August 6, 2004

The Ellis family

The Ithaca Journal was quiet on Dryden this morning, and as I'm stuck an extra day at a conference in Montreal, I can't take more pictures of Dryden. Fortunately, I brought George Goodrich's Centennial History of Dryden with me, so here's another fine bit of Dryden history.

(I'm afraid it actually seems more opaque than Goodrich's usual style, but there are some good bits in here, especially about the "King of Dryden".)

Chapter XLIII.

The Ellis Family in Dryden

From the prominence of the Ellis pioneers in the early history of Dryden, and the fact that many of the present inhabitants trace their ancestry back to that family, a special chapter is here devoted to their history.

From an old family record, we find that Gideon Ellis and Elizabeth (Manchester), his third wife, lived, before and during the War of the Revolution, at West Greenwich, Rhode Island, where they became the parents of seven children, of whom three were destined afterwards to become the ancestors of many Dryden people. One of these was Oliver, born July 2, 1769; another, John, born May 22, 1771; and the youngest, Peleg, born May 9, 1775. An older half-brother, Gideon, Jr., was a pioneer of Cayuga county, and some of his descendants are now living at Aurora and Ithaca. The three brothers mentioned emigrated to Fairfield, Herkimer county, N. Y., before the year 1800, where Oliver met an accidental death, never having come to Dryden, but his widow, Hannah (Reynolds,) afterwards settled with some of her children near Malloryville in Dryden and two of her daughters became successively the wives of Andrew K. Fortner, the son of an early pioneer of Dryden, and another, Susan, the wife of Charles Grinnell, both soldiers and afterwards pensioners of the War of 1812; and another, Lovina, was the old lady, Mrs. Grant, who recently died in Dryden village. There are many descendants of Oliver living in other places and some descendants of the children named still reside in Dryden.

John Ellis before leaving Rhode Island had married Rhoda Rathburn. There had recently died at Royal Grant, Herkimer county, Dr. Samuel Cook, a Revolutionary surgeon of the 5th N. Y. regiment, to whom had been assigned four lots of the Military Tract, a surgeon's bounty. In March, 1768 [1798?], John purchased of the Cook estate Lot 23 of Virgil, upon which he settled in the same year. After remaining the about three years he sold that lot to Moses and Isaac Olmstead and came to Dryden, first settling near Malloryville in 1801, whence he removed to Ellis Hollow a few years later. His first wife having died, he afterwards married the widow of Jacob Hiles, the ancestor of the Hiles family in Dryden, and took up residence on the farm now owned by Wesley Hiles, where he died in 1844. His prominence in the political history of the town is unrivalled, he having held the position of school superintendent, commissioner of highways, and other offices, in addition to having been supervisor for twenty-seven years, fourteen of which were consecutive, member of assembly twice, and judge of the Court of Common Pleas of both Cayuga and Tompkins counties. In our times a politician who holds the office of supervisor of his town for a few years subjects himself to sufficient criticism and envy to blast his future political ambition, if he has any; but it was not so with Judge Ellis, whose record as an office-holder of the town of Dryden will doubtless always remain unequalled. He was a large land-owner and acted as the agent of a few non-resident holders of Dryden real estate, notably the McKay and Howland estates. At one time he was connected in land speculations with Daniel J. Shaw, who was then a Dryden village merchant.

Of his children, Charlotte married Charles Hart; Betsey, James McElheny; Amelia, Mahar Wigton; Nancy, John Southworth; and Lydia, her cousin, Warren D. Ellis, of Varna. His sons were James, Ira, Willet, John, and Peleg second. To those who are familiar with the present inhabitants of Dryden, these names will suggest many of the descendants of Judge Ellis, "King of Dryden."

Peleg Ellis, the pioneer of Ellis Hollow, as we have seen, exchanged his real estate in Herkimer county with the same Cook estate for Lot 84 of Dryden, to which he came, as has already been described in a former chapter, in 1799. Here, on the headwaters of Cascadilla Creek, he built his log house, to which the next year, on July 12, 1800, he brought his wife Ruth (Dawley) and two daughters, Mary, aged about four, who afterwards married Silas Hutchinson and died about five years ago aged 96 years, and a second daughter about two years of age who died in childhood. Ten children were born to them at the Ellis Hollow home, viz: Delilah, born Jan. 30, 1801, who married David Mulks, of Slaterville; Olive, who married James Mulks, of Ithaca; Lydia, who married Benjamin Ames; Mahala, who married Peter Worden, of Dryden; Warren D.; Ruth, who married John H. Kimball, of Berkshire; Huldah, who married her cousin, John C. Ellis, of Rhode Island; Sally, who married Marenus Ellis, late of Freeville; John J. Ellis, and Ann H., the widow of John M. Smith, late of Ellis Hollow. Of these, four daughters are still living, viz: Ruth, Huldah, Sally, and Ann H.

Peleg died May 9, 1859, aged 84 years upon that day. His wife survived him until 1870, when she died in her ninety-third year.

Major Ellis was not, like his brother John, a poltician, but in early life turned his attention to military affairs. When the War of 1812 broke out, being captain of the early state militia in Dryden, he volunteered with his whole company, instead of waiting as others did to be drafted; and instead of refusing to cross the Niagara River when the battle of Queenston was about to be fought, as did so many of the New York militia at that time, he followed across the frontier under the leadership of Winfield Scott, with his whole company, under Col. Bloom, of Lansing, and at the conclusion of the battle, together with about forty of the Dryden men, was among the prisoners of war; but they were immediately paroled and sent home. Like some others, Major Ellis acquired in his army experience the habit of the intemperate use of intoxicating drink and in after years when he indulged too freely his martial spirit manifested itself, and he would go through the manual of arms, in imagination commanding his company as of yore, with all the preciseness and dignity of actual military service. As his years grew upon him, however, he came to realize that his intemperate habits, first acquired in the army, were a detriment to him, and with a resolution stronger than many men of our times can muster, he suddenly broke himself of the growing habit and his last few years were characterized by his strict sobriety and a religious life.

John and Peleg Ellis were men deservedly popular and influential with their associates, both being selected as leaders of their fellow citizens, one in political and the other in military affairs. Both performed their duties faithfully and well, and both were so constituted as to become ornaments of the generation in which they lived and worthy of the honor and gratitude of their posterity and of the subsequent generations of the township which they served as leaders in their respective capacities.

For a portrait of Judge Ellis see the frontispiece of this volume.

Goodrich, George B. The Centennial History of the Town of Dryden, 1797-1897. Dryden: Dryden Herald Steam Printing House, 1898. Reprinted 1993 by the Dryden Historical Society. Pages 191-4.

(The Dryden Historical Society, which sells this book, may be reached at 607-844-9209.)

Posted by simon at August 6, 2004 4:30 PM in ,
Note on photos