James A. Elliott – Civil War Veteran

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Civil War veteran James A. Elliott

James A. Elliott was the last born of eight children to George Elliott and his two wives. James’ mother was Lucy Transit.

He was born in Augusta, NY, Aug. 7, 1835 and was nearly 2-years-old when his family came to Lisbon from New York in 1837.

His father claimed 160 acres which today includes land east of Maple Avenue and north of Main Street. Now built on the land is St. Alban’s Church and cemetery, Elmwood Avenue, Orchard Drive, Hillview Drive, Vista Lane, Old Mill Lane, Pauline Haass Public Library, Sussex Village Hall and Weyer Park. His land is the cornerstone of Old Sussex and he paid 10 shillings or $1.25 per acre for a total of $200 for the entire claim.

Young James Elliott grew up in the developing crossroads of Sussex – Maple and Main Streets – and attended the one-room Sussex No. 10 School that eventually became Sussex Main Street School. He had the fever to join the colors when the Civil War began in 1861 however he was rejected by the medical department for induction as a volunteer into the service. But he didn’t take no for an answer and became an employee of the Quartermaster’s Department and was stationed with the Waukesha regiment in the Trans Mississippi Union Army. The Waukesha regiment was actually the Wisconsin 28th Volunteer Infantry Regiment. He was a saddle and harness maker and repairer and also acted as a teamster at times.

He later married Sarah Boots of Sussex on Nov. 1, 1861. Sarah was a native of England, born Aug. 16, 1843, in Peasmarsh, County of Sussex. Soon after their wedding at St. Alban’s, James joined the Union Army.

Sarah delivered their first son, Adrian James Elliot, on Nov. 12, 1862. He later became superintendant of the Waukesha Boys Industrial School and was later hired to run the Milwaukee County Detention Home for 22 years until his death at age 68 on Dec. 3, 1930.

James Elliot was with the 28th on July 4, 1863, for the battle of Helene, Ark., which saw 3,000 troops well-prepared in trenches successfully attack 7,000 Confederate soldiers. Following that, the 28th went to Pine Bluff and Little Rock where many troops died from cholera, typhoid fever, mumps and pneumonia one of those was Lisbonite Charles McGill of North Lisbon Road who died of typhoid fever on Sept. 2, 1864 leaving behind his wife children two of whom also perished from diphtheria. However, his son William McGill survived the rampant illness and eventually served as town chairman and was instrumental in the founding of the Sussex State Bank in 1911 which today is the Sussex Associated Bank at Main Street and Orchard Drive.

Today, James Elliot lives on in the limited edition Alfred Weaver Civil War Diary printed in 1989, second edition was printed in 2001. Elliot’s mention in the book is a letter he sent to his wife from Little Rock, Ark., dated Oct. 9, 1864. In the three-page letter Elliot mentions he is lonesome, misses his newborn son, hungry and full of lice.

This narrative will continue next week with sections from this letter to Sarah.

James Elliot’s Civil War letter to his wife

This is the second part of a series on Sussex Civil War veteran James Elliott who was refused induction into the Union army but found a way to serve with the Quartermaster Department which was attached to the 28th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment that served in the extended Vicksburg campaign.

Born of English parents in New York Aug. 7, 1835, he was the last of eight children born to George Elliot from two wives, James mother was Lucy Transit.

His father owned a 160-acre claim that was semi-bounded by Maple Avenue, Main Street, Outer Circle Drive and the Union Pacific Railroad tracks. The land was partitioned off and by 1873 only 83 acres were left in the Elliot name and much of the rest became the new downtown of the unincorporated Village of Sussex and the vast St. Alban’s site.

James was 26 and his wife, Sarah Boots 18 when they got married. They were only 27 and 19 when she had her first born, Adrian James who acquired the name of “Ada” from his baptism. James was already serving in Arkansas when “Ada” was born.

On Oct. 9, 1864, James was in Little Rock and composed a letter to his wife that evidently took him a day and a half to complete. Today this letter is part of the 1989 Alfred Weaver Civil War Book and Elliot is mentioned with this letter.

The following are some selected parts of this letter:

“My dear wife, it is with pleasure that I sit down to write you a few lines, hoping that will find you both (including 2 year old son Adrian) well as me.

