Ellis Lewis

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Ellis Lewis (father) and Ellis Lewis (son) described themselves at various times as silversmith, machinist, clockmaker, mathematical instrument maker, and compass maker.  Ellis (the father), according to the 1850 and 1860 census, was born in Pennsylvania in the late 1780's.  It is assumed he came to Virginia prior to 1820 where he married Phoebe and they had at least 4 children including Ellis (the son).  At various times they were in Rockbridge, Page and Rockingham Counties of Virginia.

In 1854 the family moved to Rockingham County and settled on a 50 acre farm about 2 miles East of Elkton, Virginia and this is where the three known compasses signed "Ellis Lewis" were produced.  Ellis (the son) married Sarah Hammer in 1858 at 23 years of age and listed himself as a "mathematical instrument maker."  Four years later in recording the birth of his daughter, Ellis (the son) listed himself as a compass maker.

Unfortunately, the Civil War took its toll on the Lewis family.  Ellis (the son) and one of his brothers were both reported as being mustered into the 10th Virginia Infantry and both were reported as having died in 1864.  Ellis (the father) was age 75 according to the 1860 census and apparently died during the 1860's since he is not listed in the 1870 census. 

After the war, a deed of trust given on their property in 1857 was exercised and all family property was lost at this time.  An interesting item listed in the deed of trust was "a scientific library consisting of about three to four hundred volumes."

All three compasses known to exist that are signed "Ellis Lewis" are similar in construction and were all made in Rockingham County, Virginia between the years 1854 and 1864.  They show a strong influence of the "Chandlee" family of makers that was primarily centered in Winchester, Virginia.




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