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Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs:

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[This information is from Vol. III, pp. 1035-1038 of Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs, edited by Cuyler Reynolds (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1911). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 929.1 R45. Some of the formatting of the original, especially in lists of descendants, may have been altered slightly for ease of reading.]

Most of the Ellises of England and Scotland descend from a Norman ancestor who came over with William the Conqueror, and in common with most of the Ellises of France, descended from the early kings of that country and as such bore the royal fleur-de-lis, the name being originally Elias or Louis. The name in England has been spelled in various ways: Alis, Hales, Elias, Helias, Elice, Elleys, Eyles, Eeles, Helles, Hilles, and many other ways. The earliest document in which the name is found is the Domesday Book, 1086, where it occurs twice as Alis and Helias. The family spread to Scotland and Ireland. They were a titled family and endured as such in some branches for five centuries. They are of record in Scotland as early as 1474. It is from the Scotch branch that the Ellis family, noted in the annals of Schenectady, and the locomotive building industry, descend.

(I) John Ellis was born in Yarmouth, Scotland, December 13, 1795, and died in Schenectady, New York, October 4, 1864. He came to the United States in 1831. He possessed an unusually well-developed mechanical mind, keen foresight, shrewd business ability, and added to this a goodly amount of Scotch grit, temper and courage. In 1851, when the little locomotive plant which was built by the citizens of Schenectady, and came to failure under the management of the Norrises, of Philadelphia, was put on the market, he saw the great possibilities that lay in the locomotive building industry, and in association with Daniel D. Campbell, Simon C. Groat and Sebastian Bradt (all of Schenectady), secured control of the plant. The works had heretofore turned out but one locomotive, "The Lightning," which was run for about a year between Utica and Schenectady, but was finally pronounced a failure by locomotive engineers of that day. The new company was capitalized at $130,000 and given the name of the Schenectady Locomotive Works, a name it held until 1901, when it was merged into what is now known as the American Locomotive Company. Until 1864 the history of the Schenectady Locomotive Works is the biography of John Ellis and his master mechanic, Walter McQueen, who came to the works in 1852. John Ellis was the most conspicuous personage connected with the early working of the company. He was the first president of the company after its reorganization and continued in office until his death. He had had previous successful business experience in large contracts on the Croton water works for New York City, and in building a section of the Boston and Albany railroad. He was the only real mechanic among the owners, and believed he was best qualified to manage the business. His temperament led him into serious conflicts with his associates, who at last determined to get rid of him. They demanded that he must either "give or take," and demanded that he name a price at which he would sell, and they would do likewise. He seems to have been expecting such a move and was prepared. The partners announced their price, which was tremendous for the period, but Ellis's was prohibitive. He accepted their terms and became sole owner of the works. Walter McOueen then became associated with him and the works began the successful career that has never ended. Mr. McQueen was made superintendent of the works in 1852, and the "McQueen" became known all over the United States. At one time a serious dispute arose between the owner and his superintendent. Both being Scotch neither would surrender his opinion, and McQueen left the works, leaving Ellis to reign supreme.

It was the ambition of John Ellis not only to construct locomotives but to build the cars behind them. The great works he did succeed in building up rivalled those of Baldwin, of Philadelphia, and Rogers, of Paterson, but his death in 1864 prevented him from realizing his car manufacturing ideal. He lived, however, to see the works he established take rank among the leading industries of America, and to realize a great fortune from them. During the civil war, in 1862, his works were practically in the possession of the United States government, which took all the locomotives on hand and cancelled his outstanding contracts as it did with other companies. It indemnified him against loss or liability for breach of contract and paid him nearly double price for his engines. For a time no locomotives were built for any but government use. The output of the plant jumped from thirteen in 1861 to twenty-nine in 1862 and forty-one in 1863. The war brought prosperity to many Schenectady industries, especially to those engaged in locomotive building, an industry that still contributes a large portion to that city's prosperity. The Ellis works were continued after his death by four sons. Walter McQueen was superintendent, 1852-76, and vice-president from 1876 until his death in 1893. He was one of the best mechanics in the United States; was the strong right arm of John Ellis, and died full of honors and possessed of an ample fortune. John Ellis was a supporter of the Republican party, and a member of the Presbyterian church. He was great-hearted and liberal, a wonderful man in many ways, and one who will be remembered always as one of the builders and founders of a great industry and a prosperous city.

