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Manuscripts by Subject - Business / Commerce - #11031

Title: Ellis Agency Records


Collection Number:
Mss 11031

4 feet

Consists of correspondence from Charles F. Ellis in his business endeavors from June 1901 to April 1918. Throughout these years, Ellis brokered land sales and sold insurance at Real Estate Insurance and Loan, with partner W. A. Lanterman, in Mandan, ND. Ellis was involved for several months in 1904 with the German-American Land Company, Real Estate Office, in Beach, ND. From March 1909 to about March 1910, he was also an agent for the Missouri Valley Farms Loan Company. By 1915, Ellis was also operating Charles F. Ellis Fire Insurance in Mandan. He went on to run Ellis Agency in Mandan.

Jane Watson Ellis donated the Ellis Agency records to the State Historical Society of North Dakota in October 2008. The finding aid was created by Emily J. Ergen in July 2009.

Property Rights:
The State Historical Society of North Dakota owns the property rights to this collection.

Copyrights to this collection remain with the donor, publisher, author, or author's heirs.  Researchers should consult the 1976 Copyright Act, Public Law 94-553, Title 17, U.S. Code or an archivist at this repository if clarification of copyright requirements is needed.

This collection is open under the rules and regulations of the State Historical Society of North Dakota.

Researchers are requested to cite the collection title, collection number, and the State Historical Society of North Dakota in all footnote and bibliographic references.

The History of Mower County, Minnesota, Franklyn Curtiss-Wedge, Ed. H.C. Cooper, Jr. & Co.: Chicago, Illinois (1911): 926-927, was transferred to the library collection.


Charles F. Ellis (C. F. Ellis Sr.) was born August 8, 1871 on the family farm adjoining Austin, Minnesota, known as the Evergreen Farm. His parents, Allen V. Ellis and Hellen Z. Ellis, were instrumental in building that area in southern Minnesota, where C. F. Ellis Sr. grew up. Allen V. Ellis was born in Potsdam, New York, February 8, 1834. He studied at the district school in St. Lawrence County, New York, and at St. Lawrence Academy. After a year of study, he taught school for two years. In April 1852, at the age of 18, Allen embarked for the gold fields of California. He arrived in Eldorado, California, in September of the same year, and worked in the gold fields for three years. Allen Ellis made his journey home via Isthmus of Panama and minted his gold in Philadelphia. He returned to his old home in Potsdam and married Belle McGill on February 13, 1856.  In May 1856, Allen Ellis came west, preempted 160 acres of land thirty miles west of Red Wing, Minnesota, and also bought a quarter section. He sold this land later to return east. Belle Ellis passed away January 1, 1857, leaving an infant daughter.

In May 1857 Allen Ellis returned west and settled in Austin, Minnesota, where he was employed as a civil engineer of the Minnesota Central Railway. Allen Ellis married Helen Z. Quain on April 24, 1859; Helen was born in Ireland in 1839. The couple moved to what was known as the Evergreen Farm, where Allen lived for more than fifty years; Allen V. Ellis passed away on August 3, 1909.  In the book, The History of Mower County, Minnesota, edited by Franklyn Curtiss-Wedge, Allen V. Ellis is described as being “one of the builders of the county [of Mower, Minnesota]. He was a man of tireless energy and indomitable will. When other men were satisfied to sow their wheat among the stumps, he cleared his fields by grubbing. He is credited with being the first man to bring the evergreen trees to this county and from his nursery rows thousands of these threes were transplanted to beautify southern Minnesota. He counted these his best monument.”

Allen V. and Helen Z. Ellis had two sons, C. F. Ellis (Sr.) and Dr. S. A. Ellis, and four daughters, Gertrude E. Skinner, Jennie E. Keysor, Mattie C. Ellis, and Kit E. Igmundson. Educated at Austin High School, C. F. Ellis Sr. later attended Omaha Business College for one business course. In 1900, he moved to North Dakota, just north of Lemmon, South Dakota, and ran cattle. On May 31, 1901, C. F. Ellis Sr. relocated to Mandan, North Dakota. There, he brokered land sales and sold insurance with partner W. A. Lanterman, in the old State Bank of Morton County. C. F. Sr. bought out Lanterman in the winter of 1901-1902, and conducted the Ellis Agency himself.  He was involved for several months in 1904 with the German-American Land Company, Real Estate Office, in Beach, North Dakota, and also worked for the Missouri Valley Farms Loan Company from March 1909 to about March 1910. By 1915, C. F. Ellis Sr. was also operating Charles F. Ellis Fire Insurance in Mandan. 

