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Descendants of Christian Eller
By Harvey W. Powers
Draft: March 1994

What follows in an excerpt from a book entitled Powers Family History. It is a book that is still "in progress." What follows is most of a chapter that looks at the Eller side of the family. This copy is being provided to the Eller Family Association, where it will be printed as part of a future edition of the Eller Chronicles.

This all started simply enough as a discussion with my children about my Grandparents. I quickly realized that unless somebody recorded their names pretty soon, none of my grandchildren would remember who they were or what they accomplished. It "snowballed" from there It is now an effort (my wife says "a passion") to try and find as much about the family as possible.

An effort like this, of course, is never really 'finished." So, the author invites you to share any additional information you may have about the family. It will probably never be formally published, but the Virginia State Archives has agreed to file a copy in their genealogy section. And I will make copies for my children.


Much of the book is a print-out from a computer data-base of more than 9,500 people this author (an others) have found and computerized. I will be happy to provide copies of the data in the standard GEDCOM format if you are interested in using it in your family history program. Please provide me with a formatted 2S/HD 3 1/2-inch disk. If you are interested in the computer program I have used, contact Cumberland Software, 385 Idaho Springs Road, Clarksville, TN 37043. It is called Cumberland Tree and it sells for less than $50. 1 have re-processed the Cumberland Tree material through Microsoft Word 6.0.


Through this book, you will see a five digit number beside most of the names, especially in the charts. Each marriage will carry a number, too. These are unique numbers assigned by the computer to track individuals who sometimes share the same name. There is no real significance to the numbers other than the author started from himself (as RIN #00001) and continued to add individuals as he found them. Likewise, the MRIN numbers track marriages.


Let me confess here in the preface that there are probably some mistakes. Some of the data was copied from bad photocopies of smudged carbons. Not all the names and dates were easily read. If there are doubts, the author has tried to so note in the charts. Each time I go over the material, I find something that should be corrected. I encourage you to advise me of my errors and I will try to improve the next draft.

Chapter 7: The Eller Family
Draft March 1994

Our branch of the Eller family came from Germany in the mid 1700's. We have identified ten Ellers who came to the New World from Germany in the period 1717 to 1753. While many German immigrants of that era saw their names confused by English-speaking Americans, the current name appears to have been the original: Eller. There are only three other spellings or variations of the name sometimes mentioned. Michael Ohler and Johann Peter Ohler are suggested by Robert Ramsey (“Carolina Cradle," pp. 90-91) as a possible father to Christian Eller (RIN #0767). Christian Eller is the most distant member of the author's family he can claim with certainty. We will offer more about Christian below. In addition to Ohler, there are some references to Eyler and Uhler in the history of other branches of the Eller family.

The name Eller could refer to the elbow. Some scholars suggest the family may have originated at the bend in a river. There is also a tree whose German name is similar to Eller. A member of the family from Munich, Germany, Aurel Eller has suggested the family name came from a man named Ello, who cleared the forest at the foot of the Hirshberg in the Algauer Alps. Other than Mr. Ellees letter (to Wayne Eller, RIN #00019; quoted in Hook), there is no proof of the Elio/Algau connection.

The Eller Family Association has tried to find where in Germany our Eller family originated. So far, the best evidence only points to the general area of the Palatinate, or the Southern part of Germany that is somewhat West of Bavaria. The people who came to America with Christian Eller in 1747 were described as being from "...the Palatinate and places adjacent."

Aurel Eller (noted above) says he believes the Eller family came from the area near Bregenz, on lake Constance, in what is now Austria. He offers little proof. But it is clearly is close enough to the Palatinate to be consistent with that evidence.

We know that Christian Eller (RIN #0767), like so many other German immigrants, came to America through the port of Philadelphia. He was one of many on board the ship Restauration under the command of Captain James Hall. The ship arrived on 09 Oct 1747 and Christian immediately took his oath of allegiance to the State of Pennsylvania.

Why did he come? There are no certain answers to this important question. There are, however, three lines of speculation. First, there are family stories that suggest Christian may have come to America as something of a mercenary soldier, hired in Germany to fight Indians. Second, some of the Ellers -- but probably not the ones who ended up in North Carolina -- came to America because they were "Dunkards," or members of the persecuted Church of the Brethren. Third, and most likely, Christian (and so many others) came to America to escape abject poverty and widespread famine.

Who was Christian's father? To date, we have found no concrete evidence to identify this person. There are two lines of speculation. First, James Hook identifies Michael Eller of Germany as the father of Christian. Second, many researchers believe two neighbors of Christian Eller may also be his brothers: Jacob and Melker Eller. And we know their father was Johann Kaspar Eller, shown in most places as Casper Eller. Unfortunately, we have serious doubts about either suggestion.

