Parrott ~ Blanton ~ Wesson ~ Ellis ~


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Monday, March 8, 2010

Ellis Ferry ~ Where The Paved Road Ends...

Deep in the woods, running right alongside the Broad River, flows a part of our family history.

The Broad River flows between Shelby, North Carolina and Gaffney , South Carolina. About a quarter mile from the border of the two states , our Ellis ancestors operated a ferry service.

A large two-story white frame house, known as the Ellis House, built just across the river, and was used as a stop-over for river and stage coach travelers. The house is still standing and is on the historical register.

The history of the Ellis family in Cleveland County began in the middle 1700's, according to known records and deeds. Two sons of James Ellis settled on the South side of the Broad River near the Ellis Ferry, on land purchased from Edward Dickson in 1773. Mr. Dickson had owned the land since 1763 which he received from through a grant.

Ellis Ferry 1782
Source: Summer, 1981, Ellis Cousins Newsletter, p 15 - "THE ELLIS FERRY - The Ellis Ferry was located on the Broad River below Shelby, NC and at one time was the only way of crossing the river between Shelby and Gaffney, SC. This picture (shows 2 sets of horse & buggy on a ferry) and information on the Ferry were submitted by ECN members Maybelle Demay of Newberg, Oregon and Sam Ellis of Spartanburg, SC. Photo was taken around 1898 - 1900 by John N. Randall. Shown in the photo are O.Z. Randall in the front buggy, Rev. and Mrs. Ambrose Hopper are in the second buggy.

Source: Rutherford Co., NC minutes dated 15 Jan. 1828 - Contains a petition of Benjamin Ellis and Robert A. Allison to establish the ferry on Broad River at Irvinsville (long known by the name of Quinn's Ferry). A large imposing two story white frame home known as the Ellis House was built just across the river. The house (later known as the Gramling House is still standing and in use) was used in the early days as a stop-over for people crossing the river and was also used as the Stage Coach Station. Not far from the Ellis House is a family cemetery .

This is the Ferry House in 1950, before restoration.

The Ferry House, today.

SOURCE: Cleveland County Historical Society -- "Ellis Family History" Benjamin Ellis was the father of Charles and (John) Rick Ellis (and other sons to be mentioned later) who with the labor of scores of slaves first built a bridge across Big Broad River to furnish a trade route from Shelby to Gaffney, and then after the Civil War, when the bridge washed away, operated a ferry there for many years , “The Ellis Ferry."

Apparently, the need for an easy and convenient way of crossing of the river caused the brothers to purchase seventy or eighty slaves, in order to build a bridge across the river. Trade began across the river with the bridge being the most direct route between Shelby, North Carolina and Gaffney, South Carolina.

Business went on for a time, but obstacles arrived before very long. President Abraham Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation and freed the slaves. With the slaves gone, so was the ready source of labor. In addition to this, rain fell in abundance that year. The Broad River grew to twice its normal size, and the Ellis Bridge, built by the slaves, was completely washed away, so definitely, something had to be done.

A ferry boat was instituted over the river, by Charles Ellis on the south side of the river.

The remains of Charles Ellis' Home, in 1990. Only a pile of rubble remains today.

Trading commenced once again.

“A Negro operated the ferry, and charged the sum of 25 cents for horse-drawn wagons, carriages and ox-carts, 10 cents for a horseback rider, and 5 cents for those choosing to walk. "Set me across" people would yell to the old Negro on the other side. Old persons in this community recall seeing great caravans of wagons at the ferry landing some filled with apples, others with cabbages and produce.”

According to the 1860 NC Agricultural Census. The Benjamin Ellis page is dated 2 August 1860. He owned 853 acres of land valued at $8600.