John Ellis married (first), in New York, Mary Cochran. Children:

  1. John C., born in Schenectady, New York. He succeeded his father as president of the Schenectady Locomotive Works in 1864, serving in that capacity until 1878. It was during his incumbency of that office that the capital stock was increased from the original $60,000. This was the only time it was ever increased. All improvements and additions until the time of the merger were paid for out of accumulated earnings. John C. Ellis died in 1884, just twenty years to a day after his father. The company throve and prospered under his management. He married Jane A. Schermerhorn.
  2. Charles G. Ellis, born in Schenectady, New York, October 27, 1842, and died there May 15, 1891. His entire life was passed in that city. He was educated in the city schools and Professor Reed's Academy at Geneva. He succeeded his brother, John C. Ellis, in the presidency of the Schenectady Locomotive Works, and occupied that position until his death. He was also a director of the Mohawk Bank, president of the Vale Cemetery Association, and president of St. Andrew's Society. In politics he was a Republican. He was at one time a member of the board of aldermen, and also of the assembly. He was an active member of the First Presbyterian Church, and served as a trustee for thirteen years. He was personally popular and highly esteemed, and his benefactions extended to many in sorrow and need, and with entire unostentation. He married Elizabeth B. Veer, of Schenectady, New York, born June 8, 1845; died December 10, 1904. She was a woman of most lovely character, and amid her own sorrows and physical pains was unremitting in her ministrations to others, particularly the hospital patients. Mr. and Mrs. Ellis had an only daughter, Mary Cochran Ellis, born September 6, 1864, married December 14, 1891, Harmon W. Veeder, who died October 15, 1900, leaving a daughter, Mary Elizabeth Ellis Veeder, born December 14, 1898. Mary Ellis Veeder married (second) November 30, 1901, James W. Yelverton; one child, Ruth Ellis Yelverton, born March 31, 1903.
  3. Edward, see forward.

John Ellis married (second) Arminda (Maxon) Cochran, October 4, 1854, and had:

  1. William Dewar, born in Schenectady, New York, August 15, 1856. He was educated in American and foreign colleges, and succeeded his brother Edward as president of the Schenectady Locomotive Works in 1897. He is the only surviving son of John Ellis (1910), and the last of the Ellis family to hold an office in the company. He was treasurer of the company from 1891 to 1897, vice-president and treasurer from 1893 to 1897, and president and treasurer from 1897 to 1901, the date of the merger with the American Locomotive Company. From the five locomotives turned out in 1851 the output in 1901, when the Ellis name ceased to exist as locomotive builders, was four hundred, employing more than thirty-four hundred men.

(II) Edward, third son of John and Mary (Cochran) Ellis, was born in Schenectady, New York, March 12, 1844; died in that city February 12, 1897. He was educated for the locomotive business by the wise foresight of his practical father, and on the death of his brother, Charles G., succeeded to the presidency of the Schenectady Locomotive Works. Under his management the company continued its successful career. Prior to assuming the presidency, he was the New York City representative of the company, and was the means of bringing the Edison Machine Works to Schenectady. A rival locomotive works had been inaugurated by Schenectady citizens who had induced Walter McQueen to join them in the "McQueen Locomotive Works." The death of one of the principal promoters left the works unequipped and idle. Mr. Ellis, who was interested in not seeing another locomotive works in Schenectady, induced the Edison people to investigate conditions at Schenectady. They secured the McQueen works, began moving to Schenectady in 1860, and the enormous plant of the General Electric Company is the result of the foresight of Mr. Ellis and the liberality of some of the citizens of Schenectady, who contributed $7,500 to aid the newcomers to buy the McQueen plant. Mr. Ellis married, September 12, 1866, in Schenectady, Mary Crane Walker, born in that city, June 6, 1847 (see Walker III). She was educated in the Schenectady schools and at Hartford, Connecticut. She is a member of the Presbyterian church, as was Mr. Ellis. She is interested in the Children's Home of Schenectady, and is a most charitable and generous-hearted woman. Children:

  1. Lillian B., born July 25, 1867; married, December 5, 1893, William G. Gilmour, who died October 30, 1901, leaving a son, William Ellis Gilmour, born November 25, 1898 (see Gilmour). Lillian B. (Ellis) Gilmour continues her residence in Schenectady with her mother and son.
  2. Charles G., born May 20, 1876, died July 2, 1876.
  3. Edward Cochran, born October 29, 1877, died September 19, 1904; he graduated from the Schenectady high school and was a student at Yale at the time of his death.