First, let us examine Johann Kaspar Eller. Jacob Eller's marriage record (St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Montgomery County, PA) identifies him as the son of Casper Eller." And John Melker Eller's confirmation (the New Hanover, PA, Congregation) refers to him as the son of the late Casper Eller. So, the question becomes, "Are Jacob, Melker and Christian brothers?" They lived in the same area of North Carolina, shared the Eller name and probably went to the same Church. Many members of the Eller Family Association believe they were brothers, but there are


at least two significant arguments against the idea. First, Christian's daughter Susanna (RIN #0913) married Jacob's son. While it was not unheard of for first cousins to marry, we believe is argues against the idea. Second, Jacob's will identifies his executors, Christian Eller and John Gethe, as "...my beloved friends." While it is possible to be friends and brothers, it seems unlikely that he would have left that out.

So, is Christian the son of Michael Eller? J.W. Hook (“George Michael Eller and Descendants of His in America”) quotes Aurel Eller (noted before) who has found the record of the birth of a Christian Eller (b. 22 Jul 1724) who is the second son of Michael Eller. Robert Ramsey ("Carolina Cradle”) notes the same record and the possibility of the father being Johann Peter Ohler, who arrived in Philadelphia in 1730. But the Michael Eller whose record is offered is Roman Catholic, and Christian and all his descendants are Protestant. It seems unlikely.

After his arrival, the first record of Christian Eller is twelve years later in Rowan County, North Carolina. Christian and Paul Biffle are two privates who are on "...a muster roll of Captain Morgan Bryan's Scouts sent out on the alarm of William Pinchers being killed by the Indians, May 25, 1759." ("Colonial Soldiers of the South- 1732-1774," Murtie Jane Clark, 1983, p.851) The unit is identified as being from the area around Rowan County.

Two years later, Christian buys land in Rowan County (20 May 1762). His "beloved friend" Jacob Eller and Jacob's brother, Melker, buy land in the same area (1752 and 1764). And there is a Michael Eller who appears on the record at about the same time, 1759. It seems likely that the Ellers came with other German immigrants, Johann Paul Biffle, John Justus Henkel and probably with a Mr. Ketchey, whose daughters would provide brides for the Eller family.

Hook ("James Hook and Virginia Eller," Tuttle, Morehouse and Taylor, 1925, p. 104) says "Tradition states that he (Christian) came (to Rowan County) with his wife and sons, John and George. His wife died soon after his arrival in Rowan County, North Carolina, and he married secondly, Mary, daughter of Paul and Catherine Beefle." We believe this Mary is Maria Elizabeth Biffle (sometimes Buffel), daughter of his fellow-soldier Johannes Paul Biffle and his wife, Catherine Haan. In his will, Paul Biffle mentions Christian as his son-in-law. By this second wife, Christian has additional children. While it is not absolutely clear when he remarried, we believe the children by the second wife are: Henry (RIN #769), Frederick (RIN #910), Mary (RIN #915), Barbara (RIN #917) and Susanna (RIN #913). Because we don't know when the first wife died, it remains possible that Henry, or even more of the children, are by the first, unknown, wife.

We do not have a snapshot or a written history of the Eller family in those early days in Rowan County, North Carolina. We do know the Ellers were farmers. Like so many German immigrants, they probably made the trip from Pennsylvania by Wagon (down through the Shenandoah Valley, through rich farmland claimed by earlier Scotch-Irish immigrants) to the Yadkin River Valley. Historians say the German immigrants were hard-working and industrious and formed small, rural communities with other German-speaking people. That seems to fit the Eller-Biffie-Henkel-Ketchey group that settled along the Yadkin River.

The area around Rowan County including a significant trading post where the Yadkin River was crossed. It was something of an intersection of the North-South wagon road and the East-West trading path from Tidewater to the Blue Ridge Mountains. That trading ford was just upstream from the Ellers (J.G.Eller, "Chronicles," Feb 1994, VIII, p.35).

As we noted earlier, The North Carolina Ellers appeared to be Lutheran. J.G. Eller ("Chronicles," Feb 1994, VIII, p.35) says they were probably part of the church community that eventually became the Union Lutheran Church on Bringle Ferry Road. However, there is a significant connection between some branches of the Eller family and the Church of the


Brethren (The "Dunkards'). A Henry Eller and a Jacob Eller (not the Jacob in Rowan County that is discussed above as a possible brother to Christian) have clear Brethren ties. They too were believed to be German immigrants who came to Pennsylvania at about the same time as Christian and his possible brothers. However, we can find no Brethren connections to the Ellers in Rowan County, North Carolina.