Eller Chronicles Feb 1991-p-2

The Eller Chronicles




By Bonnie M. Eller

Photo of Blackberry

A soft South Carolinian breeze swept up from the mill pond and across the porch of the little mill-village cottage, ruffling the curls of two little girls as they nestled securely in the embrace of Big Pa-paw. The trio laughed uproariously and the young cousins begged: “Tell us one more story, Pa-paw.”


The rocking chair began to move again and the girls eyes grew round with wonder as Big Pa-paw began to spin another yarn. I slipped away unnoticed from the screen door and smiled to myself, for I knew by heart the story he would tell.
Born Lester Eller, a seventh generation descendant of Caspar Eller, from Palanate, Germany, with a maternal Cherokee Indian grandmother, Big Pa-paw answered to the colorful name of “Blackberry”.
As a lad, he went blackberry picking with a group of boys. They emptied their small buckets into a larger one and moved on to another part of the blackberry patch. Lester slipped away, unnoticed, and when the group returned to the larger bucket, they found it empty. Lester's stained lips told the rest of the story and the name of “Blackberry” stuck throughout his seventy-four years.
Hand-to-mouth existence seemed to be the norm in the red clay mountains surrounding Clayton, GA. Food was scarce and schools almost nonexistent. An older brothers, Charley, along with young Lester and several younger sisters, survived by themselves for three weeks, when abandoned in a mountain cabin. A kindly neighbor lady brought them a bowl of cold, cooked pumpkin each day. The interior walls of the cabin had been papered with newspapers, pasted with “Flour” paste. Hunger pains forced the children to pry the newspapers off the wall and eat the dough behind them.


John, Blackberry's son, says, “Dad wouldn't allow a can of pumpkin in our house. I didn't taste pumpkin pie until I was grown.”
In spite of such hardships, Blackberry, the comedian, learned to poke fun at himself and entertain others:

We moved so often," he declared, "that the handles on the suitcases would fly up in the air and the chickens would roll over on their backs and stick their feet in the air to be tied.

"I tied a string around the first biscuit I saw and dragged it around the house for three days, then discovered you were supposed to eat it! And I was a grown man before I knew that a chicken had other portions besides feet and necks.

Nevertheless, hunger left its mark. It was not unusual to see him eat a whole pie for breakfast, along with his "sawmill" coffee.

"Get two cups of water boiling," he instructed me, "then add a couple of handfuls of coffee. Boil the mixture down to one cup and strain it. There's no need to drink a gallon of water to get a cup of coffee. And I like mine strong, too. I left a spoon in a cupful one morning and by noon, that spoon had melted away!"

He also prepared "gruel in the gravy" (gravy made by substituting cornmeal for flour); and "sling-shot gravy" (white gravy made without meat grease).


Another recipe he shared with me was his famous "Stone Stew", which used a stone instead of meat.

"Choose a smooth stone from the creek bed," he told me, "and place it in the bottom of your cooking pot Add the ingredients for stew. The heat from the rock will help to cook the stew faster and consequently give it a better taste."

With his zest for life and his jovial nature, he enjoyed making people laugh. During depression days, he'd black his face and pull his harmonica out of his bib overall's pocket. Then, Blackberry's rounded Santa Claus figure, with it's tiny feet, kept perfect time as he danced the Charleston, accompanied by lively self-taught harmonica music. He claimed to know all 120 steps of the Charleston and also enjoyed another type of dancing known as "scolly-flopping."

After passing his hat and pocketing the collection, Blackberry hoboed his. way, via box-car, to another street corner.

However, hoboing on the Swamp Rabbit Railroad and performing his black-faced comedian act soon lost its charm. Blackberry married his Annie Mae and went to work in a J. P. Stevens textile mill for $19.00 a week. They purchased a mill-village cottage by taking on a fifteen year loan at 4% interest, and a $25.00 per month house payment.


Every mill had its bully. Tucapaw's big bully, Bush Smith, made a target of Blackberry. He'd tease, pinch and hurt the smaller man at every opportunity. Blackberry tried to enlist the help of his boss and failed.