These sons of John Ellis were men of great generosity and large benevolences. The Ellis Hospital was founded by Charles G. Ellis, the second son, and for years was principally sustained by the other members of the family. Each son left a generous fortune and each accomplished with his wealth great, though unostentatious, good.

(The Walker Line)

Mrs. Mary Crane (Walker) Ellis, like her husband, descends from Scotch ancestors. Her great-grandfather, John Walker, was born in Scotland in 1730, came to the United States in 1774, and located on a farm in Princetown, Schenectady county, New York, where he died March 28, 1806, and is buried in Princetown cemetery. He was a prosperous farmer of high character. He married, in Scotland, Mary Corbett, born there in 1739, died August 4, 1801, and is buried beside her husband. They were both active members of the Presbyterian church. John Walker had sisters:

  1. Isabel, married, in Princetown, Robert Grant, who died October 17, 1806; both he and his wife are buried in the same grave in the old Princetown cemetery.
  2. Dolly Eliza, married ———— Allen; she died June 18, 1830, and is buried with her husband in Princetown cemetery.
  3. Dorothy, married ———— Corbett.

(II) James, son of John and Mary (Corbett) Walker, was born in Scotland, in 1774, died in Schenectady, New York, 1851, and is buried in the old Presbyterian cemetery. He was an infant in arms when his parents came to America. He received a good education and in early life was a teacher in the public schools. He was a clerk in a New York City mercantile house for some time, after which he settled in Schenectady, where his after life was spent. He was here engaged in mercantile life, and was active and useful in public affairs. He established a solid, successful hardware business that yet exists. His credit was high and his character was above reproach. He was a director of the Mohawk Bank, village assessor, member of the board of supervisors and the father of many of the public improvements of Schenectady. He was a member of the Presbyterian church and a leader in the village. He married Leah Little, born in the town of Florida, Montgomery county, New York. She is buried beside her husband. Children:

  1. Catherine, married Rev. George Mairs, minister of the Presbyterian church; both died in Argyle, Saratoga county, New York; children:
    1. Thomas, now of Argyle;
    2. Mary, unmarried;
    3. Henrietta, unmarried;
    4. Amelia, unmarried;
    5. James, married and has issue;
    6. John J., died unmarried;
    7. Matilda, married Judge Thomas B. Mitchell, of Schoharie county.
  2. John J. A., died unmarried in Schenectady.
  3. Sarah M., died in old age, unmarried.
  4. Lucretia, married Lieutenant Governor James Meyers, of Toledo, Ohio; she survived her husband and is buried in the Presbyterian cemetery; children: Sarah and James W., twins.
  5. James, see forward.

(III) James (2), son of James (1) and Leah (Little) Walker, was born in Schenectady, New York, October 11, 1815, died there March 6, 1875. He was educated in the public schools and spent his useful life engaged in mercantile business, first as a grocer, then as a dealer in hardware. He was a successful man and in character closely resembled his father, whose sturdy, upright characteristics he inherited to a remarkable degree. He was an active member of the Presbyterian church, kind-hearted and charitable. He was respected by all who knew him and died deeply lamented. He married Mary, adopted daughter of Rev. Jonathan Crane. She was born in Springfield, Connecticut, May 5, 1818, died in Schenectady, June 29, 1898. She was a most gentle, womanly character and was greatly beloved by all. Her generous and benevolent nature was moved by suffering and sorrow and she always responded with practical sympathy. Children:

  1. William E., born July 10, 1840, died October 15, 1886; he succeeded his father in business; he married, November 19, 1868, Cornelia Schermerhorn.
  2. Leah Little, born in Schenectady, April 21, 1845, died April 17, 1899; married Thomas Yelverton, born October 24, 1844, died May 18, 1888; he was clerk of Schenectady county many years and died while in office; children:
    1. James W., married Mary E., widow of Harmon W. Veeder;
    2. Edward E., married Bertha Russell, of Dunkirk, New York;
    3. Thomas Earl, unmarried;
    4. Frank C., unmarried.
  3. Mary Crane, born in Schenectady, June 6, 1847; married Edward Ellis, whom she survives; a resident of Schenectady (see Ellis II).

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