CHAPTER 1 Family Origins: The Grandparents (prior to 1884)
The first chapter provides general background information on the parents of Maggie Riley: James Riley and Ann Neal. Focus is on the period prior to their 1884 marriage. Included are two areas. The first is the early adventures of James Riley, a runaway slave and member of the rugged “Buffalo Soldiers.” He helped tame the wild frontier of the United States in the late 1800s. His adventures included being at Appomattox when General Lee surrendered, witnessing the massacre of Indian women and children, and almost being killed during an Indian ambush. The second area presents comments on Ann Riley’s covered wagon trip from the tidewater area of Virginia. At the time of the trip, Ann was only a few years old and a member of a caravan of slaves being moved by their owners during the Civil War. A few of Ann Riley’s post-marriage events are also mentioned.
CHAPTER 2 Family Origins: The Parents (prior to 1900)
The early lives of Maggie and Whit Ellis (author’s grandparents) before their marriage in 1900 are reviewed. When he was 14, Whit became a fugitive from the law. To escape arrest, he left the United States and traveled all over the world on a cargo ship. He finally returned to the United States in the early 1890s. What little is known about Maggie Ellis’ early life is also discussed.
CHAPTER 3 Chandler, Oklahoma: The Location (1890-1940)
This chapter takes us to Chandler, Oklahoma and describes the geographical and social setting. Among many other things, the impact of segregation and why the town is such an important part of the Ellis family story are investigated.
CHAPTER 4 The Ellis Family Core Values (1900-1948)
This chapter provides an intimate look at the Ellis family as a unit. Included are discussions on family characteristics and the Ellis family “core values.” How the family used those values to survive the Depression of 1929 is reviewed. Also included is a close look at the way family members supported each other in everything they did. Many humorous events are presented.
CHAPTER 5 Whit Ellis’s Restaurants (1894-1932)
Whit Ellis owned five restaurants in Oklahoma: one in Stillwater, one in Guthrie, and three in Chandler. The Ellis children grew up performing chores in the restaurants. The first memory of every Ellis child is being placed on a stool in front of a pan full of dirty dishes. Several of the restaurant adventures are shared.
CHAPTER 6 The House at 206 East 12TH St. (1916-1948)
This chapter contains a vivid description of the family house and the interesting events that occurred there between 1916 and 1948.
CHAPTER 7 Relatives: The Rileys and Neals
The closest blood relatives to the Ellis family are the Rileys and the Neals. Some of their family members also settled in Chandler and are briefly discussed in this chapter. The Riley farm, located just 1½ miles from Chandler, was the first “headquarters” for all three families.
CHAPTER 8 Douglass School and the Sawners (1860-1955)
All Ellis children attended Douglass School for primary and secondary education. This was a moving experience, key to their success as adults. This chapter highlights the influence of the school’s principal, Mrs. L. Lena Sawner. This educational pioneer is one of Oklahoma’s “hidden heroes.” Her greatest victory was changing the devastation of racism and segregation into a positive force benefiting the entire black community. At Douglass School, more than 90% of students entering ninth grade eventually graduated from high school. It appears that a significant number of those completing high school after 1927 may have also completed college.
CHAPTER 9 Langston University (1897-1948)
Maggie Ellis and all of her 10 children either attended or served on the staff of Langston University in Langston, Oklahoma. Their educational experiences were accompanied by interesting and humorous adventures reviewed in this chapter.
CHAPTER 10 Ann Arbor & the University Of Michigan (1939-1948)
The focus of this chapter is on family members as they migrated to Ann Arbor, Michigan and obtained advanced degrees at one of the country’s most prestigious learning institutions. Wade Ellis entered the University of Michigan in 1939. Six of his brothers and sisters followed, many of whom permanently resettled in Ann Arbor.
The final part of our story is the postscript. In this section, the question, “Why was the Ellis family able to accomplish so much under such challenging circumstances?” will be answered.