One day at the company store, among a large group of witnesses, Bush attacked Blackberry. Backing up and pleading to be left alone, Blackberry stumbled over a piece of concrete. When the bully continued his persecution, Blackberry came to his feet with the piece of concrete in his hand and knocked his opponent unconscious. Bush remained unconscious for three weeks. Blackberry landed in jail, charged with assault and battery.

Not being able to afford a lawyer's assistance, Blackberry pled his own case before a jury of twelve men who acquitted him.

Two sons, John and David, arrived to tighten the meager budget. Blackberry, having no car, walked to and from the mill and faithfully worked night shifts to support his small family.

He rigged up a small “fix-it" shop beneath their high back porch and used his handy-man skills to supplement their strained budget. Making the rounds of trash piles, he'd pick up broken items and repair them, thus substantiating his claim that he "could make a living off what other people throw away."
He foraged in the woods for muskadines (to make jelly) and dogwood branches for sling-shots. After


stripping the bark off, he'd tie the branches into a certain position and bake them in a small kiln in the back yard. He'd then fashion a very durable sling-shot and sell them to the local hardware store. When used with a steel plug, these sling-shots became a lethal weapon at thirty paces.

After I joined the family, he presented me with a small "Blackberry special", declared that "all Ellers know how to shot a sling-shot, and proceeded to teach me the skill. That tiny dog-wood sling-shot is still a favorite keepsake of mine.

"Flouride" water came to the little mill village, but Blackberry didn't trust it. That type of water was alright to bathe in, but the Ellers hauled their drinking water in gallon jugs from their trusted South Carolinian springs in the surrounding areas.

Neither did he trust banks! After being told that the bank's computer was malfunctioning and he'd have to come back tomorrow to withdraw his money, he used the old tried and proven hollow bed post on his iron bedstead.

He hid $500.00 in his room one day and forgot where he had hid it. After a considerable length of time elapsed, he offered half of the amount to Annie Mae, if she could find the money for him. She tore his room apart, bit by bit, and found the bills tucked securely between two jars of home-canned green beans, stored on the shelves behind the bedroom door.


Blackberry moved like a happy-go-lucky whirlwind, always busy, hard-working, and honest to a fault. He would loan you his last dollar or walk a mile to collect it, if you owed him a dime. But his feelings were highly sensitive and his temper extremely quick.

He brought home a white coconut cake from the bakery one day. It didn't please Annie Mae. She commented, "I wanted a chocolate one." In two strides, he flung open the kitchen door, stepped out on the high back porch, and the coconut cake went sailing through the air, right over his son's head. John remembers thinking, "I bet that cake would have tasted good!"

Inheriting a mixture of his father and mother's opposite traits, caused John to comment to me one day, "I feel Lester and Annie Mae warring inside me!"

In spite of his temperament and his active schedule, he could always be counted on to have the time and the patience required to "pour coffee" from a doll-like tea set with his granddaughters; eat (and pretend to greatly enjoy) a well-kneaded "first" biscuit; or, share a harmonica and dance with his only grandson.

A high-light of his day came when the oldest granddaughter returned from school and he could play "school" with her. Judianne taught her "student" what she'd learned that day and gradually a life-long dream became a reality: Blackberry learned to read and write.


Economics caused the J. P. Stevens mill to shut down. Retirement didn't set well with an energetic man like Blackberry, so he ran a used furniture store for a period of time. Then, he became a Jack-of-all trades for the city of Greer.

Early morning hours found him caring for the patches of grasses, flowers and hedges that dotted the southern down-town area like a colorful patch work quilt. Merchants looked forward to his cheery "Hi, Pal!” greeting. No trash dared clutter his down-town area and the streets were swept spotless.

At the age of 74, Blackberry worked his downtown area on a Friday in March of 1984. He had a massive stroke the next day, which claimed his life, April 10, 1984. The city of Greer hired three men to do his work.

On a recent visit to the little Appalachian village, John entered the small post office and introduced himself, proudly, to the postmistress as "Blackberry's son." 'Oh, yes," she smiled. "I remember him. He was Appalache's most colorful character."

