Monthly Archives: May 2010

Albert T. Ellis: enterprising spirit of the West

— Glass panels from historic Ellis house find new home at museum —

Once part of a “landmark” in the heart of Maryville, a couple of ruby glass panels have recently returned home.

The Bohemian glass panels from the front doors of the Forsyth Place, the historical home featured on one of the downtown Maryville murals, were donated to the Nodaway County Historical Society Museum by the Condon family.

While the house was well known because of the Forsyth and Condon families for over 80 years, it was first home to another distinguished name in Maryville history, Albert T. Ellis I, who constructed the house in 1883.

early years prepare Ellis

Ellis was born on August 21, 1843, in Kentucky, the eleventh child of Leander T. Ellis. That fall, he and his family moved to the Platte Purchase and lived in Buchanan County for several years before moving to Nodaway County in 1848.

According to “A Biographical History of Nodaway and Atchison Counties Missouri,” Ellis was not afforded a formal education, however, his interests in learning and reading, along with his “observation, a retentive mind and active connection with the practical affairs of life…brought to him considerable knowledge and he became a well informed man, thoroughly conversant with the leading questions of the day.”

He worked as a farm hand for 10 years, starting at the age of nine, which helped prepare him for the “arduous duties of business life in later years.”

Ellis was “tall in stature and when in health weighed about one hundred and fifty pounds. He possessed unfailing good nature and a very genial manner and was fond of a practical joke.”

In 1865, he married Amanda Allen from Bloomfield, IA, and she became mother to three children, Mary (Mamie), Cora and Albert T. Ellis II.

the aspiring businessman

At the age of 19, Ellis began his “mercantile interests” in Maryville, being first employed by Adam Terhune and then by Beal and Robinson, who were dry goods merchants, where he stayed for three years.

“But he was ambitious and wished to engage in business for himself. He had little in the way of capital save experience, but he had established public confidence, was energetic and determined and, relying upon these qualities…he resolved to start upon an independent business career.”

Investing a few hundred dollars in a stock of drugs, he opened a drug store on the west side of the square in downtown Maryville.

Ellis was described as “possessing the enterprising spirit of the West, which has been the dominant factor in producing the wonderful development of this section of the country” and as a man of “keen discrimination and sound judgment who used executive ability and excellent management in attaining success.”

a remarkable partnership

In 1866, Ellis became partners with James B. Prather, who helped organize Nodaway Valley Bank and served as its presidents for many years. The two started a drug store together, Ellis & Prather, and developed a business relationship that lasted for 25 years.

“The partnership was remarkable for its length of duration, its perfect harmony and the continuous and gratifying success which attended their efforts. Both partners were men of well known reliability and possessed the unqualified confidence of the residents of Maryville and vicinity.”

They constructed a building just north of Nodaway Valley Bank and “instituted a jobbing business, at the same time conducting the leading retail drug house in Maryville.”

As their business prospered, Ellis began investing heavily in real estate, both land and buildings in the country and within the city limits, one of which was a certain plot on Main Street, where “he erected one of the first brick residences of the city, making it his place of abode.”

the French colonial home

With the help of architect JM Gile, who also designed the Nodaway County Courthouse, Ellis built a beautiful French colonial home on the northeast corner of First and Main in Maryville.

The two-story brick house with sandstone trimming stood a grand 58 by 42 feet. The April 5, 1883, edition of the Nodaway Democrat described it as having a “Mansard roof covered with slate and crest railing around on top” with a kitchen, dining room, parlor, sitting room, one bedroom and one bathroom on the first floor with five bedrooms and a bathroom on the second floor.

The paper called it “one of the most elegant residences in the city.”

Among the notable features incorporated into the home, as portrayed by Edwyna Forsyth Condon who wrote a brief history of the place which housed her family for four generations, were “four beautiful fireplaces, one with a lovely beveled glass mirror over it, the woodwork, the stained glass window, the walnut spiral stairway and the Bohemian glass in the front doors.”

honorable community member

Ellis was also very popular as a citizen in the community. In his early years, he joined the Masonic fraternity and became a Knight Templar.

“He identified himself with no questionable and unworthy enterprises or movements, and his patriotic interest in the town and county was sincere and permanent.

“He gave to every interest calculated to prove of public benefit his earnest support and cooperation. He was reared in the faith of the Democracy and of that party was an earnest supporter, but never was an aspirant for public office.

“With him friendship was inviolable, and his greatest happiness was found in the midst of his family at his own fireside.

“He was indeed a valued citizen in the community.”

after his death

When Ellis died in 1891, the home was left to his daughter, Mamie, and her husband, J. Woodson Smith.

In 1902, she sold the house to Edmond Forsyth and the home became a part of the Forsyth family for four generations, including his son Luther and wife Besse Michau, then their daughter, Edwyna, and her husband Edward Condon and their children.

Following Besse’s death in 1962, the Forsyth home was closed and remained vacant until 1969 when a new business opened there called The Landmark.

In 1977, the structure was torn down, and today, Citizens Bank and Trust sits in that same location.

the Bohemian glass panels

Those interested in viewing the ruby glass panels from the Ellis house can do so by visiting the Nodaway County Historical Society Museum.

It is open from 1 to 4 pm, Tuesday through Friday, or by appointment, and is located at 110 North Walnut, Maryville.

For more information, call 660.582.8176

“A Biographical History of Nodaway and Atchison Counties Missouri,” “Encyclopedia of the History of Missouri” edited by Howard Louis Conard, and “Forsyth Place, 1883-1969 — Four generations at First and Main” (Nodaway News Leader, December 2009) were used for this article. Also, special thanks to Linda Ellis Benedetti.