Guest Post – Art Howe ’82

Here’s one more fact about Wabash and Illinois College that might interest you. Our two colleges share a common founder — John Millot Ellis. Given our shared debt to Rev. Ellis, it seems to me that it might be appropriate to remember him in some way in connection with Saturday’s game.
Rev. Ellis was born in Keene, New Hampshire on July 14, 1793. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1822 and from Andover Seminary in 1825. While in the seminary, he had thought of going to India to become a missionary but wrote his father, “I am persuaded that I have the prospect of contributing to the success of the gospel in India more effectually by laboring in this country than by going there in person.” On September 29, 1825, at his ordination at Old South Church in Boston, he was given the charge, “Build up an institution of learning which shall bless the West for all time.”
He came to Illinois as a home missionary. He first served as a pastor of a church in Kaskaskia, Illinois, where he met Frances Brard, a young woman of French descent who became his wife. Rev. Ellis later moved to Jacksonville, Illinois, where he became one of the founders of Illinois College in 1829. Rev. Ellis and another founder selected the hilltop for the college campus and began construction of the first building before a professor was hired or a student had enrolled.
His wife Frances taught a private school for young ladies, which developed into Jacksonville Female Academy. (In 1903, Illinois College became co-educational when Jacksonville Female Academy merged into it.)
In 1832, Rev. Ellis was one of the nine founders of our College who met on November 21 at the home of John Thompson and who on November 22 knelt in the snow at what became our campus.
In 1833, his wife Frances and two daughters died in a cholera epidemic, reportedly while he was away at Wabash.
Rev. Ellis did a later service that ensured the survival of our College in its youngest days. In the spring of 1834, Rev. Edmond Hovey became the College’s agent and sought to raise moneys in Philadelphia, Boston and New York. Unsuccessful in his efforts, Professor Hovey wrote a letter to the President of Wabash’s Board of Trustees tendering his resignation. On the back of the letter, Professor Hovey wrote the words “Point of desperation.” That letter was never sent because Rev. Ellis persuaded its author to suppress the letter and to make another effort to raise funds, which was successful and which secured Wabash’s future. Thus, we owe Rev. Ellis thanks for both Wabash’s founding and for encouraging the steps that ensured its survival.
In 1840, Rev. Ellis returned to New Hampshire, where he served as pastor of a church in East Hanover. In 1844, he again entered the service of the Society for Promoting Collegiate and Theological Education in the West. He died in Nashua, New Hampshire on August 6, 1855, aged 62 years.
Yours in Wabash,
Arthur J. Howe ’82
  1. Outstanding article, Art!

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