Thursday, February 01, 2007

Eldon C. "Tootie" Ellis ~ The Ellis, Curtis, Sellers, and Simpson Families

September 14, 1917 ~ September 13, 2002

"Tootie" Ellis was the only son of Carrington (known as "Toot") and Ethel McKnight Ellis who lived first in Waynesville, Ohio and then in Crosswick. "Tootie" was a member of the 1935 graduating class of Waynesville High School. Tootie was a high school track star and he was the first inductee into the Waynesville High School Hall of Fame. He worked for the Fairley Hardware Store in Waynesville for about 32 years. He also worked for Don Ellis at the Ellis Super Value grocery store for many many years. Tootie founded "Ellis Fibre Glass Race Car Bodies and Specialities" that was located in Lebanon, Ohio. He specialized in midget, three-quarter and micro cars.

Tootie's great grandfather, Patrick Henry Ellis and his grandmother Adeline Henry were free African-American who lived near Lynchburg, Virginia.

Tootie's father Carrington Patrick was the son of Gladman Henry Ellis (1856-1934) and Martha Jane Sellers, a daughter of Jacob and Laura Williams Sellers. Gladman was born February 8, 1856 near Lynchburg, Va. He came to Ohio at the age of 18 months with his parents Patrick Henry Ellis and Adeline Henry Ellis in 1857. They came to Ohio via the train. Patrick Henry Ellis was a painter by trade. The Ellis' settled on a 63 acre farm in the Crosswick community one mile north of Waynesville on Bellbrook Road. In 1860, 45 African-Americans lived in Crosswick. The community was large enough at the end of 1859 to establish the "Crosswick Colored School".

Patrick and Adeline Ellis had three children: Anna (who married James Fletcher), Gladman, and Patrick. Anna and her husband James Fletcher and their two children Adaline and Almanza lived with Patrick and Adeline Ellis. See, Federal Census1880; Wayne, Warren, Ohio; Roll: T9_1075; Enumeration District: 79; Image: 0397.

Gladman Ellis went to the one-room school house for African-Americans in Crosswick. The Curtis family also went to school there:
  • "Simms" Curtis, who was married to Letitia Sellars, and,
  • Gladman Ellis, who was married to Martha Jane Sellers. Martha was born January 15, 1859 in Raleigh, North Carolina. When she was one year old she came with her parents to Ohio (1860) and settled near New Burlington. She is the daughter of Jacob Sellers (1817-1881) and Laura Williams Sellers (1831-1918), as are Letitia and Eunice.

lived in the Crosswick area.

  • Charles Curtis, who was married to Eunice Sellers

lived between Harveysburg and Wilmington.

Tootie's parents, Carrington and Ethel McKnight Ellis first lived on a farm that is now part of the village of Waynesville. The land they had was the block between North and Chapmans Streets and Fifth Street and Dayton Road. Then in the early 1920s, the Carrington Ellis family moved to Crosswick. Besides raising their son Tootie and their daughter Frieda M. Ellis Miller, Carrington and Ethel also raised three foster children from Shawen Acres orphanage in Dayton, Ohio.

An old tobacco barn which was located behind the Waynesville High School on Dayton Road (see picture above) was originally owned by "Simms" Curtis, a great uncle of Tootie. Patrick and Carrington Ellis raised tobacco and it was stored in this barn. The barn was sold and moved into town. It was first used to house the mules that drove the "school hacks". When buses replaced the hacks, the barn was once again moved, now behind the high school, and used as a garage. Eventually, the old barn was remodeled inside and became the gymnasium for the high school.

Ethel McKnight Ellis, Tootie's mother, was born at New Burlington, Ohio on April 4, 1895, the daughter of John McKnight and Melissa Simpson McKnight. Ethel's grandparents were Joseph McCoy Simpson (1840-1913) and Amanda Gilson Simpson (1845-1923) from Cumberland, Guernsey Co., Ohio. Joseph was a soldier with the 27th U. S. Colored Troops during the Civil War.

Joseph and Amanda Simpson moved to Warren County, Ohio from Guernsey Co. to a place named "Brimstone Hollow". It was known as Canbytown, too. It was a mill town on Caesar's Creek not far north of Harveysburg. The location is now underwater, under Caesar's Creek Lake. Crosswick, Canbytown, and Harveysburg were three African-American communities in the immediate area around Waynesville. They were within a few miles of each other (see map below).

Thank you to local historian Dorothy Carter for sharing her knowledge about Tootie and all the families mentioned in this article.