A Life Well Lived: Mrs. Ella (D.S.) Welsh

by Jane Jones, HCHM Archivist

Our guest blogger,  HCHM Archivist Jane Jones,  has written two previous posts related to the civic activities of Mrs. Ella (D.S.) Welsh.  In this last post in the series, she explores Welsh’s personal life. A recent ceremony named Pam Stevens, Jennifer Vogts and Marilyn Wilder, Newton Area Women of the Year. Perhaps Ella Welsh could be identified as Harvey County’s  historic woman of the year for her involvement in many civic groups that sought to improve the lives of people in the community. Enjoy this story of a woman who dedicated her life to her family and the community.  Unfortunately, we have not been able to find a photo of her.

Ella Welsh (Mrs. D.S. Welsh) was a community activist in Newton.  She had leadership roles in both the local WCTU (Women’s Christian Temperance Union) and the Harvey County Suffrage Association of 1912, the year Kansas women finally received the right to vote in state elections.  Ella and her husband David were loyal and active members of the First Methodist Church at 7th and Main in Newton.  Through her church affiliation she met with the Woman’s Home Missionary Society, taking a leadership role in that group. Other groups with which she was associated were Women’s Relief Corps (auxiliary to the Civil War Veterans organization, Grand Army of the Republic) and the Themian Club.  She seemed to juggle all of these responsibilities successfully, as well as, being a wife, mother and housewife.

Ella’s parents were Robert McCray, a minister, and Jerusha Maxson, a doctor.  McCray and Maxon met at Alfred University, in the village of Alfred, Allegany County, New York.  The university was founded in 1836 by Seventh Day Baptists as a non-sectarian institution.  The school was co-educational, racially integrated and enrolled its first African-American student and two Native American students in the 1850s. Alfred University is an active institution today.

Jerusha and Robert married in 1822. As a minister, Robert moved to Morrison County, Minnesota where Ella was born in 1854 or 1855. She spent her infancy “…in the missionary cabin on the banks of the Mississippi river—where her father ministered Christ to the Indians.”  The children’s birthplaces show Robert was on the move—one son in New York, one son in Wisconsin, a son and daughter in Minnesota and a daughter in Illinois.   Ella sacrificed her own education for her three brothers. The 1870 census shows a 14 year-old Ella was not enrolled in school.

At Ella’s funeral in 1934, it was recalled she and her little brother gathered bits of the wreckage along the shores of Lake Michigan from the Lady Elgin. Occurring on September 8, 1860, the accident was later labelled “the Titanic of Lake Michigan.”  The collision between the Lady Elgin, a sidewheel steamer and the Augusta, a small schooner occurred in a stormy sea at nighttime.  The sidewheel steamer was headed to Milwaukee from Chicago with 385 men, women and children on board.  At the time of the collision they were nine miles from Winnetka, Illinois.  Ninety-eight people survived the disaster.

Ella married David S. Welsh in Elmyra, New York in 1874.  She was nineteen.  They probably knew each other from the Elmyra Methodist church.  Her father had died in 1869, so was not present at the wedding.

David was born in Montrose, Pennsylvania in 1854.  His family moved to Elmyra when he was 9.  By 11, he had joined the Methodist Episcopal Church.  While in New York, David and Ella had four children, three (Bart, Frank and John) survived.  To improve his business opportunities David decided to move west to Colorado and Wyoming. Disappointed with the business prospects in that area, he then journeyed to Newton along the Santa Fe Trail. Arriving in 1882, David along with partners began a livery business.

D.S. Welsh Livery, Hack & Transfer,” 121 W. 6th, Newton, Ks, 1902.

 For 36 years David was involved with the business and the religious life of Newton. He belonged to the Commercial Club, was on the City Council for four years, was a Board member of the M.E. Church and was a Sunday school teacher. His most stunning community achievement was building the YMCA on West 6th just west of the Livery and across the street from the Baptist Church. David was described as “quiet and unassuming, he reached out to reclaim the boy or man who had lost confidence in God and his fellow man.”  Ella helped with this project. David was also a staunch supporter of temperance. He was one of the founders of the Law and Order league organization formed in 1898 to “pledge a given sum each month for the prosecution of the violators of the prohibitory (temperance) law.”  His business survived the transition from horses to autos changing from a livery to a transfer and storage company.  Fire damaged or destroyed the livery several times.  David just rebuilt.

As a couple they endured the death of their infant children in Newton and saw the birth of two children—Ruth (1892) and Willard (1897).


Brief notices in the Evening Kansan Republican tell the story of children lost.

