James Ely was born in Barton Co., Kans. on September 24, 1880, in a sod dugout. His father, Thomas W. Ely, was a native of England where he was born in 1848. His mother, Anna Gordinier, was born in Ohio and was related to President Martin Van Buren.
James, one of six children, received his early education in the public schools of Great Bend. He attended The University of Kansas from 1899 to 1901 and later attended the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. James moved to Coldwater in 1905 and opened a real estate office that he called "The Get There Quick Ely Realty Company". He was sucessful from the beginning. He taught the new potential land owners how to sucessfully raise winter wheat. He also gave them the option to purchase land on a crop payment basis, thereby giving many young farmers a chance to own their own land. Through his good business judgment, industry and great enterprise, he had established himself as one of the leading citizens of Comanche County by 1912.
In 1909 James married Nellie Ferrin of Wilmore and from this union one child was born, Bonnie (Ely) Hibbert of Houston, Texas.
From the early 1900's, James Ely was interested in religious endeavors. Before 1912, he financed the establishment of an Industrial Mission on the Island of borneo.
Sensing the prospects of coming developments in Western Kansas, he moved to Garden City and opened a real estate office and farming operations. In later years this office was to become the headquarters for his religious writings that were shipped to missions and individuals throughout the world. His most sought after book was one of his earliest, "The Gospel of John". He completed his own version of the Bible, translating from the Greek and Hebrew, before he died, though it was never published.
Jim Ely was one of the earlies and most productive settlers in Kansas. He was extremely progressive and capable in developing Western Kansas farm land and also a pioneer in early Kansas oil and gas field development. He was a philanthropist, donating land to many religious organizations and missions. He also provided the funds to send many young men and women through college in his lifetime.
He traveled extensively all his life. He went to Alaska in the early 1900's; traveled extensively in Mexico in the late 1920's; traveled to Brasilia, Brazil, when they were just breaking ground on the new capitol. No matter where he was, when harvest time arrived, you could count on seeing Jim Ely in Comanche Co. and on west, traveling with his car piled high with his religious and business papers, overseeing his properties.
James Edmond Ely passed away in Houston, Texas, in 1967 at the age of 87 years after suffering a stroke two years previously. Comanche Co. and visting Grandma Alcana Ferrin in Wilmore was always "coming home" for Jim Ely.
In addition to his daughter, he has two grandsons living in Houston, James Ely Hibbert and Todd Clarkson Hibbert; a grand-daughter, Holly (Hibbert) Stevenson, living in Charlotte, N.C.; his sister, Tressa Houloose from Pasadena, Calif. and a half-sister, Mrs. Charles Harris, from Great Bend, Kansas.
-- by Bonnie (Ely) Hibbert, Comanche County History, page 362, published 1981.
James E. Ely, who is successfully engaged in the real estate business at Coldwater, is a native Kansan, who through good business judgment, industry and great enterprise has become one of the leading business men of Comanche county. Mr. Ely was born on a farm in Barton county, Sept. 24, 1881, and is a son of Thomas W. and Anna C. (Gordinier) Ely, who took up their abode in Kansas, in 1880. Thomas W. Ely, the father, is a native of England, where he was born in 1848. He came to Canada at the age of fourteen and to the United States when fifteen years of age and located in Ohio, where he remained until his removal to Kansas, in 1880. In 1887 he engaged in the drug business at Great Bend, being very successful. He now has become a large property owner in Barton county and still resides in Great Bend, though he is now retired from active business life. His marriage to Miss Anna C. Gordinier occurred at Sandusky, Ohio, in 1877. She is a daughter of Ira Gordinier, a nephew of President Martin Van Buren, and a Civil war veteran. The issue of this union was six children - four sons and two daughters: Thomas J., born in 1878, died in 1909; James E. was second in order of birth; Charles W., born in 1882, died in 1908; Tressie M., born in 1884, is a university student, now engaged in teaching; Effie B., born in 1886, a university student; and Ira C., born in 1889, a jeweler at Great Bend, Kan.
James E. Ely received his preliminary education in the public schools of Barton county and graduated in the Great Bend High School. He then attended the University of Kansas two years, earning his own expenses in the meantime. In 1905 he began his independent and active business career by locating at Coldwater, Kan., where he engaged in the real estate business, in which he was successful from the start. His land sales are extensive, his deals involving as much as 10,000 acres, and much of his time is spent in travel in connection with his business. He is financing the establishment of an Industrial Mission and Institute at Sibu, on the Island of Borneo. The work is under the management of the M. E. Board of Foreign Missions. This is the first venture of this kind on the island. Mr. Ely belongs to that class of energetic, progressive and capable men who have done so much toward the development of western Kansas, and through his efforts in that direction and through his own personal success he deserves to rank as one of the representative citizens of the state.
--Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history..., Vol. III, page 388, Chicago, 1912.
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