Dr. William T. Ellis

For all of you who were fortunate enough to attend this year’s Historical House Tours, sponsored by the Swarthmore Historical Society, and enter under the roof of 502 Walnut Lane, here’s a little bit more about the man who built the house.

The Ellis Family

The Ellis Family

Dr. W.T. Ellis Dies in Canada
Author, Correspondent, Lecturer, Buried Thursday

Swarthmore, Friday, August 18, 1950. Dr. William T. Ellis, whose world travels broadened the scope of Swarthmore neighborliness for the 42 years of his residence here, died, aged 76, at his summer home in Lyndhurst, Ont., Monday.

From 1906 when Dr. and Mrs. Ellis built the house on the north west corner of Walnut Lane and Ogden Avenue which was their home until they moved to York in the fall of 1948, Swarthmore was the point from which his weekly Sunday School lessons, continuously syndicated for the past 53 years, were sent out.

It was also the point of departure and return for the extensive journeys which took him over most of the world and for the Chautauqua lecture tours which told the story of his travels. The community remembers him for the blue-lighted Austrian pine which shone for the caroling of the caroling of the Swarthmore College YWCA members who were annually entertained by the Ellises before their Christmas recess began and which shone throughout Swarthmore’s Yuletide for 24 years until 1941.

For more than a quarter of a century, Dr. Ellis taught the Men’s Bible Class of the Swarthmore Presbyterian Church, sharing generously his Biblical knowledge and travels. At nearby Sleighton Farm, Dr. Ellis annually delivered the Christmas sermon at the request of the Farm girls and he and his family were Christmas Day guests of the school.

Politically, his fellow townsmen remember his militant stand for independent voting. In 1922 he was the unsuccessful Democratic and Independent candidate for Congress from the Delaware-Chester County district against Thomas S. Butler.

Born in Allegheny, Pa., on October 25, 1973, Dr. Ellis’s first newspaper job was on the Philadelphia Item but he later worked on several Philadelphia dailies. He turned to religious writing early, become editor of the International Christian Endeavor Organ until 1897 and of Forward Presbyterian weekly, until 1902.

Toured Bible Lands

Early in the century his world travels began. He undertook a world wide investigation of social, religious, and political conditions for a syndicate of American newspapers, first. In 1917 he traveled in Russia, becoming an authority on the Russian Revolution and reporting the rise of Bolshevism for The Saturday Evening Post. He served as a war correspondent on the Russian, Persian, Rumanian, and French fronts during the First World War. Dr. Ellis covered the Paris Peace Conference and the Conference on the Limitation of Armament in Washington in 1921-22 for a newspaper syndicate.

His many tours of Bible lands colored his religious writings and covered, he said, every place mentioned in the Bible.


He was the author of Men and Missions, Billy Sunday, the Man and his Message, Advertising the Church, Bible Lands Today, Pilgrims Fare from Bible Lands, As the Shepherds Saw It, and of countless magazine and newspaper articles. He interviewed many important personages, Ibn Saud of Arabia, the Dalai Lama, last Sultan of Turkey, and numbered among his friends the late Queen Marie of Rumania, Rudyard Kipling, and Lawrence of Arabia.

Mrs. Ellis, the former Margaret H. Mackinnon of York, whom he married in 1899, survives him, with their three children Franklin Courtney Ellis of Winnetka, Ill., Dr. Mackinnon Ellis of Bryn Mawr, and Mrs. Edward Everett [Margaret Amelia] Pierce, Jr., of York. Seven grandchildren; three brothers Charles H. of Rockledge, Frank of Norristown, and Herbert of Berkley, Calif.; and two sisters Mrs. Edmund Walmsley of Philadelphia and Mrs. Paul Stephens of Cincinnati, Ohio, also survive. Services were held in his Lyndhurst home on Thursday followed by burial in a nearby country graveyard.

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