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Ellithorpe Family Papers, 1848-1988

Manuscript Collection No. 338



As printer, manufacturer, miner, explorer, editor, politician, soldier and inventor, Albert Chapman Ellithorpe, son of Eliza and John Ellithorpe of Illinois, constitutes the most accomplished and fully documented member of the family with much emphasis placed on his Civil War exploits. He was promoted to the rank of colonel and was asked to meet the Indian Home Guard at LeRoy, Kansas, to regain the Indian Territory to the Free State (antislavery) cause. The collection includes fifty-seven letters related to his Civil War experiences.

Other members of the Ellithorpe family- specifically Jedediah; Leslie and his wife, Stella; and Hubert and his wife, Vera, notwithstanding-have all led distinguished careers in pioneering and education. Although much information is present in the correspondence regarding Albert, more can be attained about the Ellithorpe family on Kansas State Historical Society microfilm LM658-LM 660, Ellithorpe & Allied Families. This group of six individuals, all related to each other, is fairly typical of the Civil War and post-Civil War era.


Eliza Ellithorpe. Elizabeth (Chapman) Weeks was born in 1783. John Ellithorpe married her in 1810. They lived near Sheldon, Vermont, and then on a farm in Lower Canada (present Quebec) from 1832 to 1839 before returning to their former home in Franklin County, Vermont. In 1846, they moved to near Burlington, Kane County, Illinois, to be near their sons. John and Eliza had six sons including Jedediah and Albert. The four Weeks children were also a part of the household. In 1863, Eliza was living with Albert’s family in Chicago. She was then eighty. Presumably she died a few years after that.

Jedediah Weeks Ellithorpe was born 18 April 1821 at Sheldon, Vermont. Later the family moved to a farm east of Clarenceville, Lower Canada (present Quebec). Jedediah and Albert took part in the Rebellions of 1837 and were captured and imprisoned by the British soldiers for 19 days, after which they escaped. In 1848, Jedediah married Caroline Elsie Hemenway in Burlington, Illinois. During the Civil War, he served as a conscription agent. Jedediah, J. J. Denham and H. W. Tusten formed the locating committee for the Pacific Colony of Russell in 1881. A prospecting tour led them to the Willamette Valley in Oregon, but, since that area was settled and because there was insufficient land for the group of about 20 families, the colony did not migrate. He was also president and one of the principal owners of the Hawkeye Printing Company, which published the weekly Russell Hawkeye from April 1882 to May 1883. He died of pneumonia in 1902.

Albert Chapman Ellithorpe, the subject of most of the collection from 1862 to 1888, was born on a farm in St. Albans, Vermont, 9 July, 1824. He was the youngest of six sons, three of whom ultimately moved to Chicago. By 1848, Albert cut trees for timber and did carpentry work, making wagons, buggies and two-seaters. His financial success led him to earning a literary education at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. In 1848 he was married to Mariah L. Sammons of Chicago. He quit his job the shop and set up his own where he eventually made carriages and omnibuses. In 1849 he left the carriage business to his foreman, and went west in search of gold. Upon his return soon after, he took partners for his next carriage manufacturing business in Chicago. In 1851 Ellithorpe acquired the property rights for a limestone deposit and opened it up for building purposes. In 1852 he was led into ward politics, running for alderman. He invented a stone-crushing machine to reduce stones to gravel for the surfacing of streets. His crusher was manufactured to suit the gold miners in California and Colorado, and in 1860 he enjoyed success in marketing the machine. His quartz crusher brought him enough money to buy The Herald newspaper in Denver where he undertook the editorship. Ellithorpe, at his own expense, organized a pony express to hasten the delivery of the news.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Albert was back in Chicago to promote a volunteer regiment. In 1862 he put much of his own money and energy toward recruiting the 12th Illinois Cavalry. After this he received a telegram from President Lincoln’s private secretary inviting him to Washington, D.C. The duty they had assigned for him was to organize the refugee Indians in Kansas into a regiment and then to return their land to the loyal Indians.

