First Female County Register of Probate in the U.S.: Marlow New Hampshire’s Ella F. Gee (1853-1937)

Ella Fannie Gee (1853-1937) of Marlow NH. Photographs provided by her relatives, Bill and Cathy Gee. Used with their permission.

Ella Fannie Gee (1853-1937) of Marlow NH. Photographs provided by her relatives, Bill and Cathy Gee. Used with their permission.

She was born in 1853 as Fannie Ella Gee, in Fitchburg, Massachusetts.  In 1899 she legally changed her name in Cheshire County (NH) Court from Fannie Ella Gee to Ella Fannie Gee. Ella’s father, Ebridge B. Gee, was from Marlow, New Hampshire, and his occupation was that of clothier.  She traveled with her parents as her father plied his trade in Massachusetts, Illinois and Maine (Portland), finally returning with her family to Marlow New Hampshire where she attended Marlow Academy.

Ella F. Gee moved to Keene, New Hampshire about 1874 to work in the office of the Cheshire County register of probate, as a clerk.

In 1920 Ella F. Gee “handily won election as Register of Probate for Cheshire County after 40 years of clerical service at that agency. She had plied such popularity that she also made history by being reelected for the remainder of her life, or the ensuing 17 years.” [One history states she won the election in 1918 however women were not allowed to run for public office until 1920.  She continued in that office until her death in 1937, a total of 17 years.]  She was the first woman in the United States to hold the office of a county register.

When she died in 1937 the newspaper announced: “Miss Eliza E. Gee has been named registrar of the probate in Keene to serve the remainder of the term made vacant by the death of her sister, Miss Ella F. Gee.  Miss Eliza Gee had been assistant to her sister for the past 12 years.” [Sunday August 22, 1937, Springfield Republican (Springfield MA) page 4].

Ella F. Gee was, according to the Marlow Historical Society, “active in various other enterprises of civic or social character in the community. She is a tireless worker for the public service bureau, with which she is associated, is also an active member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and of various clubs and other organizations, being one of the most beloved and highly esteemed personages in the town and county.”

Cheshire County Court House in Keene NH, photograph by Bion Whitehouse, published by the Keene Public Library and the Historical Society of Cheshire County, 1900-1920

Cheshire County Court House in Keene NH, photograph by Bion Whitehouse, published by the Keene Public Library and the Historical Society of Cheshire County, 1900-1920

Lineage Book, Vol 25, DAR, 1908
MISS ELLA FANNIE GEE. 24080
Born in Fitchburg, Massachusetts.
Descendant of Lieut. Benjamin Butterfield.
Daughter of Elbridge B. Gee and Fannie White Parker, his wife.
Granddaughter of William Parker and Emeline White, his wife.
Gr.-granddaughter of Obediah Parker and Mabel Butterfield, his wife
Gr.-gr.-granddaughter of Benjamin Butterfield Jr. (1749-88) and Elizabeth Cune, his wife
Gr.-gr.-gr.-granddaughter of Benjamin Butterfield and Susanna Spalding, his wife.
Benjamin Butterfield (1726-1804), served as a lieutenant in Col. Seth Warner’s regiment of Green Mountain Boys. He was born in Westford, Mass.; died in Brattleboro, Vermont.

