Eller Chronicles, May 1988 - p3


1899 - 1976


Jay Eller was born in Douglas County, near Lawrence, Kansas. At his death, he was living in Douglas County, near Wenatchee, Washington. He was the third son of George Riley and Mary Marks Eller. He had been preceded by brothers Ralph and Ora. His birth was followed by that of Nellie, a brother Dan, Grace, and Mary. George and Mary Eller had seven children.

Jay's father was a "Pauline" minister in the Church of the Brethren. He earned his own living, while leading a congregation. This entailed farming a leased land, moving often as small churches needed a pastor. The Eller children grew up, and went to common schools in various places from the Kansas/Missouri border to over the Colorado line, with stops in between.

Mary Marks had been a school teacher in rural schools near Olathe, Kansas. She married George Eller on Valentine's Day, and began moving west as her husband was called to serve pioneer churches.

The Quinter Church of the Brethren attracted many settlers into Gove County. These settlers began raising wheat, that made Kansas known as the "Bread Basket of America."

The Ellers moved to the Quinter area just preceding a drouth problem. "Prairie fires," "grasshopper plagues" were not simply terms in the dictionary, but were facts of life.

One year, George Eller harvested his crop in a wheelbarrow. If nothing else gave the farmers trouble, a hail storm could wipe out a crop in minutes--or a cyclone! Jay said they had variety in their meals in those days. Breakfast was mush and milk; lunch was cornmeal mush and butter; supper was fried cornmeal mush. Many others were depressed too.


There were Brethren on these Kansas Plains. The members in the East began their well-known "Relief Services." Foodstuff and hand-me-down clothing were shipped to Kansas by the barrel full. Russian thistles were cut green, used as fodder for the cattle. Money was taken up in other church collections and sent to help until better times came.

The first year, when Geraldine had gone from Idaho to Kansas to college in 1922, and came home having met Jay Eller, there was an apple grower who had this "Relief" story to tell. Walter Sisler had taken a freight car load of unpacked apples to Kansas. He had the car switched onto the Quinter siding. He sold apples to any buyers for what they could pay, in anything they could carry. Sisler told Geraldine that he noticed three little boys standing back of the crowd with nothing in which to carry apples. He asked one of the women who the boys were and was told, "They are the preacher's kids. They can't buy."


When the crowd slacked off a bit Walter Sisler called the boys up to the car door. He told them to unbutton their shirts. He filled their shirts with apples, and wished them good luck. He said their smiles and glowing faces were pay enough for him. Their names were Ralph, Ora and Jay Eller. At that time, of course, Sisler would not know that nearly twenty years later the youngest of them would marry an Idaho girl, that Jay Eller would move west and one summer work as a foreman of one of Walter Sisler's apple thinning crews.

The Brethren tendency for serving others was ingrained in them. It began in Germany when persecution was imposed on people not of the State Church. Brethren women began baking bread in long narrow loaves, in order to tie them on a string and pass them down through the iron grills to the prisoners in the dungeons below.

The first Brethren minister in America became known as the "Bread Father of Philadelphia." Having made the crossing of the Atlantic in a sailing vessel themselves, the Brethren knew the problems. Greedy ship masters, eager to make big profits, often overloaded on passengers and underloaded on supplies. Many ship's captains did not stop their crews from stealing what the passengers had, The Brethren met every ship that beat up the Philadelphia Harbor, with starving people at the rails and passed baskets of bread up to all eagerly reaching for food.


When neither the farm nor the church could supply the Ellers with a living, the children got jobs off the farm. Jay, the younger of the boys, was hired to herd a small band of sheep. He was not to lose a single sheep, nor get lost himself out on that wide open prairie. It was Jay's first time away from home. He was not yet a teenager. If homesickness had been a fatal disease, Jay would have died every day. He was provided with a dog and a white horse, but was given no guidance, no companion. His wages were to be given to his father.

Another summer Jay was hired by a neighbor to work on a farm. Jay was not to be paid until later. When the payment was made it was a pitifully small sum. It was the first, and Jay said the last, time that he ever argued with an employer about his pay.

"I don't owe you as much as a man's pay, "the employer said, "You are only a kid." Jay's idea was that while he was not to receive a "man's pay" he surely must be entitled to a "kid's honest pay." That "he was only a kid" could not be denied--but neither could the work he had done be discounted.

The "men" went to work at seven each morning after a hearty, hot breakfast. They had a full nooning rest period after a hot dinner. They stopped work at six in the evening, had nothing to do after a hearty supper.


