Ellison Family Graveyard
Sumter County, South
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This cemetery is located on Old Garner‘s Ferry Road. To find it, take
Highway 261 North from Highway 378., Then take the road veering to left
just before going downhill and after plantation white fence on the,
left. (There are no road signs.) The cemetery is 2/10th of a mile
down on the right.
The cemetery stones face Hwy 261. Hand-made bricks have been used
to shore up the bottom-side. About 25 feet from the site is a
large oak tree with a 2x12x10 nailed to it. Painted on this plank
are the words, "The Borough Plantation." The sign faces the same
as the stones. The site is encompassed on three sides by planted
pines. Maybe the sign was posted there to let loggers know that
this small piece of land is off limits.
ELLISON~ (four-sided spire-type stone) In Memoriam
William Jul 19, 1819-Jul 24,1904 -At rest
William J. Dec 8, 1845-Feb 9, 1894
Gabriella, w/o William Nov 18, 1832-Dec 24, 1920
William B. Jul 14, 1876-Jan 11, 1897
R.M.E. 1854 (child’s grave)
ELLISON, Ernest Sanders
s/o William J. & C. Ellison, Nov 2, 1880-Aug 30, 1882
LABATUT, Preston T.
The American Negro, Raymond Logan and Irving Cohen New York: Houghton and Mifflin, 1970
Aug 11, 1852-May 18, 1872 With glory crowned
SHREWSBURY, Amelea N.
w/o Henry Ellison Dec 7, 1837-Feb 24, 1922
Whose life was an inspiration whose memory a blessing.
ELLISON, Amelia G.
Jan 11, 1881-Aug 10, 1911
Savior I come to thee.
Aug 20, 1883 age 67
He giveth his beloved sleep.
ELLISON, Mary Elizabeth
Jun 11, 1824-Sept 15, 1852
Thy race tho short is done -
Mary and thou art gone to rest in heaven
that bright and blissful land upon the Saviors breast,
no more shall torturing pain Mary, disturb or back thy frame
no more shall tears of sorrow fall upon thy cheek again
rest Mary rest- for Christ himself was once the
dark graves guest this heavenly one the
prisoner changed into a place of rest.
ELLISON, Henry McKinzie
infant s/o William & Mary T.
died Jul 22, 1853 age 1 yr.
Also, Robert MISHAW
s/o William & Mary T. Ellison
May 27, 1854 age 3 yrs 3 mos 9 days.
ELLISON, Mary Thomson,
Consort of William Ellison Jr.
and d/o the late John MISHAW,
formerly of Charleston who departed this life
on 2nd of Jun 1853 age 24 yrs 9 mos and 28 days
In the prime of life and vigor of youth she was visited
with a painful & lingering disease & as a Christian
she bore with patience thru faith in her redeemer
until her spirit was called away unto him that gave it.
Broken red granite spire reads:
JOHNSON, E. Ann,
My angel wife gone to rest
Mar 5, 1820 or 70?
died Jan 4, 1850
aged 86 yrs
Consort of William Ellison.
Erected to the memory of ..
Dec 5, 1861
in his 71st yr of his age
In God we trust.
Wife of William Ellison
Nov. 13 - 1882 to December 11, 19XX
There are also:
Large man-made rock/stone-no markings
Small broken slab-no markings
William Ellison, Jr.
In 1800 the South Carolina legislature had
set out in detail the procedures for manumission. To end the practice
of freeing unruly slaves of "bad or depraved" character and those who
"from age or infirmity" were incapacitated, the state required that an
owner testify under oath to the good character of the slave he sought
to free. Also required was evidence of the slave's "ability to gain a
livelihood in an honest way." On
June 8, 1816, William Ellison of Fairfield County appeared before a magistrate (with five
local freeholders as supporting witnesses) to gain permission to free
his slave, April, who was at the time 26 years of age. April was William Ellison, Jr. of Sumter County.
At birth, William Ellison, Jr. was given the name of "April." It
was a popular practice among slaves of the period to name a child after
the day or month of his or her birth. It is known that between the
years 1800 and 1802 April was
owned by a white slave-owner named William Ellison, son of Robert
Ellison of Fairfield County in South Carolina. It is not documented as
to who his owner was before that time. It
can only be assumed that William Ellison, a planter of Fairfield
district was either the father or the brother of William Ellison, Jr.,
freedman of Sumter County. April had his name changed to William
Ellison by the courts, obviously in honor of William Ellison of
At the age of 10, William "April" Ellison was apprenticed and he was trained as a cotton gin builder and
repairer. He spent six years training as a blacksmith and
carpenter and he also learned how to read, write, cipher and to do basic bookkeeping.