The infant daughter of Mr. and Mrs. D.S. Welsh, Edna Estelle, died last Wednesday of whooping cough.” (24 July 1884)

“The funeral of little Eddie, son of Mr. and Mrs. D.S. Welsh, took place from the parents residence on East Seventh street, Tuesday last.” (21 Feb 1889)

Georgie, the little daughter of Mr. and Mrs. D.S. Welsh, died Saturday night of diphtheria.  She was a bright little girl and was seventeen months old…” (23 Dec 1889)

Ella’s mother, Jerusha, died in 1891 in Alfred Center, New York.  Her death notice in the Evening Kansan Republican  read:

She was known in Newton, having resided here for a time with Mr. Welsh’s family.  Mrs. McCray was an active member of the Methodist church and for a quarter of a century practiced medicine.”

How did Ella manage to juggle all her roles?  Household chores could take a lot of time out of a woman’s day. So appearing in the Evening Kansan-Republican on Nov 3, 1908 was this ad.

FOR RENT—2 furnished rooms for light housekeeping. 201 West 6th.  Mrs. D. S. Welsh.”

Evening Kansan Republican, 3 Nov. 1908.

The Welshes lived at 204 W. 1, 117 E. 7, 201 W. 6 (future home of the YMCA), 301 E. 9 and 133 ½ W. 6 (above the business). David died in 1918.  Ella was a widow for 16 years. She kept busy with all her local activities until she went to live in Glendale, California with her daughter. Her son Burt died in 1932 in a car/train wreck one-half mile west of Eureka. He was a field representative for the Methodist Children’s home (Youthville) in Newton.

 Franklin D. Roosevelt had won the 1932 election.  Part of his platform was ending Prohibition.  That happened in 1933.  It must have been a great disappointment to Ella.  She had spent almost all her adult life fighting for temperance.

 Ella died November 30, 1934 at the home of her daughter.  Her body was brought back to Newton the following week and a funeral attended by many took place.  She was buried beside David.  A helpmate to her husband, respected by her children, active in her church, leadership roles in local temperance and suffrage associations; Ella Welsh served the Newton community in many capacities—a life well-lived.


  • Ancestry: https://www.ancestry.com/familytree/person/tree/64411885/40122330678/facts. And story Robert H. McCray, Jerusha Amarilla Maxson.
  • Ancestry: https://search.ancestry.com/collections/2207/records/152218. U.S. College Student Lists, 1763-1924.
  • Ancestry: https://search.ancestry.com/collections/1666/records/1521841. U.S., Civil War Draft Registrations Records, 1863-1865.
  • Ancestry:https://www.ancestry.com/familytree/person/tree/12059267/person/2001702947/facts Ella Rose McCray.
  • Ancestry:https://www.ancestry.com/familytree/person/tree/12059267/person/2002271153/facts. David S. Welsh.
  • Ancestry:” U.S., Find A Grave Index 1600s-Current. Ella Rose Welsh. Greenwood Cemetery. Newton, Kansas.
  • Ancestry: United States Federal Census 1860; Evanston, Cook, Illinois; Roll: M653_169; Page: 21
  • Family History Library film: 803169.
  • Ancestry: United States Federal Census 1900; Newton Ward 4, Harvey, Kansas; Page: 4.
  • Ancestry: United States Federal Census 1910; Newton Ward 4, Harvey, Kansas; Roll T624_441; Page 7B.  Family History Library microfilm: 1374454.
  • Ancestry: United States Federal Census 1920: Newton Ward 4, Harvey, Kansas; Roll: T625_534; Page:10A
  • Ancestry: United States Federal Census 1930: Glendale, Los Angeles, California; Roll: 127; Page: 27B FHL microfilm: 2339862
  • Ancestry: Kansas State Census Collection, 1855-1925. Roll: KS1905_63; Line: 30; KS1885_55; Line 2 Kansas Historical Society.
  • Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_University.  Alfred University, Village of Alfred, Allegany County in Western New York.
  • Find A Grave: Jerusha M. Maxson McCray.  Alfred Rural Cemetery-Alfred, Allegany County, New York. Memorial ID 115808907. Photo added by Jon Saunders.
  • “Doomed by the Lake: The Lady Elgin and The Augustahttp://www.lakeeffectliving.com/Oct 11/Shipwrecks-Lady Elgin-August.html.
  • Newspapers.com: Kansas Historical Society.
    • Evening Kansan-Republican. Feb 24, 1920 p. 5
    • Evening Kansan-Republican.  Nov 3, 1908 p. 7
    • Evening Kansan-Republican.  Feb 19, 1918 p. 1
    • Evening Kansan-Republican. Aug 26, 1896 p. 5
    • Evening Kansan-Republican. Dec 23, 1889 p. 3
    • Evening Kansan-Republican. Mar 10, 1888 p. 11
    • Evening Kansan-Republican. Feb 25, 1891 p. 4
  • Evening Kansan-Republican. Nov 30, 1934. HCHM Microfilm
  • Evening Kansan-Republican. Dec 9, 1932. HCHM Microfilm
  • Newton Kansan. July 24, 1884 HCHM Microfilm
  • Newton Kansan. Feb 21, 1889 HCHM Microfilm
  • Western Journal of Commerce. ca. 1902 Souvenir Edition. Newton, Kansas HCHM Library
  • Newton City Directories: 1885, 1887, 1902, 1905-06, 1907-08, 1909-10, 1911-12, 1913-14, 1915-16,
  • 1917-18, 1919-20, 1921, 1923-24.


 by Jane Jones, HCHM Archivist

Our next two posts are from guest blogger, Jane Jones, HCHM Archivist, and feature Ella Rose McCray Welsh (Mrs. D.S. Welsh).  This fabulous Harvey County  woman worked to create a better community in the late 19th, early 20th century.

