Eller Chronicles Feb 93 p- 2

The Eller Chronicles


Page - 12

James W. Hook

Eds. : Elizabeth D. Rather, Hermosa Beach, CA and a new EFA member, sent the following unsigned letter found among her family records Elizabeth thought perhaps we might identify the sender of the letter. One glance was all it took to identify the writer of the letter. It came from the typewriter of James W. Hook and we had seen much of his writings. I sent the letter to Lynn Eller, who knew Mr. Hook personally, and asked him for verification and comments. He verified that the writer was James Hook but was perplexed as to why it had been sent to Hastings, Nebraska. He never knew of Jacob H. Eller living in that town. He consulted Raymond Eller, son of Jacob H. Eller, whose family story was published in THE ELLER CHRONICLES, Vol. V, No. 3, Aug. 1991. Raymond said his father to the best of his knowledge had never lived in Hastings but had been hospitalized there on occasion. Raymond and Lynn presume that Jacob was in the hospital in Hastings when he received the letter. Mr. Hook died in 1957 so this may be an account of his last trip to North Carolina. Lynn has sent some other letters from Mr. Hook which will appear in a later issue. For readers who may not know: J. W. Hook was the author of the only published Eller genealogy: George Michael Eller and Descendants of his in America, 1957.(Editorial footnotes added).

Mr. Jacob H. Eller
Hastings, Nebraska

November 5, 1954

Dear Uncle Jake,

Hattie and I have just concluded a long, interesting and most pleasant trip to Wilkesboro, North Carolina and vacinity. I want to tell you all about it and shall start at the beginning. We left New Haven on the very beautiful morning of October 5th and drove to Cape May Courthouse, New Jersey. I am descended from a number of east Jersey families including the Smith, Willets, Grants, Irons and Burdsells. I spent Wednesday, October 6, in the Cape May County Courthouse and obtained a lot of very interesting information that I have not had before on these families. I am writing a genealogy of these families and hope to have it completed next spring. Most of these families were of the Quaker persuasion and the records of the Quaker Monthly Meetings in East New Jersey have much to say about them giving in most instances dates of birth, marriage, and death and whom they married. From Cape May Courthouse we drove to Waldorf, Maryland in Prince George County of that state. Here is where my earliest Hook ancestors first settled almost one hundred years ago but I didn't have time to review the records that I had seen before.

From Waldorf, Maryland we drove to Williamsburg, Virginia and spent three days there visiting one again the restored buildings of that ancient and historic town. Williamsburg, you know, was the the seat of Virginia's government until the Revolutionary War when it was moved to Richmond. Williamburg was settled by the people of Jamestown who found that early settlement, as they thought, so unhealthy that they moved inland to Williamsburg. The old town has been restored by John D. Rockefeller so that it appears today as it did in colonial times. The old State House and Governor's mansion are worth going miles to see and the events that transpired in them in early times are among the most historic of our country.

From Williamsburg we drove to Raleigh, North Carolina stopping enroute at Petersburg for lunch with cousin Bessie Stone1 and her attractive daughter and son-in-law, Elizabeth and George Dupuy. It was a most enjoyable occasion but the time we could spend with them was much too short. We found Bessie very well and the same sweet person that she always was and her daughter is just like her. George Dupuy is a Vice President of the Bank of Virginia and manager of the bank's Petersburg branch. He is a substantial citizen and we enjoyed him very much. Bessie's granchildren, a daughter 142 and a son 8, were in school but just before we left the son, named for his father, came bounding in and a bright boy he is, you may be sure.

At Raleigh Norh Carolina we layed over a day or so that I could look at the Eller-Vannoy-McNeil records in the archive's building there. I found some new material but not much. From Raleigh we drove to Lexington, North Carolina and en route stopped long enough in Greensboro to visit the Eller Memorial Baptist Church3 at 1200 Fourth Street. This is a very prosperous and well attended church. I think they have something like 800 members. The present edifice is too small and the congregation is planning a new church that will be build adjacent to the present structure. We were shown through the church by a very delightful young lady and I was thrilled enough to send them a modest check for their building fund upon my return home. Your brother, and my uncle, William Eller4 is held in high esteem by the people of Greensboro and the Piedmont district adjacent. While in Lexington I spent one day reviewing Rowan County records in the town of Salisbury near by and the Guildford County records in the Lexington courthouse. I obtained a lot of data, much of it new.