Bonnie is the wife of Dr. John Eller, b. 20 Mar 1939, Tucapaw, Spartanburg Co., SC. His parents were Lester Nevilis Eller and Annie Mae Williams (Vol II, No. 1, Feb. 1988 pp. 13-14)

The family moved recently from Arkansas to Georgia where their current address is: 314 Crossings Place, Griffin GA 30223..... Eds.


With the Ellers in the Civil War

Byron H. Eller, 6507 Jack Hill Drive, Oroville, CA, 95966

Knowing that Lynn was preparing an article on William Hamilton, Eller for the "Chronicles", I thought some of the information that has come to me on his great-uncle might be something new and of interest to the readers. However, it reached him too late to be included in his story which appeared in the August 1990 issue of the Chronicles. Lynn did suggest that the material might be made available for publishing at a later date, so here is presented some additional thoughts on William Hamilton.

Referring to Hook's "G.M.E. and Descendants of His in America", I find that Harvey Eller was living with his family at the outbreak of the Civil War in Wapello County, Iowa. However, his oldest son, William Hamilton, in 1960 (1860) had entered a newly opened "University" operated by the Rev. Andrew Axline, located in Fairfield, Jefferson County, Iowa. Apparently he was still pursuing his studies at this school when on July 26, 1862, he enlisted for military service as a private in Company D, 19th Iowa Infantry Regiment. This regiment was organized at Keokuk, Iowa, and mustered in August 25, 1862. William was sent to St. Louis, Missouri, with his regiment, to the Army of the Frontier in the Department of Missouri. On Sept 11, 1862 these troops were moved to Rolla, Missouri, and on to Springfield, Missouri, by September 16, and to Cassville, Missouri, by October 11. (Of interest to me is that here in Cassville, located in the heart of the beautiful Ozarks, I began my medical practice). This was soon directed into Northwest Arkansas on its way into the Indian Territory. However, William fell ill about this time and was returned to Springfield, Missouri, where on November 8, 1862 he was admitted to the U.S.A. General Hospital located at that place. He remained on the "Hospital Muster-Roll" until March 28, 1863, when he was discharged for disability.(1)

Of interest is the "Certificate of Disability for Discharge, of the United States", received from the National Archives and Records of Washington D.C. This is as near a transcription as possible for some words are illegible:


William H. Eller, private of Captain Joshua Wright's Company D, of the 19th Iowa Regiment of United States Vol. Infantry, was enlisted by Joshua Wright, of the same regiment of 19th Iowa Vol. at Abingdon, Iowa, on the twenty-sixth day of July 1862, to serve three years. He was born in Wilkes County in the State of North Carolina, is 18 years of age, 5 feet, 10 inches high, dark complexion, black eyes, black hair, and by occupation when enlisted a farmer. During the last four months said soldier has been unfit for duty 120 days. Private William H. Eller, by taking the measles the 14th of October, taking cold then causing him to (?) of his eyes.

  1. Station: Springfield, Mo. Gen'l Hospital.
Date: March 15, 1863.
commanding company: Capt. Joshua Wright.

I certify that I have carefully examined the said W.H. Eller of Captain Wright's Company, and find him incapable of performing the duties of a soldier because of: "General debility and opacity of cornea of left eye. Has done no duty from October. Has been in hospital four months and is naturally slender & not vigorous. Is not fit for a soldier."
Signed: R.H. Paddock, Surgeon.
Discharge the 25th day of March, 1863, at Springfield, Mo.

Of the common communicable diseases, measles was the worst. Outbreaks occurred in every camp and every military unit, going through these troops afflicting as high as 50% of them. Men died, and there was very little doctors could do. If the disease was not fatal soldiers fell victim to various form of complications and sequelae occurring in various body organs. Patients with measles are highly susceptible to secondary infections by other bacteria producing even a more serious illness. However, I an unaware that measles can produce a corneal opacity, or "cataract", but again a secondary infection with infection of the eye may in itself cause injury to the cornea. It would be interesting to know if William was afflicted with poor eyesight or blindness during his adult life. Pension papers from the National Archives would possibly produce some light on this matter.

