Sunday, June 12, 2016

Olinthus Ellis (1840-1905)

Portrait courtesy of

   Hailing from Lavaca County, Texas, Olinthus Ellis is yet another example of an oddly named member of the Texas State Legislature (and believe me, there are many!!) A one-term member of the Texas Senate, Ellis was also a veteran of the Confederate Army and an attorney based in the cities of Hallettsville and Uvalde.
   Although a resident of Texas for a good majority of his life, Olinthus Ellis wasn't born in the Lonestar State; his birth instead occurring in Henry County, Kentucky on May 5, 1840. One of nine children born to James Parrish Ellis and the former Jane Berryman, Ellis' early life and education remain uncertain, and he is recorded as having been a "bookkeeper in Louisville" until the dawn of the Civil War. In 1862 he enlisted in the Confederate Army and after relocating to Texas joined the ranks of Co. C. of the 13th Texas Volunteer Infantry. Ellis would later be promoted to sergeant major of the 8th Regiment Texas Infantry, serving under General John G. Walker.
   Olinthus Ellis served with the 8th Regiment Texas Infantry until the conclusion of the warand at the conclusion of the hostilities sought out his brother Volney, a lawyer in Hallettsville, Texas. He followed in his brother's stead and after a period of study was admitted to the Texas bar in 1865. Ellis began the practice law in Hallettsville soon afterward and two years later married to Martha Ann "Mattie" Dibrell (1844-1879), with whom he would have three children: Elizabeth (1868-1929), Ben Dibrell (1873-1943) and Katy (1876-1880).
   Several years after establishing himself in Hallettsville Olinthus Ellis made his first move into politics, becoming a candidate for the Texas Senate from the 25th district in 1873. He would win election to that body and took his seat at the start of the 1874-76 session. His time in the senate saw him chair the committee on the Militia, as well as serving on the following committees: Blind Asylum, Comptroller and Treasurer's Accounts, Immigration, the Judiciary, Mexican Border Troubles, the Penitentiary, Retrenchment and Reform, Roads, Bridges and Ferries and State Affairs.

Portrait from the 1874 Texas legislative composite.

   Tragedy struck Olinthus Ellis in 1879 when his wife Mattie died at the age of 35. A few years following her passing Ellis removed to Uvalde, Texas and following his resettlement remarried to Sarah Grace Oglesby (1855-1919), their union producing a further five children: Jane Berryman (died in infancy in 1884), Olin Oglesby (1884-1968), Paul Roscoe (1892-1960), Juliet (died aged one in 1897) and a son who died in infancy in 1898.
   Ellis's later life in Uvalde saw him continue to practice law, and in the early 1890s took as a junior law partner a young lawyer named John Nance Garner (1868-1967), later to gain nationwide distinction as both Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and as Vice President of the United States under Franklin Roosevelt (1933-1941). Ellis died shortly after his 65th birthday on May 11, 1905 and was subsequently interred at the Uvalde Cemetery.

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