About Charles Otis Ellms
Boston Biographical review publishing company. Biographical review ... containing life sketches of leading citizens of Plymouth County, Massachusetts . . (page 47 of 71)
TT^HARLES OTIS ELLMS.— Readers I V^ of the department of the Boston Tran- V»~_^' script, bearing the caption "Notes and Queries," have observed from time to time valuable contributions in regard to his- toric and genealogical matters signed "Scitu- ate. " It is not, perhaps, generally known that the author of these contributions is Charles O. Ellms, of Scituate, who is as well versed in agricultural as in antiquarian lore, and has written many widely read articles for the papers. Mr. Ellms was born on Merrimac Street, Boston, December 13, 1830. His parents, Charles and Sally (Bryant) Ellms, were both connected by ties of kinshij:) with prominent actors in the early settlement of the country, and events known to most of us through books alone were familiar to them through the relation of eye-witnesses.
The Ellms family is of English origin. In the Rlassacluisctts Ploughman for August 1 3, 1 88 1, we find the following: "Rodolphus Ellms, the ancestor of all his name in this country, came over from England in 1640, being one of the 'Conihasset' partners, with grants of land from the king, who was the first Charles. On their arrival at Scituate, which had then just assumed its new name, he openly sympathized with the Quakers, and was sub- jected to a fine of ten shillings for being present at a Quaker meeting."
The subject of this sketch is descended from Rodolphus through Jonathan, Robert, Robert, Jr., Captain Charles, and Charles. Captain Charles, Charles O. Ellms's grand- father, was a noted ship-master. When Na- poleon Bonaparte issued his famous Berlin de- cree to retaliate on England, he was captain
CHARLES O. ELLMS.
and owner of a vessel sailing in the West Indies. Captured by a French privateer, he was taken to the island of Guadaloupe in February, 1800, and his vessel confiscated. Thus he became one of the plaintiffs in the French spoliation claims.
Charles Films, son of Captain Charles, was born in Scituate in 1805. He removed to Boston when he was five years old, and there he was educated in a private school. For a number of years he was engaged in pub- lishing and selling books on Cornhill, Court, and State Streets; and he is pleasantly re- membered by the old citizens of Boston who can look back fifty or sixty years. "He orig- inated and published the celebrated 'Davy Crockett,' 'People's' and 'Comic' almanacs, which had such a remarkable circulation for those days. On the decease of his mother he relinquished business, and retired to the homestead farm at Scituate, disposing of the copyright of those popular publications to the late S. N. Dickinson, whose genius as a Bos- ton printer won a wide and enduring reputa- tion." Mr. Ellms, the publisher, was also the author of a number of popular books, in- cluding "Shipwrecks, and Disasters of the Sea," "Tragedy of the Seas," "Crusoe's Own Book," and "The Pirate's Own Book." He died in 1865.
He was a great-grandson of Samuel Thaxter, third, of Hingham, Mass., known as Major Samuel, born in 1723, graduated at Harvard College in 1743, whose grandfather, Samuel Thaxter, first, was Captain of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company in 1728, and a little later Colonel of the regiment in which the Hingham men served. His son, Samuel Thaxter (second), also a Colonel, was graduated at Harvard College in 1714. He died in 1732, survived by his second wife, Mary Hawke. Major Samuel was his son by his
first wife. The widowed stepmother married the Rev. John Hancock, of Braintree, and they were the parents of Governor Hancock. Major Samuel Thaxter was an officer in Colo- nel Richard Gridley's regiment in the French and Indian War. He was captured by the Indians at the massacre at Fort William Henry in August, 1757, but escaped through the connivance of the French ofificers, and arrived at Hingham after Dr. Gay had preached his funeral sermon. His daughter Sally, grand-aunt of Charles Ellms, was the wife of Mr. John Pulling, who, it has been asserted, was the man who hung the lantern in the tower of the Old North Church, as a signal for Paul Revere to ride and apprise the wait- ing patriots of the approach of the British. Certainly the daring deed was well done, whether by John Pulling, church warden, or by Robert Newman, the sexton, to whom it has been ascribed quite as confidently. (For different authorities see "Boston Memorial History, vol. iii. p. loi.)
