Ethan Middleton is the son of Kitty Witherspoon and Julian Middleton. He was born in the aftermath of the schoolhouse fire of 1793. His father was a casualty of the fire.
When he was young his mother married Richard Todd, a physician. Richard took Ethan on and educated him. He was training Ethan as a medical assistant, though it was clear his heart was not in the work. When Richard died in 1812, he left the bulk of his considerable estate to Ethan but with the provision that he leave Paradise immediately and live elsewhere for a minimum of two years before returning.
Ethan spent not two, but five years in Manhattan (1812-1817) where he made a study of engineering and architecture, tutored Martha Kirby, and led a full life.
While he lived in Manhattan Ethan met Harrison Quinlan, who was studying medicine. They developed a relationship, and in another time would have lived together as a committed couple. In 1812 this was not possible. Harrison married the young woman his wealthy, socially prominent family picked out for him, and Ethan returned to Paradise.
He devoted his life to improving the village, and later married a friend, Callie Wilde. It was a marriage of friendship and convenience, and platonic. This was information they shared with no one.