top of page

Sumner Ellis, Civil War Veteran & Catherine Cuff Ellis

Sumner Ellis (1843-1897)

Catherine Cuff Ellis (1844-1874)

Sumner Ellis was born in South Dedham in 1843; his parents were Paul Ellis and Jane Sumner Ellis. In the 1860 U.S. Census, at 18, he was living with his parents and several siblings. Also living in the household was Catherine Cuff, 16, born in Ireland. Among the early Irish immigrants who came to Norwood, Catherine Cuff found work, as many young single Irish women did, as a domestic servant.

On July 3, 1861, Sumner Ellis, then 19 and working as a moulder, enlisted in Company F.

56th Massachusetts Regiment

of the 18th Massachusetts Regiment as a Private. The 18th encamped at Fort Corcoran, near Washington, D.C., where they saw their first real combat. Sumner Ellis was wounded in the 2nd Battle of Bull Run, Virginia, on August 30, 1862. Discharged for his injuries, Ellis recuperated and re-enlisted on January 12, 1864 in Company F of the 56th Massachusetts Regiment. He was discharged with disability on June 17, 1865.

He returned to South Dedham and, on June 28, 1865, Sumner Ellis, 23, married Catherine Cuff, 21. They were married by Rev. C. S. Locke, a clergyman from West Dedham. The majority of Irish immigrants who came to South Dedham during this time were Catholic. Because of this, Catherine would have left the Church to marry Ellis. The 1870 U.S. Census finds Sumner and Catherine still living in the Paul Ellis household. Sumner was working at the tannery and Catherine was “sewing straw.” They also had a small child.

The couple had two sons: Frank and Henry. Frank Ellis was born on June 23, 1867 and on December 25, 1872, a second son, Henry W. Ellis was born. Tragically, Henry died of consumption (tuberculosis) on October 12, 1873 at only nine months of age. A year later, Catherine Cuff Ellis died on October 21, 1874 at the age of 30, also of consumption.

Sumner Ellis never remarried. He was a member of the local G.A.R., and attended reunions of the 18th Massachusetts Volunteers. He received a pension for his service and in 1891, was granted an increase in that pension.

Sumner Ellis died suddenly of heart disease on January 11, 1897 at the age of 54. According to the Norwood Advertiser and Review, Ellis was a “man of pleasant disposition and kindly heart.” The obituary goes on to say that Sumner was a good soldier during the Civil War who earned a record “to be proud of,” noting that when he was wounded at Bull Run, “his life was saved only in an almost miraculous manner.” The article continued that Sumner was discharged “by reason of gun-shot wounds” but when he recovered, he “re-enlisted and served to the end of the war.”

The funeral was at the home of his son, Frank S. Ellis, at 7 Day Street. Many GAR members attended, 8 of whom served as pallbearers. The Chaplain spoke of “his noble war record” and paid a “fine tribute to a good soldier and comrade, brace, generous, and kind.” His remains were interred in the Old Parish Cemetery alongside his wife, Catherine, and his son, Henry.

The Old Parish Cemetery gravesite of Sumner and Catherine Ellis was recently restored. After recovering the stone fragments, volunteers restored the gravestone, reset, and cleaned it in 2021.

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page