“My friend Holmes started home a week ago. I sent two vouchers by him to St. Louis. He will sell them there and when he gets to Milwaukee on his road home to Eau Claire he will send money to you by mail. I sent a letter with him to you. I hope you will get the money alright. There will be somewhere between 20 and 40 dollars. It all depends on how much he has to pay on the dollar (exchange) to get them cashed.”

The letter goes on to say that some expected mail had not arrived, particularly from Sarah, but that he had received a letter from Sussex general store owner, “Mr. Richard Cooling,” that included a local Waukesha newspaper that was a month old when he received it and by that time it was all old news.

Skipping ahead in the letter we get to a part that reads, “I went down to the Arkansaw River this morning to change my shirt. There were so many lice in it and it is pretty well worn out. So I put a stone in the shirt and heaved it into the river as far as I could throw. So good bye to one old shirt and so many lice.”

The following paragraph has a request of Sarah who he endearingly called Sally.

“No Sally, I will tell you what I want to do if and when you get the money. That is to go to Mr. Cooling’s (general store which in 1864 stood just east of present day Paul Cain’s Service Station) buy me two pounds of his best smoking tobacco and also 3 or 4 ounces of Blue ointment. Then go to Jack Smith or Hank to have a box made and send it to me by Adams Express. Get Mr. Cooling to direct it as that is the surest way I can get the ointment. I will save the express cost in the price of the tobacco for here in Arkansaw it is $1.25 a pound. You can get a little mustard box or something like it to put the ointment in it. You don’t know how uncomfortable I feel to have vermin (lice) crawling over me. Some are larger than a big “O” So dear, please tend to it right off if you get the money I sent. ”

Next week the third part of this series will continue on Elliot’s letter.

Continuation of Elliott’s Civil War letter

This is the third installment about the Elliott family which was one of the first families to settle in Sussex in the 1800s. Their information was included in the “1880 History of Waukesha County.”

James A. Elliott was the last of eight children born to George and Lucy Elliott who were both from Sussex, England. James was born on Aug. 7, 1835, after the family had arrived in New York. He arrived in Sussex, Wis., at age 2 in 1837. His father, George, claimed 160 acres that today is bounded by Main and Maple Streets, Outer Circle Drive and the Union Pacific Railroad tracks.

James married Sarah Boots in 1861 and joined the Union Army Quartermaster Corp. attached to the Waukesha Wisconsin 28th Volunteer Infantry Regiment that was stationed mostly in Arkansas. Sarah was pregnant with their first-born son, Adrian who was born Nov. 12, 1862 while James was stationed in Arkansas.

Last week’s column was about a Oct. 9, 1864 dated letter sent from James in Little Rock to Sarah saying he was infested with lice, missed his wife, was in need of smoking tobacco which he requested be shipped from Sussex via the Richard Cooling General Store. The following are some more snippets from the three-page, quill pen letter Elliot wrote to his wife.

“I am very lonesome I dream of you nearly every night, but in the morning I find myself in Little Rock but all is well. I hope bye and bye that I have to wake up some fine morning and find myself in bed with you and Ada (Adrian’s nickname) … I carry Ada’s likeness (picture) in my pocket all the time. I wish I had one of your’s here too. Then I could see you both but just wait till I get home … ”

He continues on about receiving a war souvenir.

“I have a part of a saber that used to belong that used to belong to a rebel wagon master. I am going to bring it home to make a butcher knife. It will make a very good one. Tell Ada that when I will be bringing it home I will also return with my horse.”

Immediately below there was more talk about Ada, “Last night as I laid on my cot … in my imagination I had Ada drssed up in a military uniform just like an officer … with a shoulder strap … he was all nice and fancy.”

James related a joke that he had pushed an unknowing city bred soldier into admitting. The subject was “butter” which was a rarity in the Union army food supplies. The city bred soldier was a little leery about how to use butter and how to eat it. However after he had tried it, he liked it. So James Elliott asked the soldier where butter came from and the unknowing soldier said, “It grows on trees in Minnesota of course.”

