George P. Pell, BIOGRAPHICAL HISTORY OF NORTH CAROLINA, Vol. VIII, Chas. L. Van Noppen, Greensboro, MCMXVII, pp. 153-161.
[Eds. The picture on the cover from the above source is of ADOLPHUS HILL ELLER. The lineage of A.H. Eller below is incorrect. For "Christian' insert George Michael Eller and for 'George" insert Peter Eller; Peter Eller settled first in Rowan and then in Wilkes/Ashe Counties, NC]
The lines of the character of the subject. of this sketch were clearly defined in the early days of his life, and through the responsibilities of an unusually active career have never swerved. Mr. Eller comes from German, Scotch, and English ancestry. One of his paternal ancestors, CHRISTIAN ELLER, came over from Germany along with the Palatinate migration of 1730-40, and settled in Pennsylvania. He and his sons, including GEORGE ELLER, came south in the general movement from Pennsylvania in 1753 which brought Daniel Boone, and settled along the Yadkin River in Rowan and Wilkes counties. The end of the eighteenth century found JOHN ELLER, son of George, in Ashe, and later in Wilkes County. He must have. been a man of strong parts, as his children took prominent positions In their community. His eldest son, Captain SIMEON ELLER, was a man highly favored in physical, intellectual and moral qualities and served his people In many positions of honor and trust. His youngest son, Colonel PETER ELLER, was at one time a member of the Legislature and was a member of the Secession Convention of 1861.
Captain SIMEON ELLER married Frances McNeill, daughter of James McNeill, the third son of Rev. George McNeill. This Rev. George McNeill was a man of great power and influence. He came to North Carolina and settled in Moore County about the time of the French and Indian War. About 1771 he joined the Baptist Church, and, his denominational brethern having suffered much at the hands of the royalists, with them he went into the famous Regulator Movement, which met its overthrow as an organization at the Battle of Alamance. Fleeing for safety from Governor Tryon's revenge, he lived for a short time in Western Virginia, finally, however, returning to North Carolina, where he settled in the Yadkin Valley above Wilkesboro, near New Hope Church. He was ordained as a Baptist minister in i776 and became the great pioneer Baptist preacher of northwestern North Carolina, organizing the Yadkin Association in 1786, which is the parent of associations now claiming a membership of 35,000@ On June 7, 1805 , after a long and useful life and a most remarkable and successfujl career in the ministry, he passed away. Upon the centennial of this event in 1902 his large number of descendants and the Baptists hosts of northwestern North Carolina erected a monument to his memory, Rev. W.H. ELLER, of Greensboro, a great-grandson, delivering the address.
To Captain SIMEON ELLER and his wife there were born eleven children, only one of which is living, this being JAMES ELLER, the father of the subject of this sketch, who is now in his eighty-ninth year. At the first call to arms in 1861 four sons, JAMES, DAVID, THOMAS, and JESSE F., shouldered their muskets and went to the front. JAMES was returned home, being in health too delicate for service in the field, and was assigned military duties in his county; DAVID died In the line of duty; THOMAS fell at Chancellorsville, and JESSE F. was promoted to the position of captain upon the fateful field of Gettysburg.
JAMES ELLER, on October 24, 1848 was united in marriage to Mary Ann Carlton. Mrs. Eller must have been in early life of strong and vigorous intellect, of striking personality and of beautiful womanly traits of character, and even now, in extreme old age, not a silvery thread can be found upon her head; her mind Is strong and clear, and her conversation and daily life discloses a heart true and courageous. She was the daughter of Thomas Carlton, whose wife was Ruth Burch. Thomas Carlton was a soldier under Andrew Jackson in the War of 1812. He was a man of substance and a model citizen, living to the great age of eighty-seven years. His father before him, for whom he was named, was likewise a great patriot. He served in the War of the Revolution, in which also his brother Lewis, who had emigrated with him from England, also served, with the rank of general. These brothers on coming to America had settled in South Carolina, probably at Beaver Creek. After the Revolution the family of Thomas moved to Wilkes County, N.C., on Beaver Creek,perhaps giving it the name of their former home in South Carolina.