During our stay at Lexington, Hurricane Hazel passed by and left 6 1/2 inches of rain. We wee on the edge of the storm, however, so that the wind did cause much damage. We left in the midst of the down-pour on Friday, October 15, for the 60 mile drive to North Wilkesboro. It was quite and experience but just as we came in sight of the Bushy Mountains a clearing appeared in the western sky and when we reached North Wilkesboro the story was gone, winding up with a terrific blow for a half hour from the north west. We spent Saturday, Sunday and Monday in North Wilkesboro and it was a wonderful experience. While at the courthouse on Friday afternoon the 15th, I, by the greatest good luck, ran into W. S. Fletcher. Alfa Jane Eller was Mr. Fietcher's mother and a daughter of William and Sally (McGlamery) Eller and a granddaughter of Peter Eller who married Susannah Kearns, your and my ancestor.

Mr. Fletcher's home and a beautiful one it is too, is near the New Hope Baptist Church and, lucky for me, I found that he had made a very thorough study of the Eller, Vannoy, McNeil and Cleveland home-sites. He showed us everything including the farm of your father Harvey at the foot of Rhendezvous Mountain, than which none is more beautiful in western Carolina. I took a lot of pictures of it from the high road to the south and if they turn out well shall see that you get a print.

He also showed us the farm of John Eller, Jesse Vannoy, Nathaniel Vannoy , Rev. George McNeil and Jeremiah Cleveland. He showed us the burial places of John Eller, your great grandfather and his wife Susannah, Jesse Vannoy and his wife Mary and Rev. George McNeil. He claims that my book saying John Eller's body was moved from the Cleveland burial ground to New Hope is incorrect, saying the attempt was made to move the body but not completed. There is no gravestone and I took down the gravestone inscriptions relating to our ancestors and relatives. It was a great afternoon and a fortunate one for us who might have missed seeing these historic spots had we not met Mr. Fletcher.

On Sunday, October 17, Hattie and I attended New Hope Church where my mother was baptized. I was so emotionally upset that I could scarcely talk to the minister. I have never before realized what a baby I am at heart and was throughly ashamed of myself The church was filled to the brim and the congregation sensing that strangers were in their midst waited outside for us to come out. When they learned who we were it seemed to me that nearly everyone of them was able to claim relationship, all having some where in their pedigree an Eller, Vannoy or McNeil.

One parishioner, Mr. R. M. Church, whose wife was a granddaughter of Anderson Vannoy and a great granddaughter of our Jesse Vannoy, insisted that we go home with him for dinner saying that he would show us exactly where Simeon Eller lived which he did. We hd a delicious dinner at their house and, Uncle Jake, I saw grandmother Eller in person while I was there. Ellen Church, wife of Mr. Church, looks exactly like grandmother Eller did as I remember her. Her face had exactly the same confrontation and the heavy but beautiful lines that grandmother's face possessed all as clear as could be. Hattie, my wife, spoke about it first saying to me, " Billy, Ellen looks exactly like the photograph you have of your grandmother Eller."

The dinner was excellent; fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, two kinds of pies, jams, etc. A whole tableful of relatives were pesent also. One son, a Baptist Minister, we found out later, was marring his second wife that same afternoon. Think of it, here was a family with a wedding on their hands inviting us on short notice to dine with them two hours before the wedding ws to take place.

We couldn't stay for the wedding because we had a date with your cousin Edward Everitt Eller and his wife, Lizzie McNeil, daughter of Peter, granddaughter of John and great granddaughter of James and Mary (Shepard) McNeil. We found them both well and the same charming people that I had met twenty-fivc years ago. They wanted us to move into their house but of course we declined. Lizzie is not very strong and is suffering, I think, from arthritis. It was a delightful afternoon, however, and we learned a great many things about the family. One of their sons. Ernest McNeil Eller5, was recently retired from the Navy with the rank of rear Admiral.

From Wilkesboro we drove up into beautiful Ashe County and stayed two nights in the Colvard Hotel at West Jefferson. Here, again, we ran into relatives. The manager of the hotel was none other than Peter Thurman McNeil, a nephew of Edward E. and Lizzie McNeil Eller of North Wilkesboro. He was a very nice person and we enjoyed talking with him. While there we drove out to Bina and saw your uncle, James Eller's, plantation6. When I saw it in 1925, one had to ford the New River to get to it; now there is a bridge across. It is just as charming as ever but is not at present occupied by Ellers. We didn't stop but looked at the place from our car. The road from Jefferson to Bina is being rebuilt and a huge factory which will make electrical gadgets is being erected in the valley. I spent sometime in the courthouse there and copied all the records I could find. The weather was cold with heavy frosts every night making it necessary for us to put antifreeze in the radiator of our car.

