Eli Foote was born in Colchester, Connecticut on October 30, 1747, a descendant of Nathaniel Foote who settled in Wethersfield, Connecticut in 1640. Eli was trained to be a lawyer but eventually became a merchant in Guilford, trading goods originating in the West Indies. He was a Tory and Episcopalian, but was tolerated by his Patriot friends and family during the Revolutionary War. He was learned and gifted in story telling. Part of the “St. Pumpkin’s Day Ode,” which he wrote in 1777 to amuse his friends goes like this:
“On this great day I mean to dine
On roasted goose and mutton fine
To drink a toast to George our King
And pray that Rebels soon may swing.
If tired with gloomy cares or sick
Of all the pleasures of East Creek
Your Toryship will condescend
To bring your wife and see your friend.
To what my table does afford
You shall be welcome as a Lord.”
Eli married Roxanna Ward on October 11, 1772, and they had 10 children. He died of yellow fever on September 8, 1792 in Winton, North Carolina, where he was trying to secure the prosecution of thieves who had broken into his business there and stolen a considerable portion of his inventory. His widow Roxanna and their 10 children were left penniless and went to live with her father, General Andrew Ward, a Revolutionary War officer. Eli was buried in the Dickinson Family Cemetery in Winton, North Carolina, but his name is recorded on a monument erected in the Foote-Ward Cemetery in Guilford, Connecticut, where his wife and many of his children were buried.