Kittie May Ellis

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Kitty May Ellis (1869-1963), American diarist

Copyright 2006, Will Johnson,, Professional Genealogist, All Rights Reserved


Early life

Catherine May "Kitty" Ellis was born 13 Sep 1869[1] as she states "during a cyclone, 16 miles north of Eldora, Iowa". Her parents were Andrew M Ellis (b 1837 Ashtabula County, Ohio) and Rachel Ann Dimmick[2] of Indiana. She had a brother Perry Ellis who was three years older. Three other siblings had died as infants.

Andrew was in the Civil War, in Co C of the 6th Iowa Volunteers. [3] In 1870 they are in Lincoln, Nebraska. By Sep 1879 they were living at Tarkio, Missouri. They left Takio about Mar 1883 and went by "team and wagon" arriving in Colville, Stevens County, Washington on July 3rd 1883[4]. Soon they had moved to Spokane Falls, Washington or the vicinity, Kitty states they lived in Ellis, Washington "12 miles north of old Fort Spokane on the 4th of July on her father's pre-emption. This can't be 1883 unless Andrew had been living there without his family for some time. Her obituary states that her father was the first postmaster of Ellis, which post office evidently only lasted a few years. She relates an interesting story about Ellis.[5]

They are also found on the 1885 State Census for Stevens County, Washington. Kitty states that on July 23 1888:
"... I sold my home in Spokane Falls the day before and my Parents Andrew M Ellis and his excellant Wife Rachel Ann Ellis, my dear Brother Perry Ellis, and I Miss Kittie May Ellis left Spokane Falls for Ashland, Ore by team and Covered wagon it required 7 weeks to make the trip over the then bad roads. Whire I traded my race mare daisy in on a $700 dollars lot built a house and sold it and we moved to Deskins Sawmill now know as Prospect Jackson County, Oregon arriving there on the 29 day of December 1888 and we had 4 inches of Snow that winter but 4 feet the next winter."

In the Summer of 1891, they camped for three months in California. [6], but otherwise they stayed in Prospect for nine years. In March 1892, Andrew got a Homestead at Township 33 South, Range 3 East and within a few weeks, Perry and Kitty bought the surrounding lands.

Middle life

In Jan 1898 the family went to Seattle, Washington, on their way to the Alaska Gold Rush[7]. They never made it to the Gold Rush because of what Kitty refers to several times as: "deep-dyed treachery". She states that the proprietor of their hotel tried to poison her family, by putting poison in their food, and then later to break in and rob them in their hotel room.[8]. But they were saved by Dr F. H. Coe, the Seattle Health Officer. By 1900 they were in Hillsboro, Oregon.

Their mother had died in 1908, from stomach cancer,[9] but not before arranging that Kitty was to receive the land and house provided she care for her father and brother until they died.

In 1909, Perry married Josephine R Laws (the record is reported on the "Oregon Historical Records Index" here), and he and his new wife and children lived with Kitty and their father. Without the mediation of their mother, this caused conflict which eventually resulted in Andrew permanently leaving the house. Kitty variously describes her father as treacherous, a fiend, a robber, and cruel and she states this is why she never married: "... for I didn't want to run the risk of bringing Children into the world to maybe be fiends like my Father."[10]

In 1915, from Washington County, both she and her brother Perry were committed to the Oregon State Insane Asylum, where Kitty stayed for three years. It is unclear whether it was Perry's wife Josephina or their father Andrew who signed the commitment papers.

Searching the Oregon Historical Records Index, the guardianship record is apparently here for Kittie, and here for Perry. The commitment record for Kittie is here, and for Perry here.

Later life

Their father Andrew, after his first wife died, got married two more times, both wives divorcing him on grounds of cruelty. It would seem his second wife must be this Mary Adelaide Gilman. If so, they were married in Multnomah County, Oregon on Nov 1, 1909; and divorced here in 1911 in Clackamas County, Oregon.

Andrew died in 1922 from Uremic Acid poisoning after an operation.[11]

Sometime after Kitty got out, she began the study of nursing, becoming a practical nurse in Portland, Oregon. Perry however was to die in the Insane Asylum twenty years later in 1932. His death is reported here.

In 1933 she moved to Clearview, Washington where the final part of her life played out and where her claim-to-fame comes from. When she moved to Clearview, she bought a one-acre piece of land, with a home which she shingled herself even though she was already past 70 years old. Starting about the time of her last move, Kitty began writing. And writing. And writing. By the time she died, it's estimated she had filled at least 400 ledgers with her "diary", consisting, in the main, of quotes from the newspaper and her reactions to them. But also interspersed with homey gossip about Clearview citizens, and reminescenses of her life.

Some quotes:

"Darling Mother said when ever we wanted an enemy just do some one a bigg favor and it always proved true, the bigger the favor the meaner the deed."
"I just want right to rule over the whole world."

Wikisource has original works written by or about Kitty May Ellis


  1. "Diary of Miss Kitty May Ellis", 6.16.1958, Page 1
  2. "Diary of Miss Kitty May Ellis", 6.16.1958, Page 59
  3. "Diary of Miss Kitty May Ellis", 6.16.1958, Page 48
  4. "Diary of Miss Kitty May Ellis", 6.16.1958, Page 59
  5. "Diary of Miss Kitty May Ellis", 6.16.1958, Page 60
  6. "Diary of Miss Kitty May Ellis", 3.17.1957, Page 72
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