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Sarah Luiza "Ludie" Ellis (1875-1946 )

Story of Ludie Part I

by Tami Lynn Hassell Thompson

At the time of Ludie's birth the family was living near Elba, the county seat of Coffee County Alabama. But when Ludie was five years old they moved from Alabama to the northwestern part of Florida. They lived at first at Holmes and Bonify and then moved to Carryville, where they settled on a farm. The main crop raised on the farm was cotton, but in that mild climate they raised plenty of fruits and vegetables. They also raised their own chickens, hogs, cows and sheep, so they had plenty of meat. Fresh fish was also readily available.

Five of Ludie's brothers, and one sister, were quite a but older than Ludie, so they were getting married and moving into homes of their own while she was growing up. Her youngest brother Rufus Lonzo was just six years older that she was so she just idolized him and always tried to do everything to please him. They had great times together and as they both loved to be with their father, they followed him wherever they could.

The father, William Rufus, was a kind, generous-hearted man so it is not surprising that when the first Mormon Missionaries called at his home, he offered them food and lodging. He wasn't especially interested in Mormonism at that time, but at the same time he was not opposed to them.

Apparently the Elders passed the word along that at the Ellis home they were treated hospitably because whenever a pair of Elders were in that vicinity they were welcomed at the Ellis farm.

Not all southerners felt that way about the Mormon Elders and persecution became severe even to the extent that mobs were formed to do away with the Mormons. On several occasions William Rufus protected the Elders from the mob, while they were staying at his home.

About that time Ludie's mother, Martha Elizabeth, who had been in poor health for some time, became bedridden. After a long illness during which everything was done for her that was known at that time, she passed away. Ludie at the age of fifteen, was left with the responsibility of caring for her father, since her older brothers and sisters had interests of their own.

The next two years were happy ones for Ludie. It was a heavy responsibility for a fifteen-year-old to take care of her father and his home but even if it was a lot of work she enjoyed doing it.

By this time Ludie was developing into a beautiful young woman. She had long thick black hair and beautiful brown eyes. The young men of that area began to take notice of Ludie and she had a lot of invitations which she accepted gladly. As everyone knew everyone else in that locality, Ludie had many friends of both sexes. There was one young man she thought was especially nice. His name was Wesley and he came to see her often.

One day a pair of Mormon Elders appeared at the farm again. When they learned about the death of her mother, they explained many gospel principles about death and life hereafter which comforted Ludie and her father. Most of the Elders who came to stay at their home off and on, were from Utah so naturally Ludie's ambition in life was to go to Utah or Zion. The Elders did a fine job of teaching her the importance of marrying a member of the church. She thought of this a great deal because none of the young men that she was acquainted with were members of the church.

When Ludie was seventeen and her father was sixty-five, he brought home a young woman named Amanda Brown and introduced her to Ludie as his new wife. What a shock for young Ludie. Things were never the same at home again, but even though her father was married again, he still expected Ludie to do everything for him. He expected her to keep house, help him in the fields whenever it was necessary and even wait on his new wife.

On the 9th of October 1894, after being challenged to be baptized by a pair of Mormon Elders, Ludie, her father and stepmother and two brothers were all baptized members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. From the day that Ludie was baptized, she had another shock. Suddenly she didn't have any friends. No girl friends or boy friends called at the farm and no more invitations were issued to any parties or dances. Whenever she went into town, friends she had grown up with would turn their heads as if they did not see her or they would walk to the other side of the street.

At least she didn't have to worry about marrying out of the church because it was very apparent that none of the young men would marry her. Even her favorite friend, Wesley, didn't speak to her again. People who joined the Mormon church were not popular in that area of the south.

The next four years were very unhappy ones for Ludie. besides not having any social life, her stepmother was in poor health as her babies came along, and the housework that Ludie had enjoyed formerly, became drudgery. Her father depended on her to keep things going as she had before.

Ludie's only contact with young people were the elders who stopped by once in a while. When she was twenty-one years old, a Mormon Elder stopped by one day. He was from Jacksonville, Florida and had just completed his mission and was on his way home.

He stayed at the Ellis farm for a few days and whenever he got a chance he talked to Ludie. Just before he left he asked her if she would marry him. He told her he was a widower and his wife had passed away. Because Ludie was unhappy at home, she told him that she would marry him and he said that he would come for her in two months.

After this Elder, whose name was Uriah Hassell, went on his way, Ludie began to worry. What had she done! She had always supposed that she would marry for love and she knew that she didn't even know this man, much less love him. Besides that, what would her father say... Well, she didn't even dare tell him about it

Life went on the same as it had before but as the days passed, Ludie decided she would have to start doing something about her wedding, so every time she went to the store she would save out some of the egg or butter money and buy something for her wedding. One time she bought a piece of fine white material. On another occasion she saved out enough money for a pair of new shoes. Little by little she accumulated a few items that she hid in a trunk that her mother had given her. Whenever there was an opportunity, she sewed by lamplight in her room after the work of the day was completed. Ludie was very good at making hairpin lace so she used that to trim her new clothes.

Ludie felt very guilty about not telling her father of the promise she had made. On several occasions she tried to tell him but she just couldn't. One day she suddenly announced to her father that she wanted to get married. He turned and looked at her and said, "I thought that you and Wesley had broken up."

"We have," Ludie said, "and I don't even expect to see him again."

"Well, who are you going to marry then?" her father said as he turned back to his work as if to close the subject.

Soon the two months were up and Uriah Hassell arrived to claim his bride. When he went in to talk to Ludie's father and even showed him the marriage license, Ludie could tell that her father was heartbroken. He had expected Ludie to remain at home and take care of him and help raise the young children of his other wife's family.

Uriah and Ludie were married by the Justice of the Peace and when they returned to her father's home to get her things so they could be on their way to Jacksonville, Ludie couldn't find her father. After searching she finally found him out in the corral where he had roped a young bronco mule. What a shock it was for her to find that her father was very drunk. He had never been a drinker even before he joined the Mormon church but because he was so upset about Ludie's marriage, he had gotten drunk.

How hard it was for Ludie to go and leave her father. Her last glimpse of her father was to see him standing, with the wind blowing his grey hair, holding the rope as the wild mule ran around him. That is the last time she ever saw her father.


- Ludie's Story courtesy of Tami Thompson   -

- Photos courtesy of Dwyn Larson

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Related links:
  Ludie's parents
  Ludie's page with John T.
  Ludie's page with Uriah.

  Story of Ludie Part II
  Story of Ludie Part III