In the fall of 1865 JAMES ELLER moved to Ashe County. There he built a comfortable home at Berlin, on the beautiful New River. Here for more than fifty years, in the purest domestic tranquillity, enjoying the respect of his fellow countrymen, has lived this splendid citizen. During his more active years he held positions of responsibility and trust, both public and private. Nine children have blessed his home, the two oldest MARTHA and THOMAS, dying at the age of ten and eight years. RUTH married the Rev. D. S. Hubbell, a Baptist minister of Virginia, who now lives in Mountain Park, N.C. AUGUSTUS, SIDNEY, AND CICERO are men of sterling character and wide influence in their community, having settled, with their families, near their father. ADOLPHUS H., the subject of this sketch, resides in Winston-Salem. FRANKLIN PLATO and JOHN CARLTON sleep in untimely graves at the old home. These two promising young men were cut down in the very morning of their life, when everything betokened good for them. One was president of the class of 192 and the other the class of 196 at the State University (UNC-Chapel Hill) which they attended. The dread disease, typhoid fever, claimed each as a victim just as he was finishing his course there. Each had won College honors and each stood high with his fellows, and the death of one and then the other sent a shock of grief to the student body and to the people of the section which they hailed.
ADOLPHUS HILL ELLER was born at New Hope, Wilkes County, April 9, 1961. His father moved to Ashe County in 1865, he grew up there a typical mountain farmer's boy, strong, active, Industrious. In his early days he showed a love for books, and after completing the ordinary common school branches was sent to Moravian Falls for preparation for college. He entered the University of North Carolina in 1881 and graduated in 1885, receiving the degree of A.B., besides various honors coveted by college boys. His interest In the university has not abated in after life, nor has his alma mater failed to recognize his worth. His graduating address on "Higher Education in North Carolina" made an impression upon the leaders of the renaissance of public education of that day. At the centennial of the opening of the University in 1895, he was again chosen because of his known gifts, from the long roll of alumni since the war, to speak on 'The New University'. This oration established his reputation as an orator, which has been sustained by many other addresses on notable occasions. He has been a trustee of the Universty since 1905.
In confirmity with an ambition early cherished, upon leaving the University, Mr. Eller began the study of law under that able and accurate lawyer, Colonel George N. Folk, of Caldwell County, at his lovely home, Riverside, in Happy Valley, at the same time and as a quid pro quo preparing Colonel Folk's only son to enter college. Receiving his license in 1886, he located in Winston-Salem, going into the office of the late Judge D.H. Starbuck, father of his room-mate at the University, Henry R. Starbuck, with whom he later formed a partnership, which lasted until the latter's elevation to the superior court Bench in 1894. Since that time he practised alone until 1913, when Mr. R. G. Stockton became his partner. He has gained the confidence of the people and of the Bench, as well as of his professional brethern as a lawyer of accurate learning, of diligence in the preparation of cases, and of wisdom as a counselor.
On November 19, 1896, he was married in Atlanta, GA, to Miss Laura Winifred Newland, daughter of B.A. Newland and Mary Halliburton Newland, niece of former Lieutenant Governor W.C. Newland, of this State, and a descendant from distinguished families from both North Carolina and Virginia. The only living children are JOHN DeWALDEN and ADOLPHUS HILL, Jr. The several ancestors of A. H. ELLER having been prominently connected with the Baptist Church, naturally we find him walking in their footsteps. In the support, of the religious and charitable enterprises of the people of his city, whether of his own or other denominations. tie has been active and liberal. Nothing appeals to him more than the altruistic life.
