Samuel Jefferson Ellis

SAMUEL JEFFERSON ELLIS, one of the most prosperous farmers of Shawnee township, is well known to the older settlers of the county, among whom he has lived for so many years. He came to this vicinity, as early as 1869, and has witnessed the wonderful change from prairie to cultivated fields, from sparsely settled communities to populous cities and towns. He was born in Cocke County, Tennessee, August 15, 1845, and is a son of Elbert and Temperance (Driskill) Ellis, coming of English and Scotch ancestry.

The great-grandfather of our subject was Isaac Ellis, who came from England to this country, locating in North Carolina. He served in the Revolutionary War and was a man typical of our colonial settlers, strong in character, strong in deed and of the highest sense of honor.

Samuel Ellis, grandfather of Samuel J.., was horn in Rutherford County, North Caroiina,[sic] and served in the latter part of the Revolutionary War, being under Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox. He was wounded at the battle of Cowpens. He early moved to Tennessee, and about 1824 came West to Polk County, Missouri, where he was one of the pioneers. He married Mary Howard, of Scotch birth, and of their children Elbert was the youngest.

Elbert Ellis was born in Burke County, North Carolina, in 1795, and grew up on the home farm in Buncombe County. In his youth he moved with his parents to Sullivan County, Tennessee, where he grew to maturity. He followed teaming to Baltimore until he was about 26 years of age, and after his marriage located upon the farm of his wife's mother, which he later bought of the other heirs. This farm, consisting of 360 acres, he devoted to the raising of hay, grain and stock. He was a Whig in politics but, while he spent time and money in politics, never aspired to office. He was later a Republican until the Reconstruction, after which he was a Democrat. He married Temperance Driskill, a daughter of Richard and Amanda (Young) Driskill, and they became the parents of the following children: Mary, deceased, who was the wife of James Breeden, of Jefferson County, Tennessee, a Union man in his sympathies during the Civil War, who was conscripted into the Confederate Army, captured by Federal soldiers and died in a Northern prison in 1864, before the proof of his Union sympathies reached his captors; William H., deceased; Martha Louisa, widow of William B. Reams, of Tennessee; Elizabeth, widow of Drewry Dawsan, of Tennessee; Lucinda wife of Alexander Fowler, now living on the old homestead in Tennessee; Patrick Howard, deceased; Sarah Ann, deceased; Richard Driskill, of Shawnee township; Catherine Jane, wife of T. L. McMillan, of Shawnee township; Dorcas M., widow of Pleasant Poe, of Tennessee; Elbert A., of Shawnee township; Samuel Jefferson; Moses L., of Shawnee township; and an infant, deceased. Religiously, Mr. Ellis was a Primitive Baptist and his wife a Missionary Baptist.

Samuel J. Ellis lived on the home farm until June 1, 1863, when he enlisted in Company L, 11th Reg., Tennessee Vol. Csv., U. S. A., which regiment was later consolidated with the 9th regiment, his company becoming Company M. He continued with his command until the close of the war, being discharged October 12, 1865. He returned home and worked on the farm until April 12, 1869, when he came West to Cherokee County, Kansas, settling on the northwest quarter of the northwest quarter of section 24, township 33, range 25, in Shawnee township. The country was at that time in a wild state, game of all kinds abounded, and there was much outlawry. At that period courts were not so efficient as in the present day, and many of the best men of the community organized for the purpose of taking the law into their own hands. Mr. Ellis was always opposed to drastic measures and always exerted his influence toward the adoption of better methods. An instance of this is found in his conduct at the time when feeling was very strong against the railroad company. He stood on the floor two hours one evening arguing with the infuriated settlers to spare the life of Dr. Oaks, a settler whose influence on behalf of the railroad company had been used to a point where they felt hanging was the only fit punishment. The counsel of Mr. Ellis and one other conservative and eloquent young man prevailed and resulted in the Doctor being presented with a set of resolutions instead of a rope. Our subject remained on his original farm for some 10 years, then sold out to good advantage and purchased his present farm of 98 acres also located in section 24, township 33, range 25. He makes wheat his principal crop, usually having 40 or 50 acres in that cereal, while the remainder is devoted to the raising of corn, oats and hay. He is a practical farmer and expends his energy in such manner as to bring forth the best results. He was a Democrat for some time and then became a Populist. He was township assessor two years, and for 20 years has served as justice of the peace, being the present incumbent. He is a member of the Anti-Horse Thief Association.

Samuel J. Ellis married Kate Chesnutt, a daughter of Thomas Chesnutt, of Tennessee, and they had two children who grew up: William R., of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and Robert B., of Joplin, Missouri. Mrs. Ellis died in 1871, aged 25 years, and he married her sister, Sarah J. Chesnutt, by whom he had three children: Samuel J.; Martha, wife of Charles McCumber, of Joplin, Missouri; and Frank P. His second wife died in 1899, aged 35 years, and in 1901 Mr. Ellis married Hattie Evans, a daughter of Nathaniel H. Evans, of Shawnee township. Religiously, he has always been a Presbyterian. He was a member of the old Land League. which was organized to protect the homes of the settlers from the railroad.


History of Cherokee County Kansas and its representative citizens, ed. & comp. by Nathaniel Thompson Allison, 1904, transcribed by Carolyn Ward, instructor from USD 508, Baxter Springs Middle School, Baxter Springs, Kansas, 1/9/97.


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