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In the Classroom > Unit Overview
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The Second Turn, 1780-1820
Lesson 9: Inventory of Ebenezer Wells (1730-1783), Nephew 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
Activity 2

Lesson Length

Activity 1- one 45 minute session, homework time, follow-up time to process homework

Activity 2- one 45 minute session, and homework time

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Key Content Ideas Taught in this Lesson and Teacher Background

A probate inventory was a listing of real estate and personal property of an individual at the time of his or her death. These lists provide useful clues when trying to understand and reconstruct the life of the individual. By comparing inventories from different time periods in the same place, we can learn more about personal possessions and the economic development of a society or a particular family.

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

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Intended Learning Outcomes

Students will understand that:

1. Farming was still the backbone of the economy at the beginning of this period.
2. The possessions of Ebenezer Wells (1730-1783) show that he died a wealthy man.
3. A comparison of inventories from the first turn (1680-1720) and the second turn (1780-1820) shows significant increases in wealth and changes in the kinds and number of possessions owned by individuals.


1. Students will be able to use primary source materials such as probate inventories to extract information and make logical inferences.

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In Preparation for Teaching

1. Make copies of inventories.

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

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Primary and Secondary Sources:

1. Inventory of Ebenezer Wells (1730-1783), page 1, page 2.

2. Inventories of Robert Alexander (d. 1690) and Jonathan Wells (1659-1739)


1. Student notebooks

2. Chart paper

3. Felt tip markers

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Activities Materials in Context

Activity 1
A. Ebenezer Wells' Inventory

1. Explain to students that during this period a probate inventory was made when the head of a household died. Three appraisers would list the possessions of the deceased. These lists were used when the wills were probated, and to settle debts and credits. (Clarify the meanings of any of these words with students. Be certain that they understand the difference between an inventory and a will.)
2. Pass out copies of Ebenezer Wells' inventory.
3. Ask students if there is anything they notice that they want to share, or anything they don't understand. Clarify words or expressions for them. Be certain that students know that this inventory was taken at Wells' death, in 1783.
4. Read the introductory section aloud and discuss terms that need clarifying. Note:

a. "L" means pounds sterling, "Sh" means shillings (20 shillings=1 pound), and "d" means pence (12 pence=1 shilling).
b. The meaning of "Real Estate".

5. Discuss the many plots of land owned by Ebenezer Wells and ask if students can identify any places in the town where the plots could be found. (Optional: Use maps distributed in lesson 3 and lesson 8 to try to locate Ebenezer Wells' land.)
6. Have students categorize the inventory. (For instance: household goods, items used outdoors, tools, etc.)
7. Have students pair off, take one category, and make a list of all of the items in that category.
8. When students have completed their lists, have them write them on chart paper so that they can be shared with the rest of the class.
9. At the end of class post the lists and discuss.
10. Give students time to copy lists from the charts into their notebooks.

Homework Assignment:

1. Have students write a summary of their learning entitled "The Wealth of Ebenezer Wells at his Death in 1783."

Follow-up to Activity 1:

1. Place students in pairs to share and discuss their summaries, and to make notes in their notebooks of anything they may want to add or change in their summaries.
2. Place students in different pairs and repeat number 1 above.
3. Instruct students to rewrite and pass in their summaries in a final copy, including any new information.

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Inventory of Ebenezer Wells (1730-1783), page 1, page 2.









student notebooks

chart paper

Activity 2
B. Comparing Inventories

1. Distribute copies of the inventory of Robert Alexander, who died in 1690.
2. Instruct students to read through this inventory and notice the differences between this inventory and the one from Ebenezer Wells.
3. Discuss the value of the estate and the difference in number of possessions listed.
4. Pass out individual copies of the inventory of Jonathan Wells (1659-1739).
5. Allow students to pair off and list by category Jonathan Wells' possessions.
6. Instruct students to find differences between Jonathan Wells' inventory and that of Ebenezer Wells forty-four years later, and to list these differences in their notebooks.

Homework Assignment for Activity 2:

1. Write a one-page paper titled "How Inventories Show the Differences in Wealth and Possessions from the First Turn of the Century (1680-1720) to the Second (1780-1820)."



Robert Alexander Inventory


Jonathan Wells Inventory





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Use the summaries of Ebenezer Wells' inventory (follow-up to Activity 1, number 3), and the paper "How Inventories Show the Differences in Wealth and Possessions from the First Turn of the Century (1680-1720) to the Second (1780-1820)" (homework assignment from Activity 2) to assess the degree to which individual students have achieved the intended learning outcomes.


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