Jay pointed out that "you had me at work by 4:30 A.M. to feed the stock, groom and harness the teams ready for the men, milk the cows, separate the milk, feed the chickens before I got a bite of cold breakfast. All day long I carried water to the men--stepped and fetched for anything they wanted, did chores for your wife. At noon I had to water and feed the horses while the men ate. I got no hour's rest at noon.

"In the evening when your men finished the day's work I had all their horses to take care of, feed and stable, then the chickens and milking again. After that I could eat what was cold and left over."

So Jay's argument to the boss was, "Who has given more labor for your money than I have?" After spending several > hours on the problem the boss finally said, "What's this to you, Jay. You aren't going to get any of it? I'm to pay your father."

Jay's hot reply was, "So you'd try to cheat a kid, and also the preacher, because you know he won't sue you." Later as Jay was big for his age, and toughened by years of outdoor work, he got men's work, for men's wages. Particularly so if it were away from the area where everyone knew exactly how old he was.

The Nebraska cornfields needed harvest hands. Jay began going there with his brother and neighbors. Each man carried a shucking "peg" or "hook" in his right hand. He reached for the corn ear with his left hand, while the right hand and "peg" tore the corn from the stalk, the husk from the corn and tossed the ear into the wagon box near by.

A good "shucker" worked with a "bang-bang" drum-beat as the first ear of corn flew through the air and hit the wagon box, followed immediately by another ear, and another. The pay was based on the number of loads shucked in a day.

Jay often told people that he became so good at the job that he could "keep three ears in the air at the same time." That always drew the admiring "ahs and ohs." To Geraldine that sounded much like the gags pulled on novices in the lumber camps. A greenhorn was often sent for a "board stretcher" or a "sky hook". Of course Jay could "keep three ears in the air at the same time." Two of them were fastened (one on each side) of his head.

When the corn stalks grew short and Jay Eller grew tall the jargon of "stoop labor" became fact, not fiction to Jay. By the time he had worked a long row of short corn Jay could not straighten up his back. He just fell flat and rolled to the next row.

Since Jay was still high school age, one may ask what harvest and corn shucking did to his schooling? The answer is "nothing." He got so far behind his classes that he finally dropped out. Eller had only two years of high school and gave up the idea of ever finishing it.



One summer day in 1919 Jay was mending harness for his father when a visitor arrived. He was Ray Wagoner, field man for the Brethren College at McPherson, Kansas. Jay never stopped working. Most Brethren stopped by the preacher's house when they were in the area--nothing special about this. After about an hour in the house father Eller and Wagoner came out and headed straight toward Jay. Father Eller's first words were so special as to be unbelievable.

He said, "Jay, Brother Wagoner thinks that you ought to go to McPherson College. Mamma and I think so, too." To say "you could have knocked me over with a feather" did not cover the subject. Jay was bowled over with the words, too stunned for a reply. He finally got out one word, "How?"

It was one thing to say "we think you ought to go to college," yet quite another one to manage it. There was a young heifer with the Eller cattle that could be sold for sixty dollars. "You know that I lack two years of high school, don't you?" was the next stumbling block. Wagoner assured Jay that McPherson College had an academy on campus that would take care of that.

The academy might take care of two years of high school, but that would not take care of Jay Eller. Seemingly that too had been worked out in the house. Jay could work and live on the college farm for his board and room. September 1919 Jay Eller went to McPherson, Kansas as a cowhand, milk the dairy herd at 4:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. without a minute's variation, seven days a week twelve months a year; bottle and distribute milk to customers was Jay's entry to McPherson College. The time between he could attend class and study.

Jay Eller attended college at McPherson for six consecutive years. In 1921 Professor Charles Morris of the Math Department called Eller into his office and said, "Jay, don't you think that you have milked cows long enough? How about being my physics laboratory assistant instead?"

Jay thought he had likely learned enough about cows. He, and the McPherson College team had won the gold medal for stock judging at the National Fair in Kansas City that Spring.

Eller and Waas rented an upstairs apartment near the campus and batched. They lived most of that winter on dried corn supplied by Benny Waas's mother. That summer Jay sold "Wearever" aluminum cooking utensils to farm wives. He had enough cash so that he could move on to campus, into the men's dormitory and eat in the dining hall, next fall.

