Wayne County Biographies

Part of the Indiana Biographies Project

Elwood O. Ellis

One of the most prominent representatives of the Society of Friends in Indiana is Rev. Elwood O. Ellis. A man of ripe scholarship and marked excutive ability, one whose life has been consecrated to the cause of the Master and to the uplifting of man, there is particular propriety in here directing attention to the life history of the pastor of the South Eighth Street Friends church, of Richmond. He has devoted himself without ceasing to the interests of humanity and to the furtherance of all good works. His reputation is not of restricted order, and his power and influence in his holy office have been exerted in a spirit of deepest human sympathy and tender solicitude.

Rev. Elwood O. Ellis was born in Clinton county, Ohio, on the 19th of April, 1857, and is a son of James and Louisa (Moon) Ellis. The family is of Welch descent, and was founded in America by Mordecai Ellis, who was born in Wales and came to the United States, in 1682, as a member of a colony organized by William Penn. He was married in his native land to Jane Hughes, who also was born in Wales, and with his family he crossed the Atlantic, as stated above. Locating in Philadelphia, he there reared his three sons, Mordecai, Enos and Thomas, from whom are descended all the representatives of the name in this country. Mordecai Ellis, Jr., was born in Philadelphia, and when twelve years of age began learning the shoemaker's trade, which he followed for many years. He was the owner of a set of volumes known as William Penn's Complete Works, which are now in the possession of our subject. From Pennsylvania he removed to Tennessee, where his son, Robert Ellis, the grandfather of Rev. Elwood O. Ellis, was born and reared. Robert Ellis removed to Clinton county, Ohio, and thence to Grant county, Indiana, where he made his home until his death, which occurred in 1873, when he had reached the age of eighty years. By occupation he was a carpenter and builder, and took many contracts for the erection of houses and other buildings. Like his ancestors, he was a faithful member of the Society of Friends. He married Anna Hockett and to them were born nine children, of whom James M. Ellis was the eldest son and third child. He was born in Clinton county, Ohio, on the 26th of November, 1823, and died at Fairmount, Indiana, December 25, 1896. He removed from the place of his nativity to Fairmount on the 20th of March, 1871, and there continued his residence until called to the home beyond. He carried on agricultural pursuits in Ohio, but after coming to Indiana operated a sawmill and conducted a lumber business, enjoying a very liberal patronage and winning a handsome profit. During the last seven years of his life, however, he was incapacited from active business by paralysis. Of the Friends church he was a zealous and faithful member, and to his family he left an untarnished name. His wife, who was born in 1825, passed away in 1891. They were parents of four sons and four daughters, namely: Edwin C, who was a teacher and a minister of the Friends meeting, but is now deceased; Daniel, who died in infancy; Mrs. Rachel A. Nolber, of Fairmount, Indiana; Elwood O.; Sarah L., wife of William A. Jones, of West Milton, Ohio; Robert and Walter J., who are residents of Jonesboro, Indiana; and Mrs. Myrtle Winslow, of Fairmount, Indiana.

Rev. Elwood O. Ellis acquired a high-school and academic education, pursuing his studies in Martinsville and West Elkton, Ohio. He began teaching in the public schools of Grant county, Indiana, in 1875, and followed that profession with marked success for twenty-three consecutive years, during which time he served for four years, from 18S7 until 1891, as superintendent of the county schools. For two years prior to his service in that office, and for seven years subsequent thereto, he was principal of the Fairmount Academy. His ability.made his work most satisfactory, and for many years he sustained the reputation of being one of the most successful educators in this part of the state. While serving as county superintendent he introduced the plan of holding graduating exercises in various townships, with the incidental provision that the pupil who won first honors in one township should compete with others who had won first honors in other townships of the county, a prize being given to the most successful coetestant. This stimulated the pupils to do the best possible work, and the plan has since been followed with decided success. He was largely instrumental in founding Fairniount Academy and placing it on a substantial basis. He dedicated three new and handsome school buildings, and in many other ways has been prominently connected with the educational interests of this section of the state. He served for six years as trustee of White's Indiana Manual Labor Institute, severing his connection therewith in 1895.

In 1881 Mr. Ellis was recorded a minister of the Friends church, and since that time has been engaged in pastoral work, being connected with churches in Marion and Fairmount, Indiana, up to the time of his removal to Richmond, in July, 1898, when he was made pastor of the South Eighth Street Friends church. Soon after his arrival here he was appointed a trustee of Earlham College, and in 1891 he was appointed clerk of the Indiana yearly meeting, the largest in the world. He is now its presiding officer, and as such has been largely instrumental in promoting its work and growth. For five years he has been vice-president of the State Christian Endeavor Union, but recently, at his own request, has been released from this office. For five years he was president of the Indiana Yearly Meeting Union of the Christian Endeavor; in 1897 was a member of the Friends National Conference and was one of those chosen to address the assembled multitude on that occasion. His address was one of the most forcible, earnest and eloquent delivered at that meeting, which was held at Indianapolis, in October, 1897, and added to his fame, which extends throughout the entire country among the people of his denomination. He has also been prominently identified with the State Teachers' Association, was once its vice-president, and has done considerable work as instructor in teachers' institutes. He has served for the past five years and is now vice-president of the Friends' Quinquennial Educational Conference, and in the years 1897 and 1898 occupied a place on the programme at the Biblical institutes held at Earlham College. In his political views he was formerly a Republican, but now votes independently of party ties.

In 1878 Mr. Ellis was united in marriage to Miss Ida Hussey, a daughter of Rev. Rameth and Elizabeth Hussey, of Jonesboro, Indiana, and they have three children: Arthur W. and Dora M., who are now students in the high school of Richmond; and Cressie, who also is in the public schools. Their home life is ideal, and the family are held in the highest regard throughout the community. Mr. Ellis has devoted his entire life to the advancement of educational and moral interests among his fellow men, and there has not been denied the full harvest nor the aftermath whose garnering shall bring the sure reward in the words of commendation, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

Biographical and Genealogical History of Wayne, Fayette, Union and Franklin Counties, Indiana, Volume 1, The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, 1899