The Ellisons in Knox County


Ancestor of the Week: The Ellison Family
Prompt of the Week: 52 Ancestors week 8 – (Feb. 19-25): Prosperity

Let’s revisit my 3rd great-grandfather, Thomas Ellison, born in Kentucky 10 July 1809 and moving to Illinois by 1835. He lived the rest of his long life of 87 years in Orange Township, then Cedar Township, and then Abingdon, all in Knox County. In those early days, everyone lived in log cabins and in 1836 he taught school in a log building with unplastered walls.

Annals of Knox County - first school, Thomas Ellison

From the Annals of Knox County.

After combing through some Knox County histories, I’ve failed to find much about his life. In 1836, he married Nancy Huddleson in Illinois. Later, I find a mention of a Captain Thomas Ellison who had an early hotel in Knox County but I’ve found no military records to verify the Captain. Perhaps he was involved in the Black Hawk War of 1832, but I have no record for that either. Is it a cousin, uncle, some unrelated person, or our Thomas Ellison?

The Ellison Family Prospered in Knox County

The distant cousin in Maryland sent me some more photos. Several appear to be Thomas Ellison. He looks like a prosperous man. The 1850 census says he is a farmer with land valued at $2,000. By 1860, his land is valued at $30,000 with personal real estate of $1,500 and his 20-year-old son James Milton Ellison is working the farm also and there is a 16-year-old hired man as well.

ellison skaggs maybe 4

Unlabeled photo from distant cousin

Ten more years pass and at age 60, Thomas is no longer farming. He is a pattern rights broker. His real estate is valued at $14,000 and his personal estate at $3,000. That combined value is equal to $334,730 in 2020 dollars when adjusted for inflation. At a wild guess, I’d say a “pattern rights broker” may have had something to do with patents.

The photo mats above and below say “Abingdon, Illinois” and the hairstyle and face certainly look like the same man as the earlier photos (see them further down the page). The next question is who are the other people in the photo.  I’m speculating that the woman is one of his daughters and the little girls would be Thomas’ granddaughters. His wife died in 1879.

The Ellison Daughters

  • Mary J. Ellison 1837–1912 – She married David Andrews and they had six children. Three were daughters (Olive E Andrews born 1867, Lizzie Andrews born 1868, and Stella Andrews born 1872). I’m not finding photos of them for comparison.
  • Elizabeth Ellison 1838–1917 – needs more research
  • Sarah Ann Ellison 1839–1887 – my 2nd great-grandmother who married Thomas Coleman Martin in Illinois in 1854. By 1860, they were in Kansas Territory. Three of their children were born in Illinois and one in Emporia, Kansas. I don’t have a photo of Sarah Ann or Thomas Coleman Martin to compare.
  • Minerva Elizabeth Ellison 1846–1921 – She married John Christopher Marion Redmon in Greenwood County, Kansas, but later they returned to Knox County, Illinois. I didn’t find any children for them.
maybe thomas ellison and grandchildren

Unlabeled photo that I believe is Thomas Ellison and maybe, just maybe, his daughter, Sarah Ann

Earlier, Identified Photos

Here’s what we already have (below) that we determined was Thomas Ellison. For more about the painting, check the earlier posts on Thomas Ellison and his granddaughter Effie. I’m guessing that there is still another photo of Thomas Ellison because the grandchild in the painting below doesn’t look like a good match for the photo above.

That leaves us with the puzzle of who are the children and the woman in the group photo? Two of the children have thick dark hair like the woman but the little girl on Thomas’ lap matches neither of the children nor does she look like round-faced little Effie in the painting. The two youngest children could actually be boys since it was customary to put them in dresses at that time.


Amy Johnson Crow challenges genealogy bloggers and non-bloggers alike to think about our ancestors and share a story or photo about them. The challenge is “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.” This is week 8 of the 2020 challenge.

2 thoughts on “The Ellisons in Knox County

  1. Sue

    G’day Virginia,
    Great post. Looking at some of the images, the beard is below the chin in the bottom two images but covers the chin in the top image. Could they be father son rather than the same person in each?

    PS Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment.


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