On August 17, 1904, C. F. Ellis Sr. married Emma Conye, whose father owned and operated Conye Jewelry in Mandan. The couple had two children, Richard C. and Charles F. Jr. (C. F. Ellis Jr.). C. F. Sr. wrote a book about the first twenty years of his life growing up on Evergreen Farm in Austin, Minnesota, entitled “The First Twenty Years are the Worst.” Originally a handwritten manuscript, Emma Ellis typed and bound the autobiography and gave to family as a Christmas present. In it, C. F. Sr. writes: "The writer saw the light of day on the old Evergreen Farm (near Austin, Minnesota) on August 8, 1871 – two months to the day before Mrs. O'Leary's cow kicked over the lantern in Chicago and started that historic bonfire.  I do not remember either episode but our family Bible and the history of Chicago make it a safe bet these dates are correct."  

C. F. Ellis Sr. served as a quartermaster sergeant in the Spanish American War.  During his years in Mandan, he was active in civic affairs and for many years was prominent in the activities of the Rotary Club and Chamber of Commerce. He was also a member of the United Spanish War Veterans, the Masonic bodies, and the Knights of Pythias. C. F. Sr. was an enthusiastic fisherman and hunter, and loved the outdoors. Emma Ellis was an ardent gardener, and the garden at their home was one of the showplaces of the town. C. F. Ellis Sr. passed away in Mandan on January 5, 1943.

C. F. Ellis Jr. was born on March 11, 1913, and eventually earned a degree in Chemical Engineering. C. F. Jr. worked for the Goodyear rubber plant in Lone Pine, California until the early 1940s, when he was called home to Mandan to his father’s death bed. There, he promised to take over his father’s insurance business in Mandan.  A single man at the time, C.F. Ellis Jr. had a Doberman pinscher named “Jock” who went to work with him every day at the office in the Lewis and Clark Building. Jock would lie in front of the large walk-in safe behind the counter; C. F. Jr.’s desk was also behind the counter. One day an old friend from out of town came into the office. He was so glad to see C. F. Jr. that he half climbed over the counter to give a bear hug. At the same time, Jock leapt from the floor to protect his master from the attack and had to be called off.

C. F. Ellis Jr. married Jane Watson. When Jane was about 16, going on 17, she was a budding pianist with a scholarship to attend the Chicago Conservatory of Music. She was practicing to play a Mendlesohn Concerto with the Bismarck Symphony. Her teacher, Belle Mehus, told her she needed to practice on a Steinway Grand piano as that was what she’d be playing with the symphony, and knew of a family just down the street who owned one. Mehus made arrangements for Jane to practice in the Ellis home. C. F. Ellis Jr. came home for lunch and saw her playing the piano, and the rest was history. Jane did go to Chicago, but her mind wasn’t entirely on piano and she married soon after.

Although his passion remained with the chemical engineering field, C. F. Ellis Jr. honored his promise to his father, and ran the Ellis Agency in Mandan until 1970, when he had a stroke which prevented him from working. A manager, Brad Charnholm, was hired, and the business continued for several years until Brad bought out C. F.  Jr., who continued operating as the C. F. Ellis Agency. In 1958, the Ellis family gave the town of Austin, Minnesota, a portion of land that made up Evergreen Farm, and chose to build a school on it and call it Ellis Junior High School.

Email correspondence with Linda Ellis Blank, granddaughter of Charles F. Ellis Sr. and daughter of C. F. Ellis Jr. and Jane Ellis, July 2009. 
The History of Mower County, Minnesota, Franklyn Curtiss-Wedge, Ed. H.C. Cooper, Jr. & Co.:
Chicago, Illinois (1911): 926-927.
Mandan Daily Pioneer, 1/6/1943.
Morton County News, 1/7/1943. 


A single series has been established for the Ellis Agency Records. The records contain twenty two bound volumes of carbon copies of all correspondence from Charles F. Ellis in his business endeavors from June 1901 to April 1918. Throughout these years, Ellis brokered land sales and sold insurance at Real Estate Insurance and Loan, with partner W. A. Lanterman, in Mandan, North Dakota.