Lieutenant Ellithorpe, in charge of his Indian regiment, joined General James G. Blunt’s Army of the Frontier. Some of the battles it was engaged in at the start of the war were Grand Saline, Old Fort Wayne, Bayou Sierre, Prairie Grove, Willow Springs, Van Buren, and Cane Hill.

He was with the forces that followed Confederate General Sterling Price through western Missouri in 1865. The chase continued up to the very hour that news reached him of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Union General Ulysses S. Grant. Colonel Ellithorpe frequently volunteered as a war correspondent for one of the Chicago papers.

Colonel Ellithorpe was mustered out of the service in Kansas but did not immediately return to Chicago. He spent some time on the political scene with such friends as Senator James H. Lane and Samuel Crawford. Returning to Chicago, he engaged in the business of heavy contracting and inventing mechanical devices for the saving of heavy labor and safety of human life. One of these inventions was an improved dredge built with iron knees. Two other inventions, now in universal use, were the air-brake and air-cushion for freight and passenger elevators. These were all new in 1879. In later years he went upon the stump, always advocating Republican Party causes and candidates in the great political campaigns. Union veterans were strongly Republican, and this legacy has dominated state politics ever since.

Albert and Mariah Louise had four children, all of whom lived in Chicago. He died at his home in his sleep in 1907. At the time of his death he was listed in the city directory as a capitalist and though not rich, made a comfortable living.

Leslie Elbert Ellithorpe, son of Jedediah and Caroline, was born 20 May 1855 in Fairdale, Illinois. Leslie accompanied his father to Kansas in 1875, and again in 1876, when he rode the freight train to care for the livestock, lumber and household goods which they were shipping. He homesteaded at the east edge of Russell, on an abandoned claim, and handled several hundred cattle each year until the early 1900s. In 1907, Leslie married Stella Marie Tonner in Chicago, Illinois. They had three children: Margaret Louise, Glenn Leslie and Vera Mary. Leslie visited his uncle Albert Ellithorpe frequently, and the Tonner and Ellithorpe families were neighbors. Leslie managed the land owned by his sisters and himself in Russell and Gove Counties for many years. When most of the Ellithorpe family lands were sold in Gove County, following World War I, he kept his favorite piece of land because it was ideal for cattle. Very little land had been broken out until that time. Leslie died in 1951 in Russell.

Stella Marie Tonner Ellithorpe. Stella Tonner was born in 1882 in Chicago, Illinois. She was a graduate of the Chicago Conservatory and was working on her master’s degree at the Chicago Music College when she married Leslie Ellithorpe. In 1907 she taught violin in Russell, Kansas. She taught about thirty students each week, organized and conducted the first young people’s orchestra in Russell, and took part in such church responsibilities as Sunday school superintendent of the First Congregational Church. Stella organized and led the first 4-H Clubs in Russell County and helped the extension agricultural agent to organize the first 18 Extension Homemaker Units in the county. In later years, Stella was granted honorary life membership in the Russell County Extension Council for her work in bringing education to the women and youth of Russell County. She died in 1966 in Russell.

Hubert Franklin Ellithorpe was born 23 April 1905 in Bourbon County, Kansas, the son of William and Sarah Ellithorpe. He received a bachelor’s degree from Kansas State Teachers College of Pittsburg, now Pittsburg State University, in 1928 and received a master’s degree in bacteriology from that college in 1933. He later did graduate work at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He was married to Vera M. Ellithorpe, his third wife, in 1966. Hubert taught physics, biology and general chemistry at Topeka High School from 1937 to 1970. He held copyrights on the “Periodic Table of Elements” (1949) and a “Family History Record” (1972). He compiled 24 volumes of family records held in the Historical Society Research Center Library. Hubert died in 1985 at a Topeka retirement home.