======GENEALOGY OF ELLA F. GEE=====

Solomon Gee, b abt 1697 in Devonshire England, d. 13 Apr 1769 in Lyme, New London CT; m. 29 May 1731 in Lyme CT [or 27 March 1732 according to the source below] to Deborah Huntley, dau of Aaron & Deborah (Dewolf) Huntley. She b. 20 Aug 1714 in Lyme CT, d. 26 March 1807 in Lyme CT. He is buried in East Lyme, New London Co. CT, Old Stone Church Cemetery. According to “Lyme Genealogies, by Dr. D.W. Patterson in the Library of the CT Historical Society, Hartford CT: “When a young man he was impressed into the Royal Navy and put on board a man of war. He was granted a few days leave of absence and on returning to the ship found that the captain whipped the men as fast as they came on board. With a comrade he fell back and after the ship was sailed, he got aboard another vessle.. Shifting from one vessel to another he came to this place (Lyme CT). Being a clothier by trade, married, settled in the town of Lyme, now called East Lyme, County of New London, state of Connecticut.” He served in the militia, 3rd Regiment 11th company, French & Indian War.
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Children of Solomon & Deborah (Huntley) Gee:
1. +Stephen Gee, b. abt 1731 in Lyme CT, d. 15 Oct 1808 in Marlow, Cheshire Co. NH
2. Deborah Gee, b. abt 1735 in Lyme CT, and d. Sep 1820 in Marlow NH; m. Silas Smith
3. Solomon Gee Jr., b abt 1736 in Lyme CT and d. 12 Aug 1804 in Marlow NH; m. Martha Bingham
4. William Gee, b. 5 Apr 1739 at Lyme CT, d. 16 Sep 1817 at Lyme; m. 1 Jan 1761 Abigail Mack dau of Ebenezer and Abigail (Davis) Mack. She b. 14 March 1740 at Lyme CT and d. 23 March 1838 Lyme CT age 97. They had 2 children.
5. Sarah Gee, b abt 1723 in Lyme CT and d. 13 Dec 1821 in New London CT; m James Douglass
6. Ruth Gee, b abt 1741 in New London CT; d. 7 April 1826 in Lyme CT; m. William Mack

Stephen Gee, b. abt 1731 in Lyme CT in NH, d. 15 Oct 1808 in Marlow NH; m. Eunice Moor, daughter of Asa Moor. She b. 1743 in Lyme CT and d. 29 March 1828. He was a clothier in Lyme CT and Marlow NH. “Stephen Gee came from Lyme Conn to Marlow NH in 1774 or in 1775 and in 1775 began working at his trade of clothier in a little shop standing back of Horace Gee’s house. A little later he built a grist-mill where his house now stands; this was soon after followed by a saw-mill, which is still in use (Child’s Cheshire Co NH, town of Marlow, Gazetteer, pub 1885]. “Stephen Gee’s wife Eunice survived him 20 years living in the old brown house across the road from the present residents [See History of Gee Family by S.W. Huntley and George F. Gee].
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Children of Stephen & Eunice (Moore) Gee:
1. Nathan Gee, b 1762, d. 1830; m. Polly/Mary Reed
2. Ann/Anna Gee, b. 1765, d. 1851; m. Aaron Brown; mother of Selden Brown
3. Asa Gee, b 1766, d 6 Nov 1838
4. Solomon Gee, b. 1768, d 9 July 1838 Marlow NH aged 45 yrs; m 1794 Miriam Miller daughter of Lemuel Miller, who died 23 March 1818 Marlow NH, aged 45.
5. Stephen Gee Jr., b 1771, d. 4 June 1845; m. 1797 to Polly Tinker
6. Dorcas Gee, b. 1775 Marlow NH; m 1796 John Shaw
7. Eunice Gee b 1779 Marlow NH, d. ; m. John Hoffman
8. +Elisha Gee, b. 7 April 1784 in Marlow NH
[See book: John Smith of Lancaster, Mass and his descendants in Lyme, Conn, by A.M. Smith, page 78+ for more of this line]