The Query

Recently, a researcher was in the HCHM Archives asking about the local reaction to woman’s suffrage in Kansas.  It had finally passed in 1912.  What did women think?  Might her Newton grandmother have been excited about the prospects of voting in Kansas state elections?

Using newspapers.com through the Kansas Historical Society, I found “Mrs. D.S. Welsh” (Ella) with over a thousand “hits” in Newton newspapers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Her community passions were temperance and suffrage. Those reforms were “joined at the hip” in Kansas.

The Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU)

Statewide prohibition existed in Kansas from 1881 to 1948, longer than any other state. General on-premises liquor sales were prohibited until 1987.  As of April 2017, Kansas had still not ratified the 21st Amendment which ended nationwide prohibition.  So in tackling this subject I first had to run “head-on” into the WCTU (Women’s Christian Temperance Union).

Francis Willard.

The organization was founded in 1873/74 in Ohio. One of the more effective national leaders was Frances E. Willard.  As an educator, temperance reformer and woman’s suffragist, she served as President of the WCTU from 1879 to 1898.   It was she who helped connect the WCTU to women’s suffrage by believing women could better control liquor by getting the right to vote.  Willard was more moderate than Carry Nation, who in 1901 at the Hotel Carey in Wichita used an ax to destroy the bar. She was arrested. “Mrs. Nation Was Subjected to Many Indignities While in Sedgwick Co. Jail” was the headline in the Evening Kansan-Republican May 13, 1901. Mrs. D.S. Welsh received a letter from Wichita WCTU members that this in fact was correct. After getting out of jail, Mrs. Nation went on to Topeka to do her bidding against the liquor establishment.  Two months of her tactics brought a mixture of opinions about whether her violent approach worked to further the goals of the WCTU.

However, an ad in the Newton Kansan of 1883 would make you wonder if Newton had a liquor problem.  Did G. W. Rogers really mean his Billiard Hall was Temperate or was he being facetious?  Lemonade? Perhaps Mrs. Rogers was sympathetic to the ideas of the WCTU.

Kansan, 1883.

WCTU in Harvey County

When the WCTU was begun in Newton in 1891, Ella Welsh was chosen as the first President.  Her home would become a “revolving door” for those twice a month meetings.

In 1893, at a local WCTU union meeting, it was announced that a discussion on “Equal Suffrage” would take place. This statement clearly connects the two reforms of temperance and women’s suffrage. During the Seventh District Union convention in Newton that same year “Mrs. D.S. Welsh as president of the Newton Union” welcomed the convention in a very hearty and cordial manner, making all feel at home

In 1895, some members of the local WCTU petitioned the Newton Mayor and Councilmen.  Mrs. D.S. Welsh (Ella) signed the petitions along with 38 others. The politicians were asked to close businesses on Sunday and to enforce Prohibition.  The women knew the sale of liquor was taking place and law enforcement was lax.  There was an attempt by a councilman to get the Marshal on the witness stand.  But that failed and subsequently the matters were dropped.  But the ladies had done something.

The WCTU was well-organized.  National, state, county and city unions carried on their work. Conventions were held at all levels.  At an 1899 Kansas state convention held in Newton’s Ragsdale Opera House, the WCTU statement of belief was carried in the newspaper.

1899 resolution regarding women’s suffrage printed in the Evening Kansan Republican.

The son of Mr. and Mrs. D.S. Welsh was introduced to the convention. The “little tot named by the seventh district three years ago” was Willard Welsh.  He was named for the President of the WCTU, Frances Willard!

In December of 1899, the WCTU confronted the county attorney, John J. Hildreth with evidence against certain  liquor establishments in Newton.  Mr. Hildreth apparently felt his authority was being usurped by the organization saying “I will control the office and all prosecutions.” He pointed out to the women that he represented all the people, who without naming them directly, included the liquor establishment.

Ella was active in WCTU projects between 1891 and 1923. In 1901, she received the honor of being designated chairman of the committee on resolutions for the upcoming WCTU state convention in Ottawa.  In 1908, the local chapter helped with fundraising for the YMCA. Ella was there. She also received a life membership into the WCTU for “earnest and efficient work.”