Major Samuel Thaxter's daughter Mary, grandmother of Mr. Charles Ellms, married Joshua Otis, an ardent Whig and patriot. He was second cousin to James Otis, the patriot and orator. Mrs. Mary Thaxter Otis, though the wife of a patriot, surrounded by patriotic associations, and a frequent visitor at Governor Hancock's house, was a devoted roy- alist. When a son was born, she insisted that he should be named George after the king. Her husband promised _that he should, bear that name, and, taking the child to church, had him christened George Washing- ton. This George Washington Otis was the father of James Otis, now deceased, who was at one time Mayor of San Francisco. Mrs. Otis's Tory proclivities were excited to the utmost during the war of 181 2. She and her husband were eye-witnesses of the fight in
Boston Bay between the "Chesapeake" and the "Shannon," Joshua Otis anxiously wishing for the victory of the hero Lawrence's ship, his wife glorying in the eventual triumph of the British vessel. Frederick William Greenleaf, famous the world over as the "Harry Wads- worth" in lulward Everett Hale's "Ten Times One," was a cousin of Charles Ellms.
Mrs. Sally Bryant Ellms, mother of Charles O. Ellms, was born in Lexington, Mass., in 1809, and came from a family who have borne a prominent part in the affairs of that historic town. She was one of the young ladies selected to welcome Lafayette on the Lexing- ton battle-ground when he visited this country in 1824, and made the tour of the States. Jonathan Harrington, the last survivor of the Battle of Lexington, was accustomed to give his young lady friends as a wedding present, a rolling-pin of his own make. Mrs. Ellms, who received one, gave it long after to the Historic Society of Lexington, in whose rooms it is now on exhibition, among other relics of ye olden time. Mrs. Ellms was connected with prominent Boston families. The brother of the late Mayor Shurtleff married her sister; and Parker H. Pierce, a prominent Boston merchant, was her uncle. He commanded the Ancient and Honorable Artillery in 1830, at the two hundredth anniversary of the settle- ment of Boston, and has left a sealed letter to be handed down and read before that company in 1930, at the three hundredth anniversary of that event. Mrs. Sally Bryant Ellms died in
Charles Otis Ellms was educated in the public schools of Boston, being one of the original members of the Brimmer School; and he has a letter of recommendation from his master, Joshua Bates, which he prizes highly. He remembers as a pleasing incident of his boyhood seeing the Indian chiefs Black Hawk
and Keokuk in Boston, when they were being taken on a tour through the United States after the Black Hawk War, and giving to Black Hawk a peacock's feather, with which the chief was delighted; and another never-to- be-forgotten event was the visit to the school of General 15crtrand, a short, white-haired gentleman. Napoleon's favorite general, and his companion at St. Helena.
In 1852 Mr. Ellms went to California, trav- elling by the Nicaragua route; and he spent nearly seven years in the gold regions, endur- ing the hardships and braving the perils of a miner's life. Returning by the Panama route, he arrived in Scituate in 1858, about the time of the Pike's Peak excitement. Going back to the West a little later, he started from Leavenworth, Kan., with ox teams, and, the progress being necessarily slow, he had much time to see the country, and to observe the mode of living of different Indian tribes. Kansas was under territorial government at this time, and the Border Ruffians and Free State men were at war. As gold was not found in sufficient paying quantity to warrant a protracted stay, Mr. Ellms returned to Scit- uate, and settled on the home farm, an estate of forty acres.
He has been successfully engaged for years in breeding Jersey stock, and was the owner of the celebrated cow, "Jersey Belle, of Scitu- ate," which produced seven hundred and eight pounds of butter in one year, and twenty-five pounds, three ounces, in one week. This ani- mal was of such national reputation that when the news of her death flashed over the wires, the Chicago Board of Trade, then in session, adjourned to talk about her. Mr. Ellms has been for twenty-five years a Director in the Marshfield Agricultural and Horticultural So- ciety, and Secretary of Satuit Grange of Nor- well, from the time of its organization; and
he has written much for The Alassacluisctts Plougliman, Tlie .Arrt' England Fanner, and other kindred publications, on cattle breeding and various topics. An enthusiastic anti- quary, he is a member of the Pilgrim Society, and has a store of knowledge in regard to the early days and inhabitants of New England.
"T. W. T. " (Thomas W. Tucker), a former editor of the Boston Herald, writes in the Tra)tscript: "You have an occasional corres- pondent signed 'Scituate, ' in the 'Notes and Queries,' whose articles I value highly for their accuracy and interesting matter. This gentleman is Mr. Charles O. Ellms, an old Boston boy of intelligent observation, who has many antique curiosities. He resides in Greenbush, Scituate, Mass., and takes great pleasure in exhibiting his unique collection. He is a member of the 'Old Schoolboys of Boston ' society."
The Boston Transcript, in another issue says, editorially: "That is a pretty incident mentioned by 'Scituate' in the 'Notes and Queries' department to-day, of rabbits running in and out the cannon of the old Boston Arsenal. What a contrast of timid peace and grim and bloody war! Would that there were no further use for any cannon in the world than to serve such purpose as thisi" This last quotation shows that Mr. Ellms has an eye for the poetic as well as the practical, and his writing covers a wide ranee.