Bullet Hole Ellis
Bullet Hole Ellis from Elk City, Kansas

Abraham (Bullet hole) Ellis


From the files of the Kansas State Historical Society comes a very unusual story of a man who homesteaded near Elk City and whose family became a part of this community. You may recall the name for it sticks in the mind and arouses imagination. Abraham (BULLET HOLE) Ellis was his name and his adventure was just as arousing as it seems; bringing back memories of those early years of Kansas.Ellis was born in Ohio and lived there until September, 1857 at which time he moved to Kansas, settling in Miami county. He arrived in Kansas when it was seething with divided and violent feelings about slavery. His mind and heart were deeply bound to the cause of abolition. It was only natural for him to become friends with John Brown, a zealot for abolitionist movement. For a year he was a co-worker with Brown in the Border War. This was a year of tense turbulent action. So bloody and desperate were the struggles that Ellis and his younger brother always slept away from the house. Or, if at home, his wife or daughter stood guard all night.

In 1858, Ellis was elected a member of the territorial legislature of 1859. On December 6, 1859, he was elected to the first state legislature of 1861.

Before being elected to these offices, he had served as county commissioner and superintendent of public instruction. In 1860, while serving in this capacity, he gave William C. Quantrill a certificate to teach school at Stanton. As he issued the certificate, with each stroke of the pen, destiny was written. For Quantrill later became the infamous Civil War raider. Ellis fell victim to one of his barbarous raids. Through he survived, he was marked for life-a mark which gave him his nick name, “Bullet Hole”.

This harrowing experience happened while Ellis was serving in the Union Army. He was serving as quartermaster in Lane’s Brigade at the time.

March 7, 1862, in the line of duty, he was making a trip from Fort Scott to Fort Leavenworth. He stopped over night at Arbrey, a small town three miles south of the Missouri state line. At day break, the landloard roused all in the house with the cry, “The bushwhackers are coming.”

Hearing the alarm, Ellis sprang out of bed, placed a fur cap on his head and looked out the window. Quantrill took a shot at him. The ball passed through the sash and fur cap, leaving the mark as indicated in the picture herewith.

Quantrill came into the house and recognizing Ellis, said “You are not the kind of man I was looking for-I’m d-d sorry.” He saved the life of Ellis from his blood-thirsty followers, but overlooked the fact that his followers had already taken two hundred and fifty dollars from him. He did, however, leave him some groceries and a wagon and team.

The wound in Ellis’ head was most unusual- the most remarkable on record. The ball crushed both plates of the skull and lodged against the inner lining, and lay buried in the wound for seventy hours. The ball and twenty-seven pieces of bone are now in the Army and Navy Medical Museaum, at Washington. It is said the open wound showed the brain as it throbbed with each pulsation of the heart. He was five months recovering.

In 1870, five years after the close of the war, Ellis and his family moved from Miami county to homestead 5 miles west of Elk City on what is now known as the Phillip Osborn farm. He became an enthusiastic horticulturist, planting many acres of fine orchard.

His oldest daughter was the only child in the family that was old enough to homestead a piece of land and she took the place upon which the Ellis or Mt. Tabor school was later built.

Betty Ellis, another daughter of Abraham, was the second wife of Joseph Harmon and was the step-mother of Mrs. Chet Cox Sr. of Elk City. Labon Harmon of Saint Petersburg, Florida is their son and grandson of Abrahamn Ellis.

Abraham Ellis died March 14, 1885 and is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery. He wrote his own epitaph that appears on his stone.

Story is published in the Elk City, Kansas Then and Now book written by Sylvia Raydene James Clubine used with permission. References used Volumn 10, Kansas State Historical Files and from a story written by Lily B. Rozar and from facts related by Mrs. Chet Cox, Sr.