This family lived in Sumter County, South Carolina, and as the largest slaveholders in the state, were avid supporters of the Confederate cause. The patriarch of the family, William Holmes “April” Ellison, Jr. was a successful entrepreneur and readily offered the labor of his sixty-three slaves to the Confederate Army. Born into slavery, William had been freed on June 8, 1816 at the age of twenty-six by his master (and possibly his father) William Ellison.
It is believed that April Ellison was born in April of 1790, this due to the fact that often children born to slave parents were given the month of their birth as their name. Around the age of ten, April was apprenticed to William McCreight, and learned to build and repair cotton gins. He continued to work in McCreight’s shop until 1816 (even though his apprenticeship had ended after six years) and worked as a blacksmith, machinist and carpenter. During that time, April also learned how to read, write and do basic math and bookkeeping.
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