework assignment to assess the degree to which individual students have achieved the intended learning outcomes for this lesson.


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