Historical Details

Ellicott, Don Family

Courtesy of Our Heritage: Niobrarans and Neighbors, 11/19/2020


by Lorena Ellicott

The first Ellicotts to come to America were Andrew Ellicott, his wife and eldest son    Andrew, who came in 1730 from Devon­shire, England, where the Ellicotts had been makers of cloth.

They settled in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and became millers of flour.

Young Andrew married Ann Blye. Five sons were born to them. Three of these brothers, Andrew, Nathaniel and John set out to find themselves a new location. They took up land on the Patapsco River and found­ed Ellicott Mills, (now known as Ellicott City, Maryland) in 1772.  Here they built mills for grinding flour and for milling iron, inventing much of the machinery as necessity required.  John also invented a steam engine used to propel a boat on the mill race.   This was about 10 years before Robert Fulton's steamboat. However, John's engine exploded one day and John lost an arm.  He was no longer able to develop his invention.

Andrew gained fame as one of the surveyors who planned and staked out the city of Washington, D.C. He also surveyed and established the boundary between Florida, (then claimed by Spain), Alabama and Georgia.  He taught the use of surveying instruments to Merriwether Lewis in preparation for the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

He did other government surveying and was given a large land grant, including the land where the city of Buffalo, N.Y. now stands, in payment.  He finished out his career as an instructor of Mathematics at West Point.

Don Ellicott, born in Polo, Ill. in 1880 is a descendant of Andrew. Don grew  up in Clarion, Iowa and decided to go west in the early 1900's. He spent a short time in Tyndall, S.D. but then pushed on. He got off the train at Harrison, Nebr. in a raging blizzard.     He got a room in the Lower Hotel, where, by sleeping fully cloth­ ed, including his overcoat, he managed to avoid freezing to death.  He always said that had the trains been running next day he would have gone straight back to Iowa. Since the trains were stalled by the bliz­zard, Don went to work for John Hanson, whose ranch was on Van Tassell Creek on the Wyo-Neb State Line.

It was rather lonely time for a young stranger because the Hanson family was living in Harrison to keep the children in school.  Of course, there was much to do and to learn. In fact, he learned to like the land so much that he filed on a home­ stead adjacent to the Hanson land.  He persuaded his father, mother, brother Earle and sister Letitia, also his father's bachelor brother, "Uncle Joe", to come out and file on homesteads, too.   They all located on land in the vicinity, having come to Coffee Siding in an emigrant car with some of their possessions and live­ stock.

Most of the homesteaders at that time raised large gardens and kept a few milk cows to provide most of their own food.

They raised potatoes for a cash crop, and sold what cream they could. Many cars of potatoes were shipped from Van Tassell in those days and there was a busy creamery.

People depended on horses for trans­portation and for genuine "horse-power" for work in the fields.

Don was a born horseman and 'cowboy'. He had a Hambletonian  Stallion, "Togo" of which he was very proud. He raised and trained many colts from this stallion, one of these, 'Midge' was his favorite saddle horse for many years. Whether in blinding blizzards or black of night if he gave Midge her head she would always take him safely home.

One afternoon Earle and Don were re­turning to their homestead shacks north of Coffee Siding when they met a sudden cold front.   The temperature dropped drastically and they got so cold they began to wonder if they were going to make it home. When they finally reached their sheds they were just able to tumble off their horses.  They began to pummel each other soundly in order to restore circulation so that they could care for the horses and carry some wood in­ to the shack. They were so chilled that they spent the night playing checkers and cards on a board placed on rocks on top of their little stove. They were afraid to go to bed lest the fire go out and they freeze.

The homesteaders lived through some real hard times but they knew how to have good times, too. Don played baseball with the Harrison team. There were many pleasant neighborhood gatherings and rodeos.

Often there would be a horseshoe tournament after the noon meal.

Don was always fond of fun and good times and he really enjoyed a practical joke.

When they were small boys, Don got Earle to bite a miller in two by telling him it was full of mashed potatoes. When his own children were little if they happened to come in and say, "Where is Mom?" he would say, "She is out in that big tree by the gate." Although they knew very well there was no tree at all by the gate they would always look out to see, and that was a great family joke. When they got to asking too many foolish questions and might say, "What's that for Dad?" he would say, "It's a larro to catch medloes with."  Then they would have to think that over for awhile.

The hard times discouraged many of the homesteaders who decided to sell out and move on or go back where they came from, others stuck it out and began to prosper.

Letitia taught local schools for several years, then taught in Douglas, Wyo., Kearney, Nebr. and finally at La Junta, Colo. Don and Earle bought the William Hoyt place on the Niobrara and settled down to ranching.

Earle married Mathilde Hanson, and Maxine, Vivienne, Esther, Earle Jr. and Norma were born to them.  Mathilde died when Norma was just a baby. Later Earle married Ruby McCoy Hamaker. She was a widow with three daughters, Alice, Leona and Marian.

Don married Belle Meade who was teach­ing the district school.  Twins were born to them, but the baby girl, Betty Belle, died at birth. The son, Leslie, better known as "Bill" grew up on the ranch and married Elaine Borky of Ardmore, S.D.

They lived in Grand Junction where three children were born to them, Larry,. Janet and Scott. Bill is a brakeman for the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad.  Bill's mother died when he was six years old.

Don later married Lorena Nichols, who had taught the Ellicott school and was Bill's first teacher. Paul, George, Allen and Mary were born to them. The three boys are graduates of Colorado State University. Paul manages the Ellicott Ranch and has made extensive improvements, including a pivot irrigation system for alfalfa. He is at work on the installation of another system for irrigated pasture. Paul married  Nadine Carpenter.  They have three sons and a daughter.   George is a livestock specialist at the Colorado Extension Service. He married Dorothy Hinkle.  They have two sons and a daughter.  Allen is a researcher and instructor in Animal Science at Clemsen University, S.C. He married Julie Zimmerman. They have a son and daughter.

Don added land to the ranch as he was able. Once we sold our cow herd so we could pay off the mortgage on the Hoyt land. That was a happy time although it meant starting all over with two-year-old heifers. Then we bought Aunt Lettie's homestead and Uncle Joe's.

When the old Van Tassell Ranch was sold we bought 2,000 acres of it which lay along the Niobrara river and joined our place.

In 1958 we bought the Pendray place from Jack and Mae Magoon. Paul and his family live on this place.

Don passed away Dec. 24, 1959.

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Related/Linked Records

Record Type Name
Obituary Ellicott, Andrew (05/07/1840 - 01/03/1918) View Record
Obituary Ellicott, Earle (07/22/1887 - 05/31/1938) View Record