Charles H. Ellis, Jr.

Charles H. Ellis, 1922

Born on April 22, 1862, in Camden, Charles H. Ellis Jr. was deeply rooted in the city’s fabric. His grandfather, Samuel Ellis, notably served as Camden’s first City Clerk and initiated the city’s first newspaper. Charles’s father, a successful grocer, established a grocery store at 5th and Berkley Street, around the time Charles was born. The Ellis family, which included siblings Frank, Laura, Emma, Walter, and Wilbur, lived at 510 Berkley Street in the 1870s through the 1890s. Notably, Walter and Wilbur Ellis also became prominent figures in Camden’s civic life.

In 1885, Charles H. Ellis married Emma Taylor, the daughter of another local grocer. He worked as a clerk and, in 1891, succeeded his father in the family grocery business. During this period, the Ellis family lived at 931 South 5th Street, moving to 915 South 5th Street in 1896. Tragically, Emma Taylor Ellis passed away in 1897, leaving Charles to raise their four children: Ella, Frank, Laura, and Elizabeth “Lizzie.” To assist with the children, he hired Mrs. Amanda Alloway as a live-in housekeeper.

Ellis’s political career began in earnest in the 1890s. He was elected to the Camden Board of Education in 1890 and later joined the City Council, where he quickly rose to become its youngest President. His work as a tax collector further cemented his role in local governance.

Ellis’s tenure as Mayor of Camden, from 1905 to 1922, was marked by a series of significant achievements and challenges. He was instrumental in the construction of Camden High School, the establishment of a public playground system, and the expansion of the city’s park system. Under his leadership, the Fire Department transitioned from horse-drawn apparatus to motorized fire trucks, and the Police Department began using patrol cars and motorcycles. Alfred L. Sayres, appointed by Ellis, headed the Streets Department during a period of significant growth.

The 1918 influenza pandemic and World War I posed considerable challenges during his mayoralty, testing his leadership and the city’s resilience. After leaving the mayoral office in 1922, Ellis served as Camden’s Postmaster until 1934, appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. During the 1930s, Ellis aligned himself with David Baird Jr. in the Republican party’s internal struggles.

Ellis was a member of several fraternal organizations, including Trimble Lodge, No. 117 Free and Accepted Masons, the Improved Order of Red Men, the Odd Fellows, and the Junior Order of American Mechanics. He also had a musical side, being a member of Joseph Jennings’ Sixth Regiment Band in the 1880s.

Charles H. Ellis’s later years were spent in Pennsauken, New Jersey, at 2137 43rd Street. He passed away on May 4, 1940, and was laid to rest at Harleigh Cemetery in Camden, alongside his first wife. His legacy in Camden’s development and history remains significant, remembered through various civic improvements and his role in guiding the city through pivotal moments of the early 20th century.

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