Capt. Elisha Gee, b 7 April 1784 in Marlow, Cheshire Co. NH, and died 3 November 1857 in Marlow NH; m. 7 April 1813 in Marlow NH to Juda/Judah/Judith Brown. She was b. 20 September 1790 in Newport NH, and died 31 March 1876 in Marlow NH. Farmer. The Gee family owned a number of mills in Marlow, the first very early on Grassy Brook, a second on Gee Brook where where a more recent Gee Mill (c. 1843) stands today as a residence, and, finally, succeeded James Burnap at the mill by the village dam which is now of concrete. These were saw mills, but the one on Gee Brook was especially cleaned and used once a week to grind “Turk’s salt.” (History of Marlow, New Hampshire by Elgin Jones) . Farmer and Lumber Manufacturer
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1850 US Census > NH > Cheshire > Marlow
Elisha Gee M 67 NH
Judith Gee F 60 NH
Abigal E. Gee F 22 NH
Isabella Gee F 10 NH
———————————
Children of Elisha & Judah (Brown) Gee:
1. Sarah “Sally” Eunice Gee, b. 2 March 1814 in Marlow NH; d. 20 July 1884 in Claremont NH of an accident. She married Abel Davis
2. Horace Gee, b. 22 Nov 1815 Marlow NH; m. Mary Amanda Adams
3. Edna Moore Gee, b. 17 Sep 1818 in Marlow NH; she m 29 Sep 1836 in Marlow NH to Rufus M. Huntley;
4.Lucy F. Gee, b. 19 Jan 1820 in Marlow NH, d. 1 March 1901 in Marlow NH; she m. James S. Farnsworth.
5. +Elbridge B. Gee, b. 11 March 1822 in Marlow, Cheshire Co. NH
6. Ruth Sleeper Gee, b. 16 April 1826 Marlow NH; m. Elisha A. Huntley.
7. Abigail Eliza Gee, b 5 Aug 1828 Marlow NH; d. 29 Aug 1856 in Washington NH, aged 28 yrs. never married. Buried Marlow village NH.
8. Nathan B. Gee, b. 12 April 1832 Marlow NH; d. 12 April 1832, aged 2 months

Elbridge B. Gee, son of Elisha & Judah/Judith (Brown) Gee b. 11 March 1822 in Marlow, Cheshire Co. NH, and died 8 March 1896 in Marlow NH; merchant. He married 1st) 18 May 1848 in Putney VT to Fanny White Parker, daughter of William & Emeline (White) Parker. She was b. 1828 in Putney VT and died 27 Dec 1866 in Marlow NH. In 1880 living in Marlow, Cheshire Co. NH, his profession “miller.” He married 2nd) 20 May 1868 in Keene NH to Caroline A. “Carrie” Ball, daughter of Arad & Sylvania (Beckwith) Ball of Sutton VT. She b 4 August 1831 in Sutton Vermont, d. 16 April 1921 in Oneonta NY. After her husband’s death, Caroline removed to Keene NH where she was living with her step-daughter in 1900. In 1910 she was living in Oneonta, Ostego Co. NY with daughter Eliza. The book John Smith of Lancaster Mass by A.M. Smith states: “Elbridge left home at the age of 23 and went to Fitchburg MA where he engaged in the clothing business for some ten years. He then went to Illinois for 3 years and from there to Maine, running an omnibus line. He finally returned to Marlow NH village where he since lived and manufactured lumber [Child’s Cheshire Co. NH Gazetteer]. He was a Republican.
———————-
Children of Elbridge B. & Fanny W. (Parker) Gee:
1. Frank Gee, b. 30 March 1852, died in infancy
2. +Fanny Ella Gee, b. 28 July 1853 Fitchburg MA
Children of Elbridge & Caroline A. (Ball) Gee:
3. Walter Elbridge Gee, b 19 June 1870 NH; He m. 25 Jan 1899 in Walthm MA to Marion Augusta Paul, dau of William B. & Lizzie A. (Croasdale) Paul.
4. Eliza E. Gee, 25 March 1873 in Marlow NH, buried West Cemetery in Marlow NH, unmarried. She was a graduate of Framingham MA normal school and was a special student at Wellesley College. She taught school 35 years, 25 of those years in normal schools. Lived in Keene NH and Wellesley MA.

Photograph of Ella Fannie Gee when she was the Register of Probate for Cheshire County NH, a first for women. Courtesy of her relatives, Bill and Cathy Gee, used with their permission.

Photograph of Ella Fannie Gee when she was the Register of Probate for Cheshire County NH, a first for women. Courtesy of her relatives, Bill and Cathy Gee, used with their permission.