Since there are no records showing the
purchase of April (later William Ellison of Sumter) by William Ellison
of Fairfield, it is unknown as to how long April was owned by William
It is known that William Ellison of Fairfield inherited a large estate
from his father
Robert, and that the slaves of the estate, named in the will were left
his siblings. It is possible that Robert Ellison gave several slaves to
his son before his death, so they would not have needed to have been
mentioned in his will. William owned several slaves according to the
census records. Both Robert and William were of an age to have been
able to be the father of April.
trained as a machinist and he became a well known cotton gin
maker. Upon receiving his freedom he decided to pursue his expertise in
Sumter County, South Carolina where found an eager market for his
He is well known for perfecting the cotton gin invented by Eli Whitney.
In 1816, April, now known as William Ellison, Jr.
arrived in Stateburg where he initially hired slave workers from their local
owners. By 1820 he had purchased two adult males to work in his shop. On
June 20, 1820, April appeared in the Sumter District courthouse in
Sumterville. Described in court papers submitted by his attorney as a
“freed yellow man of about 29 years of age,” he requested a name change
because it “would yet greatly advance his interest as a tradesman.” A
new name would also “save him and his children from degradation and
contempt which the minds of some do and will attach to the name April.”
Because “of the kindness” of his former master and as a “Mark of
gratitude and respect for him” April asked that his name be changed to
William Ellison. His request was granted.
The Ellison family joined the Episcopalian Church of the
Holy Cross in Stateburg and on August 6, 1824, William Ellis was
the first black to install a family bench on the first floor of the
church, among those of the other wealthy families of Stateburg.
The poor whites and the other black church members, free and slave, sat
in the balcony of the church.
Gradually, Ellison built up a small empire, purchasing slaves in
increasing numbers as the years passed. He became one of South
Carolina's major cotton gin manufacturers and sold his machines as far
away as Mississippi. He regularly advertised his cotton gins in
newspapers across the state. His ads may be found in historic copies of
the Black River Watchman, the Sumter Southern Whig, and the Camden
1830, he owned four slaves who assisted him in his
business. He then began to acquire land and even more
slaves. In 1838 Ellison purchased 54.5 acres adjoining his original
acreage from former South Carolina Governor Stephen Decater Miller. Ellison and his family moved into a large home on the
property. (The house had been known as Miller House but became known as
Ellison House.) As his business grew, so did his wealth and by 1840,
Ellison owned 12 slaves. His sons, who lived in homes on the property, owned an additional nine slaves. By the early 1840s, he was one of the most prosperous men in
the area. By the year 1850,
he was the owner of 386 acres of land and 37 slaves.
The workers on Ellison's plantation produced 35 bales of cotton that
In 1852, Ellison purchased Keith Hill and Hickory Hill
Plantations which increased his land holdings to over 1,000 acres. By 1860 William Ellison was South Carolina's largest Negro
slaveowner and in the entire state, only five percent of the people owned
as much real estate as did William Ellison. His wealth was 15 times greater than
that of the state's average for whites. Ellison also owned more slaves
than did 99% of the South's slaveholders.
When War Between the States broke out in 1861, William
Ellison, Jr. was one of the staunchest
supporters of the Confederacy. His grandson joined a Confederate
Artillery Unit, and William turned his plantation over from cotton cash
crop production to farming foodstuff for the Confederacy.
William Ellison, Jr. died on 5 December 1861, at the age of 71 and per his wishes, his
family continued to actively support the Confederacy throughout the war. Aside
from producing corn, fodder,
bacon, corn shucks, and cotton for the Confederate Army, they contributed
vast amounts of money, paid $5000 in taxes, and invested a good portion
of their fortune into Confederate Bonds which were worthless at the end of the war.
William Ellison, Jr. had died with an estate appraised
at $43,500, consisting of 70 slaves. His will stated that his estate
should pass into the joint hands of his daughter and his two surviving
. He bequeathed $500 to a slave daughter he had sold. At his death he was one in the top 10% of the wealthiest people in all of South Carolina, was in the
top 5% of land ownership, and he was the third largest slave owner in the entire state.
John Wilson Buckner was born in Sumter County. Buckner joined the 1st
South Carolina Artillery on March 27. 1863. He served in the company of Captains P.P. Galliard and
Alexander Hamilton Boykin, local men who knew that Buckner was a Negro.
Although it was illegal at the time for a Negro to formally join the
Confederate forces, the Ellison family's prestige nullified the law in
the minds of Buckner's comrades. Buckner was wounded at Fort Wagner
on July 12, 1863, in the battle against the 54th Massachusetts
Regiment. After recovering, he was a regular in Capt. P.O. Gaillard’s
company and later became a scout in Capt. Boykin’s company, both South
Carolina regiments. When John Wilson Bucker died in August, 1895, at his funeral, he was praised by his officers as being a faithful soldier.
John Wilson Buckner
Grandson of William Ellison
Black Masters. A Family of Color in the Old South, Michael P. Johnson and James L. Roak New York: Norton, 1984
The Forgotten People, Gary Mills (Baton Rouge, 1977)
U.S. Census Reports.
Old Sumter District
and Palmetto State Roots
© 2009 Cynthia
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