Saturday, June 25, 2011

John Ellis Biography

John Ellis


John Ellis, the first child of John Ellis and Hannah Stone, was born in Scarborough, York, Ontario, Canada on Jan 4, 1814. Very little is known about his parents or his boyhood days, but we know that this area of Canada had only recently opened to settlers. Many of these settlers came directly from England, but many others were United Empire Loyalist who fled into Canada from the United States rather than fight against England at the time of the Revolutionary War. This new country was covered with great forest of maple, beech, elm, ash, oak, birch, spruce and cedar trees. There were also many lakes and streams which supplied these pioneers with fish, some of which they salted for winter use. They may have caught fresh fish through the ice during the cold winter months when the streams were frozen. It is likely that these frozen streams and lakes also provided the settlers with winter sport in the form of skating.

As was the case in all pioneer communities, the young boys assumed the responsibilities of men. They became carpenters, masons, harness makers, shoe makers, blacksmiths, and millers, as the occasion demanded. John Ellis undoubtedly had experience in all these trades during his boyhood. A history of Scarborough states that early meetings were held whenever a congregation could be gathered in a barn, a wagon, shop or school house. The circumstances under which John Ellis first heard the Gospel are unknown, but he did hear it and became a member of the church in 1836, when he was about 22 years old. After he joined the church, he was not welcome in his father’s home. Our records show his baptism in 1838.

The story passed down through the family is that he left Canada during the winter, taking with him only his skates. He probably skated on the frozen streams, skirting the edges of lake Ontario and lake Erie, and finally arriving at Kirtland, Ohio where he joined the body of Saints. Our family stories say he worked in a large burner as a cooper or barrel maker. Barrel making may not seem too important to us in this day, but in the pioneer days there were no cardboard boxes or plastic bags, and most everything had to be packed or stored in barrels.

John Ellis was with the Saints at the time of their expulsion from Kirkland and moved to Far West in 1838. From there he went to Quincy, where the Saints were given refuge. It was in Quincy, Adams County, Illinois that he met and subsequently married Harriet Hales on Oct 31, 1839. Harriet was the daughter of Stephen and Mary Ann Hales. (They were first cousins.) This young couple consisted of blue-eyed Harriet, who was of medium height and had dark brown hair, and John, who was a large man at six feet with very dark hair and blue eyes. They lived in Quincy, Illinois for a time. In the minutes of the Quincy Branch the members of the church were recorded June 21, 1840. Among the names listed were John Ellis and Harriet Ellis, also listed were Stephen and Mary Ann Hales (Harriet’s parents) and three of her brothers: Charles Henry and wife Julie Ann, Stephens Hales Jr. and George Hales. On Dec 30, 1840, while in Quincy, the first Ellis child was born - a little girl named Mary Ann. Some time after this, possibly in the Spring of 1841, the John Ellis and Stephen Hales Sr. families moved to Nauvoo, Illinois. John and Harriet’s second daughter, Hannah Isabella, is recorded as being born there December of 1843.

The first son born to John and Harriet was born at Fort Madison, Iowa about three miles from Nauvoo, Illinois. It was a mystery to the family why John and Harriet were in Fort Madison until further research and information gathered from Brother Pettit’s journals were obtained. The land near Fort Madison had dips and swells in the topography. In the low place, a sort of scrub oak grew in abundance. While Brother Pettit was serving on a mission, he visited Nauvoo and the surrounding area. While he was there he saw slats which he was told had been cut from this scrub oak. These were wet and curved to form the rounded boards for making barrels, buckets, and wash tubs. It is possible that while John was pursuing his trade as a carpenter and cooper, moved there where he could obtain materials for his trade. John Henry Ellis, a second son of John and Harriet, was born at Appanoose, Illinois on March 18, 1849. Now John and his wife had four children to provide and protect against those perilous times.

A check of LDS records reveals there is not a card file for John and Harriet having made the trek across the plains into the Salt Lake Valley. However, Harriet’s mother remarried after the death of her father Stephen Hales to William Thompson. William and Mrs. Thompson are listed in the Garden Grove Company arriving in Salt Lake Sept 24, 1851. The roster of persons in this Garden Grove Company included the following: Brother William Thompson and Sister Thompson. His children Marie and Orville and her children who were Hales. Charles and Julia Hales are listed with small children, Stephen Hales and wife Eveline with small children, and Henry Hales and wife Eliza Ewings Hales. No mention of John and Harriet Hales Ellis. In the biography of Harriet Hales, it states that her younger brother Henry, and his family traveled in the same company with John and Harriet Ellis. The family also related that Harriet said her mother (Mary Ann Hales Thompson) died on the plains. Further statements were made that the family took a wagon box to make a coffin for her and Harriet expressed extreme sorrow in leaving her mother buried on the plains. Harriet was disturbed by the evidence of wild animals desecrating the graves of the fallen Saints who had traveled in the previous companies. From these evidences, along with the fact that a child was born to John and Harriet on Dec 21, 1851 in Bountiful, Utah is that John and Harriet Ellis along with the Thompson and Hales families traveled together in the Garden Grove Company, reaching Salt Lake on Sept 24, 1851.