In 1910, the WCTU responded to an unfounded report circulating around town that the group was supporting certain local candidates for office.  Ella wrote the denial for the newspaper.

As acting President at the meeting in 1912 it was announced that during 1911 the “North Seventh District, to which Newton belongs, was distinguished for the largest gain in membership, the best report on Sabbath observance, the largest individual union and the union having the most honorary members.”

Campaign Against Pool Halls

In May/June 1914, the WCTU made a big push to campaign against Newton’s pool halls by getting residents to sign petitions that would then be presented to the City Commissioners.  They determined that pool halls were a prime location for drinking liquor. According to the “Compiled Ordinances of the City of Newton of 1903” drinking establishments were against the law. However, in the 1914 Newton City Directory eight pool halls were listed. (Note: the (c) indicates “colored.”)

Ella was in charge of organizing this effort with the help of the Ministerial Alliance—a city-wide group of clergymen. Their minutes for May 4, 1914 state “Mrs. Welsh by invitation spoke of plans of the WCTU in securing signatures to petition on proposed pool hall legislation.”

She appointed members to canvass all parts of the city. On June 17, the women along with the Ministerial Alliance, presented their petitions.  But they were lacking 242 signatures of qualified voters (remember at this time women could vote in local elections).  Also, the proposed ordinance did not have a title.  Therefore, the proposal  went no further than the City Clerk and was not presented to the City Commission!

In 1915 another Kansas State WCTU Convention was held in Newton.  Delegates were housed in local members’ homes.  Out-of-town delegates found Newton hospitable.

1923 was about the last time Ella is mentioned in the same breath as the WCTU.  Along with county attorney J. Sidney Nye, they talked of how the WCTU supported violators of the local liquor laws—alcoholics.

Ella fought most of her adult life for liquor abstinence, as well as the social and philanthropic goals of the WCTU. She showed leadership and organizational skills and could speak in front of large groups. The WCTU was a powerful force started by women who saw alcohol as a menace to home life and the family.  During Newton’s cowboy era, saloons dominated our social scene.  Even though prohibition existed locally and statewide, it was never fully enforced.

The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1919 made Prohibition the law of the land.  It was the “crowning achievement of the Temperance movement.” However, in 1933, it was repealed.  Ella died in 1934 at the home of her daughter Ruth in Glendale, California.

The WCTU is still an active temperance organization. It has a website. Even though membership is just 1,000 worldwide it still advocates for issues affecting women.


  • “Our Messenger” Vol. XXX No. 10 Downs, Kansas August, 1915 HCHM Archives. (Temperance publication)
  • Newton City Directory: 1914
  • Newton Ministerial Alliance Minutes May 4, 1914-July 11, 1930. HCHM Archives.
  • Harvey County Churches Box 2 File 4.
  • Newton, Kansas Newspapers: Kansas Historical Society. newspapers.com
  • The Evening Kansan. 26 June 1893
  • Newton Daily Republican. 7 Sep 1893, 4 Jan 1895,
  • The Evening Kansan-Republican 29 Sep 1899, 29 Sep 1899, 23 Dec 1899, 13 May 1901, 9 Oct 1901, 15 Oct 1904, 3 Feb 1908, 28 Mar 1910, 3 Aug 1912, 5 May 1914, 17 Jun 1914, 11 Sep 1915, 7 Jun 1923.
  • Newton, Kansas Newspapers. HCHM Archives. Newton Kansan. 27 Dec 1883, 22 Aug 1922 p. 117. Fiftieth Anniversary Edition.
  • Compiled Ordinances of the City of Newton of November, 1903. “Article V Intoxicating Liquor.” Newton, Kansas. The Kansan Co., Printers. 1903. p. 84-85.    HCHM Archives.
  • Bader, Robert Smith. “Mrs Nation,” Kansas History A Journal of the Central  Plains, Vol 7, No. 4 Winter 1984/85, p. 247-262.
  • Stratton, Joanna L. Pioneer Women: Voices From The Kansas Frontier. Simon & Schuster, New York. 1981. p. 253-265. (HCHM Library)
  • Underwood, June O. “Civilizing Kansas: Women’s Organizations, 1880-1920.”Kansas History A Journal of the Central Plains Vol. 7, No. 4 Winter 1984/85 p. 291-306.
  • Underwood, June O. “Western Women and True Womanhood Culture and Symbol in History and Literature.” Digital Commons@University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Great Plains Quarterly. Center for Great Plains Studies. Emporia State       University. Spring, 1985.
  • Wikipedia: Free Encyclopedia “Alcohol Laws of Kansas” and “Frances E. Willard.” (en.wikipedia.org)
  • This Fabulous Century 1870-1900. Time-Life Books
  • This Fabulous Century 1910-1920. Time-Life Books
  • WCTU website: www.wctu.org