Elegy to Elizabeth  A. Hayes Ellerbee

In honor of Women’s History Month, I write about women in our family tree. This story is about Elizabeth A. Hayes Ellerbee from Alabama, my husband’s paternal great-great grandmother.

Elizabeth took a chance marrying Jim Ellerbee. She knew his story.  Along with other young men from Georgia, Jim joined the army of the Confederate States of America in 1861. He left his wife, Sarah Bailey, and their two young children in the care of her father, Judge William Bailey.  Rumor has it that Sarah’s stepmother, Indiana Cherry, Judge Bailey’s 3rd  wife, “did not like her step-daughter and step-children, so she had them move out of the house and into the slave quarters. . . .” [1] Sarah died before Jim returned home in June, 1865. A slave woman greeted Jim with his children, 6-year-old Sarah and 4-year-old William.

In November, 1865, Elizabeth A. Hayes, 21 years old, married James John Ellerbee, six years her senior, a widower, and father of two young children. How did Elizabeth and John know each other?  Elizabeth, born in Alabama in 1844,  and her family probably lived in the same county as Jim Ellerbee.

Elizabeth gave birth to 7 children during their 12-year marriage.  One child, John Uzemer, lived only 3 years and died in Georgia.[2]  James John Ellerbee died in December 1877, leaving Elizabeth with eight children, ages newborn to 10 years:  Asa (age 9 months); Wright (age 4); Barzellia (age 5); James Walter (age 8); Anna C. (age 7); Demarious (age 10); William (age 16) and Sarah (age 18).

The year 1880 – three years since her husband died. Jim’s oldest son, William Green Ellerbee (born 1861) followed his grandfather to Cherokee County, Texas, in the late 1870s.[3]  He must have corresponded with his stepmother.  Within a few years, William returned to Calhoun County, Georgia, and resided there with his sister. [4]  Elizabeth, now 33 years old, supported her family  as a field hand, possibly the only type of work available to her. Her two oldest children, 13-year-old Demarious and 10-year-old Anna, also worked as field hands in Early County, Georgia[5].  Elizabeth’s mother, 67 year old Moses Hayes, lived with them and cared for the younger children. The family’s situation can only be described as difficult.

Within a year or two, William moved his sister, stepmother and her children from southeastern Georgia to eastern Texas. [6] Elizabeth’s six children now ranged in age from 3 to 14 years old. Traveling in a covered wagon, the 700+ mile journey took 6-8 weeks. They possibly followed the south’s Old Federal Road through Alabama and Mississippi, crossing the Missisippi River at either Natchez, Missisippi, or Shreveport, Louisiana.

The next decades presented some stability for Elizabeth, her children and stepchildren. Two more of her children (Anna C. and Barzellia) died between 1880 and 1900.   “She managed her household with frugality and she educated her several children very well despite the hard times that prevailed everywhere.” [7]  . Marriages and the birth of grandchildren occurred in or near Cherokee County, Texas:

  • May 1888- William Green Ellerbee married Mary Ann Gulledge;  7 children.
  • November 1888 – Sarah Alice Ellerbee married John Grum Martin; 6 children.
  • January 1895 – James Walter Ellerbee married Katharine Deborah Powell;  6 children.
  • January 1898- Demarious Albina Ellerbee married Thomas Blanton; 7 children.
  • 1906 – Asa Alexander Ellerbee married Laura B. Lester; 3 children. They moved to Leflore County, Oklahoma by 1910.  Asa later moved to Oklahoma City, where he died.
  • About 1932 – Wright Roswell Ellerbee married Laura B. Lester; 1 child.

With one exception (Asa), all of these families remained close to Elizabeth. [8] [9]

Elizabeth A Hayes EllerbeeElizabeth Hayes Ellerbee died on March 25, 1917 in Cherokee County, Texas. She was buried in the Mount Hope Cemetery at Wells, Texas. Many of her descendants are also buried there.

Elizabeth Hayes Ellerbee ‘s life was full of unexpected events, some happy and some sad.  At the age of 21, she assumed responsibility for a husband, shattered by war and the death of his first wife, and his two children. She lost her husband after only 12 years of marriage. She gave birth to seven children and buried three of them.  She appears to have had close relationships with both of her stepchildren.  She left familiar surroundings in Georgia, traveling 700+ miles to post-Civil War Texas to pursue a better life for herself and her family.  Overall, I see her as a woman who took chances and left a legacy of hope for her descendants.

reflection-swirl-green-color-hi

REFLECTION

I rediscovered Elizabeth’s story during creation of an Ellerbee scrapbook for my father-in-law’s 80th birthday in January, 2018. What a wonderful story for my blog!  Women’s History Month in March is the perfect time to publish it. I began to appreciate the challenges and hardships faced by Elizabeth as I dug deeper into the records. She had to be strong to endure. She may say, “I did it for my children” and think little about the sacrifices that she made.  She met the challenges of being a single parent for her children and stepchildren. I am sure that she got discouraged at times.

