Compiling Chandler: The Ellis Family Story began in 1994. Since that time, family members, friends and many others have contributed to the project. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to a few special people who made more than their share of contributions. Without them, writing this story would have been impossible.

First of all, a million thanks to my dear uncles, the four Ellis family elders — James (Jim), Ora (Herb), Francis (Frank), and George. For years they have been role models, not just to our family, but to anyone having the pleasure of knowing them. Their excellent memories and skills to recall the smallest detail of every event continue to amaze me. I thank them for the endless hours of retelling old tales and clarifying confusing and contradictory information. Unfortunately, we lost Jim on May 30, 2003, and Frank on January 28, 2004.

Jim Ellis deserves special attention. He was the family historian and resident genius on about every aspect of U.S. history. Jim was extremely knowledgeable about Lincoln County and also the entire state of Oklahoma. His ability to explain historical events and analyze their significance is unmatched. Jim was well known throughout the state. The mention of his name served as a passport for complete cooperation from everyone contacted.

Chandler, the county seat of Lincoln County, is the location of the Lincoln County Historical Society. The Society manages one of the country’s finest community museums. It should be a required visit for anyone studying Oklahoma history. Jeannette Haley, the museum’s curator from 1984 to 2005, provided invaluable assistance in numerous areas. At the museum, she graciously provided a place to hang my hat during many research visits. She also assisted and advised on scores of details about Chandler and Lincoln County.

My appreciation to the director and staff of the Ralph Ellison Library in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. I am unable to count the endless hours spent under their care. Of special value were the microfilm copies of The Black Dispatch newspaper available at the library. From the paper I learned a great deal about life in early Oklahoma.

The main library in Edmond, Oklahoma was visited numerous times. Its state-of-the-art equipment and pleasant atmosphere provided an ideal setting for thinking and writing. Thank you to all of the helpful library staff.

The Territorial Museum of the Oklahoma Historical Society at Guthrie, Oklahoma contains a wealth of information about Whit and Maggie’s early experiences in Oklahoma. The museum’s Collections Curator, and her talented staff, provided information on the early period of The Ellis Family Story, plus details on the territory before it became a state in 1907. 

Jan Vassar, a resident of Chandler, is a treasured friend and colleague, as well as a talented Oklahoma historian and researcher. She was a principal advisor playing a key role in investigating special areas such as Oklahoma’s “black settlements” and newspaper articles on activities in the black community. Jan and I spent many informative hours visiting historical sites in Chandler and Lincoln County. I thank her for the many information packages related to Lincoln County she provided for our story.

Alvin “Buster” Garcia, a life-long resident of Chandler, spent many long days guiding me around Chandler and Lincoln County. At 90 years of age, he maintained his humorous personality and bottomless energy. We personally visited every one of the Chandler locations mentioned in our story. Buster provided useful details about Chandler and its citizens. He was a close friend of my Uncle Hasko and of the entire Ellis family.

Christy Aquilla made invaluable contributions in the early stages of writing the first version of the family history. She proved to be a genius in the development and management of the Ellis family web site. All of Christy’s assistance was provided between taking care of two young children and a thousand other family chores. Her smile, patience, and continuous positive attitude will never be forgotten.

Several other special people helped in various ways, but unfortunately, only a few of them can be mentioned here. Ester McCormick, Victor Brown, the Davises — Bernice, Cleo and George, Ethel Grey Wilson, Peggy Bo Bo and sons Mark Grayson and Mike Grayson, Helen Booker, Lois Tally, Geneva Booker Thomas, Jim Harsen, Dorthy Summers, Patricia Summers Dandridge, Sally and Don Ferrell, were also helpful in compiling our story (a more complete list of contributors with photos and summary bios is at Appendix E).

Bett Burton, a longtime friend and college classmate served as a sounding board for reviewing sections of the original document and in identifying the special black history issues relevant to our story. Benny J. McRae Jr., a black military scholar residing in Dayton, Ohio, provided James Riley’s military records covering the Civil War and the subsequent period. The records were an invaluable resource for compiling Grandpa Riley's history. Thanks to Sherry Watkins for starting the ball rolling on the second edition editing. To Dr. Lora Lempert, professor at University of Michigan, for comments and suggestions on the overall story. Special hugs and thanks to my brother, Whit Chatman; my cousins, Bill Ellis, Evelyn Lawson and Michael Curtis, who have been loyal friends and boosters; as well as playing key roles in the final editing of our story. Michael's special genius in overseeing proofing, web design and related details for the new version is especially appreciated.

Finally, thanks to the wonderful citizens of Lincoln County, Oklahoma who were so gracious and willing to help every step along the way as I compiled Chandler: The Ellis Family Story. Your kindness will never be forgotten. A warm hug to all of you!


Mel Chatman
Fall 2007
ellisfamilystory@yahoo.com