The letter then switches to his clothing problem. He had thrown a lice-filled shirt into the Arkansas River. He wrote the following about it, “I went to the Quartermaster store and drawed (sic) a large blouse and a hat and a pair of socks. The socks cost 35 cents, the hat 80 cents and the blouse $2.87. So now I am pretty well clothed up.”

The next subject of his letter was about his smoking. “I have the neatest pipe you have ever seen. I dug up the root last Sunday and made it. Its ugliness makes it handsome. You should see it and also the mustache that I have grown.”

Soon James closed his letter with, “Your true and loving and affectionate husband … Good night dearest, kiss Ada for me and a good night to him also.”

It is unclear how James got out of his Quartermaster Corp. enlistment but ti was soon after this letter that he was back in Sussex with his family. By February 1865 Sarah had their second son, George Edward Michigan Elliott.

More next week.

James A. Elliott: Lisbon-Sussex pioneer & Civil War participant Photos from the collection of Sussex Village Historian Fred H. Keller

This is the fourth part of a continuing series on James Anderson Elliott, born Aug. 7, 1835, in New York state.

James Anderson Elliott moved to Lisbon in 1837 at a year old, with his parents and their six other children. His father, George Elliott, claimed 160 acres that cost $200 and stretched from Maple Avenue, along Main Street, to today’s Outer Circle Drive, and then north to beyond the present day Union Pacific RR tracks.

James married in 1861 and tried to join the Union Army in 1862, but, being rejected, he signed on to the Union Quartermaster Corps as a harness and saddle maker-repairer and as a teamster.

He would be attached to the 28th Wis. Volunteer Infantry Regiment that served in the Trans Mississippi army, which was charged with opening the Mississippi to New Orleans. The greater part of his service was served in Arkansas, where he served until early 1865, when he completed his enlistment.

A big part of the first three installments of this series related to a letter he sent to his wife Sarah “Sally” Boots on Oct. 9, 1864, from Pine Bluff, Ark., . This letter is part of the 1989 hardcover book about Sussex resident Alfred Weaver and his diary while in the 28th Volunteer Infantry.

To continue the story, James got out of his Quartermaster duties in the final year of the Civil War, early 1865.

That is evident by the fact that he and Sarah must have been together in February 1865 because a second son, George Edward Michigan Elliott, was born Nov. 21, 1865.

When James came back to Sussex, he and Sarah left for Sack Bay in upper Michigan just two weeks before George was born, and herein lies the tale.

An Indian woman was employed as a midwife for the birth. She could not speak much English, but when it came to naming the newborn, the name had to be George after his grandfather, but the midwife conveyed to the family that his middle name should be “Michigan” since he was born in that state. So George Michigan Elliott became his name. George was seldom used, and “Michigan” became the name he would be known by for the rest of his life. In spring 1866, the family came back to Sussex. Michigan would live out his life on Maple Avenue, dying on Oct. 9, 1954, at the age of nearly 89. He was an influential Sussex-Lisbon community member during his 88 years in the Sussex-Lisbon area.

In spring 1866, the James Elliott family was in the community for the long haul. There would be three more children, Frank Ephraim on Dec. 30, 1868, Gertie Ann, the only girl, on Oct. 23 1870, and Randolph Atwood on March 3, 1879. James was 44 when the last of his five children were born, Sarah was 36.

James was a stone mason by trade. In those days, to be a stone mason you had three jobs: to quarry out the stone, shape it, and lay it up with mortar made from kiln-made quick lime.

His trade was noted in the Waukesha Free Press on Nov. 30, 1889: “J.A. Elliott and A. Wileden have just built a splendid stone arch bridge on the town line between Lisbon and Menomonee (Falls).”

This covered the tributary of the Fox River that crosses Highway 74-Town Line Road from the Willow Spring Mobile Home Trailer Court and just immediately north of Willow Springs Whiskey Corner Tavern of today.

James was in demand to build many structures with masonry both in Sussex-Lisbon and the City of Waukesha. In April-May of 1874, he helped found the Lisbon Mutual Insurance Co. His big claim to fame came later that same year when he helped found the Sussex Ashlar Masonic Lodge, No. 193 Free and Accepted Masons.

He would serve six terms as the Master of the Sussex Masonic Order, and remain active for the rest of his life, holding many other subordinate roles.

