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.