From West Jefferson and Jefferson the view is beautiful. Towering Niggar Mountain7 Mountain) is a sight to behold and the mountain terrane from Jefferson to Roanoke, Virginia is beautiful. We left for Roanoke on Wednesday, the 20th, stopping en route at Lexington, Virginia where I spent two hours in the courthouse trying to trace George and Frederick Eller who settled there late in the 18th century. At Roanoke I telephoned some of the Ellers of that town and yesterday morning received quite a genealogy from Rev. H. C. Eller. He is a Lutheran and descended from Jacob Eller whom he thinks came from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania about 1790. 1 think Jacob came from North Carolina. From Roanoke we drove to Hot Springs, Virginia, stopping enroute for a couple of hours at Fincastle where I got more information about the Roanoke Ellers.

At Hot Springs, Virginia we stayed at the wonderful Homestead Hotel and I attended a four day meeting of the Business Advisory Council of the U.S. Department of Commerce of which I have been a member for many years. The membership is made up of about one hundred of the top executives of American banks, utilities, and manufacturing institutions and its job is t o advise the government in matters concerning its relation with American industry. The meeting was highlighted by a briefing of the members of the State Department, Assistant Undersecretary Murphy acting as moderator. American foreign policy was outlined to us in detail and it was reassuring and so much different from what it was under the previous administration.

From Hot Springs we motored on Monday, October 25, to Hagerstown, Maryland where we spent the night. Next day we drove down to Point of Rock, Maryland south of Frederick where the old Hook mansion house still stands. We found it without much trouble and feasted our eyes on the magnificent view from its spacious porch. Part of the building was built of stone about 1760. In 1812 a wood addition was added to it which is now practically gone. It stands three stories and basement high with the old fireplace still extant in the basement kitchen with the crane and ovens apparently as good as new. I wish I had $50,000 to spend on restoring that beautiful old structure and buying the farm that accompanies it. The plantation in the very early days contained more than a thousand acres but today the owner tells me it contains only about 350 acres. I would like to restore it and give it to our government as a retreat for the president. The mansion house is not adjacent to any roadway but is reached by a long winding lane that makes one think a little of the manor houses in England. From here we drove to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania where we spent the night of Tuesday, October 26, and the next day drove to Flemington, New Jersey where we spent one night and long enough next day for me to review the Vannoy records in the Flemington Courhouse. The Vannoys, you know, originally lived on Staten Island removing from there to New Jersey about 1715. 1 didn't find much material.

On Thursday, the 28th, we reached home to find everything in good order and everybody excited about the election. The latter was a disappointment to me. Quite apparently Roosevelt unleased forces early in his first adminstration that are destined to drive this country into some kind of a modified socialism wherein the demand of the people upon the govenment will grow greater and greater, ultimately, perhaps, leading us into the need for enforced discipline. It's the classical course that all democracies have taken in the past and one that our earlier forebears foresaw when they attempted, by mens of a constitution, to keep people from voting themselves so many handouts and benefits from the government that in time the load would be unbearable.

We're well and hope that you and Aunt Francis, Merle and all of your family are in good health too. Business is very good and if the nation will give support to the Administration now in power I am sure business will remain good. Politics is a terrible tyrant and statesmen are few and far between.

  Love to all of you,

P.S. I might say that we drove 2,069 miles on our trip and stayed every night in roadside motels which we found in all cases to be clean, attractive and comfortable.. Motels make motor travel easy and much less expensive than spending nights in hotels.

  1. ) Eller Chronicles, Vol. VI 4 p. 292-293\
  2. ) The same Elizabeth D. Rather who sent the above letter to the Chronicles.
  3. ) Pictured in Eller Chronicles, Vol. IV, 3 p. 107.
  4. ) Rev. William H. Eller by Lynn Eller: The Eller Chronicles, Vol. IV, 3 p. 101.
  5. ) Rear Admiral Ernest McNeil Eller, The Eller Chronicles, Vol. 11, 2 p. 58; ibid Vol. 5 4 p. 243; ibid Vol. VI 4 p. 298 (Obituary)
  6. ) James Eller plantation, The Eller Chronicles, Vol. VI, 4 p. 240.
  7. ) Now renamed Mount Jefferson.