Scope and Content

This collection is arranged by series, the series being arranged chronologically by generation, rather than alphabetically by personal name. Eliza Ellithorpe’s last will and testament, the earliest individual featured in this collection, is the first item arranged in the collection.

The Ellithorpe Family Papers contain mainly material related to its most prominent figure, Albert Chapman Ellithorpe; his correspondence during the Civil War; and also include records of other members of the family during the late nineteenth century. This collection is valuable primarily to the Civil War researcher and the Ellithorpe family genealogist.

In Series 3, Albert Chapman Ellithorpe’s papers, the correspondence deals almost entirely with his Civil War activities. Many of the people who were correspondents or subjects of the letters in this series were such well-known figures in history as Abraham Lincoln, James Henry Lane and son Henry Smith Lane, John Hay, and James Blunt. In addition, researchers of regional or local history will discover that the letters reveal Albert’s ability as an organizer and chronicle his exploits commanding a frontier militia in Kansas.

Correspondence regarding Albert C. Ellithorpe’s Civil War service in Kansas begins in 1862 (folder 5). Some of these documents are from General James G. Blunt, or refer to him. Those of particular interest concern his recommendations to be promoted and his trip to Washington, D.C., on orders from Blunt, during which Albert met with President Abraham Lincoln to request his authorization to post a battalion of sharpshooters in the southwestern United States. Several of these documents are signed by James Henry Lane, a controversial Kansas politician of the period. One from J. H. Lane is addressed to “Hon. H. S. Lane.” This is most likely Henry Smith Lane, a United States senator from Indiana at that time. Another of these documents was written by C. Edward Lester, an author and historian who was probably on the presidential staff or associated with it. In any event, Lester’s message that Colonel Ellithorpe had dispatches to deliver in person, is directed to Lincoln’s assistant private secretary, John Hay, who later became secretary of state. Three letters (November 6 and 10 and December 3, 1862) deal with the alleged absconding with some of the 1st Indian Home Guard Regiment’s funds by one of its officers, a Lieutenant Colonel Walters.

His correspondence in 1863 contains two letters of interest. One is from General Blunt to Major Van Antwerp ordering him to muster Ellithorpe into the service as major of the 1st Indian Regiment of Home Guards, and another from Albert to his wife, Mariah, describing the adverse conditions of mud and disease at Camp Curtis. Correspondence from the war years are completed with a letter to James H. Lane from General Alfred Pleasonton expressing gratitude for his assistance during the late battles and one from Blunt about letters he had sent to and received from Ellithorpe at Fort Scott, Kansas.

Rebel Papers Captured (folder 6) by Ellithorpe’s regiment during the early war years include requisitions, certificates and receipts for various military supplies such as food, ammunition, lanterns and candles. Most of these are either written to or from Quartermaster M. H. Robinson of the Arkansas militia in Franklin County, Arkansas.

General Blunt continues to be the focus of the Post-Civil War Papers (folder 7), as letters are written to, sent from, or about him. An 1866 letter to Colonel Ellithorpe from Blunt mentions the jubilant Rebels and Copperheads after Andrew Johnson’s veto of the Freedman’s bill. One E. W. Rice seeks Ellithorpe’s advise on a Liverpool consulship position which Orville Grant, President Ulysses S. Grant’s brother, was seeking in 1869. A special order for Albert to procure guns and ammunition for a 185 gun salute in honor of the election of Hay and Wheeler as President and Vice President of the U.S. is the subject of an 1876 letter written by William C. Carroll. Also relevant is a letter from Samuel J. Crawford, who was governor of Kansas 1865-1868, regarding the Republican Party convention of 1884.