When the Ellis family reached Utah the covered wagon was used for sleeping quarters for some of the family members until a one room log cabin could be built. The log cabin served as the main residence of the family until 1869 when a four room adobe house was constructed. While living in the log cabin seven more children were born to John and Harriet. These children were: Jose Ezra, Sarah Ann, Elizabeth Jane, Laura Victoria, Charles William, George Franklin and James. George Franklin died of scarlet fever when he was fourteen months old and James died from measles when he was nine months old. The first four years in Utah were not easy, but they experienced the joy of building for the future.

In 1857 this future was threatened by the advent of Johnston’s Army. While the family moved south to Cove Fort, John was stationed in Echo Canyon. The muster roll of Company D, 2nd Battalion, 4th Regiment Infantry, Nauvoo Legion shows John Ellis was the captain from November 9 through November 28, 1857. Upon returning to their home, the Ellis family did some farming and stock raising. A small flock of sheep furnished wool, which Harriet
prepared for clothing. John Ellis was a miller for John Taylor in Farmington.

The following is copied from the book East of Antelope Island, page 153, “John Ellis, a millwright and cooper who had brought his tools to the valley with him, made furniture for his home. One rocking chair is still is use in the home of his daughter-in-law, Robenia M. Ellis.” John also made wooden tubs, barrels, buckets, churns and washboards, all very important items in those days. The first molasses mill in the community was owned by John Ellis. It was located near the site of the present Bountiful City Cemetery. The family referred to this piece of land as the mill ground. Stephen Ellis had charge of the mill ground while Charles Ellis was responsible for the meadow ground.

John Ellis was a happy, fun-loving person. He enjoyed having young people come to his home and they came often. Harriet was a refined and very capable person. The couple enjoyed singing and often held “singing school” in their home. This love of singing has been handed down through the generations to their descendants. John was not well during the last years of his life. He had what was probably cancer of the face and suffered very much from it. It became necessary to feed him with a cup having a spout. One time when he was returning home after having treatments in Salt lake City, the freight train stopped at the land where his boys met him and carried him home in a rocking chair. John died on April 3, 1871. He was 57 years and nearly three months old at the time of his death. He was patient in his suffering and was always a true and faithful Latter-day Saint. He was survived by Harriet, ten of his twelve children and nine
grandchildren. Harriet lived 39 years as a widow, and she too was a faithful Latter-day Saint. She raised her family under trying conditions, teaching school to support them. She taught Sunday School in South Bountiful for 25 years and must have been a living example of an ideal Latter-day Saint woman. The last thirteen years of her life were spent in the home of her youngest daughter, Laura Victoria Ellis Hatch, who made her comfortable and happy. At her death on May 24, 1910, she had 101 grandchildren, 205 great-grandchildren and 38 great-great-grandchildren.

June Jansson Ellis, History of John Ellis, edited by Veoma M. Stahle.
International Society: Daughters Of The Utah Pioneers
East of Antelope Island P. 153

Obituary of John Ellis:
At Bountiful, April 3, 1871, of cancer, John Ellis, aged 57 years and three months. Deceased was born near the city of Toronto, Upper Canada, where he embraced the gospel in the year 1836. In 1837 he moved to Kirkland, Ohio and in 1838, he moved with the saints from there to Far West, Missouri. He then went to Quincy, Illinois, where he married the daughter of Stephen and Mary Ann Hales. He went to Nauvoo, where he resided until the expulsion of the Saints from the state. He then, with his family, started for the Rocky Mountains, stopping by the way to recruit, at Garden Grove. He reached the Salt Lake Valley in the year 1851, since which time he has been a resident of Bountiful until his decease. He has ever been true and faithful in the church and was patient during his afflictions. He leaves a wife, twelve children, twelve grand children,
and many relatives and friends to mourn his loss. John Ellis was laid to rest in Bountiful City Cemetery.

Available at: (Last visited September 24, 2002).

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