ELLIS, JOEL H. - The Ellis family described below is of Welsh extraction and has been represented in Sangamon County, Ill., since 1825. They have since been identified with the best interests of the county, and have always done their share to organize and maintain churches and schools. Joel H. Ellis, subject of this review, was born in Island Grove Township, near the present site of old Berlin, January 16, 1828, a son of Henry and Martha (Yates) Ellis. Henry Ellis was born near Lexington, Ky., November 17, 1786, a son of John Ellis, born January 29, 1749, and October 2, 1770, married to Sarah Parrish, who was born April 20, 1757. John Ellis and his wife removed from Virginia to Kentucky. The father of John Ellis is said to have come from England to America with the second supply of emigrants. The wife of Henry Ellis was Martha Marshall Yates, born after the death of her father, in Woodford County, Ky., September 13, 1791, daughter of Abner and Mollie (Hawes) Yates. Abner Yates was a son of Dr. Michael Yates, a native of England, who married Martha Marshall, sister of John Marshall, who afterwards became Chief Justice of the United States. Mrs. Henry Ellis was a sister of Henry Yates, Sr., and aunt of the famous War Governor of Illinois. Henry Ellis, Henry Yates and Colonel Robert Johnson together laid out the town of Fredericksburg, afterward called Warsaw, the county seat of Gallatin County, Ky. Henry Ellis and Martha Yates were married January 29, 1807, at Warsaw, and had ten children there, two of whom died in infancy. They removed to Illinois in 1825, reaching Island Grove, two miles northeast of Berlin, Sangamon County, in September of that year, and three children were born to them there. Henry Ellis died in Berlin, June 13, 1854, and his widow survived him many years. He had learned the trade of hatter in his native State. Upon coming to Illinois he bought government land and erected a log cabin, with a fireplace and a stick and mud chimney. He eventually erected a more comfortable home for his family. All of their children are now deceased except Joel H. They were: Abner Y., lived many years in Sangamon County, finally removed to Madison County, and there he and his wife both died; Lavina, born in Warsaw, Ky., was there married to Talbot Leonard, and died in Kentucky; William H. H. died near Berlin, in 1873; Molly, married (first) Elias Maxwell and (second) Andrew Scott, and all are now deceased; Louisa, married Thomas Foster, of Berlin; Ormasinda, born in Kentucky, died in Illinois; Martha, born in 1822 in Kentucky, married Oliver H. Rush, and both are now deceased; Millicent A., born in 1824, in Kentucky, died in young womanhood in Illinois; Joel H.; Robert married Delia Pease and both are deceased; Richard Y. born at Island Grove, in 1832, enlisted August 11, 1861, in Company D Twenty-sixth Illinois, for three years, and was killed in a rifle pit at Atlanta, Ga., August 8, 1864, within three days of the expiration of his term of service. Mrs. Ellis, the mother, could never forget his tragic death and the fact that he was buried in an unknown grave, so far from his home, and each year at the anniversary of his death grief would seize her anew.
Henry Ellis and his wife were both devout Christians and reared their children to strict observance of the principles of their faith. They were all active members of the Christian Church with the exception of the youngest child. Mr. Ellis was always ready to perform his duty as a Christian and as a citizen and helped those in distress and gave encouragement to those who needed it. In politics he was a Whig and prominent in public affairs. He was one of the honored pioneers of Illinois, and his ancestors had been in Kentucky, and was descended from one of Virginia's first families.
In boyhood Joel H. Ellis began his education in a log school house where slabs furnished the seats and there was a puncheon floor. This was a subscription school, the parents paying a fixed sum for each child sent, and as the boy often had to remain at home to get up wood, gather corn, or to do some other of the many tasks which could be performed by a child of his age and size, his education was necessarily meager. He remained at home until eighteen years of age, then began learning the blacksmith trade with his brother-in-law, O. H. Rush, making an agreement that during the three years of his apprenticeship he was to receive his board and clothing and at the end of that term be paid $40 in money. He faithfully fulfilled his part of the bargain and at the end of three years invested his forty dollars in bellows and an anvil and became a partner of his former employer, which arrangement continued tow years, when Mr. Rush died and Mr. Ellis, feeling this loss keenly, decided he would have to close the shop, but first went to seek the advice of his old friend, Edward Pease, a hardware dealer of Springfield, who advised him to return and continue the business, promising to stand by him with credit for any amount from one to one thousand dollars. The young man told his mother of his good fortune and she rejoiced with him, telling him to go ahead and do his best.
