While researching the history of El Dorado, it was discovered that one of our early residents and town builders has a historic birthday of his own.
Brigadier General Alfred Washington Ellet was born on October 11, 1820 and the 200th anniversary of his birth is this year.
Ellet received his promotion to Brigadier General from President Abraham Lincoln and gained fame for his instrumental role in the battle of Memphis and the capture of Vicksburg, which aided the Union’s assumption of control over the entire Mississippi River. The original document promoting Ellet to Brigadier General is located at the Butler County Historical Society Home of the Kansas Oil Museum.
An account of his heroic contributions to the Civil War can be found in the “History of the Ram Fleet and the Mississippi Marine Brigade in the War for the Union on the Mississippi and its Tributaries.The Story of the Ellets and their Men.”
The book chronicles Brigadier General Ellet’s command of a fleet of steam ironclad ramboats that battled for control of major riverways and assaulted the Confederate fleet and stronghold at Vicksburg. The members of Ellet’s fleet were perhaps the first regularly commissioned United States Marines.
Ellet began investing in El Dorado in 1873 and made many trips to visit his son Edward Ellet before finally locating Butler County. He was primarily living in Topeka as late as 1875 and traveled to former homes in Philadelphia and Illinois. His political connections took him to Washington, D.C., where he successfully lobbied for the Florence, El Dorado, and Walnut Valley Railroad, which later became the Santa Fe.
Along with his son Edward Ellet, and friend Nathan Frazier, he helped organize the Bank of El Dorado, which eventually became Farmers and Merchants Bank.
His last name may sound familiar to many because it was bestowed on the building he had built for El Dorado – The Ellet Opera House.
The Ellet Opera House opened in 1884, and became the cultural heart of the city. It was the location of most public entertainment, from lectures by prominent speakers and political speeches to commencement ceremonies and church services. The Ellet Opera house was also host to talent shows and grand balls, as well as opera singers and eventually vaudeville.
A display featuring memorabilia donated to the museum by descendants of Ellet is planned as part of El Dorado’s 150th birthday celebration
Happy Birthday, General Ellet.
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