Fanny Ella Gee, daughter of Elbridge B. & Fanny W. (Parker) Gee, was b 28 July 1853 in Fitchburg, Worcester Co. MA. Due to her father’s travel, she was educated in the schools of Fitchburg MA, Portland Maine, and Marlow, NH, including Marlow Academy. In 1874 she moved to Keene NH to work as a clerk. She worked in the office of the Register of Probate for Cheshire County NH for about 50 years, finally being elected to the post of Registrar in 1920, and holding the post until her death in 1937 (17 years). Her name was on both Republican and Democratic tickets at each election since 1920, though she was registered as a  Republican. Unitarian church; never married. She was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She died 11 August 1937. This post is about her.
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Sunday August 15, 1937 Springfield Republican (Springfield MA) page 4
Miss Ella F. Gee, 84, an employee and official in the office of the registry of probate for Cheshire county for 62 years, died Wednesday morning in the Elliot Community hospital, Keene, where she had been since May 29, with a broken hip. The funeral was held Friday afternoon from the Universalist Church. Miss Gee had been registrar of probate for 16 years previous to which she was assistant to the registrar and clerk in the office. She began work in the office in 1875 and continued in the office until the law was passed permitting woman suffrage, and in the fall of 1920 she was a candidate for the election of registrar of probate, and was elected. She took up these duties April 1, 1921. She has been elected at each biennial election since that time.
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Did not marry.  No children.

[Editor’s note: I would be remiss if I did not mention two wonderful people who were persistent in their search for a photograph of Miss Etta Fannie Gee, and who made sure that I had copies for my blog story–Tracy Messer of the Marlow Historical Society, and Maria Baril who helped make the connection between the Gee family and Tracy.]

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6 Responses to First Female County Register of Probate in the U.S.: Marlow New Hampshire’s Ella F. Gee (1853-1937)

  1. Pingback: Celebrating New Hampshire Women Through History | Cow Hampshire

  2. Sandie Axelsen says:

    This article was very well written and easy to follow. I am also a descendant of Solomon Gee Sr through Solomon Gee Jr (1736) and then Abashai Gee (1773) whose brother was Leuman Gee. (1759) I’m always intrigued by this family and would love more information short of traveling to NH from Colorado.

    • Cathy says:

      Dear Sandie,
      My husband is a descendant of Solomon Gee Sr. of Lyme CT through his son Stephen Gee. We are currently on a genealogy hunt here in New England. Maybe we could correspond once we get back to Michigan. If you google Solomon Gee of Lyme CT, you will find lots of information about him online.
      Happy hunting!
      Cathy Gee

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  4. Margaret Ann (Gee) Stewart says:

    Hello, just wanted to say that I, too, am a descendant of Solomon Gee, Sr. (7th great); through his son, Solomon Gee, Jr. (6th); then son, Leuman Gee (5th); then son, Christopher Gee (4th); then son, Eldridge Gee (3rd); then son, Alexander Gee (2nd); then son, Edward Gee (great); then son, Russell Gee (grand); then son, David Gee (father). Edward Gee (great), married his 2nd cousin, Mabel Gee (great), who was daughter of Orrin Gee (2nd), granddaughter of Franklin Gee (3rd), great-granddaughter of Christopher Gee (4th). Franklin Gee (3rd) is also son of Christopher Gee (4th) and sibling of Eldridge Gee (3rd). I am a member of the DAR, Lew Wallace Chapter, and the GSMD. I will be in Dover, NH, 20-29 August 2016 and hope to visit Marlow, NH, Marlow West Yard Cemetery (J. Allen Cemetery), Gee Brook, and Gee Mill. Looking very much forward to it; hope to find it all. Feel free to contact via email.

    Kind regards,
    Margaret Ann Gee
    Albuquerque, NM

    • jmstraight says:

      I would love to get in touch with some Gee descendants to see if I can clear up my Gee ancestry.

      I am descended from Elizabeth Gee (1830-1865) and Isaac Irving Barker of Kent Co., Michigan. I have very little documentary record on Elizabeth Gee. But I do have some notes/letters from my grandmother’s cousin which identify her as the daughter of Luman Gee and Mary Minot Page. Luman was a son of Christopher Gee (Leuman, Solomon, Solomon). I have been able to verify the line from Luman back to Solomon Sr.

      I would love to hear from some of you to see if you have any clarification.

      Jason Straight (jmstraight@gmail.com)

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