There is a long typewritten letter from Ellithorpe to Colonel J. H. Gillpatrick concerning a pension for Mrs. James G. Blunt after the death of her husband. Albert was an intimate friend of General Blunt, the bearer of dispatches from the secretary of war, and carried to him his commission as a brigadier general. After his return from Missouri to Leavenworth, his relations commenced with Blunt. Ellithorpe was with him at the battle of Old Fort Wayne, Boonesboro and Prairie Grove where he was held with the highest regard as commander of the Western Army. However, after his escort was attacked at Baxter Springs in southeastern Kansas by the Quantrill and Livingston bands of marauders, Albert found the General a changed man. The Baxter Springs Massacre seems to have led to anxieties and depression that ultimately caused his death. This 1888 memorandum emphasizes that the wife of General Blunt was due her just recompense for her contribution in the Union cause. J. H. Gillpatrick responds to Ellithorpe, stating that the placing of General Schofield in command over Blunt also had much to do with his mental decay and death.

Correspondence regarding Ellithorpe’s papers are in Series 7 (folder 12), a brief series of letters that Gilbert Ellithorpe wrote to Vera Ellithorpe from July 1987 to May 1988, outlining the content of Albert Ellithorpe’s letters.

Items related to other members of the Ellithorpe family consist of Jedediah Weeks Ellithorpe’s store ledger after he moved to a farm in DeKalb County, Illinois, ca. 1850-56. Transactions are arranged alphabetically. Contained in the ledger are minutes of meetings between Pacific Colony members and a letter outlining the objectives of the association in fourteen articles. Other items in the collection include Leslie W. Ellithorpe’s homestead certificate securing 80 acres of land in Russell, Kansas; Mrs. L. E. Ellithorpe’s record book of students’ violin lessons; education, teaching and employment credentials of Hubert F. Ellithorpe; and more of Jedediah’s records pertaining to the Hawkeye Printing and Publishing Company. Mrs. L. E. Ellithorpe’s account book offers some insight into her rates for musical expertise with a month-by-month, lesson-by-lesson account of fees paid by each pupil. Among the loose papers in this folder are lists of composers and songs intended to be rehearsed, order of proceedings for lessons, and a letter dated 20 June 1920 presumably written by her.

Contents List

Box 1 of 1

Series Name and Contents
Series 1 Eliza Ellithorpe, 1783-1866?
folder 1 Last will and testament, 1848 June 13.
Series 2 Jedediah W. Ellithorpe, 1821-1902.
  Hawkeye Printing and Publishing Co.
folder 2 Articles of Association.
folder 3 Subscription book.
folder 4 Pacific Colony Records, 1881.
Series 3 Albert Chapman Ellithorpe, 1824-1907.
folder 5 Civil War Papers, 1862 Jan. 7-1865 Apr. 4.
folder 6 Rebel papers captured, 1862 May 12-31.
folder 7 Post Civil War Papers, 1866 Feb 24-1888 Apr 27.
folder 8 Autobiography and autobiographical notes, 1897 and 1902
Series 4 Leslie Elbert Ellithorpe, 1855-1951.
folder 9 Homestead Certificate, 1890 July 3, photocopy
Series 5 Stella Marie (Tonner) Ellithorpe, 1882-1966 (Mrs. L.E. Ellithorpe)
folder 10 Records of violin students, 1917-1922.
Series 6 Hubert Franklin Ellithorpe, 1905-1985.
folder 11 Vita, ca. 1970.
Series 7 Gilbert [Ellithorpe]
folder 12
Letters, 1987-1988, originals and photocopies, written to Vera Ellithorpe concerning the papers of Albert Chapman Ellithorpe.
Series 8 Miscellaneous.
folder 13 Three scraps of paper.

Volume: 0.4 ft. (1 box)

Related Records or Collections

Separated Material

Albert C. Ellithorpe’s Civil War diary is at the Hulston Library, Wilson's Creek National Battlefield (Republic, Mo.)

Additional Information for Researchers


Gift, Vera Ellithorpe, 1990.


Citations referring to this collection should include the series and folder number, Ellithorpe Family Papers, 1848-1988, Library and Archives Division, Kansas State Historical Society.

Copyright Notice

This material may be protected by copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code). The Kansas State Historical Society owns the copyright to this collection.

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