JOEL ELLIS, for nearly fifty years an active citizen and useful business man of Chicago, was descended from the old Puritan stock which has done so much in developing the mental, moral and material interests of the United States. The energy, fortitude and stern moral character which characterized the founders of the New England colonies is still observed in many of their descendants, and these attributes were possessed by Joel Ellis in a marked degree.
His first ancestor of whom any record is now to be found was Barzillai Ellis, born June 9, 1747, presumably in Massachusetts, and of English blood. March 6, 1773, he married Sarah Tobey, who was born June 5, 1755, no doubt in the same state and of similar ancestry. They resided in Conway, Franklin County, Massachusetts, whence they moved, about the close of the last century, to Chautauqua County, New York. Here Barzillai Ellis died in 1827. His youngest son, Samuel Ellis, died in Chicago in 1856. The other children were Barzillai, Asa, Freeman, Benjamin, Joel and Elnathan.
The children of Benjamin Ellis were Parmelia, Eleanor, Jane, Stephen, Mason, Datus, Joel (the subject of this sketch) and Ensign. His wife was Sophia Birch, a native of Connecticut. Benjamin Ellis died in Fredonia, New York, in 1855. He was a farmer, and cleared up land in the primeval forest, which consumed the best years of his life and required the assistance of his children, who had little opportunity to attend school.
Joel Ellis was born in Fredonia, Chautauqua County, New York, May 25, 1818. As above indicated, his early years were devoted to the toil which usually befell farmers sons in those days, and he attended school but very little. Schools were far apart and held sessions of only three months per year, in winter, when attendance on the part of many children was almost impossible. However, Joel Ellis was blessed by nature with a sound mind and body, and his clear judgment and active industry made him a successful business man and good citizen.
When, in 1838, he set out for the West, whither an uncle (Samuel Ellis, before mentioned) had preceded him, he was an energetic and self-reliant young man of twenty years, full of courage and hopefulness and the ardor and ambition of a strong nature. Arriving in the autumn, he found the young city of Chicago suffering from the commercial and industrial stagnation which followed the financial panic of 1837, and his search for employment was a vain one. The only offer which he received was from his uncle, who was engaged in farming some miles from the then city, but on ground now built up with thousands of the finest homes in Chicago, along Ellis, Greenwood and other avenues of the South Side. He continued in farm labor with his uncle for two years, much of which time was occupied in chopping wood from the timber which then covered this region, and which must be cleared away to make room for a tillable farm.
From 1840 to 1858 he was associated with Archibald Clybourn, an active business man of Chicago (see biography elsewhere in this work), and became thoroughly conversant with the meat business, which was one of Mr. Clybourns chief enterprises. It was at the house of Mr. Clybourn that he met the lady who became his wife in 1844. This was Miss Susan Galloway, a sister of Mrs. Clybourn and daughter of James and Sally (McClenthan) Galloway, of Pennsylvania birth and Scotch ancestry. Her grandfather, Samuel Galloway, was a native of Scotland, whose wife was of Pennsylvania-German descent. They were among the earliest settlers on the Susquehanna River, and Samuel Galloway was a soldier in the Revolutionary Army. Mrs. Ellis was taken by her parents, when a small child, to Sandusky, Ohio, and thence the family came to Chicago, arriving on the 9th of November, 1826. They left Sandusky on the 1st of October, in a sailing-vessel, and were wrecked south of Mackinaw, but were rescued by another vessel, which brought them to Chicago.
James Galloway had visited Illinois in the fall of 1824, and was very much charmed with the country about the Grand Rapids of the Illinois River (now known as Marseilles), where he bought a claim. He spent the winter of 1826-27 in Chicago with his family, and settled on this claim in the following spring, and continued to reside there the balance of his life. His wife died in 1830, and he subsequently married Matilda Stipes, of Virginia. In character Mr. Galloway was a fit representative of his sturdy Scotch ancestry, and was well fitted for pioneering in those early days, when means of travel and communication were difficult, and the dwellers in the wilderness were compelled to forego many comforts and social advantages, besides braving the enmity of their savage neighbors.
Of the five children of James and Sally Galloway, Mrs. Clybourn is the eldest. The second, Jane, wife of Washington Holloway, died in 1894. John died in Missouri. Susan is Mrs. Ellis. George, born April 12, 1828, at Marseilles, is now deceased. Of the second marriage, Archibald and Marshall are the only surviving offspring. The former now shares a part of the original farm at Marseilles with Georges widow. The latter resides in Chicago.
On leaving the employ of Mr. Clybourn, Mr. Ellis engaged in the retail meat business on his own account, and furnished supplies to many of the leading hotels and to vessels entering Chicago Harbor. In 1865 he formed a partnership with Thomas Armour and began an extensive whole-sale business in meats and provisions, which grew beyond his fondest dreams of success. In fifteen years he amassed a comfortable fortune, which was largely invested in improved real estate in the city. As the care of his property absorbed much of his time, he decided to retire from active business, and, in the spring of 1871, he purchased twenty acres in the town of Jefferson (now a part of the city of Chicago), on which he built a handsome suburban home, in which he hoped to pass the balance of his days in well-earned rest from the arduous labors which had occupied his earlier years. Scarcely was he settled in his new home when the great fire of October, 1871, robbed him of all his buildings save the home at Jefferson, just completed. Without any repining, he set to work at once to repair his losses. It was his custom to rise at two oclock in the morning and drive into the city to begin business. There were no rapid-transit systems then to move suburban residents quickly from and to their homes, and he took means which would appall any but such stout natures as his to rebuild his fortunes. In this he was moderately successful, and when a cancer caused his death at his home in Jefferson, October 29, 1886, he left his family comfortably provided for.
A quiet, unassuming man, he gave little attention to public affairs, though he took the interest in local and national progress which every true American must feel, and discharged his duty as it appeared to him by supporting the republican party after it came into existence, having formerly affiliated with the Whigs.He was a member of the Masonic fraternity, and was an active supporter of the Universalist Church, being among the organizers of St. Pauls congregation, whose pastor, Rev. W. E. Manly, performed the ceremony which made him the head of a family.Besides his widow, he left three children, namely: Lucretia, now the widow of George W. Pinney, residing in Chicago; Winfield, of Highland Park, Illinois; and Mary Josephine, Mrs. Algernon S. Osgood, of Chicago.
Correction to above biography:
The children of BENJAMIN ELLIS were Parmelia, Eleanor, Jane, Stephen, Mason, Datus, Joel (the subject of this sketch) and Ensign. His wife was MARIA BURT a native of Connecticut. Benjamin Ellis died in Fredonia, New York, in 1855. He was a farmer, and cleared up land in the primeval forest, which consumed the best years of his life and required the assistance of his children, who had little opportunity to attend school.
-John Reynolds, descendant of Benjamin Ellis.