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Growing up out Proctor: Gramma Lizzie and Grandpa Charlie Eller

By Gary Eller - | Jul 14, 2021

My paternal grandparents Charlie and Lizzie Eller raised their family on the farm adjacent to the east side of Highland School. In order of birth their children were Berrell (1898-1971), Okey (1900-1991), Yonsell J. (1902-1982), Sherman (1905-1966), Neva (1908-1993), Freda (1911-1994), Vera (1916-1991), Dollie Merle (1916-2015), and my father Thaddeus (1921-1999).

The C. A. Eller place was bounded by the Left Hand Fork of Proctor Creek wilderness (north) and farms in the other directions: Tom Parsons (east), Olan Hall (south), and Clyde Cozart (south). When I was growing up, much of the farming had ceased on these properties and they had become hunting paradises with brush and open grassy areas replacing fields and orchards. On the death of Charlie Eller, my Dad wound up with twenty acres of the Eller place and Uncle Okey got the rest.

My paternal grandmother Elizabeth (Yoho) Eller (1877-1967) was alive my entire childhood. The daughter of Mary J. Gatts and George Andrew Jackson Yoho, she was one of several Yohos on the Eller family tree. She answered to “Lizzie” or “Gramma Eller.” After Charlie’s death, she lived with Aunt Freda (my Dad’s sister) in Akron and periodically with Uncle Yontz and Aunt Pearl in Proctor. She also spent shorter periods of time at our place and with Uncle Okey and Aunt Gay. In old age she suffered from Parkinsons and (probably) dementia and required a lot of care. Aunt Freda and Aunt Pearl were uncomplaining angels in that regard since they bore the brunt of the caretaking.

Because of Gramma Eller’s ailments, I never had much of a relationship with her. Indeed, her illness made her seem spooky. I vividly remember the time when we were in Uncle Yontz’s living room shortly after they got a television set. Gramma was terrified of the television- she considered it to be Satan’s device. Seventy years later, I’m not so sure she wasn’t right! Cousin Janice in Akron was around Gramma much more than me and has many stories about her which may be reported in a subsequent chapter.

My paternal grandfather, Charles A. Eller, aka “Charlie” (1870-1938), son of Absalom J. Eller and Catherine “Cassie” Yoho, also had Yoho bloodlines. My Eller ancestors were of the Dunkard branch of Protestantism and came from Germany in 1726 and settled in Frederick County, Maryland. By the late 1700s, Ellers were in southwest Pennsylvania and what would become Marshall County, West Virginia. Grandpa Charlie’s Dad was born at Adeline, still a very remote part of Marshall County. In the late 1700s, that part of North America was still the wild frontier and conflict with Native Americans was constant and bloody. And so, my Eller ancestors were true frontier pioneers.

Grandpa Eller died nine years before I was born so I never knew him. In fact, I knew little about him until I became aware of his work logbook that came to my brother Fred and his wife Trish. At least when

I was around, my Dad and his siblings just didn’t talk much about the Eller family, other than about genealogical connections. Possibly the C. A. logbook came from my cousin Jack or Bob, youngest sons of Uncle Okey, who grew up in the house that Grandpa Eller built on his homestead.

The old C. A. Eller house was a place of joy and wonder to me as a child. Aunt Gay and Uncle Okey were fun to be around and there was a dark, mysterious attic that I got to peek into a few times but never got to explore. It was constructed out of walnut that Grandpa Eller cleared out of a ten-acre grove on the farm. To my chagrin, the house eventually was burned down because it was in poor condition and the site was needed for other purposes. How I would love to have had a chance to explore that house for mementos and to get some walnut for a guitar or banjo before the house went up in flames!

C. A. Eller’s logbook explained a lot about who he really was, in addition to running a small hill farm. It turned out he owned a threshing machine that was used all over that end of Wetzel County, at a time when there were many small farms raising grain. Threshing machines in those days were expensive, dangerous, and required large crews and many draught horses. Grandpa Eller evidently scraped together enough money to buy a thresher and hired area farmers to work as he took the machine from farm-to-farm harvesting grain.

The idea of using one of those huge horse-drawn contraptions on those steep-sided West Virginia hill farms boggles the mind. Grandpa Eller’s logbook meticulously recorded worker’s names, hours worked, dates, and where they harvested grain. When I read the logbook, I recognized almost every name as either an old person I had met or had heard my Dad talk about when I was growing up.

Also, Grandpa Eller was a surveyor and likely had contracts for building and maintaining roads in that part of Wetzel County for some years. Again, his logbook notes his hiring of many of the same area farmers he used for threshing.