May 8, 1852, Mr. Ellis married Caroline Harmon, a native of Sangamon County, and they became the parents of one son, but death visited the home and claimed the young mother, in 1854. Mr. Ellis took his little son and went to live with his sister, Mrs. Polly Scott, but five months after the death of his wife his child also passed away. Mr. Ellis then lived with his mother until May 8, 1861, when he was united in marriage with Martha Ann Simpson, and by this marriage had two daughters, Florence May, at home, and Dora B., widow of Charles Scott, who met his death by accident in 1900. Mrs. Scott has made her home with her parents since the death of her husband.
In 1848 Mr. Ellis drove hogs to St. Louis and sold them for $1.37½ per hundred, but is now able to sell them at home for about $9.50 per hundred. In 1837 his father hauled corn to Berlin and sold it for 6½ cents per bushel, while Mr. Ellis is now able to get 60 cents per bushel for the same grain. As a young man Mr. Ellis used to sharpen the old prairie plows, getting 40 to 50 cents each for the 16 and 24 inch cut, the latter of which weighed about 100 pounds. In 1851 Mr. Ellis was employed by Jacob Flower to drive 92 mules to Philadelphia, and mounting his mule started on his way, having to swim the Vermillion, Wabash, White, Muskingum and Scioto Rivers, and crossing the Ohio at Wheeling. He stopped one week at London, Ohio, and at Cadiz stopped to shoe the front feet of the mules, having to make his nails and shoes. He took them to within sixty miles of Philadelphia, then returned home, having spent five months on the trip. He resumed work at his trade, and for thirty-five years was the village blacksmith at Berlin. He was very successful at his trade, being energetic and industrious, and when work had been promised made it his business to complete it by the appointed time. He was thorough in his work and his patrons were confident he would give them the best service to be obtained. He still has in his possession a shoe he made in 1845 for a race horse of fine Kentucky breed, which is an example of neatness and good workmanship.
Mr. Ellis has witnessed with pleasure the remarkable development that has taken place in Sangamon County during the many years he has made it his home. He well remembers the first matches he ever saw and recalls the days when the old flint-lock and tow were used in starting a fire, and one neighbor often used to borrow coals from another to start a fire. The advent of the oil lamp to replace the tallow candles was an event to be long wondered at, but Mr. Ellis has seen these replaced by gas and electric lights. He was well and favorably known in a business way and the sound of the anvil was music in his ears, but he finally left his work and retired from business life. He has taken great pleasure in witnessing the favorable changes that have taken place during his lifetime and has always been the friend of progress and improvement. At the age of eighty-three years he is in excellent health and attributes his fine physical condition to the fact that he has always been temperate in his habits, has never chewed or smoked tobacco and has never been intoxicated. He has always revered the memory of his mother for her loving care and teaching in early life, and has never forgotten her good advice to him as a boy. After leaving his shop he moved on his farm, living there until 1885, and then, having accumulated a comfortable competency, retired to live in Berlin, where he is surrounded with every comfort.
Mr. Ellis has always been active in church and Sunday school work and can look back with pleasure to the many years he has spent in the good cause. He has been a liberal supporter of various public enterprises and has always been interested in the issues of the day. His eyesight has been failing of late, but he still delights in hearing the news of the day read to him and takes an active interest in all public affairs. He is a Republican in principle and has had the pleasure and honor of shaking the hands of Martin Van Buren, Generals Sherman and Grant and Mr. Roosevelt. He has visited eleven States of the Union and has always taken a keen pleasure in the different scenes, but has been glad to return home. H is devoted to his family and has many warm friends in the county, who greatly enjoy his society and his stories of early days.