The first summer of "Wearever" selling Eller rented a horse and buggy to get from farm to farm. He had a slight advantage over the other salesmen. Jay could speak some German. Many of these women were a part of the migration from Russia and many of them spoke no English. That year


Eller's sales were enough that he bought a Model T Ford to cover his territory. He was one of the very few students on campus that had a car. How was that for "upmanship?" The president of the college once rode with him to a meeting at an outlying church. He hauled the debate team to their meets, largely because Geraldine was on it. During Eller's college years at McPherson he was a member of the student body cabinet, class president, member of the radio club, had roles in most of the college dramas, sang in the church choir and won the faculty recommendation for any fellowship for advanced study he might choose, and became engaged to Geraldine Crill from Idaho. She was to teach in the public school system of Emmett, Idaho. To be as near her as possible Eller applied for and got a teaching fellowsship in the physics department at the University of Washington in Seattle.

To top off his six years at McPherson College, Professor Morris for whom he had been an assistant for four years, was taking summer work on his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago and he talked Eller into going with him.

There was one thing the church wanted Eller to do before he left; that was to accept the election to the ministry of the Church of the Brethren--May 3, 1925 it was done.

Since the days of his childhood George Eller's family had been friends with Frank and Anna Crumpacker, the first Brethren missionaries to China. The year before his graduation Jay Eller had applied to the Brotherhood Board to be sent to China as a teacher. The reply to that was that "mission funds" were so low that the church was recalling missionaries. There were no openings on the China field. "They were sending a teacher to India, but an English teacher."

His math and physics major did not qualify him for that. Jay Eller's services as a brethren Minister would likely be the same as that of his father, the Pauline ministry. Instead of farming this Eller would support himself as a science teacher. In his world there was no demand for tent makers as in Paul's world.


As the school year of 1923 drew to a close, Jay Eller had signed up other college men as "Wearever" salesmen. He would earn not only on the sales he sold, but a percentage of the earnings of the others.

Then he got a letter from his mother saying, "We have had Dan to a specialist in Denver. He has terminal cancer. If you want to see Dan while he is reasonably well you should come home as soon as school is out." The entire family went to the "sod house on the prairie" to have a reunion with Dan.

It seemed apparent to Jay that running the farm and the church that summer, and caring for a sick young lad, was


more than his father could do alone. Eller returned to the campus just long enough to gather his belongings and contact his district supervisor of salesmen, to resign and return to Arriba, Colorado. Dan tended to suffocate when lying down. Jay fixed a chair for Dan to sleep sitting up. The nights were long when sleep was hard to get. Jay spent all of his non-working hours, talking with Dan. Now Dan Eller dreamed big plans. "He would be the second Eller to go to college. When he got well he was going to join Jay at McPherson College. They would room together and for this summer Jay could ride his special horse."

Jay did ride the horse in rounding up the stock. it was sometimes a question though as to who was in charge here-- Eller or the horse. The horse knew as much, sometimes more, than his rider about rounding up cattle. When he was working stock it paid the rider to be alert. Whenever an animal tended to drift away, or cut out from the herd, this horse seemed to know it as soon as the cow did. If the rider was drifting along, he might suddenly find himself unseated. Without instructions or guidance his pony might suddenly swerve to thwart any idea the cattle might have to go their own way.

Teenage Dan was the one person who had ridden this horse most often. Dan liked derring-do cowboy life, so he had trained the pony to execute a rapid-fire take off. He wanted his pony to burst into full gallop the minute his rider's foot first touched the stirrup. The pony seemed to keep a feud going as to whether he could be out from under Dan before he could hit the saddle. It was a standard procedure between the two. This pony unseated Jay several times in the contest of "who goes first."

How did that horse know that Dan Eller was ill unto death? No more quick starts or contests of speed. As Dan's cancer got worse the pony would stand still as a chair until Dan was comfortably seated and then move off when everyone was ready, at a steady pace. The pony seemed to know whom to favor. He had always waited for Mother Eller if she chose to ride, or sister Mary. It wasn't as if the pony had lost the art of a jump start. He continued to do it for sister Grace or brother Jay. Dan died in August of 1923 at the age of twenty-one years.

Jay did return to McPherson College that fall. He still served as an assistant under Professor Charles Morris, but he had no summer's accumulated wages. It seemed as if once again Eller would have to drop-out and seek jobs. His aunts in Iowa agreed to sign his notes and Eller borrowed money from a McPherson Bank to go to college again.


1922 the regional Y.M.C.A. was having a rally at Estes Park, Colorado as soon as school was out. As a campus "Y" officer Eller attended that before seeking work. Aside from the program and uplift of the meetings Jay was seeing for


the first time, mountains, high and lifted up around him. He was awed. The nearest mountain seemed like an invitation to climb. Eller and another man from the plains decided to get up early enough to climb and be back at camp for breakfast.