However, poor eyesight did not prevent William from reenlisting in the army a second time in answer to Iowa Governor's call for 10,000 short term volunteers, or "100 day" men as they were called. The place of enlistment was again Fairfield, Jefferson County, Iowa, so apparently after his discharge on March 25, 1863, he had returned to the college in Fairfield and here he remained for one year and one month pursuing his studies. In fact it is noted that his enlistment papers state that his occupation was "school teacher". These papers dated April 30, 1864, further state that "this soldier, age 21 years, has black eyes, dark hair, light complexion and is 5' 10” high". No mention is made of a visual difficulty or eye problem, even with the examination papers being signed by a U.S.A. "Surgeon".


William enlisted this second time in Co. I, 45th Iowa Infantry regiment, which was organized at Keokuk, Iowa, May 25, 1864. It was dispatched to St. Louis, Missouri, and thence to Memphis and Moscow, Tennessee. It was in Tennessee at this tine where "that devil" Nathan Bedford Forrest was a threat, with his special target being Memphis. In a campaign to stop General Forrest and his raids on Sherman's all important supply lines, the regular army units were supported and strengthened by the troops from the western states who had been called up for shorter periods of time, thus the "100 day" units.

William with his regiment was assigned to duty guarding the Memphis & Charleston Railroad until September 16, 1864. Raider Forrest did make a bold move against Memphis, Tennessee, on August 21, 1864, actually taking the city for the day. Sergeant Eller was mustered out with his regiment on September 16, 1864.

William's younger brother Barnett Cleavland enlisted October 28, 1863, at Abingdon, Iowa, into Co. E, 9th Iowa Cavalry. He is described as being 18 years of age, height 5 feet 8¼ inches, complexion light, eyes blue, hair light, occupation farmer. Address given as Martinsburg, Iowa. This Cavalry regiment had duty in the Department of Arkansas during the war. "Cleve", as he was called, mustered out with his regiment, as First Sergeant, on February 3, 1866, at Little Rock, Arkansas.

Harvey Eller moved from North Carolina in 1852 to join an uncle who had preceded him to Jefferson County, Iowa. Two of Harvey's younger brothers, John Cleveland, (my great-grandfather), and William joined Harvey in Jefferson County a year later, 1853. The still younger brothers remained in North Carolina with their parents and when the Civil War broke out these three young men, David, Jesse Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson enlisted in North Carolina regiments. So it was that William Harrison and Barnett Cleavland, sons of Harvey, served in the Union army participating in Western campaigns, while Harvey's three brothers (uncles to William and "Cleve") served in the Confederate army, seeing action in the Eastern campaigns. Two of the uncles died in the war, David of disease at Drewry's Bluff, Va., and Thomas Jefferson died in the Battle of Chancellorsville.

So we see, that if not actually "Brother against Brother" fighting on opposite sides in the war as actually did occur, here we have uncle against nephew, and nephew against uncle. It would be quite fitting to call attention to the words of James Hook in this regard on Page 187 of his book. In speaking of a letter written by Thomas Jefferson Eller home to his parents not long before he fell, Hook points out that mention is made only of "his three brothers and two sisters who were still living in North Carolina.


His brother David and his sister Nancy were dead and his brothers Harvey, John, and William were in far off Iowa sending their sons to fight on the side of his enemy, the Federal Union. This division in the family disappeared completely at Appomattox after which war talk became taboo and family relationships resumed. It could not have been different in a family raised in the religious atmosphere that surrounded this Simeon Eller family of Western North Carolina".


(1). Dyer, Frederick H., A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion, Morningside Press, Dayton, Ohio, p.p. 1163, 1172, 1181.