Ellis was involved for several months in 1904 with the German-American Land Company, Real Estate Office, in Beach, Billings County, North Dakota. Within the volume in box one, folder seven, in a letter to Henry Gilbery, Esquire, on February 16, 1904, Ellis describes the aim of the German-American Land Company: “We are about to open an office at Beach for the purpose of colonizing our own lands and those of others…” This venture seemed to have a slow start, as Ellis continues in the same letter “…Also we wish you would aid us in getting up our circulars to the extent of furnishing us with any photographs you may have or be able to get, from which to make cuts. You understand what we want. Ranch scenes, coal banks, cattle horses, sheep or houses. We are laying out a large sum of money in advertising this district and we know you will readily see that it will be for your advantage as well as to bring buyers into Billings Co. Will you help us?” signed, Charles F. Ellis, Manager.

From March 1909 to about March 1910, Ellis was also an agent for the Missouri Valley Farms Loan Company.  In one volume, box 3, folder 5, the first 26 pages of have been marked “personal,” although the topics covered are business related. It is within this “personal” correspondence that some of the letters are signed or stamped “Missouri Valley Farms Loan Company.” The name of this company does not appear above any other signatures during the period covered in this record series. 

By 1915, Ellis was also operating Charles F. Ellis Fire Insurance in Mandan. He went on to run Ellis Agency which was also located in Mandan. In a letter in box 2, folder 1, dated March 16, 1906, agents of the Real Estate Insurance and Loan/Ellis Agency (in addition to Ellis) are listed: James C. Winjum, Castle Wood, South Dakota; William Winjum, Oldham, South Dakota; Johnston & Herring, South Shore, South Dakota; L. W. Stoechel, Bryant, South Dakota; Schultze & Davis, Davis, South Dakota; Stiles & Son, Harlan, Iowa; Joseph Helebrant, Austin, Minnesota; Hugh A. Calhoun, Galva, Illinois; and Thomas Rochford, Austin, Minnesota.

The bound volumes of correspondence are arranged chronologically within the designated year span. The years 1901-1918 are covered with no gaps in the chronological sequence. Most of the correspondence volumes begin with an A-Z index. Following this index are handwritten or typed carbon copies of business correspondence sent by Ellis. The correspondence deals primarily with real estate, either asking people to sell lands they own, or offering land for sale to potential customers. In addition to real estate, the correspondence also pertains to specific tracts of land, life and fire insurance policies, certification of ownership of property, and tax and loan payments. The bulk of the correspondence is to individuals, businesses, and corporations in the Midwest United States, primarily in North Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa, although there is correspondence to clients in Wisconsin, Michigan, and other states in the U.S. Several telegrams that Ellis received are arranged along with the outgoing correspondence. One volume, from January 18 – June 18, 1902 contained an Apple Creek Country Club golf score sheet, with player J. Ellis. This score sheet is located in box one, folder three, behind the volume of correspondence. Several of the volumes contain handwritten notes and drafts, sketches, and accounting figures.


1 Finding Aid
2 Correspondence (bound volume), 6/1/1901– 1/18/1902         
3 Correspondence (bound volume), 1/18 – 6/18/1902
4 Correspondence (bound volume), 6/18 – 11/19/1902
5 Correspondence (bound volume), 11/20/1902-3/2/1904          
6 Correspondence (bound volume), 3/3/1904 – 3/17/1905         
7 Correspondence (bound volume), German-American Land Company (2/16–5/25/1904) and Charles F. Ellis  (3/17/-6/15/1905)              

1 Correspondence (bound volume), 6/16/1905-4/20/1906          
2 Correspondence (bound volume), 4/21/1906-4/18/1907         
3 Correspondence (bound volume), 4/20/1907-7/31/1908
4 Correspondence (bound volume), 7/31/1908-7/13/1909          
5 Correspondence (bound volume), 7/13/1909-3/14/1910          

1 Correspondence (bound volume), 3/14/1910-7/26/1910
2 Correspondence (bound volume), 7/26/1910-3/17/1911           
3 Correspondence (bound volume), 3/18 – 11/18/1911                
4 Correspondence (bound volume), 11/20/1911 – 5/8/1912        
 5 Correspondence (bound volume), Personal (pages 1-26: 3/12/1909-3/7/1910); Business related, 5/9/1912 – 1/26/1913                  
6 Correspondence (bound volume), 6/28/1913 – 6/22/1914             
7 Correspondence (bound volume), 6/24/1914 – 7/2/1915               

1 Correspondence (bound volume), 7/3/1915 – 5/2/1916                 
2 Correspondence (bound volume), 5/3/1916 – 3/19/1917               
3 Correspondence (bound volume), 3/20/1917 – 12/10/1917           
4 Correspondence (bound volume), 12/10/1917 – 4/15/1918           

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