The Kansas Oil Museum in El Dorado had a valuable piece of history added to its collection during a presentation last Friday afternoon.
Larry Ward, who is from Oregon, is a descendant of General Alfred Washington Ellet, an early Butler County resident and citizen of El Dorado who eventually earned a promotion in rank to Brigadier General in the Union Army. Ellet received a commission letter from none other than President Abraham Lincoln, who signed the document, along with Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. The commission conferred upon Ellet the new rank in the army.
During the presentation, Ward actually stated he felt that the items in his possession never truly belonged to him anyway. Ward also had numerous photographs of the Ellet family from years ago, which he also donated to the museum. Several descendants of the Ellet family, including Ned and Gail Ellet of El Dorado and others who traveled from all over the country, came together for the presentation as a “family reunion” of sorts. Several of them actually met each other for the first time.
General Ellet was a hero of the Union Army who commanded a ramboat fleet in the struggle for control over the Mississippi River, and his efforts were integral to winning the battles at Memphis and Vicksburg in 1862. General Ellet settled in El Dorado shortly after the end of the war, and became a leading citizen of the county. He was involved in the establishment of the El Dorado bank that later became Farmers & Merchants, helped bring the route of the Santa Fe railroad to this area, offered aid to farmers ruined by the locust plagues of the the early 1870s, and raised money for the city opera house that still bears his name.
Ardath Lawson of the Oil Museum contributed to this story.