Notice the bullet hole in Mr. Ellis's forehead.
ABRAHAM ELLIS, for many years a resident of Miami County, was popularly known as "Bullet-Hole Ellis," from the fact that for twenty-three years he carried a deep wound, almost in the center of his forehead, in which had originally been buried a bullet fired by the noted raider, William C. Quantrill. His recovery was one of the most remarkable in surgical annals, and the ball which inflicted the wound, as well as the twenty-seven pieces of frontal bone which were picked from his skull at the time, are among the remarkable exhibits displayed in the Army and Navy Medical Museum at Washington, D.C.
Mr. Ellis was born in Green County, Ohio, April 22, 1815, and for many years in his earlier manhood was a successful teacher, but his health compelled him to cling to the soil. In September, 1857, he left Ohio and located in Miami County, six miles from the Missouri line. He was therefore in the very hot-bed of the Border warfare, and his strong free-soil sentiments and capacity for organization made him a personal friend, a co-worker and a trusted lieutenant of John Brown. In October, 1858, he was elected a member of the Territorial Legislature and in the following December a representative of the lower house of the First State Legislature.
At that time Mr. Ellis was county commissioner and superintendent of public instruction, and in 1860 he gave Quantrill a certificate to teach school at Stanton. Soon afterward he was commissioned by his neighbors to go East for aid. When the Civil war broke out he enlisted Lane's Brigade and served as quartermaster. On March 7, 1862, while on his way from Fort Scott to Fort Leavenworth, he stopped over night at Aubrey with a man named Treacle. Aubrey was three miles from the Missouri line and two miles north of the south line of Johnson County. At daybreak the landlord aroused all in the house with the cry "The bushwhackers are coming!" Treacle and another man named Whitaker were shot to pieces, and a man named Tuttle was killed by a ball in the eye.
At the commencement of the trouble Ellis sprang out of bed, placed a fur cap on his head and looked out of the window. Quantrill took a shot at him, and the ball passed through the sash and the cap into the skull. The leader of the raiders then came into the house and, recognizing Ellis, expressed great sorrow for what he had done, saying: "You are not the kind of man I was looking for; I'm d--d sorry." He saved the life of Ellis from his followers, as well as Ellis' team and $50 worth of groceries, but did not get around in time to save the $250 which Ellis had handed over to the bushwhackers.
Quantrill's ball had crashed through both plates of the forehead and lodged against the inner lining, where it lay buried for seventy hours. When the shattered bones and the bullet were extracted, the brain could be seen throbbing with each pulsation of the heart. But Mr. Ellis recovered in five months, the wound healed, and in September, 1863, he was commissioned first lieutenant in a Fifteenth Kansas company, and served as such until February, 1865. He moved from Miami to Chautauqua County, in 1870, and gave much attention to horticulture. He died at Elk Falls, Kansas, March 14, 1885.