The Greek Revival House was constructed for Abner T. Ellis in or around 1838. He lived in the home until his death in 1864. Over the years Ellis wore many hats. He had been a probate judge, a borough president, state senator, and an early proponent of the Grand Rapids Locks and Dam on the Wabash River. He was later the first president of the Ohio and Mississippi Railroad. Judge Ellis was a very busy man who experienced both great joy and deep grief within his lifetime. He had many professional triumphs but also had to deal with the tragedy of losing a young son.
According to their grave marker, Ellis and his wife Cora A. E. Greenhow had four sons born between 1841 and 1846. All four of their sons passed while very young and are buried with the Ellises. One of them slipped and fell into the Wabash River and drowned while he was walking across the dam with his father. Despite desperate attempts to save his son, his lifeless body was pulled from the river a day later. The boy was only seven or eight years old at the time. Cora Greenhow Ellis died in 1856 at the age of 48. Abner Ellis died in 1864 at the age of 61. Their daughter, Lucy, lived well into old age and came back to Vincennes from time to time to visit and reminisce with old friends.
The Ellis House has had its share of change and excitement through the years. This is yet another house in Vincennes that Abraham Lincoln is known to have visited. While visiting the Ellis family in 1844, Lincoln asked Ellis’ daughter Lucy to play a song for him. Lucy told this story with delight for the remainder of her life.
The home was purchased by the very elite “Pastime Club” in 1906 and utilized by them for some time.
Anna C. O'Flynn, a noted educator and historian, was the first woman to speak on a telephone in Vincennes. The call was made in this home in 1878. She spoke with a person in New York to the delight of all those near her at the time of the call. A period newspaper article stated that the other women in the room were frightened to use the device.
On July 18, 1913, the community was shocked to learn that Oscar “Goog” Morris, in a fit of jealous rage, had entered the rear of the home and shot and killed his wife Elizabeth “Dot” Gordon Morris and then himself. She worked at the club and was sweeping the floor at the time of her very sad and untimely death. The newspapers at the time reported that their marriage had not been a happy one and that she had recently moved out and had been living at her parents’ house at the time of her death.
The house was purchased and utilized by the Harmony Society in 1926. This group, originally named “Harmony Verein,” started out as a Private German social club. The club’s name was changed in 1918 to the “Harmony Society,” because of anti-German sentiment during World War I (1914-1918). The Society, which is now the oldest private social club in the state, still owns and occupies the house to this day. They have many monthly activities and rent the party room as well. For many years there has been a 1000-person limit on club memberships. There is currently a waiting list to become a member. Interested parties may call or visit the club to inquire about membership.
If you are intrigued by the unexplained, rumor has it that some ghostly encounters have occurred within the structure throughout the years as well!