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Eller Chronicles Vol. VIl (1) Feb. 1993

With the Ellers in the Civil War
By Byron H. Eller

David H. Eller was born 10 July 1830 at the family home located on Coles Creek, a branch of the North Fork of Lewis Creek, Wilkes County, North Carolina, about a mile and a half north of where it joins the south fork of the same creek. The Simeon Eller property of about 250 acres is beautiful rolling pastureland, lowering gradually westerly to the creek. The young David was a farmer like his father and brothers, and performed the duties of the family before and after his father's premature death at age 56 years, 19 June 1850. David married 1 Feb 1854, Mary (Polly) McNiel at the residence of Polly's father, Jack H. McNiel, the ceremony being performed by the Rev. James McNiel, a Baptist minister. It can be assumed the couple remained on the farm with his mother and other family members, the youngest of whom, America, was twelve years of age.

With War clouds gathering over the land the Eller young men were answering the call to their chosen countries colors. David's unmarried younger brother, Thomas Jefferson, had already responded to the call to arms on 1 July 1861, being mustered into the 1st N.C. Infantry Regiment. It was not until almost ten months later, 31 April 1862, that David, with a married younger brother, Jesse Franklin, enlisted into the Confederate army, both on the same date. The two young men joined the 53rd N.C. Infantry Regiment, David as first sergeant, and Jesse Franklin as the first lieutenant of Company K. Both men assisted in organizing the company which was composed entirely of men from Wilkes County. Eventually there would be ten Ellers in this company, and certainly other first cousins from the McNiel family, which was a very large and prominent family of Wilkes County.

At the time of his enlistment David was 31 years of age and is said to have been 6 feet in height, tall for the average Civil War soldier. His company was mustered into service at Camp Mangum, four miles west of Raleigh, North Carolina. The regiment was sent almost immediately into eastern North Carolina, to Willmington on the Cape Fear River. General Robert E. Lee .assumed command of the Army of Northern Virginia 1 June 1862, and soon took the offensive against Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, then commanding the army of the Potomac, which was then entrenched in the peninsula of Virginia, and so the Seven Day's Peninsular campaign was fought 25 June to 1 July, 1862. On the last day of the Seven Day operation David's regiment, now with Junius Daniel's Brigade, was ordered to occupy a road near the James River (Richmond) where it was subjected to a fierce shelling from the Union gunboats on the river. After this engagement the brigade was ordered to Drewry's Bluff into a camp immediately in the rear of Ft. Darling, where it was active in constructing fortifications overlooking the James River, for the protection of Richnond and environs.

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Eller Chronicles Vol. VIl (1) Feb. 1993

While General Lee was taking his army into Maryland which eventually ended at the Battle of Antietam, the 53rd N.C. regiment remained in it's position at Drewry's Bluff where it was engaged in drilling on an average of six to eight hours each day, attaining as high a state of efficiency and discipline as any brigade in the Confederate army; and the construction of additional breastworks and forts, and preparation of winter quarters.

David reported sick about 6 September 1862. His service record has this entry: "Sgt. David H. Eller of Company K, being attacked by fever, soon became delirious which lasted for nearly a week, after which he sank into a state of collapse, cold sweats, etc., and died 13 Sept. 1862." And so it was that David died of disease, 13 September 1862, near Drewry's Bluff, Virginia, at age 31 years.

The form: "Record of Widow Claim for Pension Application" filled out 3 June 1885, and signed by Polly Eller, now a widow, definitely describes the disease,-"died from typhoid fever contracted in the service at Drewry"s Bluff, Va." Therefore, it must be assumed that Hook was in error when he states "He (David) was wounded at Drewry's Bluff, Va., and removed to Richmond where he died." (Hook, 1957, p. 185). It can also be assumed that under the relative quiet conditions existing at Drewry's Bluff at that time in Sept (The Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest single day in the Civil War, would be fought in Maryland just four days after David's death), Jesse Franklin, now second in command of Company K, with other close relatives as well in the company, would have arranged for the body to be prepared and shipped to his home near Purlear, Wilkes County, N.C., and to be "Interred in the New Hope Baptist Church cemetery six miles N.W. of No. Wilkesboro." Polly remained in Wilkes County, never remarried, and died 26 Nov. 1901. She is buried in the New Hope Church cemetery next to her soldier husband.

It was at the New Hope Cemetery, after the Salisbury Eller Conference in 1989 that several descendants of Simeon Eller located the grave site of David Eller, but found to their disappointment that the headstone erected to his memory had been broken and lies in disrepair. It is now being proposed that a restoration be undertaken to rectify this condition. It is further proposed that an appropriate memorial and rededication service be conducted after the 1995 Eller Conference which tentatively will be held in the Salem-Roanoke, Virginia, area. Why don't you make plans now to attend the ceremony?

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