Alfred Ellet has a story that sounds like a Hollywood movie. But it isn’t, it all actually happened based on one of El Dorado’s early leading citizens.
Alfred Ellet was born on October 11, 1820 in Bucks County Pennsylvania, the second youngest of fourteen children (the youngest of six boys). In 1824 his family moved to Philadelphia where he attended public schools. At the age of 16 he moved to Bunker Hill, Illinois to become a farmer and a dry goods store owner.
While living in Bunker Hill, Illinois the Civil War broke out. In August 1861, Alfred Ellet was commissioned a Captain in the 9th Missouri Volunteer Infantry Regiment, which later became the 59th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment. It was in March, 1862 that Captain Alfred Ellet found himself fighting in the Battle of Pea Ridge. Meanwhile that same Spring, his older brother Colonel Charles Ellet, Jr. under took the mission of converting several river steamers into ram boats. These ram boats were designed to ram and sink Confederate boats moving up and down the Mississippi River. Alfred Ellet now became Lieutenant Colonel of Charles Ellet’s U.S. Ram Fleet. A few months later in June, 1862 his brother Colonel Charles Ellet, Jr. died and Lieutenant Colonel Alfred Ellet took over the unit. Then in November, 1862 he was promoted again, this time to Brigadier General of the newly formed Mississippi Marine Brigade.
A wood cut scene of the ram boats in action:
Through out the Civil War he fought in the following battles:
- Battle of Pea Ridge
- First Battle of Memphis
- Vicksburg Campaign
- – Battle of Richmond Louisiana
- – Battle of Goodrich’s Landing
In 1864 he resigned his commission in order to return to civilian life and in 1869 moved to El Dorado, Kansas. In El Dorado he became a successful businessman and one of El Dorado’s leading founders.
With his son Edward Ellet and friend Nathan Frazier founded the Bank of El Dorado which later merged with the Exchange Bank and finally became the Farmers & Merchants Bank.
He helped lead an effort to bring the Florence, El Dorado & Walnut Valley Railroad to town, which is now part of the Santa Fe Railroad.
He was responsible for building what is now known as the Ellet Opera Hall located in the 100 block of West Central. The building has housed numerous businesses, indoor carriage parking, speakers, dramas, community events and apartments. The building had it’s grand opening in 1884 and in 1897 hosted the production “Six Cups of Chocolate” which helped raise money for the construction of the Carnegie Library.
General Alfred Ellet has been credited with playing a major role in the Union defeating the Confederates in the Civil War. As a result he was honored by having a Naval destroyer ship commissioned after him and his family. The name of the ship was the USS Ellet (DD 398) and served 1939 – 1946 during World War II. It was a Benham-class destroyer that saw a great deal of action in the Pacific.
The city of El Dorado has also honored him by naming a street after him and erecting a monument dedicated to him.