Query from Nancy Carr, Rt. 2, Box 366, Lexington, OK 73051:

My gr. gr. grandfather was Edward Eller and his wife was Eliza Eller. I am not sure which one (Edward or Eliza) was the child of Amos Eller, as was Obadiah. ( I am a member of the EFA and gave information to Byron H. Eller for his article on Obadiah Eller in the May 1989 Chronicles). That article states Amos was probably the son of Henry Eller. I am sure Amos was the son of Henry because of this information:

Land Record in Salisbury, NC 1823:
Jacob Eller, Amos Eller, Conrad and wife Mary Eller, Christian Eller and Paul Eller selling the plantation belonging to Henry Eller, dec. 128 acres.

Who was the father of Henry Eller? In the 1815 Rowan Co., NC tax list there was a Henry Eller listed as the son of Melchoir.

Any information will be greatly appreciated.

Query and Pedigree Chart: from Elizabeth Cooper, 18604 129th Place S.E., Renton WA 98058:

Elizabeth is descended from Julia Ann Eller, daughter of Peter Eller listed in the 1850 Belmont County, Ohio census. Does anyone have information on this Peter Eller?

See Pedigree Chart on following page.

(Eds.- Our thanks to Charlotte E. Marshall for passing along information contained in letters from the two above individuals.)


A Good Game Now Gone
by Vernard Eller
For years, almost annually, our family had occasion to drive the length of California's Great Central Valley on US Highway 99. For part of that time, when the children were small, all the billboards along that route were owned and operated by a corporation named ELLER. (My recollection is that this was Walt Eller, a prominent entrepreneur of Phoenix AZ. It would be appreciated if someone could inform us as to if and how he ties into the family.)

In any case, either at the top center or, more usually, at the bottom center of each of these billboards was displayed the placard, ELLER. My game with the kids was to read that ELLER nameplate in with the message of the billboard itself. For instance, thus: YOU'RE IN GOOD HANDS WITH ALLSTATE ELLER. That's been years ago. I do remember that we got some real good ones--though I don't remember what they were.

Question: Is there still any place in the country where this game would be playable?

(ANSWER? -- I noticed this in the news as I was transcribing this page [ADE])

Double- and Triple-E Ellers
by Vernard Eller
This item is purposed to open a project to your research and participation--not to close things off as a "last word on the subject." But the Eller family is in good position for naming their kids so as to preserve multiple-E initials; and I want you to help me in compiling a list of our best and most valiant efforts.

Of course, we are going to need some rules, some sort of control--particularly over non Eller-born women who have married Eller men simply to make a good name for themselves. We can accept only such Eller names as were given at birth and were regularly used by the individuals themselves.

Thus, my sister ELFREDA ELLER, was an authentic Double-E Eller. Her middle name of 'Pearl' does, of course, prevent her from being a Triple-E Eller; yet the Pearl itself is no obstacle. She, indeed, was known as Elfreda Eller (and never as Pearl) from birth up until she married. Indeed, it would seem right that we award that name bonus points for the fact that it preserves not simply the Eller initial "En but the initial syllable, “El-.”.[I found in the Chronicles an 'Ellen Eller”--has there ever been an “Ellis Eller."] So, although "Elfreda Eller” was an authentic Double-E+ Eller; she is no longer an authentic anything.

She married Fred--which changed her actually-used name to Holmes--and dropped the "El-" to go by the name Freda. 'Lo, how the mighty have fallen!”

Conversely, although my mother can take satisfaction in having produced quite a line of Double- and Triple-Es, she has never been one herself (even when that appeared to be the case). At birth, she was named GERALDINE ETTA CRILL. ["Geraldine etta what? Geraldine etta crill--whatever a “crill” is.] Theoretically, then, upon marrying my dad, she became Geraldine Etta Eller (in appearance, at least, a Double-E, Eller). Yet the truth, of course, is that she took the name Eller rather than being born to it. And that name Etta was never one to be used. Probably the most suppressed name ever, I never even heard it more than once or twice in all my life. But we must be careful to claim and recognize only truly authentic Double- and Triple-E Ellers.

I am not offering to do the painstaking research on this one; but I did flip through a couple issues of the Chronicles looking for examples. On one cover, Earnest M. Eller ranks as a genuine Double-E. Of course, all Ellers have been earnest. Once I even had the role in the Oscar Wilde play, The Importance of Being Earnest. But have we had other 'Earnest' (or Ernest) Ellers?

