Sunday, April 14, 1907, was Ethel Ryan’s 15th birthday. Although not a member, she went to the dedication of the new Mt. Pulaski Christian Church building with her friend. There was a social. Also at the event was Ellis Downing whose minister ancestors and their family founded several of the Methodist Churches in Logan County and across central Illinois. Ellis enjoyed music and dancing, which the Methodist Church in 1907 did not, so he and his brother were attending the Christian Church. The couple met that day.
Ellis was the second of the four sons of William Nelson and Eliza Sciota Harding Downing, our Lida of prior posts. Ellis’ father, who farmed land his family originally settled, had died of typhoid in 1903.
Ethel was the third daughter of Edward Daniel and Lillie Margaret Wood Ryan [see “A Family Affair”]. Teddie was a bricklayer whose ancestors came from Ireland in the 1830s. Both of Lillie’s parents were descendants of Abraham Lucas. To be kind, Teddie liked his drink. The families did not know each other, certainly were not in the same social or economic circles. Most would have said the couple had nothing in common.
Ellis’ older brother Clarence was dating Lena Drake. Her stepfather was Charles Brooker. The Brookers lived half a mile west of the Downing household. The families were friends and the couple seemed well suited.
Eventually the talk to turned to marriage and it seemed natural to have a double wedding. Lena could afford a wedding. Ethel could not. In order to have the double wedding Ellis paid for Ethel’s dress. The couples, joined by their mothers, went by horse and buggy to Lincoln on January 19, 1910, where they were married at the Lincoln Christian Church. Both couples settled down to farming.
Ellis and Ethel had five children. She died on January 8, 1975, 11 days short of the couple’s 65th wedding anniversary. Ellis wrote his family story to be placed in the cornerstone of the new sanctuary of the Mt Pulaski Christian Church, starting with the story of their meeting in 1907. He witnessed the dedication of that new sanctuary in 1977 and died on June 28, 1978.
Clarence and Lena had one son, Darwin. They eventually divorced. One September day in 1942 Clarence showed up at Ellis and Ethel’s’ home and said he felt ill. They put him to bed and called the doctor but Clarence died on September 28, 1942. Lena died in October of 1985.