Taking on the role of ‘man of the house’ had to be difficult for 17-year-old William. How I wish I knew more about the slave woman who cared for Jim and Sarah’s children after Sarah’s death. That is a story to be discovered! Secondary benefit: meeting one of my genealogy goals for the year to tell more stories about my husband’s family.

What I learned:  always more in the records to be discovered. Look beyond names & dates. I learned about the “Old Federal Road” which could have been the route taken from southwest Georgia to east Texas.

What was helpful: having records semi-organized and easy to locate for review.  Demarious’ Bible records sent to me last year by one of her descendants.  Research and commentary about the family in The Ellerbe Family History.

Not helpful: Nothing I can think of at this moment.

To-Do List:  Confirm death dates & locations for Anna and Barzellia.

 For more information about the Old Federal Road:

The Old Federal Road in Alabama:  http://oldfederalroad.aum.edu/

South’s Old Federal Road https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/United_States_Overland_Travel_1784_to_1839,_National_Road,_Old_Federal_Road,_Chicago_Road_(National_Institute)#The_South.E2.80.99s_Old_Federal_Road

Wagon trains to Texas:  http://www.genealogy.com/forum/regional/states/topics/ms/8044/

Archaeological Survey of the Old Federal Road in Alabama:     https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Gregory_Waselkov/publication/259398790

Henry DeLeon Southerland & Jerry Elijah Brown. The Federal Road through Georgia.   Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 1989.

Jeffrey C. Benton (compiler). The Very Worst Road: Travellers Accounts of Crossing Alabama’s Old Creek Indian Territory, 1820-1847. Tucscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama, 2009.

REFERENCES: 

[1] Ronald William Ellerbe, The Ellerbe Family History (Baltimore, MD: Gateway Press, Inc., 1986), p. 14-43.

[2] Family data, Demarious Albina Ellerbee Family Bible, Holy Bible, (New York: American Bible Society, 1876); original owned in October 2016 by Darby Blanton, [address for private use], Darby is descendant of Demarious Ellerbee & Thomas Blanton.

[3] Ellerbe, The Ellerbe Family History, p. 14-43.

[4] 1880 U.S. Census, Calhoun County, Georgia, population schedule, District 626, enumeration district (ED) 4, p. 420B, dwelling 351, family 347, Sarah Elerbrie [Ellerbee] 20; digital images, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed, downloaded, printed 3 March 2018); citing National Archives & Records Administratin, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T9_0136.

[5] 1880 U.S. Census, Early Co, Georgia, pop. sch., Damascus, enumeration district (ED) 026, p. 214A, family #, Elizabeth Eleby [Ellerbee] ; digital images, Ancestry (http;;//www.ancestry.com : accessed, downloaded, printed 4 September 2011); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. , microfilm publication T9, Roll 144.

[6] Ellerbe, The Ellerbe Family History, p. 14-43.

[7] Ellerbe, The Ellerbe Family History, p. 14-43.

[8]  1900 U.S. Census, Cherokee County, Texas, pop. sch., Justice Pct 8, enumeration district (ED) 30, p. 284A (printed), Family #21, John G. Martin (head) [wife, Sarah A. Ellerbee + 6 children]; digital images, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : downloaded & printed 4 September 2011); National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. Roll: T623_1619.  On same page: Family #22: Will R Ellesbee [Wright R. Ellerbee], head, 24; Elizabeth A. Ellesbee [Ellerbee], 58; Asa Ellesbee [Ellerbee], 23 ; Family #23: James W. Ellesbee [Ellerbee], wife Catherine + 2 children. Elizabeth is recorded as the mother of 7 children, 4 still living.

[9] 1910 U.S. Census, Cherokee County, Texas, population schedule, Justice Precinct 8, enumeration district (ED) 0024, p. 14B (penned), dwelling 272, family 272, Ellerbee E (head), 60, wd; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed & downloaded 3 March 2018); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T624_1538.

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