The two walked and walked but seemed no nearer the mountain. They met a farmer of whom they asked directions and distance. The answer was "thirty miles as the crow flies, and you can't fly.,,

"No, no! not that one far away! This first one right here."

The man explained that it was the nearest one he was talking about.

The two "Y's men" decided they were not about to climb the mountain before breakfast. They had learned a lesson about Rocky Mountains in Colorado and something of the perceptional values of skylines in pure and rarified air of high altitudes. Eller did not know then that he would live all his adult life surrounded by mountains. He loved them.


Professor Morris was working on his doctoral degree at the University of Chicago. He talked Eller into going with him. Prof and student were lab partners. Morris for a doctorate and Eller toward a master's degree. Eller got a job at the University of Chicago as a waiter to help pay expenses.

Just as the Y Camp at Estes Park stretched Eller's horizons from the Plains to the Mountains, so the summer school in Chicago opened his mind to his first metropolitan city, some of its problems and its population.

On the journey from Chicago to Seattle to begin the opening of classes at the University, Jay stopped in Kansas City, Missouri to spend some time with his parents. The George Ellers had recently moved there to preach for the Armourdale Mission. The Ellers had only two children at home now, the daughters Grace and Mary.

The family was quietly enjoying visiting with each other. Mother Eller was mostly listening as she darned and mended. Father Eller's statement was made to his son Jay, "Now you have had seven times as much education as I had. I shall expect you to do seven times as much as I did." Mother Eller's words popped out like an explosion, "Oh, George, not 49 children." No, Jay did not have seven times as many as Geroge Eller's seven children. He had as nearly half as many as 3 to 7 can be.


There were so many students at the U. that the Professors lectured the entire group occasionally and then the students were divided into smaller groups which were assigned to the teaching fellows, who met them regularly through the week.


One of Eller's roommates was Merle Travis whom he had known before in McPherson, and a man from Omak. When apple blossom time came, the men decided to drive to Wenatchee for Festival. Merle had a girl friend there. The men also found out that the woman that Travis called "Aunt Carrie Barnhart" was the same person that Eller called "Cousin Carrie Eller."

Eller had also known Pastor Ira Lapp, of the Wenatchee Chruch of the Brethren at McPherson. When Travis asked Jay if he wanted to meet Ira Lapp the reply was, "not until after church on Sunday." Jay knew that Ira would insist that Eller should preach for him. But Eller said, "I am not that good." One may call it "coincidence," "kismet" or what one will--but Lapp met them on the street on Saturday. He must have been a good persuader for he talked Eller into preaching the next morning.

At the close of the services, Ed Gensinger walked up to speak to Eller, as Ed always did to everyone. He said, "I hear that you are a school man." Jay's reply was "not until I can get a school." Gensinger's next question was, "Have you applied here?" The answer to that was, "Yes, I have. I got no answer from them. I assume that means a 'no' answer."

Gensinger's next proposal was "Will you go for a personal interview if I set one up for you with G. Martin Warren?"

Eller didn't think he could ask the others to wait for that. They were driving a Model T Ford. They had two passes to cross--with roads nothing to brag about.

Gensinger set up the interview at the Warren's home to be held immediately. The Ford and the other men were waiting at the curb. When Jay crawled into the car, he told the fellows that, "that was likely a waste of their time. He was sorry to detain them."

A few weeks later he got a letter from the Wenatchee School District saying that Eller would be hired to teach physics and geology, coach the swimming team, be assistant coach to the football team and such other duties that might arise, for $1700 for nine months, for the school year 1926-1927. Gensinger often said during the years, that he had done many things for the good of this valley, but he thought the best thing he ever did for them was to get Jay Eller on their teaching staff.

Pictures: Jay and Geraldine -- Jay and Elfreda
pictures: Jay in early years
More pictures

Jay Vernard Eller, Part II





paternal linesmaternal lines
from Germany to PA and VAfrom Ireland to KY and IL
I Jacob Eller married Magdalena Peters They bought 470 ac. of land on Gavins Creek, VA in 17971 George Marks married Susannah Crockett Antrim Co., Ireland
II John Eller married Catherine Brubaker both born in VAII Benjamin Marks married Sarah Burkhead, born in Antrim Co., Ireland d. KY
III Abraham Eller married Salome Flory (a) Gavins,Creek, VAIII Benjamin Marks married Mary M. Bishop. He died Saluda, IL 1884
IV George Eller married Mary Marks at Olathe, KS Feb. 14, 1896 m-2nd Grace Shull all children are of 1st m.IV Benjamin T. Marks married Lydia A. Cave. He died Philips Co., KS 1894
V Mary L. Marks married George Eller Feb. 14, 1896

