From Canajoharie NY to De Kalb IL
Contributed by Lisa Slaski
Transcribed by Elaine Scantlebury
HIRAM ELLWOOD, Secretary and General Manager of the Superior Barbed-Wire Company, resident at
De Kalb, is one of the Ellwood Brothers, whose names are prominent in the history of De Kalb
County. The portrait of the gentlemen who forms the subject of this sketch appears on the page
opposite, and is a valuable addition to the gallery of portraits given in this volume.
Mr. Ellwood was born in Montgomery County, N.Y., in the town of Canajoharie, on the 19th day of
September 1828. He is the son of Abraham and Sarah (Delong) Ellwood. (See sketch of Hon. C.
Ellwood for further mention of parents.) When he was about ten years of age his father became
a contractor on the Erie Canal, entering into an agreement to build a mile of that watercourse
lying within the town of Minden, Montgomery County. The contractor boarded the men whom he
employed, and every *member of the family who was still under the parental authority contributed
their share of assistance in the scheme. Girls in the Ellwood household were not numerous enough
or large enough to afford the necessary amount of assistance that is generally supposed per se to
fall to the feminine lot, and the boys who were plenty and available were pressed into domestic
duty. Hiram was one of the most useful adjuncts of the household and did valiant service in the
intervals of school, his principal business at home being washing dishes, and, like Billy Gray,
the Boston millionaire, who was wont to boast of the quality of his work when he sawed wood for
his living, chiefly remembers that he did it well and moreover is not ashamed of it. Later,
Abraham Ellwood went with his family to Ilion, in Herkimer County, N.Y. Hiram engaged as a
salesman in the employ of a Mr. Dygert in the city of Utica. He was then about 15 years of age,
and remained in that employment about two years. Subsequently he was employed by a Mr. Folts as
a clerk in a drygoods and grocery store, where he continued three years. He had saved his
earnings, and, being desirous of embarking independently in business, he purchased a half
interest in a canal boat, which he sold after one season. He returned to the mercantile
establishment where last employed and resumed the occupation of a clerk.
His next business venture was in an enterprise in company with William Frank in raising broom-corn
and manufacturing brooms, carrying on their operations on the "Flats" in the town of Mohawk,
adjacent to the river of the same name.
Mr. Ellwood made his home with the household of his associate in business, and the family circle
was increased by the addition of a young lady, a cousin of Mrs. Frank - Miss Sarah Dygert by
name. The young people were mutually attracted from the first. Their first meeting occurred
between 30 and 40 years ago, and their first favorable opinions strengthened into appreciative
friendship and soon into substantial affection which resulted in their marriage in March, 1850.
No finer touch of manliness appears on these pages than the tribute paid by Mr. Elwood more than
35 years afterward to the strength of the sentiment which held him in indissoluble bonds. "I
thought her the handsomest and most lady-like girl I had ever seen, and I still think so."
The marriage took place at Fort Plain, N.Y., and to the wedded pair one child was born - Alice -
who was married in the spring of 1871 to D.D. Brown, of Sycamore.
Chauncey Ellwood, the oldest brother of Hiram Ellwood, was a widower, and in 1852 the latter
and his wife entered the employ of the former - the wife as general housekeeper, the husband
as assistant in a grocery and provision store at a point on the Erie Canal in Frankfort,
Herkimer County. There was no business save during the season of navigation, and the intervening
seasons were spent in methods that combined much amusement and little exertion, as there was
literally nothing to do. The relation between the brothers was in existence two years. At the
end of that time the elder was appointed to the position of Superintendent of a section of the
canal, and the traffic of the store passed into the hands of Messrs. J.E. and Hiram Ellwood.
They conducted their affairs jointly one year, when the former sold his interest to the latter and it continued under his management two years.
In the spring of 1856 Hiram Ellwood sold out and came West. On the ninth day of August in that
year, the mercantile firm of Ellwood & Delong opened business at De Kalb, then a village with
little promise of the prosperity and development of to-day, and they continued the sale of drugs
and groceries until 1866, when the junior member of the firm withdrew and Mr. Ellwood conducted
the business until 1877 in his own name. He then sold out to J.H. Lewis, who still continues
its successful prosecution. Meanwhile the business of I.L. Ellwood & Co. had assumed mammoth
proportions and Mr. Ellwood went to Kansas City, Mo., in the interests of that firm and operated
as Western agent, shipping barbed wire West and South from Kansas City. He returned to De Kalb
at the expiration of three years. In August, 1881, the Superior Barbed-Wire Company of De Kalb
went into operation. The charter member included I.L. Ellwood, J.F. Glidden, J.D. Lott, Reuben
Ellwood and Hiram Ellwood, and the latter was elected Treasurer, Secretary and General Manager, and still holds the same position.
Mr. Ellwood, in addition to his business relations with De Kalb city and county, has discharged
the duties and responsibilities of several official positions. In 1857 and 1858 he was elected
Supervisor of the township of De Kalb and has served three terms as member of the Board of
Trustees of the village before its incorporation as a city. He has served a term as School
Director, officiating as Clerk of the Board. He acted two years as Deputy Postmaster under I.V.
Randall, and on the resignation of his chief, two years after, he was appointed Postmaster and
served four years. During the years 1859, '60,'61, '62, he officiated as Treasurer of De Kalb
County and executed all the trusts, which fell to him in his duties in a characteristic way, one
or which was the signing of the soldiers' orders. With A.K. Stiles, County Clerk, he was
appointed by the Board of County Supervisors to act as County Agent in the sale of the county
bonds, which labor was accomplished and resulted in the payment of the claims of the soldiers
of the 105th Regiment Ill. Vol. Inf., the soldiers receiving one-half cash and one-half the amount due them in county orders.
Mr. Ellwood located at De Kalb nearly 30 years ago, when it was a village. He has watched its
development and the increase of its business resources with much gratification. At the date he
made the acquaintance of the place its population was about 500, and it is now six times as great,
and is second in business to no town of its capacity between Chicago and the Mississippi. The
interest of Mr. Ellwood in his adopted home and his identification with its general welfare will
expire only with his life. One notable event, which has heretofore failed to receive deserved
notice in the sketches, of the Ellwood brothers, and which should find place, is the last act of
filial affection preformed by them in connection with the death and burial of their venerable
mother. It was her dying request that "her boys" should act as her pall-bearers, which they did,
the six bearing her remains to her last resting place in Elmwood Cemetery.
Source: PORTRAIT AND BIOGRAPHICAL ALBUM of DE KALB COUNTY, ILLINOIS. Containing Full-page Portraits and Biographical Sketches of Prominent and Representive Citizens of the county. Together with Portraits and Biographies of all the Governors of Illinois, and of the Presidents of the United States. Also containing a History of the County, from its Earliest Settlement to the Present Time. Chicago: Chapman Brothers. 1885.