Our black sheep, Elias Eller, was an honest Double-E+ (even if not an honest anything else). Elizabeth Ellers (also Double-E+s) are almost a dime a dozen--yet entirely authentic

(unless, of course, they have gone by "Betty" or "Liz"). But the real winner among the ladies has to be "Esther Emmeline Eller--a true Triple-E, with extra "e"s thrown in for good measure.

However, now, simply in the way of giving the rest of you a goal to shoot for, I offer a rundown on my own particular family, the descendants of Jay and Geraldine Eller.

My first case is not for real--yet is closely enough related to bear telling. Up until about thirty years ago, the Church of the Brethren had an advanced degree of the ministry by which people were ordained as "elders." My dad got that advancement early on; I received it only considerably later. But when that happened, I figured that made me 'the younger Elder Eller" and him "the elder Elder Eller." Try saying "the elder Elder Eller' three times fast.

Yet, of course, in the game we are now playing, neither "Jay Vernard Eller" nor "Vernard Marion Eller" count for anything. Nevertheless, as we have seen, my sister was named ELFREDA ELLER (a Double+). My brother, then, is named ELDON EUGENE ELLER--an authentic Triple, with an added plus for being "El-don El-ler.”

Eldon Eugene Eller, then (with the help of his wife Margaret) had four children--one of whom was named ETHAN ERIC ELLER. Ethan is a good, clean Triple-E Eller, though without any "plus bonuses."And Ethan, now (with the help of his wife Mary Sue), have had three children. One of these is EVAN ELDEN ELLER--a Triple-E+ Eller. He gets the bonus for the "El-" on Elden--while changing the spelling a bit so that he can't be accused of simply repeating on his grandpa.

Finally, then (they hope), Evan Elden Eller has a little sister named ELAINE ELIZABETH ELLER--and there, my friends, is a Triple-E Double Plus Eller! (I admit that the syllabication is not right on either E-laine or E-lizabeth; but we had specified simply an "El-' spelling in any case.)

That's the string my mother and dad started (through son, grandson, and great-grandchildren) by naming one of theirs Eldon Eugene. Their daughter's kids are all named Holmes--so there is nothing to be hoped for from that quarter. And that leaves me; and I (with the help of my wife Phyllis) was in position to pull a real coup (if the wife would have given me just a bit more help than she did).

Of our three kids, the middle one is named ENTEN VERNARD ELLER, a simple Double-E (for he does regularly go by the name Enten). The anguish comes from what might have been--the saddest words of tongue or pen.

Enten (as with both his siblings) was born right when his father had to be giving full attention to his doctoral program and dissertation. (I really believe a study would show that children regularly choose to arrive just when one parent or the other is in doctoral program crisis; it's a conspiracy between one's kids and the members of one's doctoral committee.)

But my dissertation focused upon the work of the Danish thinker, Soren Kierkegaard. Because of the awkwardness of that name, both Kierkegaard himself and most scholars after him have referred to him simply as SK. In order to perform my researches I had to learn a little Danish (with the emphasis on “little"). Yet I had learned enough to know that SK's first great book, which had attracted public attention and established his reputation--I knew that this book, which in its English translation is called Either/or, in its Danish original was called Enten-Eller.

That's right; "Enten-Eller" is the Danish phrase synonymous with the English "Either/Or." Of course, it had long before been destined that Enten's last name would be Eller--and given that and the doctoral situation of his father, what could his first name be except Enten?

With that much agreed upon, I wanted to go all the way with Kierkegaard and name the baby ENTEN ESKAY ELLER. That would have had us all the way Kierkegaard and utterly unique Triple-E Eller at the same time. That was my idea; yet the baby actually got named Enten Vernard Eller--ruining the whole thing. I don't know where she found that goofy name 'Vernard' anyhow--which probably means "neither/nor' in Swahili.
But with this, the ball now goes into your court. Let me hear regarding your findings on the naming of Eller kids.


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