‘Mr Ely was a progressive citizen’

It’s estimated that 45% of eligible American men served in the military during the Second World War; another 35% worked in industries directly tied to the war effort.

In the Civil War, about 48% of northern men were in the Union Army and more than 90% of southern men served the Confederacy.

It’s no wonder that the veterans of that time had such a huge impact on our nation in the late 1800’s. With so many getting up to 40 acres of government land as part of their compensation, many moved west to places like Iowa, about the best open land available (was and still is).

In 1865, George and Carrie Ely moved to Hamilton County from Illinois where they had been married in 1860. George was born in Sodus, New York, in 1840; Carrie was born in Sweden in 1842.

During the war, George served in the 112th Illinois Infantry, which was a mounted infantry unit that fought in eastern Tennessee, primarily in the battles for Knoxville in 1863 and 1864.

The Elys arrived with a young son, also George, who had been born a few months after his father enlisted. When they arrived, the family had assets that totaled about $100. They began by renting a farm and working hard … at farming and raising a family. George and Carrie had a total of 10 children, but life on a farm in the late 1800s could be very hard. Two of their kids died as infants; two more died in their teen years.

In 1882 George purchased 280 acres in Fremont Township, at $30 per acre, and farmed it for nine years before moving into Webster City for about six years. The family returned to the farm in 1897 for a couple of more years before finally moving back to West Second Street in Webster City for the remainder of their time together.

George worked at the J. W. Young Lumber Company. There is an article in the April 5, 1906, Webster City Journal about George falling from a wagon and seriously injuring a hip.

Whether the hip injury was the cause, George passed six years later from a “long and painful illness,” as printed in his obituary on July 1, 1912. He and Carrie had been married 52 years and two of their children were still in Webster City.

Carrie continued to live here until her passing at the age of 94 in 1936. George was a member of the local Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Hall and enjoyed time spent with other veterans.

His obituary contains a tribute to him: “Mr Ely was a progressive citizen, an upright man, a good neighbor, true husband and a generous and kind parent and he died with the respect and esteem of a large circle of friends and acquaintances.”

Over the past year or so, I’ve written about several of Webster City’s Civil War veterans. I may do so again in the future, though I intend to write about more recent arrivals to “our neighborhood.”

The articles will, of course, contain more veterans … there are plenty to write about here in Webster City!

Our Neighborhood is a column by Michael Eckers focusing on the men and women whose presence populates Graceland Cemetery in Webster City.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $3.46/week.

Subscribe Today