b. July 23, 1899 Lawrence, Douglas, KS
d. July 30, 1978 Wenatchee, Chelan, WA
m. Geraldine Etta CRILL
b. April 24, 1905 Nampa, Canyon, ID
m. June 20, 1926 Emmett, Gem, ID
1.Vernard Marion Eller b 11 July 1927 Everett, Snohomish, WA
m. 9 July 1955 Pottstown, Chester, PA
Phyllis Naomi KULP b 2 Jan. 1931 Pottstown, Chester, PA
a. Sander Mack Eller b 7 June 1959 Pomona, LA, CA
b. Enten Vernard Eller b 29 Sept 1961 Pomona, LA, CA
m. 16 June 1984 Oakbrook, Dupage, IL
Maria Kim TULLY b 27 March 1960 Highland Falls, NY
c. Rosanna Kathryn Eller b 13 May 1963 Pomona, LA, CA
m. 20 Aug. 1983 La Verne, LA, CA Timothy Charles McFADDEN b 18 Aug. 1962 Ambon, Moluccas, Indonesia
2.Eldon Eugene Eller b 11 Oct 1929 Wenatchee, Chelan, WA
m. 5 March 1951 La Verne, LA, CA
Margaret Sue BRUBAKER b 17 Nov. 1931 Falfurrias, Brooks, TX
a.Sylvia Diane Eller b 28 Oct 1951 Pomona, LA, CA
Rachel Margaret Filer b 19 Feb 1987 West Covina, LA, CA
b.Marlin Jay Eller b 14 June 1953 Pomona, LA, CA
m. 22 Dec 1983 Los Angeles, LA, CA Mary Elizabeth McCONNEY b 12 Dec 1954 Des Moines, Polk, IA
Nikki Melanie Eller b 11 Aug 1987 Hiroshima, Japan
c.Ethan Eric Eller b 8 Sept 1956 Monrovia, LA, CA
m. 17 April 1977 Arcadia, LA, CA Mary Sue GARTNER b 20 June 1956 Pasadena, LA, CA
Wendy Anne Eller b 9 Apr 1980 Los Angeles, LA, CA
Evan Elden Eller b 7 Jan 1983 Pasadena, LA, CA
Elaine Elizabeth Eller b 30 Aug 1986 Northridge, LA, CA
d.Cynthia Lorraine Eller b 3 Nov 1958 Arcadia, LA, CA
3.Elfreda Pearl Eller b 21 March Seattle, King, WA
m. 23 Dec 1951 Wenatchee, Chelan, WA Frederic Wayne HOLMES b 2 Jan 1930 Tonasket, Okanagan, WA
a.Alesia Beth HOLMES b 9 Nov 1952 Tonasket, Okanagan, WA
m. 27 May 1978 Oakbrook, Dupage, IL Keith Andrew NONEMAKER b 16 Apr 1951 Dauphin Co, PA
b.Fredric David HOLMES b 7 Jan 1954 Tonasket, Okanagan, WA
m. Roberta NOAH Van Dyke b 1 Oct 1956
Jennifer Ann HOLMES b 19 June 1979 Tonasket, Okanagan, WA
m. 2nd 25 Aug 1985 Wenatchee, Chelan, WA Marcelene Ellen STUTZMAN b 1 Mar 1955
c.Connie Doreen HOLMES b 17 Jan 1956 Tonasket, Okanagan, WA m 21 June 1975 Tonasket, Okanagan, WA Danny Richard Bedient, b 14 Nov 1954 Chelan Co., WA
William Richard BEDIENT b 28 Feb 1983 Tonasket, Okanagan, WA
Sarah Marie BEDIENT b 4 June 1985 Spokane, Spokane, WA
d.Pamela Roxanne HOLMES b 27 May 1958 Tonasket, Okanagan, WA m 21 July 1979 Tonasket, Okanagan, WA David William LILEY b 16 July 1955 Thurston Co., WA
Roxanne Louise LILEY b 19 Feb. 1983 Wenatchee, Chelan, WA
Jeremy David LILEY b 27 June 1985 Wenatchee, Chelan, WA
e.Lauri Jean HOLMES b 14 May 1962 Tonasket, Okanagan, WA
m. 11 May 1985 Tonasket, Okanagan, WA Johnny PAEZ b 27 Feb 1957 Honolulu, Hawaii


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