He had 453 in improved land (farming it) and 400 acres in unimproved land (woods, etc.). He owned 5 horses, 2 mules, 10 Mulch cows (milk cows), 20 other cattle, 15 sheep, and 30 swine. The value of his livestock was $670. He produced 200 bushels of wheat, 1000 bushels of corn, 25 pounds of wool, 75 bushels of peas or beans, 20 bushels of Irish potatoes, 100 bushels of sweet potatoes, 200 pounds of butter, 5 pounds of beeswax, 120 pounds of honey,, produced $50 in home manufacture, and slaughtered $170 in animals. Sounds like he was quite a successful farmer.

On the 1857 Cleveland County, North Carolina Tax Roll - Benjamin J. Ellis was taxed on 410 acres. By this time a lot of his land had been passed on to his children.

Benjamin J. Ellis and his wife Mary "Polly" Hopper are both buried at the James Ellis Cemetery located on the land surrounding the old Ellis Ferry site. Their remains lie on the banks of the Broad River, on the land that they once owned.

We drove to the end of the road at the state line, where the paved road ends.

We parked and walked in , past the locked gate. The land where the ferry was is now owned by three men. They use the house and the area as a hunting lodge in season. The walk down the dirt road conjured images of what it must have been like, back in it’s bustling hey-day.

Now all is quiet among the tall trees. An occasional scampering sound of some animal nearby and a hawk screeching over head. We had invaded their territory now.

We trudged further onto the property and into a wooded area, and there it was .

The Ellis Family Cemetery.

My Fourth Great Grandparents~

Third Great Grand Uncle ~ John Rickman Ellis. Son of Benjamin.

Only fieldstones mark the graves of James Ellis and his wife, Margaret H. Ellis.

Nevertheless, their memory lives on in the hearts of their descendants.

My 5th Great Grandparents.

These souls that are buried in the quiet woods, are not disturbed very often these days.
Gone is the noise of a busy ferry house and steady stream of traffic on horseback and wagons.

Quiet seemed to close in from every direction on this sacred spot of ground. I am always struck upon entering an old burying ground.

Hallowed ground. My mind hears this phrase echoed often in my thoughts.

My past came a bit closer to me, today as I stood among those markers. I felt welcome.

I was among my family. Grandma would have been right there beside me if she could have. This day would have been very special “banner” day to her, our family’s ‘Keeper of the Past‘.

Maybe she was right there beside me all along .

I would like to think that she was.

Big grin.

David Ellis, my 3rd Great Grandfather also was involved in the Ellis Ferry.

Cleveland County Court record we find a petition dated February 12, 1852.
Know all men by these present that we, Benjamin Ellis & J Gibbons, Charles Ellis, and D Ellis are held sworn unto the State of North Carolina in the sum of one thousand dollars, good & current money of said state the payment well and truly to be made. We bind ourselves and our heirs, estates & sums -- dated this 12 Feb 1852.
The condition of the above obligation is such, that where as the above bonded, Benj. Ellis -- has this day exhibited by petition into this court -- setting out of the rate of toll at a ferry on Broad River owned by the said Ellis, and the court has granted the said petition. If the said Ellis will keep the said ferry in good, passable condition, hereafter, then the above obligation shall be void otherwise to remain in full force and effect.

Given under my hand & seal. Day & dates above written. HDK Cabiness
(Signed) Benjamin Ellis, Jacob Gibbons (his mark) Charles Ellis, and David Ellis.

James Ellis married Margaret "Peggy" Hopper ~ Fifth Great Grandparents
This couple had a son ~ Benjamin J. Ellis
Benjamin J. Ellis married Mary "Polly" Hopper ~ Fourth Great Grandparents
This couple had a son ~ David Ross Ellis
David Ross Ellis married Sarah A. "Sally" Turner ~ Third Great Grandparents
This couple had son Charles Heberton Ellis.
Charles Heberton Ellis married Nancy M. "Nannie" Wesson ~ Second Great Grandparents.
Nannie Wesson was daughter of Luke Wesson.
This couple had a daughter Elizabeth "Lizzie" Leigh Ellis.
Lizzie Leigh Ellis married Craton Rone Blanton.
Their daughter was Ethel Leigh Blanton, wife of Wilburn Larry Parrott.
My grandparents.