Early Pioneers

 John and Peleg Ellis

 John and Peleg Ellis, two brothers, were among the first settlers in Dryden. They were originally from Rhode Island, but had settled in Herkimer County, New York. Peleg traded his Herkimer County property for lot no. 84, originally assigned to Dr. Samuel Cook, a surgeon in the war.


Peleg Ellis came to survey his land, the area surrounding the intersection of Ellis Hollow and Ellis Hollow Creek Roads, in 1799. He cleared the woods for eleven days without knowing there was another human in the area.


Zephaniah Brown, who had already settled on lot 71 (1185 Ellis Hollow Road), heard the sound of Peleg's axe. Brown came to call on Ellis with his gun in his hand. Zephaniah Brown had cleared a road from his home to Ithaca (settled in 1789); two years later Brown and Ellis cleared a road to the Ellis property, a distance of about three miles. It is believed that the house which now stands, was built by Brown about 1830.


Peleg built a log house on his land at the headwaters of Cascadilla Creek. He brought his wife and two daughters to the Hollow in 1800. Zelle Middaugh Pritchard, in her book Ellis Hollow Lore (1962), said her mother was told stories by her grandmother (Peleg's wife), about life in that log house. She related that she often rocked her babies with panthers crying around the house, and only a canvas door separating them.


Later in 1808 Peleg Ellis built a larger house in front of the log cabin. It was made up of four rooms, each with a fireplace. Peleg and Ruth slept in a four poster bed in the west bedroom. Their ten children occupied the east bedroom. That house is the front half of "Headwaters",1735 Ellis Hollow Road. The house was lighted and heated by an open fireplace. Even candles were a luxury at the time. Mother and children gathered pine for the fire at night.2


Peleg, who was captain of the early state militia in Dryden, volunteered with his entire company when the war of 1812 broke out and served under Colonel Winfield Scott. He eventually became a major and died in the home he had built at the Cascadilla headwater, on his 84th birthday, May 9, 1859. His wife, Ruth Dawley Ellis, lived on in the house with her daughter, Ann H. Smith and her husband John, until she died at the age of 93 in 1870. Both Ruth and Peleg are buried in the Ellis Hollow cemetery (see map), along with many other early residents.


Although Peleg and Ruth are buried in the Ellis Hollow Cemetery, there is also a small cemetery on a small knoll southeast of the house where their small daughter, Betsy, was buried in 1805. Ann H. Smith lived on in Headwaters until her death, in 1900.


In his paper "The History of Ellis Hollow" Jacob Myers, grandson of Elsie Myers Stainton, who later owned "Headwaters" states,"There has been a back end to the house added on. The old cabin is not standing, and one of the bedrooms has been made into two smaller rooms. The house is still in very good shape."


Peleg gave an eastern portion to his son, John J. Ellis who built a fine fashionable Gothic house, cruciform in shape, not far from his parents' home.


John Ellis, Peleg's brother , lived in Virgil and Dryden before settling in Ellis Hollow around 1801. He was promoted in political affairs, serving in many offices and twice a member of the assembly and Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Tompkins and Cayuga Counties. He lived in what is numbered 850 Ringwood Road. In his later years, John was called the "King of Dryden."


Interesting links: Ellis Hollow Cemetery http://mywebpage.netscape.com/jmgencon/cem/ellishollowcem.html