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Author: David Hastedt; Edited and vetted by Cheri Todd Molter & Kobe M. Brown

My great-great-uncle, Reverend William Harmon Ellis was born in New Marlborough, Massachusetts, in 1852. He graduated from Williams College in 1874 and, in 1881, was posted by the American Missionary Association at Troy, N.C. to establish a school and a church for formerly enslaved African Americans. He worked there from 1881 to 1887, often completely isolated from Troy’s white community. However, with the aid of the local African American community and a dedicated assistant, Rev. Ellis founded the Peabody Academy and the First Congregational Church in Troy. In 1887, Rev. Ellis became ill but continued his work without medical treatment. He died on November 28, 1887, of a bladder infection. He was only 35 years old. At his expressed wish, he was buried on the Academy grounds. A monument was erected in Rev. Ellis’ honor, which was engraved with the following: “Erected in memory of a noble and self-sacrificing life, by his classmates of 1874, Williams College, Massachusetts.” However, a flame had been lit that wouldn’t be extinguished, and the Peabody Academy remained open and in operation until 1968, when it was absorbed by Montgomery County Schools. The First Congregational Church remains open.

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