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Jun 08

Albert G. Ellis–The Breuninger Connection

Oil portrait of Albert Gallatin Ellis by his daughter. Image no. WHi-2637, from the collection of the Wisconsin Historical Society. Used by permission from the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Who was Albert Gallatin Ellis and how does he fit into our family?

Albert Gallatin Ellis is one of the best known American pioneers of Green Bay, Wisconsin, and the upper Wisconsin River valley. He was born in Verona, New York, in 1800, the son of Eleazer Ellis. During his lifetime he was a teacher, writer, newspaperman and politician.

At the age of sixteen he became a printer’s apprentice and three years later was employed by Eleazer Williams as a secretary and assistant. He visited Green Bay with Williams in 1821 and soon after was appointed catechist and lay-reader by the Episcopal Church. He returned to Green Bay in 1822 and started a colony and a school for a group of Oneida Indiana. He remained in Wisconsin the rest of his life.

In 1827 Ellis was appointed inspector of provisions and from 1828-33 he served as deputy surveyor of government lands. In 1830 Ellis accompanied an Indiana delegation to Washington and was again surveying from 1833-36. In 1837 he was made surveyor-general.

In 1833 he and his partner John V. Suydam published Wisconsin’s first newspaper. It was also the first newspaper to be published west of Lake Michigan. It was called the Green Bay Intelligencer. He published the paper alone from 1834-35 and with C. P. Arndt from 1835-36. He served in the territorial lower house as a Democrat in 1836 and from 1841-44. He was surveyor general of the Wisconsin and Iowa district from 1837-41. Ellis was appointed US Sub-Indian Agent in 1845 and was in charge of the Green Bay Agency.  In 1852 he moved to Stevens Point, Portage County, where he was the receiver of the land office from 1853-62.

Ellis published the first newspaper in Portage County, the Wisconsin Pinery, from 1853-59. He was mayor of Stevens Point for five terms. There he edited the Stevens Point Wisconsin Eagle from 1874-85 and wrote numerous biographical and historical essays on Wisconsin history. Ellis died in 1885 at Stevens Point.

Sources:  Wisconsin Historical Society, accessed 7 June 2012.
Midwest Pioneers: Collection of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Vol. 20:317. Ancestry.com, accessed 7 Jun 2012.

Ellis wrote, “In all my connections with the press, I never had any idea but the development of the frontier country and the support of old-fashioned Democratic principals [sic]. In both these I have spent large sums of money derived from other sources. I never made a dollar by publishing a newspaper, but I have spent thousands.” (Stevens Point Journal, “Newspapers and A.G. Ellis”, 19 May 1992, Portage County Historical Society of Wisconsin, accessed 7 Jun 2012.)

An image of Albert Ellis is painted on a mural on the side of a building in downtown Stevens Point. The mural depicts Stevens Point’s Ten Most Influential Citizens and was painted in 2008 by Kelly Meredith in honor of the town’s sesquicentennial. You can view a photo of the mural at http://stevenspoint.com/DocumentCenter/Home/View/903 .

Yes, Albert G. Ellis was a notable man. He was a General and was known as the Pioneer Editor of all the northwest. In addition to his accomplishments he wrote many articles as well as personal recollections of his life. But what is his connection to our family? In all of the writings by and about him there is very little written about his private family life.

I learned about our family connection from a couple of letters in “The Breuninger Collection”, the collection of items saved by my great-great-grandfather Louis Breuninger. I have at least two hand-written letters from Albert G. Ellis to Louis Breuninger.

From these letters I learned that Albert’s second wife was Louis Breuninger’s sister Eliza Charlotte Juliana Louisa, called “Eliza CJL”, who was my great-great-grandaunt.

The above portrait of Albert G. Ellis was painted by one of his daughters. It is image no. WHi-2637 ,in the collection of the Wisconsin Historical Society and used with their permission. I do not know which daughter painted the portrait, but perhaps she was a child of Albert and Eliza. You can also see the Ellis portrait on the Wisconsin Historical Society website.

More about Eliza the Ellis-Breuninger connection in upcoming blogs…

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