Today, the Sussex Ashlar Lodge is still going strong, as it has a 1922-built lodge on Main Street, across from the Sussex Community Hall.

In its early days, the Ashlar Lodge usually held its meetings in the loft of the Champeny General Store on the northwest corner of Maple and Main streets.

In 1904, the meeting place was moved to the loft hall above the Buck & Gauthiers’ General Store where today the Piggly Wiggly store is located.

James and Sarah would live in a small home on Maple Avenue at present day W239 N6602. He died Oct 26, 1914, but Sarah would live until Jan. 8 1934. Both were buried at St Alban’s Cemetery, as were their five children.

Next week: the story of George Michigan Elliott

Retrospect: Sussex-Lisbon resident George Edward Michigan Elliott

This is the fifth and last part of the story of a pioneer family, the Elliott family, that once owned the 160 acres that is bound by Maple Avenue on the west, Main Street on the south, Outer Circle Drive to the east and the Union Pacific Railroad tracks on the north. George Elliott (1793-1870) brought his family from England to New York and then on to Lisbon in 1837. The family consisted of nine members when they took over the 160-acre homestead for $200.

Their last born son was James Elliott (1837-1914). He married Sarah Boots of Sussex in 1861 and then served in the Civil War as a Quartermaster Corp. harness and saddle maker plus did some teamstering in the Trans Mississippi Union Army. When he left for the service, Sarah (known as Sally) had their first born, Adrian.

On James’ discharge in early 1865 Sarah became pregnant again and as happenstance the Elliott family would go to an extended family enterprise of lumbering, fishing and building boats at Sack Bay, Mich. Two weeks after they got there, Sarah had their second son. He was named after his grandfather George with a middle name of Edward and a distinctive third name, Michigan followed by the family name. Thus, he was named George Edward Michigan Elliott. However as life went on he was never called George but always either Michigan or more commonly Mich. He had acquired the Michigan name as a result of an Indian midwife who attended to Sarah. She suggested that Michigan be part of his name.

Soon the family was back in Sussex and Michigan would live a long time in the community being part of the fabric and essence of Sussex-Lisbon. They took over a cottage home which today is at W239 N6602 Maple Avenue and raised their family. This quaint home is now privately owned but is known as “The Adelaide Weaver Weeks home,” the home of the last Weaver family member to ever live in Sussex.

His father, James was a mason by trade but his local claim to fame was that he helped start the Lisbon Mutual Insurance Company in early 1874 and alter that year he was the founder of the Sussex Ashlar Masonic Lodge No. 193 Free and Accepted Masonic Order. James and Sarah had a total of five children but Michigan is the one that left the biggest imprint in the history of Sussex-Lisbon.

Born Nov. 21, 1865 Michigan became a painter and also helped his father with masonry work. In 1905, Mich married a neighbor girl Minnie Mindemann from the Mapleway Park area who died just a few months later. Mich had left his parents homestead and built a large home around 1895 on the east side of Maple Avenue with the present day address of W239 N6574 Maple Ave. He dug the basement by hand and hauled the dirt out by wheelbarrow. It was so rocky that saving the stones, he had enough material for three-foot wide basement walls which he also built himself.

Having built the home to learn the carpentry trade he followed this trade for some years before he became a house painter and interior decorator specializing in wall paper.

After the death of his first wife, he waited 40 years to marry again this time to a Vernon Township woman in 1910. They were married for 44 years when Mich died Oct. 9, 1954; the couple never had children.

Though they never had any children of their own, the Elliotts cared for 1-year-old niece Helen Grenwis who became Mr. John Kuehn. Her husband was a World War II veteran and lived in an apartment of the Elliott home eventually taking over the home after Michigan’s death.

Michigan was a 63-year member of the Sussex Ashlar Lodge and served as Master of the lodge in 1910. He also served as secretary. His pastime was hunting and fishing. Mich was a staunch Democrat all his life but in 1952 he voted Republican for the first time helping to elect President Dwight Eisenhower.

In his final years as the 1950s began he was keen of mind but lost the use of his legs and one arm. He and his wife were buried in St. Alban’s the church he was confirmed at in 1880 and was a lifetime member of. Elliott blood still remains distantly in Sussex-Lisbon but for all practical matters the Elliott family has disappeared locally.