He has been a success in business, largely because of his strong point as a practitioner of the law, his wise and conscientious counsel. This has thrown him into association with and gained the confidence of men of affairs and enabled him to lay the foundations of a fortune. When he came to Winston-Salem with that encouraging proverb ringing in his ears 'there is room at the top,' he possessed no property save the Code of North Carolina for a library, and less than a hundred dollars with which to plunge into the proverbial seven years of poverty that awaits the young members of his profession. Yet he had something more valuable than money, a resolution that he would not write home for help. In the weary hours waiting for practice he evolved many a business scheme. His first one was exchange of his watch for a town lot. That netted him a profit of $500. Since that day, hand in hand with the practice of his profession, he has kept his business eye open until he has accumulated large interests in real estate and various enterprises. His ability in handling large affairs has been demonstrated by his election to positions of trust. Omitting his other business relations , it may be stated that he is president of the Standard Building and Loan Association; has been director of the Winston-Salem Southbound Railroad and the Elkin and Allegany Railroad, and secretary and treasurer of the North Carolina Railroad Company under Governor Glenn's and Governor Kitchen's administrations, and is now trust officer and secretary of Wachovia Bank and Trust Company, having estates under his control which run into the millions
But however successful Mr. Eller may have been in business and professiional life, he has gained his greatest reputation In the field of politics. No man has ever before, in my knowledge, in North Carolina sprung from the ranks in so short a period to the chairmanship of the Democratic party. Writing as one who has been in a position to follow him closely, It. appears that his successes have been due to his superior political wisdom, his energy and tactful and systematic methods, backed by a strong character and model private life; and, I should add, his devotion to democratic principles and policies.
Mr. Eller has never sought office or party honors of any kind. Like Cincinnatus, he has in every case been called to service, and each time against his will. His patriotism was set deep at an early age by the reading of Calvin H. Wiley's "North Carolina Reader.' His party spirit. was quickened when as a mere boy he listened to political giants Vance and Settle, in 1786, in the county town of Jefferson. Though often in his early career urged for political honors, he was always content for the other fellow to be the candidate. Finally his personal friendship for Robert B. Glenn brought him squarely into the arena, since which time there has been none able to contest successfully against him or the cause he espoused. In the memorable campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor in 1904 between Robert B. Glenn and Charles M. Stedman, just sixty days before the convention he assumed the conduct of Mr. Glenn's Campaign. With one sweep of his eye he saw that proper organization and energetic action would win the fight. Against him was alligned three-fourths of the trained politicians of the State. It was a fight between the unorganized people and the organized party leaders, and he had little time In which to instruct his unorganized forces and marshal them for the fray. How successful he was is known only to those who followed his work closely and who saw its culmination at Greensboro. The farmers of the State stood in almost solid phalanx behind him, utterly impervious to every assault hitherto known to party generalship. His victory was complete. Perhaps nothing like it had been seen before. Returning to his home amid showers of congratulations, the nomination for the State senate was thrust upon him and he was elected. In the senate of 1905 Mr. Eller was an acknowledged leader. Besides being appointed chairman of the committee and master of ceremonies of the inauguration of the incoming state officers, he was chairman of the committees on Insurance and Immigration, and was a member of most of the other prominent committees. He was the author of the revised divorce law passed at that session, of the law reforming the fee system of county offices, of the bill to provide a fireproof Hall of Records for the State, a bill chartering the Winston-Salem Southbound Railroad Company, and of other bills of general and local Importance.
In the heated campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor between Messrs. Kitchin, Craig, and Horne, in 1908, it would have been unnatural for him to have ben inactive. Mr. Eller favored Mr. Kitchin, and was one of J.S. Manning's right-hand supporters in his management of Mr. Kitchin's campaign. A letter setting forth the reasons why he was for Mr. Kitchin was widely read and had a pronounced effect upon the situation. Mr. Kitchin was successful. The party then began looking around for a tactful man of wisdom to manage the State campaign. Party leaders were uneasy. The intense campaign for the gubernatorial nomination had left scars. The prohibition fight had torn the party asunder in a number of counties; legislation affecting railroads had aroused hostility that threatened the party. When the State Executive Committee met it unanimously chose Mr. Eller as chairman. It made no mistake. Any other choice might have proven fatal. By his wonderful energy and unerring judgement he Increased the Democratic gubernatorial vote by 17,000 over the vote of 1904, and general party vote by 22,000 over that of 1906.
He was again unanimously chosen chairman and conducted t-he campaign in 1910, and voluntarily laid down the leadership of his party with fifty thousand majority in the State.
I cap this little monument to his worth with the simple statement that he loves his God, his State and his fellowmen, and this love comprehends the rest. His choicest sentiment Is one uttered by his brother, John Carlton, in his graduation address: 'The golden rule shall yet reign supreme as the basal law of human life, the rich revelation that crowns the freedom of man.'