Whit and Maggie Ellis
In 1899, Maggie Riley was the first Ellis to settle in Chandler. She arrived from Dallas, Texas with her mother and father (James and Ann Riley), and three siblings (Polly, Winfield and Zodie). The family initially settled on a farm near Wellston. In about 1900, the Riley’s purchased a 20-acre farm 1 ˝ miles south west of Chandler.
In 1860, Whitfield Washington was born in Sumter County Alabama. In 1874 he left his birthplace and traveled around the world on a merchant ship as a cook. Circa 1892 he left the sea, changed his name to Whit Ellis, and resettled in the Oklahoma Territory. In 1899, while working in the Chandler area, he met and fell in love with Maggie Riley. They married on September 24, 1900 in Chandler. Between 1903 and 1924, 11 children were born to the couple. All of the Ellis children reached adulthood except “Baby Ellis” who died 8 months after birth in 1903.
The early part of the Ellis marriage was spent in Stillwater and Guthrie Oklahoma. In 1907, with 2 children, the Ellises returned to Chandler. Whit opened one of the first black owned businesses on the main street-Whit Ellis’ Restaurant. The restaurant remained open until 1932 when Whit’s death and the economic problems accompanying the depression made it impossible to remain open. Throughout his life in Chandler, Whit was active in community affairs and an advocate of black community empowerment. Maggie, the super strong, omnipresent, silent force in the family, was a staunch advocate of education and using common sense to solve problems. She was a God fearing person who held highest the principles of honesty, hard-work, and being responsible for both what you did and what you didn’t do. Her personality and positive attitude toward life is visible in every one of her children.
By 1950, all 10 children of Maggie and Whit Ellis graduated from college. Their degrees include 2 doctorates and seven masters. Most of them were from the prestigious University of Michigan.
The U.S. Department of Education statistics for all levels of education as presented in their year 2000 report indicates, in 1950, nation-wide (all races), for persons over 25 years of age, 34.3% completed high school or higher and 6.2% completed 4 or more years of college. The same statistics for blacks only were a shocking 13.7% (high school completion or higher) and 2.2% (4 or more years of college). The Ellises were 100% in both categories.
A more detailed account of Ellis family history is found at the family web site: “Ellisfamilystory.com”